State of the Nation Address, 4 May 2000

Fellow South Africans:

During the recent past our news has been dominated by events in the neighbouring state of Zimbabwe. Some among us have been making demands for me as the President of the Republic to speak out on these events.

At the end of our meeting with President Mugabe at Victoria Falls on Good Friday, April 21st, I, together with Presidents Chissano and Nujoma, addressed the media on the outcome of our discussions. Representatives of our own media were present at this press conference.

Unfortunately, for reasons I do not know, much of what we said at that press conference was not reported to our people and the world. I addressed these issues again on the 25th of April at the 10th Congress of the National Union of Mineworkers, once more in the presence of representatives of members of our media.

Yet again, for reasons I do not know, much of what we said was not reported to our people.

I addressed this matter for the third time on May Day when I spoke to a group of business people in the Eastern Region of the North West Province.

This time, more was reported of what we were repeating publicly for the third time.

Today I would like to speak to you directly on the Zimbabwe and other African questions further to clarify the positions of our Government.

As within our own country, the Africa policy of our Government is centred on the pursuit of the fundamental objective of securing a better life for all and building caring societies.

I would like to give you a few examples of some of the things we, as South Africans, have done to promote the achievement of these goals.

In May 1996 a big Tanzanian ferry sank in Lake Victoria with the loss of about 900 lives. We responded to the appeal of the Government of Tanzania to help in the recovery of the bodies in the Lake by sending members of the South African Navy to carry out this difficult work.

I am proud to say that our sailors carried out this work successfully, displaying great dedication and courage. As a result, many Tanzanian families were able to bury their dead with dignity, as well as observe the funeral rites that are fundamental to their culture and the integrity of their society. Following this tragedy, in 1998 very destructive floods caused by the El Nino effect, hit Tanzania.

Once again, we responded to the appeal of the Tanzanian Government for help. Our Air Force moved the materials Tanzania needed to restore its transport infrastructure.

It also transported the President of Tanzania, H.E. Mr Ben Mkapa, to various parts of his country to enable him personally to supervise the delivery of relief to the stricken communities in his country.

President Mkapa formally commended our airmen and women for the work they did, during which, according to him, they treated the Tanzanian people as though they were their own fellow nationals. We are all familiar with the outstanding work which, once again, our airmen and women, the Medical Health Service of the National Defence Force and South African civilian volunteers did at the height of the Mozambique floods.

During this urgent but difficult operation, we rescued over 15 000 people and ensured the immediate supply of food and other materials to those affected.

Recognising the fact that we too had suffered from floods and lost lives, H.E. President Chissano of Mozambique spoke of us, South Africans, as people who had shed tears for his people, while bearing our own pain in dignified silence.

Earlier this year, we received an urgent request from the Government of Ethiopia to send a contingent of fire fighters because for three weeks, the Ethiopians had not succeeded to supress an extremely destructive fire that was destroying large agricultural areas and was threatening a unique nature reserve. Once again, a group of our compatriots had to leave our shores to help defend an African country and people that were already victim to a terrible drought.

As you and we would expect of them, our fire fighters, working with their Ethiopian brothers and sisters, conquered this natural disaster and helped the Ethiopian people to build their own capacity succesfully to handle such emergencies in future.

Last year we had to bid a sad farewell to members of the South African Army, the Pride of Lions, who laid down their lives in Lesotho in defence of democracy, peace and stability in that country.

At the end of last year, at the request of the Mozambican Government, our Air Force had to deploy a contingent in that country, this time to assist in the delivery of ballot papers during the General Elections, focussing on the most inaccessible areas.

By this means, we contributed to ensuring a successful democratic process, certified by SADC and the highest judicial authirities in Mozambique as having been truly democratic.

These examples, and others we can cite, such as those of our business people who are active throughout Africa and our universities and technikons which host a significant number of African students, should suffice to demonstrate what we mean when we speak of an Africa policy focussed on the objective of helping to secure a better life for all. This same objective informs our approach towards curent events in Zimbabwe.

In 1998, with President Mandela's authorisation and President Mugabe's agreement, I approached the British Prime Minister, the Rt Hon Tony Blair. The purpose of this approach was to request that her Majesty's Government, and other countries, should contribute funds to enable the Government of Zimbabwe to address the colonial legacy of the land dispossession of the indigenous black majority. Prime Minister Blair agreed to this and persuaded other Governments and international organisations to join in this effort. These donors met together with the Government of Zimbabwe during the same year, 1998, and agreed on various measures to solve the Zimbabwe land question.

For various reasons things did not proceed as had been agreed. Consequently, the land question, a direct product of the colonisation of Zimbabwe, essentially and substantially, remained still to be addressed. The results of the failure to deal with this matter in the manner agreed in 1998 is what has led to the events which, as we have said, have dominated our media in the recent period.

To address both the fundamental and central land question, which has to be solved, and the consequences that have derived from the failure to find this solution, we have been in contact with both the Zimbabwe and the British Governments.

This contact sought to achieve a number of objectives. These are:

1: to get a common commitment to solve the Zimbabwe land question, according to the framework and programme agreed at the 1998 Conference and thus, simultaneously, to speak to such questions as the rule of law;

2: to end the violence that has attended the effort to find this solution;

3: to create the conditions for the withdrawal from the farms they have occupied of the demonstrating war veterans; and,

4: to pursue these issues in a manner that would be beneficial for all the people of Zimbabwe and the rest of Southern Africa. As we informed the media at Victoria Falls on Good Friday and other occasions since then, President Mugabe fully supported these objectives.

Accordingly, we were very pleased to note that at the end of their meeting in London last week, coincidentally on our Freedom Day, the Zimbabwe and British Ministers among other things:

confirmed the importance and urgency of land reform in Zimbabwe; and,
recommitted themselves to the implementation of the communique agreed at the 1998 international Donors Conference on Land Reform and Resettlement.

the UK reiterated its willingness to help fund a fair land reform programme, while stressing, in this context, the need to end violence and the occupation of the farms.
For its part, among other things, the Zimbabwe delegation:

informed the UK delegation that it is the intention of the Government of Zimbabwe to hold free and fair general elections as soon as the Delimitation Commission has conclucded its report.
We are firmly committed to support and promote to the best of our ability the positive results that were achieved at both the Victoria Falls and London meetings, as are the rest of our region and Continent. In this context, I would like to extend our sincere thanks to our own former South African Agricultural Union, and others of our compatriots, for the enormously valuable contribution they have made and are making to help resolve the land question in Zimbabwe.

It is to us a matter of great pride that these South Africans, conscious of our common responsibility to contribute what we can to help ensure a better life for all in our country, region and Continent, have resisted the temptation to assume a counter-productive, holier-than-thou attitude. By this means, they have also contributed to the fight against the michievous effort to create and feed a psychosis of fear in our own country, based on nothing else but racist prejudices, assumptions and objectives.

This they have done while recognising the challenges we face with regard to the land question in our own country as well as the troubled human and labour relations on some of our commercial farms.

Together with them, our Government will work persistently and without making the noise of empty drums, to help the sister people of Zimbabwe to find a just and lasting solution to the real and pressing land question in their country.

Fellow South Africans:

Our Government has also made a commitment to provide a contingent from our National Defence Force to join the monitors that will be sent by the United Nations and the OAU to the Democratic Republic of Congo.

We have taken this step because as a Government and a people we see it as a human imperative that this strategically important country of Africa, the country of Patrice Lumumba, should, like ourselves and in the common interest, enjoy conditions of:

national sovereignty and territorial integrity;
social and economic progress.
We are convinced that, once more, the officers, men and women who constitute our National Defence Force will discharge their responsibility in Congo in a manner consistent with the vision the majority of us share. This is the vision of a South Africa, a Southern Africa and Africa that, during the African Century, must stand out for their dedication to the objective of the creation of a caring society.

I appeal to you all that, as before, we strive to work together to help find the correct solutions to the issues that have arise in Zimbabwe and Congo.

As before, we must do this without arrogance, without seeking to impose ourselves on anybody and without the intoxication of the delusion of the exercise of power we neither have nor desire.

We must do what we have to, with the courage, the tenacity, the humanity and the humility which belong to those who, like you, genuinely believe that they are their brother's and their sister's keeper. On this occasion I would like to extend our sympathies to the families of Callie and Monique Strydom and to say to them that our government is working very hard together with the government of the Philippines and other governments to make sure that Callie and Monique are rescued from the situation where they are being held hostage. I am convinced that we will succeed.

I thank you for your attention.

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