Speech at the end of the Consideration
of the Budget of the Presidency
22 June 2001
I am going to do something that I do not normally do
and which I do not like doing. I am going to speak about
As we grew up, we were taught always to tell the truth.
We learnt that we should always search for the truth
and not be happy with repeating dogma, however widespread
the belief that such dogma represented the truth.
We were taught never to fear to defend that we believed
was right. It was said that we must respect people even
as they hold views that are different from ours.
Furthermore, we should understand that to swear at
people or otherwise resort to foul language indicates
that the dialogue has ended and the stage set for a
physical fight. We were taught that no self-respecting
person tells untruths and that a person who does not
respect himself or herself cannot expect others to respect
him or her.
I am certain that there are many in this House who
will recognise themselves as students who were exposed
to these instructions.
I speak in this manner because of some of the things
that were said yesterday, as the Honourable Members
participated in the debate on the Vote of the Presidency.
I refer, in particular, to the charge that far too
often we use the so-called 'race card'; that what we
say and do leads to feelings of marginalisation and
disempowerment among the Afrikaners; that discussion
of racism leads to mutual accusations, more racism and
new tensions; and that the real issue that divides our
country is poverty, which can only be addressed through
higher rates of economic growth.
The burden of these statements is that we should not
discuss racism because to discuss racism is both racist
and foments racism. Indeed one of the speakers said
that calls for reconciliation have been replaced by
debate on racism.
Observations were made that even as the international
community seeks to address the issue of racism, this
should not take place in our country, as will happen
when the UN World Conference on Racism convenes in Durban
two months from now.
Evidently, some of the matters that are legitimate
and correct subjects for discussion are national reconciliation,
self-determination for the Afrikaners, poverty and economic
We must assume from this that what is spoken of here
is colour-blind national reconciliation, colour-blind
self determination for the Afrikaners, colour-blind
poverty and colour-blind economic growth.
Let me hasten to state that I agree fully with the
Honourable Members that we must pursue the objective
of national reconciliation with the greatest determination.
This is fundamental to stability in our country and
the building of a new society without racial tensions.
The Government and the parties in government will not
waver in their pursuit of this goal.
The Government will also continue to address the issue
of the collective rights of the Afrikaner people, as
it must respect and advance the collective rights of
all language and cultural groups in our country.
This is an inherent part of the process of our national
reconciliation and is therefore also fundamental to
the building of a new society free of racial and ethnic
We also agree fully that we must sustain a concerted
offensive against poverty, aiming at its complete eradication,
and agree that this is one of the structural faults
that characterise our society, which we cannot but attend
to, using all means at our disposal.
We further agree that we must work to ensure that our
economy achieves higher rates of growth, to generate
the opportunities and the material resources we need
to realise the goal of a better life for all.
In all humility, I would like to suggest that the Government
does not need educating on any of these matters. What
we said in this House yesterday refers to all these
matters in one way or another.
Beyond what we said yesterday and have said before,
an honest and unprejudiced assessment of what the Government
is actually doing and has been doing, will show that,
at the very least, we have striven to translate our
words into action.
This was the central message of our statement yesterday.
The country and the opposition parties will be at liberty
to ask, in future, whether we have kept to what we said
we would do.
Accordingly, on the issues of national reconciliation,
the rights and aspirations of all national groups, poverty
and economic growth and development, we will continue
to do, ready to listen to criticism where we fail and
ready to listen to the opinions of those who might not
be in government, including the opposition parties that
sit in this House.
Let me now return to the matter of my educational upbringing
and its relevance to the matters we have been discussing.
According to the advice we received yesterday, and
before, from some of the Honourable Members of the opposition
parties, one of the things we must do is to stand up
and say that our country has no problem of racism, with
the exception of occasional incidents of black and white
We must then go on to say that the racial socio-economic
legacy we inherited from our apartheid past is no longer
a distinguishing feature of our society. We would then
proceed to say that, in reality, South Africa is a society
of equals, regardless of race, colour, gender or geographic
Such inequality as exists, we are required to say,
is inequality between and among social classes rather
than between racial groups. I presume that, in terms
of this advice, and with regard to the provisions in
our national constitution that talk about our racist
legacy and prescribe that we must act to address this
legacy, we must also stand up and proclaim that these
prescriptions are irrelevant and are only of rhetorical
Were I to rise anywhere to make these extraordinary
statements, I would not be surprised at the accompanying
hoots of derisory laughter and the universal conclusion
that the President is truly unhinged - which brings
me back to my education.
Respect for the truth as I see it obliges me to say
that it would be eminently dishonest to pretend and
assert that the legacy of centuries of colonialism and
apartheid has been wiped out in a period of seven years,
since our liberation.
Such an assertion would obviously be false.
Love for our country and all its people also tells
me that because we recognise and accept the reality
of this legacy, which condemns our country to continuing
conflict and the failure of the project for national
reconciliation, we must act to eradicate this legacy.
Because this is a legacy of racist policies, we cannot
and must not avoid discussion of racism, precisely to
ensure that we end racism in our country.
It would seem only logical that to cure an illness,
requires in the first instance that the illness must
be diagnosed correctly. Any failure to recognise the
fact of the illness, can only condemn the sick person
to a further deterioration of his or her health.
I would like to believe, Madame Speaker, that all this
is simple enough. Yet, there is a problem.
The problem is that some of our compatriots, including
some in this House, are uncertain and deeply fearful
of the future. Trapped in the entrenched consciousness
of the past, they cannot define themselves outside the
categories of the past.
Accordingly, they see our country as one that is divided
according to racial majorities and minorities, with
conflicting and irreconcilable interests. It is in this
context that they decry what they describe as 'majoritarianism'.
They also make passionate appeals to us to abandon
our allies of long standing and take them on as our
They promise that they will come to us as representatives
of a national minority or minorities, whereas we are
defined not by what we stand for, but by the fact that
we represent a racial majority.
The irony in all this is that those who make this plea
walked out of the Government of National Unity and refused
to form a coalition government with us in this province,
when, by popular vote, we had emerged as the single
largest party in the province.
To respond to the unfounded fears about the future
among some of our compatriots, we are asked to avoid
telling the truth. We are asked to say that the legacy
of apartheid of racial divisions and disparities is
To force us to tell falsehoods, the insult is thrown
out that the very people who sacrificed everything to
end racism in our country have chosen to entrench racism,
for opportunistic political purposes.
The problem is that we will not turn our backs on what
we learnt about the absolute necessity to tell the truth,
painful as the telling of that truth might be.
On May 10 last year, we discussed the issue of Zimbabwe.
Regardless of the fact that I had addressed the issue
of Zimbabwe a number times by then, strident calls were
still being made for me to make a strong statement on
the situation in Zimbabwe.
It was clear to me that the reason for this insistence
had nothing to do with Zimbabwe, but reflected fears
that here, too, we might act in a hostile manner towards
our white compatriots. I said that in this House, for
which I was accused, yesterday, of having used 'the
race card' once again.
According to Hansard, what I said was this:
"Here one has a black government across the Limpopo
which is perceived to be doing particular things regarding
this land matter. What guarantee do we have that the
black Government this side of the Limpopo will not do
the same things? That is what is driving this demand,
not the resolution of the Zimbabwe question."
When I made this point, I believed it to be true and
remain convinced that I was right.
On that occasion, here is what the Honourable Marthinus
van Schalkwyk, leader of the NNP, said:
"Madam Speaker, I was not going to ask a question,
but, in the light of the President's answer, I think
I must make a short statement and ask a question, because
he raised the issue, as he did outside in public, that
it is a black government and that is why people here
react in a certain way. Let me speak as a member of
a minority. When we see, as members of minorities, what
happens, inter alia, to minorities in Zimbabwe, yes,
there is fear. It is not a politically correct statement,
but I am reacting directly to what the President said."
It is true that the Honourable Member went on to say
that the concerns of the minorities did not arise from
the fact that we had black governments on both banks
of the Limpopo, but from a matter of principle and the
friendly relations between the ruling parties in Zimbabwe
and South Africa.
Nevertheless, Madam Speaker, the point about national
minorities had been made. At that point, I responded
"I perfectly understand how national minorities
in any country would entertain fears like that. That
is perfectly natural...Why will that thing that is happening
there (in Zimbabwe) not happen here?"
On the 10th of May, 2000, the Honourable Member had
the courage to tell the truth about the fears of the
minorities. It would seem that by the 21st of June,
2001, that courage had deserted him and what was true
in May last year, had turned into a 'race card' by June
I have discussed this matter at this length because
the creation of a non-racial society is central to the
historic task of building a new South Africa.
To achieve this objective, we will continue to tell
the truth as we see it. We will continue to focus our
energies on ending the racist legacy, which stares us
in the face everyday. We will not be persuaded that
the best way to deal with racism in our country is to
pretend that the problem does not exist.
We are fortunate that we too are South African. We
do not accept that there are some politicians who have
an exclusive right and possibility to speak for the
white citizens of our country.
The overwhelming majority of our white citizens see
South Africa, quite correctly, as their home. They have
no desire to and will not go anywhere else. They are
committed to work to rebuild this country as their own.
They do not see our black citizens as a threatening
horde of barbaric natives, but as compatriots with whom
they work together everyday for the common good.
I would never insult them by suggesting that they say
agreeable things when they talk to me, while they tell
a tale of fear for the future when they interact with
particular political parties.
Furthermore, Madam Speaker, nobody will convince me
that the Afrikaners as a whole fear that I might stalk
them in the night to wreak vengeance on unsuspecting
women and children.
There are too many Afrikaners that I have trusted for
many years and worked with to bring about change, and
who have done so without asking for anything in return,
for me to believe political stories that the Afrikaners,
in general, are afflicted by a disease of irrational
I know that there are some among our white compatriots
who behave in unacceptable ways. Nevertheless, I am
convinced that these are not representative of white
opinion in our country.
I will stand up to proclaim these truths everywhere,
whatever the political cost to myself. Perhaps needless
to say, I will never seek to purchase popularity and
approval by those who have the capacity to amplify their
voices, by communicating what I know to be false, dishonest
The high post we occupy demands that we act with integrity,
not informed by any desire to achieve cheap popularity.
In addition, Madame Speaker, we will not compromise
the better future of our people, both black and white,
in exchange for positive opinion polls and temporary
In this regard, Madam Speaker, I must make the point
as strongly as I can, that our country is subject to
too high a level of violence. Too many in our society
have no respect for human life and for the inviolability
of the individual.
I believe that all of us have become too accustomed
to violence against persons, in all its forms. For years,
by far the biggest cause of death in this country has
been what, in statistical tables, is described as 'external
causes of death'.
The Government must take the lead in communicating
the message that we have had enough of the violence
in our society. We must communicate the message that
an injury to any of our people, is an injury to all
of us. Together we must ensure that we give no quarter
to criminal violence.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission is approaching
the conclusion of its work. As Government, we will return
to parliament with proposals about how we should build
on the important work done by the Commission.
This will include the critical and complex issue of
what the law describes as final reparations, which are
an essential part of our process of national reconciliation.
We will also have to discuss the issue of how we handle
any unfinished work that bears on political offences
that were committed in the past, for which a sizeable
number of our people did not apply for amnesty.
Let me also take this opportunity to warn against the
rush to reach conclusions on the basis of allegations
or insufficient information. It might very well be an
imperative of opposition to seize any opportunity to
oppose the Executive.
However, I have been concerned at the ease with which
some have found it possible to treat rumours and allegations
as facts, driven, in part, by the wrong concept that
the Executive is necessarily corrupt and suspect.
I believe that the Legislature must guard against the
eventuality that the people arrive at the determination
that members of parliament are more interested in attacking
the Executive than in advancing the truth.
The Members of Parliament who sit in the Executive
and the Executive itself, do not represent the epitome
of evil, however much it might seem a beneficial political
strategy to present them as such.
The peoples of the world will gather in Durban towards
the end of August to consider how humanity might respond
to the challenges of racism, xenophobia and other discriminatory
We will have to prepare to receive these delegates
with our usual hospitality, ready to engage the serious
issues that the World Conference will address.
Among other things, we will have to tell the peoples
of the world what we are doing to end racism in our
own country. I pray that we have the possibility to
speak with one voice at this important Conference.
I trust that we will be able to speak honestly to all
the delegates about what we have done, what we plan
to do and the obstacles we face in our common struggle
to create a non-racial and non-sexist society.
There is much that we can add to the positive outcome
of the Conference. The world expects this of us. We
should not disappoint this expectation.
The Honourable Dr Mangosuthu Buthelezi spoke of what
might be done to give due respect to the office of Head
of State. I thank him most sincerely for raising this
However, it is clear to me that our country still needs
time to evolve its own conventions about how to handle
this office. In the meantime, we will do whatever we
can to protect the dignity of this office and to position
it as a representative of all the people of our country,
regardless of race or political affiliation.
I have referred some of the more specific questions
raised by the Honourable Members to our Ministers, who
will communicate our responses to the Honourable Members
concerned. These include the matter of the former members
of the Bophuthatswana Defence Force who opted for demobilisation.
I would also like to take this opportunity to thank
the Deputy President and Minister Essop Pahad, Director
General Frank Chikane, the advisors and the rest of
the staff in the Presidency for the valuable work they
do everyday, as well as their dedication which means
that they never have any 'knock-off time'.
I must also thank the Ministers, Deputy Ministers and
Directors General who have all carried out their tasks
splendidly. I am not afraid to say that we have an excellent
I am very pleased that we have as many women Ministers
and Deputy Ministers as we do, who are central to the
accomplishment of the task of the creation of a people-centred
Tomorrow, Deputy Minister Ntombazana Botha will be
burying her son, Lt Col Anthony Joseph Smith, officer
serving in the School of Armour at Tempe, who succumbed
to a brain tumour. I am certain that all of us extend
heartfelt condolences to her.
I have appreciated the time I have spent in this House
interacting with the Honourable Members and urge that
the Honourable Members do whatever they can to contribute
to the mobilisation of all our people to unite in action
I thank all the members who had the possibility to
participate in this debate. We noted all the comments
and will consider them carefully.
I thank you also, Madame Speaker, as well as the presiding
Our country is proud of everything you have done and