Address to Extraordinary Summit of the World Economic Forum
21 June 2003

It is a great privilege for me to be able to share with this august gathering, the South African success story and our approach to lasting peace and reconciliation.

We are also pleased to be part of this conference, which seeks to consolidate the peace process in this Middle East region. Having gone through a long period of conflict, we are here today because we feel we should all contribute to bringing about lasting peace and stability in this region.

Ladies and gentlemen, we were heartened by the publication of the Road Map to Peace and Stability in the Middle East recently, and are encouraged by the fact that both the Palestinians and the Israelis have accepted it.

South Africa has pledged its full support for the Road Map. Although we acknowledge that it may not be viewed as a perfect plan by both sides, we regard it as a viable way to achieve a process that will lead to a lasting settlement between Palestine and Israel.

We urge both commit themselves, in spite of difficulties, to implement the provisions of the Road Map.

There are a number of lessons that we can say we learnt from the South African experience of resolving our own conflict. We learnt, for example that total commitment by all parties was a necessary precondition to the attainment of a lasting peace settlement.

The presence of a total commitment in all parties involved in the conflict ensures that no hurdle is ever considered insurmountable and that each party to the conflict does all it can to ensure that a solution is found.

We also realized that the belief in one party's capacity to defeat and destroy one's opponent was a delusion and there is always a possibility of the opponent regrouping. A peaceful solution through negotiations was more likely to bring about a settlement.

In our country, we had a unique situation in that both the liberation movement and the apartheid government were ready to negotiate at the same time, due to a realisation that the status quo could not be prolonged.

As a liberation movement, we had been ready to talk to the government for years.

Government had no choice but to negotiate because even the military had recognised that the South African conflict was 80% political and only 20% military, and therefore a political solution was more appropriate.

During the 1980's, a process of engagement with the Afrikaner intelligentsia was intensified. Various groupings including business, the academia, religious bodies came to meet the African National Congress (ANC) outside South Africa, which by this time had mobilised both the people within the country as well as the international community against the inhuman system of apartheid.

They were interested in understanding what we stood for, what programmes we proposed and what we had to offer as an alternative to the apartheid rule of the South African government. These groups also came to ascertain if the ANC was ready to govern.

These contacts had come about because the business and academic communities in South Africa had come to accept that the unjust and system of government in South Africa could no longer be sustained.

The government was under tremendous pressure both internationally and internally where it had to deal with unprecedented levels of mass protest that had rendered the country ungovernable.

In the meantime, the war it waged against the Angolan government was increasingly becoming difficult to maintain and it was clear that they were facing eventual defeat.


This was the context in which the Harare Declaration was produced, a document drawn by the ANC, adopted by the Front-line States and the Organisation of African Unity.

The Declaration stated that: "Together with the rest of the world, we believe that it is essential, before any negotiations take place, that the necessary climate for negotiations be created. The apartheid regime has the urgent responsibility to respond to this universally acclaimed demand and thus create this climate. "The ANC thus had an opportunity to articulate its position once again.

The Declaration essentially stated the commitment of the Organisation of African Unity and the people of Africa to peace and justice and that there could be neither while the system of apartheid existed.

It reaffirmed the recognition of the rights of all people, including those of South Africa, to determine their own destiny and reaffirmed its continued support for all South Africans who pursue this noble objective through political, armed and other forms of struggle.

It allowed us a chance to further influence international opinion because it restated one of the central principles of the ANC which said: "The people of Africa, singly, collectively and acting through the OAU, are engaged in the serious efforts to establish peace throughout the continent by ending all conflicts through negotiations based on the principle of justice and peace for all."

By rallying the support of the Front-line States, the ANC was able to articulate its position as a liberation movement, using the OAU as its mouthpiece. The ANC struggle was transformed into an African struggle.

While we need to acknowledge that the change of leadership in the government of South Africa was a positive and contributing factor towards the process of negotiations, it is also important to understand clearly, as we have stated above, that this was not just an act of good will.

South Africa had become a pariah state internationally and the people in SA had rendered the country ungovernable.

The armed struggle was making it impossible to continue to maintain the myth that apartheid could be maintained through force and South Africa's involvement in Angola had eroded the myth that the South African Defence Force (SADF) was invincible.

This myth was resoundingly crushed by the humiliating defeat of the SADF in the battle of Quito Cunavale, in the South of Angola by the Angolan army (FAPLA) supported by the internationalist Cuban forces.


While our political organisations were unbanned in 1990, there were still obstacles to the holding of negotiations. A discussion needed to be held to deal with these obstacles.

The historic meeting that took place in Cape Town and produced what was called the Groote Schuur Minute, was the first formal meeting between the African National Congress and the government and was co-chaired by our former President Nelson Mandela and the then president of South Africa, F.W. de Klerk. Among the issues that constituted the obstacles were the following:

The release of political prisoners;
The safe return of our people from exile; and
An end to the state of emergency that was in force in the country.

The resultant agreement aimed at removing these obstacles was the first major agreement between the South African government and the liberation movement and it is this agreement, which finally laid the firm basis for the negotiations.

At this meeting, a working group was established to make recommendations on a definition of political offences in the South African situation. It ad to discuss, in this regard, time scales, and to advise on norms and mechanisms for dealing with the release of political prisoners and the granting of immunity in respect of political offences to those inside and outside South Africa.

Agreement was reached that the proceedings of the working group would be confidential as well as on specific time frames for the completion of this task.

Agreement was also reached on the urgent need to consider temporary immunity from prosecution for political offences committed prior to the meeting, of members of the ANC Executive Committee and the facilitation of their return into the country so they could assist in the establishment and management of political structures within the country.

This was necessary so that they could assist in ending violence and take part in peaceful political negotiations.

The government undertook to review existing security legislation to bring it into line with the new dynamic situation developing in the country and reiterated its commitment to work towards the lifting of the state of emergency.

Efficient channels of communication between the two parties would be established in order to curb violence and intimidation from both quarters effectively.

Accordingly, liaison committees were then established at regional and district level to ensure that these conditions were created at all levels across the country.


For our agreement to hold and be respected by all political groupings, it was important for all political parties in the country to be involved in the negotiations so that in the end they would all own the final product.

The final question that remained centred around who would chair the negotiations. We were all in agreement that we did not want outside mediators. We wanted South Africans to conduct their searched for eminent persons within South Africa whom we regarded as having the necessary credibility to carry out the task effectively and objectively.

There was agreement that this person also had to be neither from government nor from the ANC. Due to our particular history, we settled on two South African judges, one white and one black to ensure that they would be acceptable to all.

The next step was to agree on the process of reaching agreement. It was agreed that there would be no voting due to the imbalance in the size of the political parties represented in the negotiation process.

This would have had the effect of allowing some parties to dominate the process, therefore it was agreed that sufficient consensus would be used as a measure of agreement. The judges would make the final pronouncement on whether there was indeed sufficient consensus. This way the smaller parties would feel included in the process.


For any negotiation to succeed, all the parties in conflict should be ready and committed to negotiate and resolve their problems.

They should put the interests of the country and the people above the interest of their individual political parties. There should be honesty and no attempt to manipulate or act with hidden agendas. There should be trust because a lack of trust can be a serious obstacle to reaching agreement.

At this point, the ANC had not suspended its armed struggle. At a meeting held in Pretoria, in August 1990, the ANC, in the interest of moving as speedily as possible towards a negotiated settlement, and to create the conducive atmosphere for peaceful negotiations to take place, announced that it was suspending all armed actions with immediate effect.

When the ANC, which was formed in 1912, moved from non-violent engagement to armed struggle in 1961, when all avenues of peaceful protest and negotiations had been closed, it was with the express objective of creating a situation were the government would be compelled to reach a political settlement with the liberation movement.

Therefore, even at this point, the ANC was certainly prepared to continue the armed struggle, for as long as was necessary for the liberation of our people.

At the meeting in Pretoria, which produced the Pretoria Minute, the government and the ANC recommitted themselves to the Groote Schuur Minute and declared their conviction that what the parties had agreed to could become a milestone on the road to true peace and prosperity for south Africa.

Issues relating to the granting of indemnity for certain categories of persons were agreed upon as well as the process of releasing political prisoners and the granting of indemnity, which was to be completed by 30 April 1991.

Agreement was reached on the repealing of provisions of the Internal Security Act and on the need to reduce the levels of violence and intimidation amongst sectors of the South African population.

All of these processes finally opened the way for the start of substantive negotiations for a political settlement in South Africa. It is important to note that such was the commitment of all parties to the peace process that all agreed without any hesitation that the negotiations would be held within the borders of South Africa.

It is important to note also that we negotiated a political settlement first and then dealt with drafting the Constitution - which is not usually the case in other countries.


The parties involved in the negotiations in the Convention for a Democratic South Africa negotiations took a decision to form a Transitional Executive Council (TEC) which would deal with the implementation of decisions taken during the negotiation process.

All the decisions of the TEC, which mainly related to the negotiation process, had to be endorsed by parliament for them to become legally and constitutionally binding.

This was necessary, as the process of drawing up of the interim constitution had still to be undertaken.

The TEC was tasked with the implementation of all the decisions taken at the multiparty negotiations, leading up to the first democratic elections.

At the multiparty negotiations, agreement was reached on the need to establish a Government of National Unity (GNU!) and on the formulation of an interim Constitution for this Government of National Unity. In the meantime, the National Assembly had the responsibility to draft up the new Constitution for South Africa.

The Government of National Unity and the National Assembly during this period were guided by the Interim Constitution.

As all political parties had participated in the multiparty negotiations, the outcomes of the negotiations were owned by everyone, and this eliminated dissent to a great extent.

Amongst the issues that were agreed upon, was that each political party needed to have at least 5% support nationally in order to qualify for a seat in the National Assembly.

A specific percentage for parties to qualify to be in the executive was also agreed to during the negotiations. As a result of this agreement three parties namely the IFP, NP and the ANC formed the Government of National Unity.

A common thread that held together all those participating in the negotiation process was the principle of reconciliation. It was expressed in practical terms in the inclusive nature of the negotiation process, which allowed the representation of all political parties irrespective of their size.

It was further expressed in the manner in which the interim constitution was crafted, particularly with regard to the constitutional imperative to establish a Government of National Unity.


As a further effort to enhance our process of reconciliation, a decision was taken to establish a Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

The motivation was that for reconciliation to last and to be real, the truth had to be told of what had happened during the course of the conflict and that this had to be done by both sides.

We though it was important for South Africans to know what damage had been done to the humanity, the social fabric and the psyche of all South Africans from both ends of the political spectrum. And so that it should serve as a lesson for future generations to ensure that such an evil and inhumane system shall never again be allowed to exist in South Africa.

The TRC hearings were widely broadcast on radio and television making it possible for the entire nation to participate. Emotional scenes where communities and individuals came face to face with their persecutors who gave gruesome descriptions of the murders that they committed in defence of the inhuman system of apartheid.

Families of people who had gone missing without trace for years were able to achieve closure when they finally found out what had happened to their loved ones.

Also profoundly moving was the experience of observing South Africans, who had been used as killing machines by the apartheid government, confronting their horrendous past and seeking pardon for their deeds from their victims and their families.

The conditions for pardon were a full disclosure and proof of political motivation and political sanction. Many benefited from the process while many found this confrontation of their past difficult.

We remain convinced that the process was beneficial as a healing process to many South Africans who were afforded the opportunity to achieve closure. To know what had happened to their fathers, mothers, sons and daughters - where possible to lay their remains to rest and to move on.

In recognition of the fact that reconciliation is a process and not an event, the TRC in its final report made specific recommendations and proposals in an attempt to contribute to the process of national unity and reconciliation.

This long and arduous process of multiparty political negotiations has laid a solid foundation, which makes our democracy, freedom and reconciliation solid and sustainable.

We have also established institutions that seek to strengthen the culture of democracy and respect of human rights – such as the Human Rights Commission, the Gender Commission, the Youth Commission, the Public Protector, an independent judiciary to name a few.

We believe we have achieved so much as a country because we put our differences aside and put South Africa and its people first. We believe that regardless of conditions in any conflict, peace is always achievable if there is total commitment, honesty, a clear vision of the way forward, and a concrete plan of how to get there.

We wish the people of the Middle East well in their endeavours towards peace. The experience of South Africa, which had a complex conflict, and the success of other countries in other continents, proves that peace is an achievable goal.

We wish the Israelis and the Palestinians, and all parties working to resolve conflicts - well on the road ahead, and are confident that they can find common ground.

I Thank You

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