Address to the National Council Of Provinces,
19 September 2003

Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces,
Honourable Premiers and MECs,
Honourable Members,

I am delighted to be able to share a few thoughts with you today.

Each September, we are all urged to renew our commitment to the values that we hold dear and which bind us together as enshrined in our Constitution.

We also acknowledge and appreciate our national symbols.

Our flag, the national anthem and coat of arms represent our national identity, and should continue to entrench pride and a sense of nationhood and patriotism to all of us.

We also remember even the lesser-known national symbols, such as the national flower, the protea, national animal, the springbok, national tree, the yellowwood, the national fish, the galjoen and the national bird, the blue crane.

Heritage month also provides for the explosion of cultural celebrations, which express our heritage and promote our cultural diversity.

We also have another cause for celebration. We are only a few months away from the 10th anniversary of the liberation of our country and people.

Heritage Month and Heritage Day provide us with an opportunity to begin warm-up celebrations throughout the country.

We have come a long way since 1994. We were a country divided and a nation in turmoil, facing a bleak future. From April 27, 1994, we went beyond expectations as we managed to transcend hatred, bitterness and pain and began to rebuild our country in a spirit of togetherness and co-operation.

It is therefore not surprising that many call our transition to democracy a miracle.

As we celebrate, we will be remembering the determination, commitment, hard work and sacrifices of thousands of our people. From Mangaung, kaNyamazane, KwaMashu, Gugulethu, Seshego, Galeshewe, Mafikeng, Soweto, Mdantsane, the Cape Flats, Chatsworth and many other areas; the sacrifices of countless South Africans laid the foundation for our non-racial, non-sexist democracy.

There are a number of lessons that we learnt from resolving our conflict, which inform our approach to issues and in building our country.

We learnt, for example that working together, regardless of our differences, was a recipe for success. That is why this government believes in, and constantly promotes partnerships with all sectors of society in rebuilding our country.

We also learnt that regardless of conditions in any conflict, peace is always achievable. If there is total commitment, love for the people and country, honesty, a clear vision of the way forward, and a concrete plan of how to reach our destination, success is guaranteed.

The experience of the horrors of apartheid developed and deepened our commitment to reconciliation. We needed to eliminate the quest for retribution and inculcate positive and constructive values.

Reconciliation was expressed in practical terms in the inclusive nature of the multiparty negotiation process, which allowed the representation of all political parties irrespective of their size. This unique element ensured our success.

Reconciliation 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.

Another positive attribute for our nation is that we decided to confront the demons of the past openly, through the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

The TRC was beneficial as a healing process to many South Africans who were directly affected by apartheid brutality.

Honourable Members, our Constitution, remains the cornerstone of our new nation and new democracy, and defines who we are and what we want to achieve.

In drafting the Constitution, we were guided by key values such as tolerance, respect for the views and positions of other parties on issues, preparedness to apply the principle of give and take during negotiations and the commitment to put our past behind us while we negotiated.

The preamble of our Constitution states this very clearly, and I quote:

We, the people of South Africa,
Recognise the injustices of our past;
Honour those who suffered for justice and freedom in our land;
Respect those who have worked to build and develop our country;
and Believe that South Africa belongs to all who live in it,united in our diversity.

"We therefore, through our freely elected representatives, adopt this Constitution as the supreme law of the Republic so as to:

Heal the divisions of the past and establish a society based on democratic values, social justice and fundamental human rights;
Lay the foundations for a democratic and open society in which government is based on the will of the people and every citizen is equally protected by law;
Improve the quality of life of all citizens and free the potential of each person; and
Build a united and democratic South Africa able to take its rightful place as a sovereign state in the family of nations."

This is the vision that should continue to guide our actions to build a dignified and prosperous future for future generations.

In marking Heritage Month, we also need to celebrate the expansion of a better life to all since the achievement of democracy in 1994.

Two successful rounds of democratic elections have seen the consolidation of democracy and its extension to the local level; and step-by-step South Africans are uniting to help eradicate the legacy of racial division and inequality.

Granted, we still have some way to go before we can say there is universal access to services, but the progress made so far is indeed remarkable.

The restoration of human dignity that we achieved in 1994 has to be accompanied by the eradication of poverty and improvement in the quality of life. All government departments execute their tasks with this objective as one of their central points of reference.

Colleagues, while service delivery is important; also critical is the manner in which public servants provide the services.

The Batho Pele-People First Campaign is pursued to inculcate among public servants the spirit of people-centred quality service. It promotes our vision of a caring government. We urge the public to help us monitor the service provided by public servants through reporting uncaring behaviour by public servants.

We recently acknowledged health care workers who provide excellent care and support to patients, particularly patients living with AIDS.

We commend such selflessness and dedication and encourage it among all public servants.

Honourable Members, another attribute of the new democratic dispensation is the accessibility of government services. This is being enhanced by establishing Multi-Purpose Community Centres among other initiatives. There are currently 43 MPCCs in operation, with more to be established.

On the economic front, macro-economic stability has been achieved and we had to ensure sustained economic growth in a competitive and volatile global setting.

Internationally, South Africa's standing, and in particular as a voice for development, peace and stability is acknowledged. Our quest for stability has extended beyond our borders, given this country's role in promoting development, pursuing peace and democracy in the African continent.

Colleagues, we believe we have achieved so much as a nation because we do not emphasise our differences, but put South Africa and its people first.

We are a nation that confounds critics. We see strength in our diversity while others may see diversity as a threat or weakness.

Our different languages, cultures, customs and traditions as well as geographical spread are all special ingredients to the melting pot that is South Africa.

Most importantly, we are united in our quest for a better life. We may differ in methods used in achieving a better life for all, and would probably differ with regards to the tally of what has been achieved in the last 10 years, but that does not mean we should differ with regard to the objectives. Building a better South Africa and improving the quality of life of all our people should be what drives us all.

We have come this far, and still have a long way to go before we can say that all our goals have been achieved. But we must acknowledge that we have made a good beginning.

Honourable Members, our democracy has gone through a lot of trials and tribulations in the first decade. It has passed all the tests, which is another reason for us to celebrate.

One of these tests is the investigation of the Deputy President by the National Directorate of Public Prosecutions.

This test has indicated the extent to which our democracy has deepened, and how, contrary to the views of so-called opinion makers who are saying the investigation has weakened democracy, it has actually proven how strong and mature our democracy has become.

It is only in a mature democracy where a Deputy President of a country would be investigated, without any interference or attempt to stop the investigation by Government or the Deputy President himself.

In some established democracies, high office is protected and incumbents are granted immunity. In our country, all are equal before the law. We have never questioned these principles; we respect them and abide by them.

The Deputy President has not interfered with the investigation, and has taken appropriate steps within the law and his rights to seek redress regarding the outcome of the investigation.

The investigation has been a test for other institutions as well.

It has tested the maturity of state organs responsible for investigations and the potential and capacity for the abuse of power by individuals in these institutions.

It has also been a critical test for the media, whose freedom we fought for, and which is enshrined in Clause 16 in the Constitution of our country.

The media is supposed to be an independent watchdog, which does not and should not take sides in any conflict, but seek to provide the public with information to allow them to make up their own minds.

A professional media is supposed to remain true to the ethics of

objectivity, fairness and balance and be open to all sides of the story. The investigation has left many questions, as to whether the media remained true to these noble ethics, or whether it took a firm position to vigorously support one party to the full, to further mutual agendas.

The investigation has also been a test for political parties, the extent to which they are prepared to assist the democratic process constructively or whether they choose to become "sound-bite" specialists, swallowing any lead that they are given, to get media mileage.

The important outcome of this whole debacle is that our democracy has so far not been shaken by it. It has withstood the challenges because it is above individuals, and is rooted on very strong foundations. This is what opinion makers should be emphasizing.

This government should also be congratulated for adhering to democratic principles and not being tempted to abuse power.

We are very proud to have inherited a priceless legacy from the founding fathers and mothers of this new nation.

Let us treasure it and continue to build a prosperous nation on the foundation of April 27, 1994.

I thank you.

Quick Links

Disclaimer | Contact Us | HomeLast Updated: 3 September, 2004 3:32 PM
This site is best viewed using 800 x 600 resolution with Internet Explorer 5.0, Netscape Communicator 4.5 or higher.
2003 Department of Foreign Affairs, Republic of South Africa