Response of the President of South Africa,
Thabo Mbeki, to the State of the Nation Debate: National
Assembly, May 27, 2004
Fellow South Africans:
Last Friday, speaking on behalf of our national government,
we detailed a programme of action covering the period
immediately ahead of us. As we reminded the House then,
when we presented the State of the Nation Address in
February, we said that the President elected after the
2004 elections would table such a programme of action.
We deliberately avoided detailing this programme in
February because we did not want it to be expunged from
the public mind by the inevitable cacophony that would
accompany the then forthcoming elections. It seemed
to us then, as it does now, that it would be necessary
for as many of our people as possible critically to
engage this programme of action, outside the context
of the election campaign.
We consider this engagement to be of the greatest importance.
This is because it remains our firm view that we should
unite as many of our people as possible, together to
pursue the goal of a better life for all.
I am therefore pleased to acknowledge with sincere
thanks the generally positive response of the Honourable
Members to the detailed programme we presented. I also
accept that nevertheless the opposition parties have
a right and duty to criticise our performance where
they think this is justified and necessary.
The point has also been made, quite legitimately, that
the setting of time frames will assist these parties
properly to monitor the implementation of our undertakings
and enhance the effectiveness of parliament in exercising
its function of oversight over the executive.
I have also been informed that quite a few of our newspapers
called on us to implement what we had voluntarily committed
ourselves to implement, with no pressure or prompting
by anybody. I would like to assure the editors that
we would not have made time specific commitments unless
we knew we would honour them, unless we knew we had
the capacity to fulfil them.
I hope that in addition to being vigilant and vocal
observers of the process of the birth of the new South
Africa, the Honourable Members will also roll up their
sleeves and join the millions of our people as builders
of that new South Africa.
I am certain that these millions would applaud this
engagement, regardless of the political affiliation
of any of the builders of the new non-racial, non-sexist
and prosperous South Africa. Again I would like to confirm
the government's commitment to work with all the Honourable
Members, together to accelerate the process of the reconstruction
and development of our country.
However, it would appear that there are some in our
country who find the notions of national consensus,
national unity and united national action very discomfiting.
To explain this discomfiture, those who are uncomfortable
with these concepts and practices, seek to argue that
national consensus and united national action constitute
a threat to a necessary diversity of opinions in our
country and a vibrant democracy.
Yesterday, the Hon Lechesa Tsenoli referred to the
protracted and continuing struggle of our national liberation
movement to unite our people. In the past we worked
to unite all our people against racism and apartheid,
in favour of a democratic South Africa.
We worked to unite all our people to achieve a peaceful
resolution of the historic conflict in our country,
in favour of a democratic South Africa.
Today, we continue to work to unite all our people
to eradicate the painful legacy of racism and sexism
we inherited from our past, in favour of a democratic
We continue to work to unite all South Africans to
defeat the scourge of poverty and underdevelopment,
in favour of a democratic South Africa.
We will strive to unite all our people to implement
the programme of action we announced on Friday, in favour
of a democratic South Africa that truly belongs to all
who live in it. We will do this because we are convinced
that our unity gives us the possibility to accelerate
our advance to a South Africa that is free of poverty
and the racial, gender and geographic disparities bequeathed
to us by our history.
But as we have said, it would appear that there are
some in this House and the country who think that the
imperative to sustain our democracy argues against the
desirability of seeking the national unity around common
goals that has been and continues to be a fundamental
feature of the historic effort to set our country on
a winning path.
Obviously we disagree with this proposition and approach.
Nevertheless, perhaps we will have to be satisfied with
the reality that our inherited, current and different
life experiences over many centuries dictate that we
should accept that some among us genuinely and honestly
believe that the effort to construct a people's contract
is inimical to democratic practice.
I am certain that the very thoughtful intervention
of the Honourable Andries Nel will have helped all of
us the better to understand the philosophical basis
that informs this divergence between us and those of
our compatriots who see an inherent and irreconcilable
contradiction between concerted national action and
the entrenchment of democracy.
I trust that this deeper understanding will also help
all of us to accept that the holding and propagation
of views with which we fundamentally disagree, does
not necessarily make those with whom we disagree unpatriotic,
as various Honourable Members of the Democratic Alliance
In addition, I would like to take this opportunity
once more to confirm our determination to pursue the
centrally important element of our programme of action
- the mobilisation of all our people to join the people's
contract for progressive change, as was urged by such
Honourable Members as Fezile Bhengu and Ben Mthembu,
who spoke yesterday.
Happily, the overwhelming majority of our people, regardless
of race, class, gender and age, agree that we need the
people's contract, and are ready to be part of this
exciting advance in our continuing pursuit of the goal
of national unity and reconciliation.
We took this matter further in the State of the Nation
Address when we said:
"These circumstances (relating to the global celebrations
of our 10th anniversary of freedom and the success of
our bid for the 2010 Soccer World Cup) suggest that
perhaps the time has come for the emergence of a united
movement of the peoples of the world that would come
together to work for the creation of a new world order.
This would respond to the urgent need to address the
concerns and interests of the billions on our universe
who are poor and marginalized, as are the same masses
in our country who must be the principal focus of our
efforts to build a caring and people-centred society."
I know that there are some in this House and our country
who dismiss this proposition as being nothing more than
a mere flight of fancy, an extravagant pipedream. They
are certain that any attempt to build such a united
movement of the peoples of the world would be a futile
and wasted effort.
Again we hold a different view, based on what we have
seen with the natural eye. The outcome of our General
Elections, the national celebrations of our First Decade
of Freedom, and the powerful explosion of joy at the
decision of the FIFA Executive Committee about the 2010
Soccer World Cup all told an extraordinary story of
how far we have progressed towards the emergence of
one nation united by common humane national goals.
The joy we experienced in our own country was replicated
throughout our continent of Africa. In their millions,
the ordinary African masses spontaneously took to the
streets of their cities, towns and villages repeating
the words that passed among the people of Rwanda - "we
Yomi, a Nigerian, called a radio station and said:
"I feel like jumping up and shouting 'Uhuru'!"
Another Nigerian, Adekunle Ayewo, said: "Boy oh
boy, Africa has arrived and I am so happy!" President
Nujoma spoke proudly of "the songs and dances in
the streets of our cities and towns of Namibia last
A Cameroonian, Patrice Nde, said: "(South Africa)
is a country of great achievements. Come 2010, Fifa
will not regret having awarded the World Cup to (South
Africa). I will open a special bank account into which
I will save some money for (going to) the tournament."
The champion athlete of Mozambique, Maria Mutola, said:
"I am extremely delighted." The Senegalese
musician, Ishmael Lo, said: "South Africa was always
way ahead and it will be a glorious event for the whole
President Kufuor of Ghana said "Ghanaians from
all walks of life are very enthused about this triumph
with its many prospects for prosperity that lie ahead
for the Continent... It is our hope that through this
tournament our nations will be brought even closer to
enable us to forge ahead for more glory." Michael
Oti Adjei wrote in the "Ghanaian Chronicle"
"The whole continent was immersed in the joy of
South Africa triumph in Zurich."
President Toure of Mali said, "We are happy that
(South Africa) has been chosen to host the event."
The Communications Minister of Egypt, Nabil Benabdallah
said "this win...is a victory for the whole African
continent." Fisho Mwale, Deputy President of the
Football Association of Zambia, said "All of us
are winners and I am headed for my champagne glass."
Mr Sepp Blatter, the President of FIFA, said: "With
South Africa being a multi-cultural and a multi-racial
country, it is a dignified representative of Africa
for the organisation of the World Cup. It is the beginning
of a new era in Africa..."
A comment posted on Ghanaweb said, "Thank God
South Africa won!"
But beyond, and in addition to these and many other
reported comments, was the amazing spontaneous festival
that erupted throughout Africa on Saturday, May 15,
with millions of the simple folk who constitute the
African masses happily living out the thought - Thank
God South Africa won!
The commentator on Ghanaweb described South Africa
as "a most authentic African country." He
said that contrary to many other African countries,
it has "the best road infrastructure; the best
schools; the best hospitals; the best everything. No
wonder that black Africans (throughout Africa) now deem
South Africa a HEAVEN..."
The millions of Africans who celebrated with us on
May 15 were making the statement that they would like
to see all our countries having "the best road
infrastructure; the best schools; the best hospitals;
the best everything".
They were saying that what we have sought to do in
our own country to change the lives of all our people
for the better and to build a stable democracy in our
multi-racial, multi-ethnic and multi-cultural society
is consistent with the best aspirations shared by Africans
throughout Africa. They are confident that the African
Union and NEPAD will succeed to unite our continent
in a common effort to achieve its renewal.
On Friday and elsewhere we commented on the way the
peoples of the world joined us to celebrate our First
Decade of Democracy, in certain instances, as in New
Orleans in the United States, taking to the streets,
as did our continent when we were granted the opportunity
to host the 2010 Soccer World Cup. The peoples of the
world were also making the same statement as did the
African masses, indicating their readiness to join with
these masses to build a better world.
Yesterday's press carried reports of the highly successful
launch by our National Treasury of a $1 billion 10-year
global bond. These reports indicated correctly that
this was "the lowest coupon on record for a South
African dollar-denominated bond", which also had
"the lowest spread yet for a South African dollar-bond".
The Treasury Director General, Lesetja Kganyago, also
correctly observed that all this "reflects investor
confidence in South Africa", and that the fact
that it was oversubscribed, constituted a "resounding
vote of confidence in South Africa".
All this and everything else we have said must surely
inspire all of us to redouble our efforts to accelerate
the process of the reconstruction and development of
our country. I trust that our National Parliament will
respond to the call made by some Honourable Members
so to organise its work schedule to give Members the
possibility to participate in the process of the implementation
of the programme we announced last Friday.
Inevitably, we will also have to continue to respond
to the minority inside and outside our country, which
continues to propagate negative images of our country.
Earlier this week, the CEO of Anglogold, Mr Bobby Godsell,
alerted all of us to the continued existence of these
negative sentiments among London-based fund managers.
Correctly, he said that we must join in a concerted
effort to put out positive messages about ourselves.
Describing the concerns of the fund managers as "wrong",
he said that some elsewhere in the world held the view
"that everything in Africa is bad, resulting in
it not being competitive."
Again quite correctly, Mr Godsell called for a speedy
implementation of the new mining legislation, which
he said, "should put to bed international scepticism
It is most unfortunate that we still have others in
our country who engage in conveying the negative images
about ourselves that Mr Godsell spoke out against. For
instance I have been informed that some within the mining
sector are involved in an international campaign to
demonise the new mining framework, approved by this
Parliament, which other mining companies, such as Anglogold,
are "very keen to (implement) as soon as possible",
to quote Mr Godsell.
Something similar took place after the publication
of the Report of the FIFA Inspection Group. On the subject
of "Safety and Security in the Country", the
Group said: "General information indicates that
South Africa shows a lack of security, but the Group
was not aware of any such claims during the visit, although
it was possible to read press reports on some violence
in marginal areas during our visit to the country...We
therefore came to the conclusion that as long as people
attending the 2010 Soccer World Cup kept within certain
boundaries, they should not encounter any trouble. After
(a) presentation (by the Police Service) we concluded
that they have enough experience with this kind of event
to handle them without difficulty."
After the publication of the FIFA Report, there were
some in our country who insisted that safety and security
was a matter of major concern to FIFA, whereas the Inspection
Group had said that during its visit to our country
it was not made aware of any substantiated claims of
lack of security that would endanger our hosting of
the Soccer World Cup.
The challenge we face, as identified by Mr Godsell,
is also reflected in outrageous observations made by
a US-based company that provides country risk profiles
to the global investor community, like the fund managers
that Mr Godsell spoke about. Among other things, in
a report dated 1 March, 2004, this rating company says:
The passage of legislation to expedite the process
of land redistribution "(creates) the potential
for a rise in illegal land seizures...Add to that the
likely eruption of conflict over crime, unemployment,
corruption, and a possible third term effort by Mbeki,
and the country appears to be headed toward a future
that looks less like the rainbow nation envisaged a
decade ago than a country headed toward considerable
political, economic, and social upheaval."
It says that by standing for a second term, "Mbeki...has
already defied Mandela's precedent by seeking re-election..."
South Africa is "a de facto one-party state".
"The government has also been unable to cope with
(illegal) land occupations, themselves a consequence
of the failure to move forward on land reform..."
"The military has been troubled by the difficulty
of defining its role since apartheid ended. Officers
hope that future roles in African peacekeeping will
"The police are widely viewed as both inept and
corrupt. Even after their conviction, most notorious
criminals are able to bribe their way out of incarceration."
"The road to the elections and their aftermath
are likely to be bumpy..."
We are fortunate that the overwhelming majority of
the Honourable Members who participated in the Debate
rejected this fundamentally false image our country
projected by people who have a clear agenda to see us
But the fact that this negative campaign persists,
despite everything that has happened in our country
over the last ten years, emphasises the need for us
to join in united action to address the challenges we
have all identified, relating to the pursuit of the
goal of a better life for all our people.
It is clear that in the end, those who are intent deliberately
to propagate falsehoods about our country will be proved
wrong and defeated more by what we do than what we say.
The public responses of our ministers, premiers, mayors
and heads of the state owned corporations to the State
of the Nation Address indicate the firm commitment of
the public sector to implement the programme of action
we announced last Friday.
We have also been greatly encouraged by the positive
response of the private sector, the trade unions and
the rest of civil society to that Address. We look forward
to the further strengthening of our links with both
these social partners, together to meet the goals we
indicated in the State of the Nation Address.
Two days ago the African Peace and Security Council
was launched at the Headquarters of the African Union
in Addis Ababa. This has sent out the important message
that our continent is extremely serious in its resolve
to confront the challenges that have plagued the African
millions for a very long time. In this regard, necessarily
and correctly, among other things, the Council took
further decisions to reinforce the intervention of the
African Union to end the bloody conflict in Darfur in
Yesterday in Kenya, the Government of Sudan and the
SPLA concluded their negotiations and signed the peace
agreement so dear to the Sudanese people and the peoples
of Africa. We would like to take this opportunity to
congratulate the negotiating parties, as well as President
Mwayi Kibaki, the government and people of Kenya and
others who had the patience to work with the Sudanese
negotiators to produce an excellent result.
We are ready to discharge the responsibilities entrusted
to us by the Sudanese and the African Union, to lead
the African process in support of the post-conflict
reconstruction of the Sudan. A peaceful and democratic
Sudan will add to the defeat of those who, as Mr Godsell
said, hold the view that everything in Africa is bad.
Today the staff of the President's Office has been
enlarged by the inclusion of 7 young girls studying
in various schools in Cape Town. I am pleased that they
are sitting in the House Directors' General box with
their boss for the day, the Director General in the
Presidency, the Rev Frank Chikane. They are here because
we are participating in the national campaign to "Take
a girl child to work".
Among other things they worked on is the response to
the Debate I am currently tabling before the House.
In addition to participating in editing the draft,
they have also contributed some additions, some of which
we have included in the text. I apologise that I cannot
include all of them today, and will use them in other
Noélle Koeries of Holy Cross High in Maitland
says: "I look forward to the day when a person
will be viewed as a person. On paper we are all equal,
but in reality the struggle for equality continues.
We must forever remember that we are human beings before
anything else and that makes us worthy to be appreciated
Annika Hendricks also from Holy Cross says: "I
am very glad that this country has a democracy which
our forefathers fought for. South Africa definitely
has the potential to shine and is live with possibility.
Today I am very proud to say I am a South African. Being
a young woman in South Africa, I want the people of
our land to recognise the rights of women in future,
not only for me but for the generations to come. Women
are going places...Equality for all."
Delia de Villiers of Brackenfell High School writes:
"In a country such as South Africa, with its diverse
and vibrant cultures, it is of crucial importance that
people, especially women, are encouraged and empowered
to rise above their circumstances to make a valuable
and progressive difference in society."
Zandile Mazwayi of Good Hope Seminary Girls High School
writes: "South Africa is only ten years old and
therefore it is likely that in our growth process we
are likely to make mistakes. I therefore make it every
South African's task, instead of fighting over who makes
what mistakes, let us rather help show each other the
way...Let us focus on involving the youth more in Parliament."
Nandi Dlelapantsi of Harry Gwala Senior Secondary School
says: "Today's Dream is definitely tomorrow's Reality."
I could not agree more both with her and all the others.
I thank the Honourable Members for their contributions
to the Debate and thank you all for your attention.
As we said last Friday, let us get down to work in
a people's contract to build a better South Africa and
a better World.