ADDRESS BY PRESIDENT NELSON MANDELA AT THE OPENING OF PARLIAMENT, 5 February 1999
Madame Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly; Honourable Chairperson and Deputy Chairpersons of the National Council of Provinces; Honourable Members of Parliament; Distinguished guests; ladies and Gentlemen:
Today we start the ultimate session of our first democratic parliament.
The profound changes of the past four-and-half years make the distance traversed seem so short; the end so sudden. Yet with the epoch-making progress that has been made, this period could have been decades.
South Africa is in a momentous process of change, blazing a trail towards a secure future.
The time is yet to come for farewells, as many of us - by choice or circumstance - will not return.
However, there is no time to pause. The long walk is not yet over. The prize of a better life has yet to be won
Allow me, Madame Speaker, to cast my eyes further back than the period under review.
Ten years ago, in a letter to the Head of the Apartheid State, in an attempt to launch negotiations, one humble prisoner said that, at a first meeting between government and the ANC, two central issues needed to be addressed:
" .. .firstly, the demand for majority rule in a unitary state; secondly, the concern of white South Africans over this demand, as well as the insistence of whites on structural guarantees that majority rule will not mean domination of the white minority by blacks"
In yet another letter, it was emphasised:
"The very first step on the way to reconciliation is obviously the dismantling of apartheid, and all measures used to reinforce it. To talk of reconciliation before this major step is taken is totally unrealistic"
These are some of the matters that I will address today.
Our transition has been managed with such success that some generously invoke the imagery of "miracle". Things such as equality, the right to vote in free and fair elections and freedom of speech, many of us now take for granted. Many past difficulties are now mere footnotes of history.
There can be no equivocation that the majority of South Africans, coalesced around our founding pact, are outgrowing the apprehensions which required the convoluted "structural guarantees" of the first few years. Though we might differ on method, it has become a national passion to pronounce commitment to a better life for all.
What then is the nation's scorecard on the fundamental question of socio-economic change?
Census 96, whose result was made public last year, has for the first time given South Africa a detailed and comprehensive portrait of itself. And it is against its dimensions that we must measure our progress.
In 1994, some 30% of South Africans lacked access to a safe supply of water near their homes: today, after three million people have benefited from the government's water supply programme, that has been reduced to 20%.
In 1994, less than 40% of South African households had electricity: today, after more than 2 million connections, 63% of households are connected to the electricity grid.
In 1DS4, about a quarter of homes had telephones: today, after 1.3-million have been connected, 35% are linked to the telephone system.
This means that every day on average since our democratic elections has meant another 1,300 homes electrified; another 750 telephones installed; and another 1,700 people gaining access to clean water.. . Every day!
With the primary school nutrition programme reaching over 5-million children and the benefit of free health care, millions of children are growing healthy and unstunted.
Within the framework of our Integrated National Disability Strategy, today we have a government whose concern for the needs of the disabled is unprecedented in the history of South Africa.
This means more than the dry rhyme of statistics. The words of Ms Gladys Nzilane of Evaton who received keys to her new house last year ring true from the heart:
"I hear people on radio and television saying the government has failed; but I do not believe that....[This government] has given us life".
In this, she was echoing the feelings of millions, including Mama Lenah Ntsweni of Mpumalanga who was the 3-rnillionth person to receive safe and accessible water a few weeks ago.
Before we lose ourselves in detail, important though it may be, let us come back to the trends. The critical question is about a machinery which is improving its capacity to meet the needs of South Africans.
Even where we might not have met our targets, this is the question that we need to probe.
Such is the experience in the provision of subsidised housing. With 700-thousand houses either built or under construction, we do acknowledge that we shall not reach the target of one million that we set ourselves. But, after the initial hiccups of the first two years, we have now developed the capacity to build 15,000 houses every month.
From the Jobs Summit, new initiatives have emerged, in a splendid partnership between business and government, to start major projects that will put more roofs over the head of those in want. As this project starts unlocking the problem of limited public resources, so will its beneficiaries multiply - from the supplier of building material to the small building contractor, from the new employees to those who will occupy these dwellings.
The construction of sports facilities reached new levels in 1998 and the establishment of Community Arts Centres exceeded the target. New ways of facilitating land restitution and redistribution are being implemented. The Adult Basic Education and Training Programme has reached more people than was originally planned.
In the area of welfare, after the pain of restructuring, the reach and the efficiency of delivery has improved; and R350-million is being saved a year by better management and eliminating corruption.
The examples are many. But let us focus for a brief moment on two of the issues, namely welfare and education. The savings that have been effected through tackling fraud should rightly contribute to an expansion of assistance to those in need. During this Year of Older Persons, all of us - and I do include myself - are especially aware of the needs of senior citizens. We are therefore pleased to announce that we are able once again to increase old age pensions - this year by 4%, that is R20; and the disability grant by the same percentage.
Regarding education, why is it that the majority of South Africans feel that things have improved in this area?
This is because many of those who were studying under trees or in dilapidated buildings have benefited from the R1-billion spent on the construction or renovation of 10,000 classrooms.
It is because the doors of all public schools are open; it is because the higher education assistance scheme is reaching more students; it is because, despite the setbacks of one or another year, the Matric results are improving. And even if this majority does not read or hear or see in the media the praise that is due when the Matric examinations are conducted without a major incident, they do not need to be told, for they live these experiences.
Last year, we made the observation that it was inexcusable that text-books were not supplied within seven days of the beginning of the school-term: Many areas did meet this target. However, many did not. We hope that this year the planning and funding will be settled earlier in the year. For, if this does not happen after the pressured experiences of last year; if our administrations are unable to carry out such a straight-forward project; then in the coming year, ordinary citizens like myself, will feel justified in calling, so to speak, for heads to roll!
Honourable Members and Delegates;
What this experience with text-books says to us is that capacity cannot be built through ordinary motions of government as we know it. I know Deputy President Thabo Mbeki has taken this issue to heart: that is, how to restructure government with the prime objective of fulfilling people-centred functions, rather than merely observing self-serving and archaic rules.
Such is the challenge in dealing with the difficult areas of crime and job-creation. On both these issues there is naturally public impatience. So the question we need to ask is whether there is a possibility of a strategic and visible break with the perception of stagnation!
It is not my task, at this last sitting of Parliament, to set out medium- and long-term programmes. But I feel more than confident to say that on both counts - with regard to crime and job-creation - there is hope.
What are the trends and concrete measures on crime?
The statistics show that there has been a reduction or stabilisation in most serious crimes. Murder for instance has declined by 10% since 1994. But the response is made that figures are meaningless in the context of people's concrete experiences.
A myriad of laws have been passed to narrow the space for criminals, the latest among these being legislation on crime syndicates as well as minimum sentences and conditions on the granting of bail. But the response is that not enough criminals are being arrested and the quality of investigation is poor.
A detective academy has been set up, and the skills gathered here are starting to be felt in dealing with crime syndicates. And major steps have been taken to deploy police where they are needed most. But the response is, where are the results!
All these responses arise from a failure to appreciate the fact that turning the tide against crime cannot be achieved overnight. There are also deliberate efforts to sensationalise and politicise this issue. But we are the first to acknowledge that the impatience and dissatisfaction among ordinary people are justified.
We can and shall break out of this bog. There is hope.
Examine the experience of the Johannesburg central precinct and the Durban beach-front where communities and business-people have joined with police and cut the crime rate, and you will know there is hope. Ask the kingpins of cash-in-transit heists who are in C-max and you will know there is hope. Ask the corrupt police who are facing various charges, and you will know there is hope. Even though the level of attacks is rather too high, assess the trends in farming communities after the Summit on this issue and you will know there is hope.
For this we salute the men and women in blue, the overwhelming majority of them citizens of outstanding bravery and integrity; men and women who daily put their lives on the line so that the nation can enjoy security.
Above all, the establishment of the Office of the National Director of Public Prosecutions and, along with it, the special investigation unit, has already shown that a systematic approach to major crimes - combining intelligence, professional investigations and prosecutions - is bound to bear fruit. And in expressing our appreciation to the intelligence services for their contribution in this and other areas to guarantee our people's security, I wish to join the public in saying: more can be done; and more must be done.
Questions have been asked whether we have got the balance right between the rights of criminals and those of ordinary citizens. This government is not about to join the chorus baying for the death sentence or to reverse our human rights gains. Yet, in addition to the measures we introduced regarding bail and mandatory sentences we need to examine spaces that need tightening.
For instance, should interference with witnesses and murder of police-men and women not attract very harsh mandatory sentences? What about the form and content of evidence that should be given to defence attorneys in bail applications? For it does not help for the police to do their work and for the justice system to be efficient, if criminals will subvert investigations and prosecution by violent and foul means.
These are just some of the issues that need to be addressed, along with, and I should underline, "along with" the plodding industry on all fronts which will take many years, to bring crime down to acceptable levels.
Let me also briefly reflect on recent developments in Cape Town. Without presuming any organisation or individual guilty, there are some obvious things that cannot be concealed.
Firstly, what started off expressly as a campaign against gangsterism has now become a violent and murderous offensive against ordinary citizens and law-enforcement agencies. Secondly, what is portrayed as moral and god-inspired against oppression, exploitation and imperialism, has assumed the form of terrorism to undercut Cape Town's lifeline and destabilise a democratic government. Thirdly, what is undertaken as an expression of militancy, could now very easily provide cover for right-wing counter-revolution against the new South Africa.
This campaign is rotten to the core; it is misguided; and its attempts to invoke religion is blasphemous. What South African indeed who owes loyalty to this country and this continent, would engage in such callous deeds! What fighter against crime would engage in a campaign that diverts resources of the police from dealing with criminals!
I want to assure the people of Cape Town that we know who these people are; we know who trains and backs them; and steadily we are building water-tight cases against them that will ensure that they stay in jail for a long, long time.
Let me reiterate: the battle against crime has been joined. And we have no doubts at all about who the victors will be.
There is hope too in the area of job-creation.
For a start, if economic growth last year and this year are less encouraging, we are confident that this is an exception that confirms an otherwise upward trend. Indeed, in this era of volatility, what we need to ask ourselves is why South Africa did not experience the kind of paralysing turbulence that was the lot of most countries at our level of development.
The answer is that our fundamentals are robust. Local and foreign fixed investments are on the rise, though not at the pace we would prefer. Exports are increasing; and in some areas of agriculture for instance, the increase has been by as much as 1,000%.
Steadily, our economy is becoming more competitive. Telecommunications and tourism are growing at an impressive rate; road construction and Spatial Development Initiatives are expanding the economic base of regions that were ignored in the past; public works programmes have created hundreds of thousands of jobs, though some of them are temporary.
We have also taken impressive strides in the restructuring of state assets. And let us remind ourselves that some of the successes in the provision of services derive directly from this. We are determined to continue with this programme; but to do it in a way that is systematic and professional, and benefits the people as a whole. This includes widening the base of ownership, among others, through the National Empowerment Fund.
South Africa did not experience what others did because we have credible and sustainable fiscal and monetary policies combining discipline and flexibility. Despite the difficulties that we have experienced, deriving from the global economy, we have resolved that we shall not cut the social spending required to build a better life for all, including the Poverty Relief Programme that now runs into billions of rands.
While strict econometric models may require certain fractions for a balance among indicators, we shall continue to discuss realistic inflation targets and interest rates for a developing country like ours;.
We shall not divert from the course of discipline; nor shall we, as we said last year, cut our noses in order to spite our faces.
Yet the public is within its rights to ask, if all is well, why is the economy shedding jobs: is there hope?
Yes there is hope.
Many of the initiatives will take time to be felt in the lives of ordinary people. But there are immediate things that can be done.
It was in recognition of this challenge, that representatives of government, labour, business and communities came together last October to work out a concrete programme of action around this challenge of job-creation. And we emerged from there confident of the future because we set out to build it together. Among the decisions taken there, some of them unprecedented in any country, are:
ï¿½ Firstly, the proposal of the trade union movement to mobilise all working people to dedicate one day's pay to the projects meant to create jobs for our fellow citizens. And today I commit all ministers and deputy ministers in my government to take part in this initiative by contributing a day's gross salary. We hope that all levels of government, including parliament as well as public and private institutions will do the same.
ï¿½ Secondly, the mobilisation by the business community of funds which should run into more than R1-billion for special projects in tourism and skills development. We can take tourism beyond the impressive 8.2% of Gross Domestic Product that it has already achieved, to create hundreds of thousands of jobs.
ï¿½ Over the next few years, there will be a dramatic expansion of the existing R5billion government package of labour intensive programmes such as Working for Water, Land Care, Municipal Infrastructure and selected Welfare projects.
ï¿½ One major project on housing has already started, where public and private funds will be pooled to start a process that will speed up housing delivery at the same time as it creates jobs.
ï¿½ The Umsobomvu Trust, which will be worth over a billion rand, and which is aimed at creating jobs, learnerships and business opportunities among the youth is one among projects many of which have been proposed by the youth themselves.
Together these major initiatives have the potential to change the face of South Africa. And if we say there is hope, in so far as job-creation is concerned, it is because we know that all the partners have put shoulders to the wheel to ensure that we succeed.
In this context, we should reflect on our achievements regarding the regulation of the labour market. I refer here to the Labour Relations, Basic Conditions of Employment and Employment Equity Acts among others. Liberation could not have meant otherwise to a working class that was divided by racial laws and sections of which were blocked by edict from advancing in the work-place.
We cannot retreat from this achievement in human rights. That our trade union movement has initiated the kind of contribution to job-creation that I referred to, is testimony to the responsibility that goes with a sense of social belonging.
Notwithstanding these achievements, if indeed job-creation and ending poverty are among our primary challenges, we must continually evaluate how our labour market policies and the rate of private investments, among others, facilitate the realisation of these objectives. This we must do in order to ensure that we achieve our common objectives.
This hope that we have about the future, Honourable Members and Delegates, derives also from the knowledge that this government is serious about utilising state structures for the benefit of the people. And this applies not only to the national sphere.
if in the past, the profile of provincial government was portrayed more in the mistakes they made; it is perhaps a reflection of great improvement in their work, in the context of South Africa's news content, that little is heard about most of them in the media.
We referred earlier to management of the Matric results, some improvement in the supply of text-books, and the management of social security grants. In addition to all this, shouldn't we all be proud as South Africans that only two years after the introduction of mass allocations of funds to provinces, we are able to achieve fewer overdrafts and deficits! This is not merely a stroke of good fortune. It is a result of hard work; and congratulations go to these public representatives and administrations.
Last year, we spoke of the need to cut expenditure on personnel, as part of reducing a bloated civil service and changing its orientation. That commitment remains. The new civil service regulations based on each individual's output, especially management, rather than just observance of rules, should see to the improvement of service to the public.
Much progress has been made towards comprehensive agreement on redeployment and retrenchment. Logically, this must be based on assessment of public needs and on the very objective of governance. But let us emphasise that, none of the parties in these negotiations will or should be allowed to use these processes to delay decisive action on this issue.
Within local government, there is steady progress in regularising finances, in implementing poverty-based assistance, in setting up mechanisms reduce the number of councils. And there is now seldom need for national interventions to resolve unnecessary conflict between these structures and traditional leaders.
But we must be honest and acknowledge that, in many respects, this level of government has often played itself out as an Achilles Heel of democratic governance. This is not for the lack of structures and rules. Where this happens, it has more to do with the behaviour and attitudes of cadres that all parties have deployed in these structures. It is a matter of the survival of democracy, of the confidence that people will have in the new system, that all of us should pay particular attention to this issue. The public is justified in demanding better service, more respect and greater concern for their needs rather than self-aggrandisement.
Our hope for the future depends also on our resolution as a nation in dealing with the scourge of corruption. Success will require an acceptance that, in many respects, we are a sick society.
It is perfectly correct to assert that all this was spawned by apartheid. No amount of self-induced amnesia will change this reality of history.
But it is also a reality of the present that among the new cadres in various levels of government, you find individuals who are as corrupt as - if not more than - those they found in government. When a leader in a Provincial Legislature siphons off resources meant to fund service by legislators to the people; when employees of a government institution set up to help empower those who were excluded by apartheid defraud it for their own enrichment, then we must admit that we are a sick society.
This problem manifests itself in all areas of life. More often than not, it is business people who launder funds to curry favour with public servants; it is ordinary citizens who seek to buy themselves out of trouble; it is strange religious leaders who sing praises to criminals or hoard land acquired by the foul means of apartheid. All of us must work together for our redemption.
Many mechanisms have been put in place or strengthened to investigate and ensure proper punishment for these vile deeds: the Public Protector, the Heath Commission, the Auditor-General, the Office for Serious Economic Offences, to name but a few. Within government, more resources are being provided to allow them to do their work.
And very practical resolutions emerged from the Public Sector Anti-corruption Summit held last November.
By the time we go to the National Summit in March, which will be informed by the decisions of the Religious Morals Summit and the Public Sector Conference, all sectors of society, including business and the trade union movement, should have worked out concrete proposals to take this matter forward in a visible and meaningful way. It is commendable that the Public Service Bargaining Chamber has this week agreed on drafting new disciplinary mechanisms to facilitate dealing with cases of corruption, mismanagement and incompetence. Our nation needs, as matter of urgency, what one writer has called an "RDP of the Soul".
When we succeed in changing our own way of doing things, when we make progress in transforming society at all levels, we shall not only be improving our own quality of life. We shall also be laying the basis for a future of hope for our children and grandchildren.
We know too well that, if there is a problem of unemployment, it is the youth who bear the brunt of it. If there are high incidences of crime, it is the youth who are misused as foot-soldiers and consumers of illegal substances. If there is corruption and lack of morality, it is they who suffer a warped upbringing. If we do not rid ourselves of the culture of violence, it is the youth who will be infected with it.
It is therefore encouraging that youth organisations have started to play a more visible role in initiatives such as the Jobs Summit and community service. We value the increasingly powerful role they are starting to play in the critical campaign against HIVIAIDS. They do have the capacity to make a special contribution to breaking the silence which fuels this epidemic; as we shall all be doing during the coming National Condom Week when we focus on prevention.
This leadership role by the youth reinforces my own hope in the future of our country and our nation. And I wish to, all on all the youth of our country, in their millions, to recognise their civic duty in all spheres of life, including taking part in exercising their right to elect a government of their choice.
I referred at the beginning to the letters written by a notorious prisoner. In one of them, he said:
"I am disturbed, as many other South Africans no doubt are, by the spectre of a South Africa split into two hostile camps: blacks on one side... and whites on the other, slaughtering one another; by acute tensions which are building up dangerously in practically every sphere of our lives. . ."
As I said earlier, we have collectively managed the transition in a commendable manner.
But it is matter of public record that elements of these divisions remain. We slaughter one another in our words and attitudes. We slaughter one another in the stereotypes and mistrust that linger in our heads, and the words of hate we spew from our lips. We slaughter one another in the responses that some of us give to efforts aimed at bettering the lives of the poor We slaughter one another and our country by the manner in which we exaggerate its weaknesses to the wider world, heroes of the gab who astound their foreign associates by their self-flagellation. This must come to an end. For, indeed, those who thrive on hatred destroy their own capacity to make a positive contribution.
To the extent that the apprehensions about the meaning of democracy relate to real fears about matters such as language and culture, we are proud that progress is being made towards the establishment of the Commission on these and other issues so that all can feel secure as part of a united nation.
To the extent that some of the apprehensions are imagined or based on opposition to change, to that extent we are convinced that history will be the best teacher.
We hope though, especially as we go into the election campaign, that real leaders will emerge who base their messages on hope rather than fear; on the optimism of hard work rather than the pessimism of arm-chair whining.
Dealing with these challenges also means accepting the facts of our history. As I said when I received the TRC Interim Report last October, the government accepts it with its imperfections. We recognise that it is not a definitive or comprehensive history of the period it was reviewing; neither was it a court of law. It was an important contribution on the way to truth and reconciliation.
The critical act of reconciliation, to come back to the letters I referred to earlier, is the dismantling of what remains of apartheid practices and attitudes. Reconciliation, without this major step, will be transient, the ode of false hope on the lips of fools.
It will therefore be critical, that when we go into the detail of the TRC report's recommendations in the coming period, we must elaborate concrete plans about how together we can make practical contributions. This applies particularly to reparations, not so much to individuals, but to communities and the nation as a whole.
Let me reiterate that we shall all assist that process of nation-building and reconciliation, reconstruction and development, by protecting the institutions which guarantee the checks and balances that make social and political aberrations impossible. Our word of acknowledgement to the Human Rights Commission, the Gender Commission and others for the sterling work they are doing to strengthen democracy.
We should also underline that, while it is a matter of design rather than accident, that our social programmes for the poor impact most significantly on the lives of women, this is but a small element in dealing with gender relations. Need we remind ourselves that the greatest number of violent crimes that we have referred to take place in the home and mostly against women! Need we remind ourselves of the various forms of discrimination that still exist in the work-place, schools, places of worship and other social activity!
But we should also derive pride that, never in the history of this country has any government done so much to improve the status of women - black and white: and this, with their active participation!
The institution of the independent judiciary has been throughout these first years of our freedom been a fundamental pillar of our democracy. And it continues to be.
It is matter of great pride that we have established a dispensation in which no-one, not even the President, is above the law. And for this, we owe thanks to the men and women of integrity who serve in this institution.
Another pillar of our democracy is the Independent Electoral Commission; and we respect it as we do all the others. Like all other such bodies, it is being assisted in various ways in accordance with the mission set out in the constitution, and what the country can afford. I should indicate that, after rational discussion, agreement was reached that the IEC should be allocated more than R160-million in additional funds, in the coming budget year, further to enable it to fulfil its functions. For the work that it has done to register potential voters, the IEC deserves our encouragement.
But it is you the citizen who has to come out voluntarily to register and take part in South Africa's governance. We urge those who have not registered to do so without delay. Democracy needs your voice.
Because of the impediment placed before us by some of the parties in this parliament, I am unable to formally announce the election date. It is the insistence that we retain the option, contained in the constitution, for Premiers to announce their own election dates - and not any reluctance on the part of the President - that this matter cannot be settled here and now.
I am however able to give the indication, after extensive consultations, that we aim to select a day for our second national election in the period between the 1 8'h and 27'h of May.
Honourable Members and Delegates;
If we dare ourselves to succeed in this endeavour, it is because the benefit will be primarily ours. But there is a sense in which it will be for all humanity, the majority of whom took part in efforts to help us achieve our democracy.
Naturally, Southern Africa is our most critical point of reference. As we progress towards social and economic integration in the region, we are guided by the need to reverse the legacy of our past in the form of a trade balance skewed in South Africa's favour.
The re-negotiation of the Southern African Customs Union and the progress towards a SADC free trade area, slow as they may seem to outside observers, are making progress along a path that is rneaningful and sustainable. Amongst the many concrete symbols of the integrated reconstruction of our region is the progress towards the establishment of a Southern African Electricity Power Pool co-ordinated from Harare, which will also augment the region's power from the rehabilitated Cahora Bassa project.
These firm steps towards integration are part of the renewal of our continent, an African Renaissance campaign which is growing to become a continental movement.
Our celebration of the millennium must reinforce this campaign and draw our artists, intellectuals and journalists more actively into this enterprise. Sports events such as the Africa Games in Greater Johannesburg this Spring, and the African Cup of Nations in Zimbabwe next year, should form part of this celebration of Africa's rebirth.
Fundamental to our success in generating this rebirth is to root out the causes of conflicts which are ravaging parts of the continent.
It is with great concern that we see Angola once more threatened with all-out war. We do ask ourselves whether the time has not come to draw basic lessons from this experience: to pose the question whether the United Nations' approach has been what is required of a situation in which one party rejects the results of a free and fair election.
In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, we do welcome the growing realisation that political inclusivity in transition is one of the solutions required. There can be no winner in the military contest; there can only be untold suffering to the African people.
Further afield, we remain hopeful that the protracted conflicts and the terrible suffering of civilians in countries such as Sierra Leone, Somalia and the Sudan will be brought to an end.
And looking beyond our continent, we join all humanity in calling for a speedy resolution of the problems in the Middle East and in East Timor.
If I may I would like to say a few brief words on Lesotho. There is no doubt that SADC's collective initiative succeeded in creating the space for this country's political leaders to find a peaceful resolution of their differences; and we ought to take this opportunity to congratulate the Botswana and South African Defence Forces on their decisive contribution; and to pay tribute to those who lost their lives.
We wish to assure members of our Defence Force that the nation is behind them in their endeavours: be it in the fight against crime, in peace-keeping operations or in their calm and professional assistance to voter registration. We remain as committed as ever to equip the Force in a manner that ensures its effectiveness and adds value to the economy.
The building of our region and the renewal of our continent, to which we have referred, in turn form part of the broader movement of developing countries to eradicate poverty and overcome the historical imbalances between North and South.
The successful Non-Aligned Movement Summit in Durban last year has brought South Africa the opportunity to assist in asserting the interests of the developing world on serious issues facing humanity.
Amongst the most pressing of these is the debt burden as well as the need to bring under control the vast movements of capital which wash across the globe without much social benefit, and with the capacity to undo years of industrialisation where it is most urgently needed.
The initiatives under discussion to manage these rampant effects of globalisation, including unfair protectionist measures in some industrialised countries, require the reform of Bretton Wood institutions, and even more critically, the United Nations Security Council, in conformity with the democratic ethos of our age. We are encouraged that more and more nations are starting to recognise not only the need for this, but its urgency as well.
We are proud as a country that over the last four-and-half years, we have broadened our relations with developing countries of Asia - now the second largest bloc with whom we trade - as well as Latin America across the Atlantic. Our strategic location places us well to act as a bridge linking these two important regions and the African continent.
We scarcely need to add that this burgeoning of our links with the countries of the South is not in opposition to the our relations with Japan, the United States, Europe, including Russia, or the new strategic partnership we are building with the People's Republic of China. On the contrary, they serve to enlarge the possibilities for truly equitable partnerships of mutual benefit to all our peoples.
For a country that not many years ago was the polecat of the world, South Africa has truly undergone a revolution in its relations with the international community. The doors of the world have opened to South Africa, precisely because of our success in achieving things that humanity as a whole holds dear. Of this we should be proud.
As we reflect on the years of transition and beginnings of transformation, we have cause to draw inspiration from what South Africans can do. We dare to hope for a brighter future, because we are prepared to work for it. The steady progress of the past few years has laid the foundation for greater achievements. But the reality is that we can do much, much better.
In the discussions that I have had with Deputy President Mbeki, we have posed to ourselves the question whether we should be satisfied with steady progress. Is South Africa not capable of breaking out of the current pace and moving much faster to a better life?
As the Deputy President has often said, the policies we have accord with the needs of the moment. There is no need to change them. Yet the speed and style of implementing them can be improved. There are a few ingredients to this that need further attention. To elaborate on some of them:
The first ingredient is Partnership: If we examine the major successes that have been made this year in addressing the most serious problems we face, one factor stands out above all others: and that is partnership among various sectors of society. The Jobs Summit, the new AIDS Awareness Campaign, the summits on morality and corruption, and the issue of security in the farming communities are concrete examples from recent months. So too was last year's successful Masakhane Focus Week. And it is in this spirit that we shall on Freedom Day announce this year's winners of the President's Award for Community Initiative.
These initiatives have resulted in major advances, as society mobilises hand-in-hand with government, to tackle the issues head on. As such, one of the launching pads to faster progress has to be the mobilisation of South African society to act in unison on critical issues facing the nation.
The second element is Discipline - the balance between freedom and responsibility: Quite clearly, there is something wrong with a society where freedom is interpreted to mean that teachers or students get to school drunk; warders chase away management and appoint their own friends to lead institutions; striking workers resort to violence and destruction of property; business-people lavish money in court cases simply to delay implementation of legislation they do not like; and tax evasion turns individuals into heroes of dinner-table talk.
Something drastic needs to be done about this. South African society - in its schools and universities, in the work-place, in sports, in professional work and all areas of social interaction - needs to infuse itself with a measure of discipline, a work ethic and responsibility for the actions we undertake.
Thirdly, and related to the above is the question of reconstruction of the soul of the nation, "the RDP of the Soul": by this we mean first and foremost respect for life; pride and self-respect as South Africans rather than the notion that we can thrive in senseless self-flagellation.
It means asserting our collective and individual identity as Africans, committed to the rebirth of the continent; being respectful of other citizens and honouring women and children of our country who are exposed to all kinds of domestic violence and abuse. It means building our schools into communities of learning and improvement of character. It means mobilising one another, and not merely waiting for government to clean our streets or for funding allocations to plant trees and tend school-yards.
These are things that we need to embrace as a nation that is nurturing its New Patriotism. They constitute an important environment for bringing up future generations. They are about the involvement of South Africans in building a better life.
Thus we shall take not just small steps, but giant leaps to a bright future in a new millennium. As we confounded the prophets of doom, we shall defy today's merchants of cynicism and despair. We shall, as we said in those letters of ten years ago, fully dismantle apartheid and achieve true reconciliation. Our hopes will become reality.
The foundation has been laid - the building is in progress. With a new generation of leaders and a people that rolls up its sleeves in partnerships for change, we can and shall build the country of our dreams!