1. Introduction - The Launch of the Manifesto

1.1 It is with great pleasure that I stand before you today during this important phase in the democratisation of South Africa. This week, The ANC launched its manifesto for local government elections, presenting the ANC's vision for local government.

1.2 The majority of people in the Free State chose the ANC to lead the country and this province. They did so because the ANC can make a better life for people, where they live. With the ANC at local level you will be able to make sure that all the bold steps that the ANC has taken at National and Provincial levels, are implemented on the ground.

2. A Start Has Been Made

2.1 The ANC-led Government of National Unity has introduced free health care for pregnant women and children under the age of six. The Free State Provincial Government heeded this call. 24 mobile clinics are operating in rural areas where communities have little or no access to health care. The ANC in the Free State is making huge strides forward in the provision of equal services for all citizens.

2.2 The school feeding scheme for children in need is providing nutrition for 591 000 Free State children daily. The importance of this scheme cannot be overemphasised. All children of our land have a right to be well nourished. We have a duty to serve these children who are victims of the pernicious apartheid laws under which we lived for so long. Local councilors will have the duty to ensure that all the children in their areas are taken care of and that resources are available to them.

2.3 Thabong has been identified for an urban renewal project. This project will designate land to house all those who are settled informally. It will ensure that education and health infrastructures are developed and rehabilitated. Efforts to clean and tar streets have also been initiated.

2.4 For these projects to be successful, they have to involve joint responsibility. The government that you elected as well as your communities, have to be committed to development. Communities have various responsibilities. Those responsibilities relate to payment for services and looking after amenities, as well as to vote in local elections and participate in local government.

3. Giving a Voice to Communities

3.1 The ANC-led government in the Free State has worked hard to make sure that local elections go ahead on 1 November. The ANC in the Free State have also worked hard to ensure that ANC candidates elected to represent your communities are the best equipped for the responsibilities they will have as councillors.

3.2 Choosing candidates has been a complex, but democratic process. Those people that have been chosen by the ANC have been selected by the people who they work with daily, and struggle with daily. They have been chosen because they can best represent the interest of their communities. That is the way that democracy works. That is the ANC's tradition.

3.3 By voting in Local elections, every local community will be given a voice in government. Communities will be empowered to work with the ANC-led national government to effect changes where they live

3.4 Delivery of the RDP has been slow in some areas. This can only be overcome through effective and strong community councils which are directly accountable to the communities that they represent.

3.5 The ANC has waged a long struggle against sexism in this country and in our organisation. We believe firmly in this principle. That is why a decision was made at our National Conference last year that almost half of our local candidates will be women. It is unacceptable to the ANC that women have been excluded for so long from the political terrain.

3.6 The forthcoming local elections, like last years elections, are about giving a voice to the people. They must allow those who have been marginalised a say in decision making. For any local government to be truly representative, women must be involved.

4. Through unity there is strength

4.1 It is only through unity of the democratic forces of our communities that progress can be made in advancing the development of your communities. Now, more than ever, communities must be united. Unity is vital for the implementation of the RDP in your locality. A divided community spends valuable time in petty squabbles that divert attention from important issues.

4.2 The divisions in Bethlehem are disturbing to me. There are interest groups who claim to have the same principles as the ANC. Yet, these structures refuse to unite with the ANC to advance local elections and local government. This makes no sense to me. Such tendencies only divide and weaken communities. We brought down apartheid through united action and we can build this country only through united action.

5. Conclusion - You Can Rely on the ANC

5.1 You, the communities of the Free State, together with the councilors that you elect in the local government elections, will become the main agents of change in your localities. Your candidates must therefore be people that you can rely on.

5.2 And it is ANC candidates that have been selected who have a history of working for a better life for the people of South Africa. It is the ANC candidates who have worked side by side with communities to dismantle the legacies of apartheid and rebuild a just and equitable society. It is the ANC candidates who can make a difference where you live.

5.3 When you, the people of the Free State, go to the polls on 1 November, you have a responsibility to vote for the candidates who are accountable to your communities. And those candidates are ANC candidates. Together with the ANC, you can make a better life where you live.

Issued by: African National Congress