1995 - A Year to Consolidate and Deepen Democracy

"...We have merely achieved the freedom to be free, the right not to be oppressed. We have...taken...the first step on a longer more difficult road. For to be free is not merely to cast off one`s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others. The true test of our devotion to freedom is just beginning." - President Nelson Mandela, The Long Road to Freedom.

Today we commemorate the eighty third anniversary of the African National Congress, and the beginning of the first calendar year since the democratic breakthrough of April 1994.

As we enter the new year we have behind us, not only a major election victory, but also an immensely successful ANC Conference. At our December national Conference we were able, as an organisation, to assess our first months of experience as the leading force within the Government of National Unity. We were able, collectively, to adopt many important resolutions on our strategic perspective, on the democratisation of our society and its institutions, on meeting the basic needs of all South Africans, and on the consolidation of our own organisation.

In the coming weeks and months, the resolutions of our Conference will be carried back into our structures for further elaboration, for discussion and, above all, for active implementation. In the course of 1995, ANC members, in government, in legislatures, in provincial, regional and district structures, in the mass movement, from the President to the ordinary card-carrying branch member, all of us countrywide, will be shouldering the tasks with which our Conference has charged us.

The underlying theme of our deliberations at Bloemfontein was the need to press ahead with consolidating and deepening our democratic breakthrough of 1994. For us the democratic revolution is a thorough-going process of transformation, of overcoming the political, social and economic legacy of apartheid colonialism, of racism, sexism and class oppression.

An immense nation building and reconstruction effort rests upon our collective shoulders as a movement.

The tasks of the year begin immediately. In the coming week, a new dawn will break on the education front. For the first time, millions of young South Africans, black and white, will be attending school under a single, non-racial dispensation. But a new dispensation on its own is simply a framework. All of us, students, teachers, parents, communities will have to make a practical effort to ensure that our schools become, indeed, places of effective learning and teaching.

We expect ANC structures on the ground to play an exemplary role in helping our country to meet this educational challenge. Let us use our structures countrywide to carry out simple, but essential practical tasks. For instance, we need in the coming days to encourage students and parents to ensure that the registration process proceeds efficiently and without long delays.

The introduction this year of free and compulsory education is an achievement of which we are proud. But it is possible that, in some cases, this absolutely essential advance will place strains and new challenges on teachers. We call on teachers to show great dedication to the history-making task on which we are now embarking. We assure them of our fullest support.

The immediate challenges facing us on the education front exemplify all the key challenges of 1995. The democratic space that has been opened up, must now be consolidated and extended. Whether on the economic front, or on the front of social transformation, or in the consolidation of peace and justice, success will depend on two critical factors:

how effectively we, as the ANC, utilise the new positions we occupy to bring about fundamental transformation; and

how effectively we involve the people in all stages of this transformation.

We do not underestimate the challenges and difficulties facing us. The Government of National Unity dispensation and the fact that we are not the majority party in two provinces impose some limitations upon us. More seriously, we have inherited a country racked by the terrible legacy of decades of apartheid colonialism. But, at the end of the day, it is the ANC that will be judged for the success or failure in advancing the process of liberation in the coming twelve months.

Last year a massive majority of South Africans gave us a clear mandate. In 1995, as an ANC, in and out of government, at all levels of our organisation, we must assume full responsibility for that mandate.

But we cannot succeed as an ANC separate from the people of South Africa. In all our work in 1995, we as an ANC must seek to be with the people, among the people more than ever, sharing their concerns and their aspirations, leading but also learning from them.

The October local government elections is our next major step in advancing political democracy in our country. We shall contest these elections, not just as an electoral party seeking office, but also as a movement that has never forgotten its origins and its responsibilities.

We call on all our people and structures to mobilise for massive ANC victory, remembering that voter registration starts at the end of January, and we will only have 90 days to complete the process. This will be an immense task. For instance, in the greater Durban area we shall have to ensure that up to 26,000 people are registered each day inorder to make the 90 day deadline.

The ANC is totally opposed to any notion of postponing these elections even by as little as one day beyond October this year. Local level, non-racial elections are a critical step in the completion of the political democratisation programmes which are being delayed by lack of effective, elected local government structures.

We call on all our people, in every corner of S.A, in the cities and on the farms. in the rural areas to make sure they are registered and that they vote in October.

As we mark our eighty third anniversary and the beginning of a new year, we dip our banners to honour the passing of one of our most outstanding members - comrade Joe Slovo. Perhaps comrade Joe Slovo`s greatest revolutionary quality was his ability to adapt, in a principled way, to the ever changing conditions of the struggle. He did this consistently, providing outstanding strategic and practical leadership through the twists and turns of the past four and a half decades.

In the last year of his life, comrade Slovo, in theory and in practice, showed us that to be a revolutionary in the South African situation of today is to be, first and foremost and to the last of your strength, a builder, a house builder and a nation builder, a peacemaker, an activist devoted to the most honourable cause of all - meeting the basic needs of our people for shelter, food and water, for jobs, education, and health-care, for the most fundamental right of all, to live in dignity.

This is the new heroism that we now require of all ANC members. Nineteen ninety five shall be a year of consolidating and deepening our democratic advance. Nineteen ninety five shall be a year in which we foster, throughout our ranks, a new kind of activism, a new kind of cadre, rooted in the oldest of our ANC traditions: service and devotion to the people.