Sandton Sun, 13 February 1993
Assalaam Ualaikum, Namiste and Good Evening.
We are gathered here today at a time when South Africa is at the threshold of some of the most momentous political changes.
I am advised that this gathering tonight represents some of the most senior business and community leaders of the Indian community throughout the Transvaal. I am honoured to be a part of it and I thank you for this opportunity. This is a most important meeting for the ANC. This is the first opportunity that we have had to address you.
As part of the Black majority in this country, you have hitherto been subjected to the worst forms of discrimination possible. As part of the Black business community in this country, you were further confronted with measures specifically designed to prevent you from equally competing with white business. You were forcefully removed from your places of residence and business, subjected to Group Areas, denied the right to trade where you wanted and in what you wanted and denied the right of access to training in skills and capital that would have allowed you to develop further.
Nevertheless, in spite of all these impediments you have shown the necessary ingenuity and creativeness that has ensured that you are successful in doing what you do best - serving our communities with the necessary goods and services required. The skills that you have gained are invaluable to our country.
In this year of the Gandhi centenary we can proudly declare to our people and the world at large that our history of struggle, in which the Indian community played no small part, is bearing fruit. The strength that we gained from years of resistance to apartheid enabled the ANC to take the initiative and force the NP regime to the negotiating table.
At this auspicious occasion, I am obliged to give a report of the developments in the negotiations process. However, it is also important for me to place before you the ANC vision of a new South Africa and the role of the Indian community.
THE NEGOTIATIONS PROCESS
Firstly, let me dispel all rumours that there have been any secret deals or pacts agreed to with the government. These rumours are devoid of any truth and mischievous in the extreme.
I furthermore wish to categorically deny the statement made in the press that the ANC has agreed to power sharing until the year 1999. An Interim Government of National Unity is not power sharing. What the government has proposed is a form of power sharing. The ANC, on the other hand, proposes an interim Government of National Unity which would include those parties that have won a certain proportion of the seats in the Constituent Assembly. This proposal is designed to create national unity and is not a simple power sharing formula.
The government's proposals merely reflects their struggle for survival, and therefore their insistence merely exposes their self interest. The ANC's proposal, however, clearly shows the priority we have given to national interests above that of our own.
1. The vision of the ANC for the immediate future is as follows:
Firstly, we would like to see an early resumption of multilateral negotiations. In this phase we aim to secure: an agreement on free and fair elections, an Interim Government of National Unity and a sovereign Constituent Assembly;to stop all unilateral restructuring;broaden the space for free political activity;and address the issue of violence.
Secondly, we must secure the establishment of the Transitional Executive Council. In this phase we should aim to: consolidate peace through joint control over all armed formations;ensure free and fair elections;and mobilise for a decisive victory in the elections.
Thirdly, this would allow us to enter the period of the drafting and adoption of the new constitution by the Constituent Assembly It is during this phase that we aim to establish the Interim Government of National Unity, adopt a new constitution and start addressing the socio-economic problems facing our country.
Fourthly, once a new constitution has been adopted, we would have to restructure the present state machinery with a view to dismantling the system of apartheid.
Fifthly, we would then enter a period of the consolidation of the process of democratic transformation and reconstruction.
2. Report on the negotiations process
The objective of the ANC in the present phase of negotiations is to ensure that this country moves as swiftly as possible towards the election of an Interim Government of National Unity and a Constituent Assembly that would be charged with the responsibility of drafting and adopting a democratic constitution. The unacceptable levels of violence, crime and the deteriorating economy demand that this be so.
Over the last few days our negotiators have been locked in intense bilateral discussions with the regime. The ANC delegation was led by our Secretary General, Cyril Ramaphosa. Roelf Meyer, the NP Minister of Constitutional Development, led the government delegation.
The meeting covered discussions on constitutional questions as well as preparations for the resumption of multi party negotiations.
The meeting reaffirmed agreement on an elected constitution making body that would draft and adopt the new constitution. Agreement was also reached that elections for this body would take place as early as possible.
To ensure free and fair elections the following issues were discussed:
Various suggestions relating to various aspects of the legislation establishing Transitional Executive Council were made. There are still to be discussed further and will be finalised in due course. In this regard, the ANC provided the government with concrete proposals on the powers and functions of the TEC, and in particular, it's sub councils for Law and Order and Defence. The government undertook to come back to the ANC on these issues.
Agreement was reached that an Independent Electoral Commission would run the elections. In this regard we have also proposed, and it has been accepted, that international observers and experts would also be involved in the process. Furthermore, there would be an Independent Media Commission would be appointed. These Commissions would play a crucial role in levelling the playing field. These agreements are in line with the ANC's stated positions that both the media and the elections must be free of party political bias or orientation.
On the appointment of the SABC Board, it was agreed that a transparent process should be set in motion. After consultation with a wide range of forces including the Campaign of independent Broadcasting, the ANC has proposed that Justice Ismail Mohammed and Piet Schabbort should be appointed to initiate this process. The government has promised to come back to the ANC on this issue early next week.
At the meeting, the government also raised the question of a possible Government of National Unity extending for a limited period after the adoption of a new constitution. The matter is to be placed before the National Executive Committee for discussion .
Concerning the boundaries, powers and functions of regions, it was agreed that decisions in this regard would only be taken by the elected Constitution Making Body.
Finally, it was agreed that a multi party planning conference, that would prepare the way for the resumption of multilateral negotiations, would be held during the course of this month. If the government responds positively to the concrete proposals which the ANC placed on the table, the realisation of a peaceful and democratic order is within our reach.
What has become accepted is that the ANC has placed for discussions proposals which are eminently reasonable and which take into account the concerns and fears of the various communities in our country.
Nevertheless, like in so many other countries, the process of transition and political transformation brings with it some measure of uncertainty and perhaps even a sense of insecurity. South Africa is no different and the Indian community here is no exception. All of this together with the unabating violence, increasing crime and deteriorating economy, not to mention the revelation of. one scandal after another involving government has given rise to a whole host of fears and concerns which are legitimate and understandable.
Whilst you have the right to choose which political party or organisation would best serve you interests, there is little choice as to how to deal with and confront all those fears and concerns. It is against this background that I make the following call to you:
- As a community and population group, you have a proud tradition and history of resistance against injustice and the struggle for democracy. Maintain this and strengthen it.
- There are only two key political role players in this country. The ANC and the NP. The National Party, on the one hand, has a history of discrimination, oppression, exploitation. It is also so arrogant that it continues to believe it knows what is best for your community. That is why it will refuse to consult you on developments in this country. On the other hand, It is only the African National Congress that has consistently consulted all communities on all major issues. This is even true of the formation of Umkhonto We Sizwe in 1960. Then, the Indian Congresses were consulted before the decision was taken.
- The forthcoming election will be the first time that all South Africans would vote as equals. Above all it would be no ordinary election. It would be an election of delegates of whom the people would entrust to draft and adopt a new democratic constitution for unified South Africa. In this way we would get a constitution that would give expression to the aspirations of all our peoples whatever their colour, class or creed. It is in this constitution where we could best ensure the protection of religious, cultural and political freedoms. These elections are therefore of special importance to our country because it would shape the nature of our country and society for generations to come. The future of our children is being shaped now. It is therefore necessary to ensure that we mobilise our entire communities to vote. Leaders such as yourselves present here tonight could make this a reality. It is necessary that you also call house meetings, meetings of business people other structures and the community and invite ANC leaders from our branches, regions and even the head office to discuss various issues with you. This would ensure that the process of consultation carried out by the ANC is more rigorous.
- You will have been given copies of the ANC's policy guidelines. These are not final policies. They are merely guidelines which need to be developed further. To this extent it is necessary to consider these proposals and engage the structures of the ANC in discussion so as to ensure that the interests of the Indian community are well considered.
- You will note that it is the policy of the ANC to ensure that we provide the necessary incentives to ensure that our business people are allowed to develop so as to allow them to compete equally with their white counterparts. Unless we are able to build on the skills developed amongst your business people and secure that black business people are empowered to break into the industrial and manufacturing sectors, this economy would continue to be monopolised by a few white conglomerates. It is therefore in our interest to ensure that black business not only prosper but grow. To do this, we will need your assistance to ensure that we develop an effective economic strategy.
- Finally, it is necessary that you continue with the generous financial assistance that you have thus far provided us with. However, we also need human resources. In this regard, leaders such as yourselves are invaluable and are able to assist in using your influence to convince your communities to involve themselves in the process of transformation that is unfolding. After all, the best way to deal with your fears and concerns brought on by the transformation is to ensure that you are part of the process that manages it.
Before I conclude, I wish to convey my warmest greetings to all Muslims who will be engaged in fasting during the holy month of Ramadan. May you also have a happy Eid.
In conclusion, I sincerely hope that all goes well with your preparations for the Gandhi Centenary celebrations. There are many lessons that one could draw on from the proud history of Gandhiji, and I hope that these would place you in good stead in dealing with this unfolding process of transition.
I thank you.