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CLOSING ADDRESS BY PRESIDENT NELSON MANDELA AT THE 49TH NATIONAL CONFERENCE OF THE
AFRICAN NATIONAL CONGRESS

Comrades, the ANC has held many national conferences in its history. One of these was
the 1949 Conference, which was held here in Bloemfontein. That Conference was the closing
of a chapter and the beginning of a new one. The Conference produced what later became
known as the 1949 Programme of Action. That Programme was
the brainchild of the ANC Youth League. We called that body a youth league, even though
some of its leaders were forty years and above. It was a strategic plan which, by the
standards of those days, was most comprehensive. The Programme changed the character and
outlook of the ANC. It called upon our people to resign from all apartheid institutions,
like the Natives Representative Council which was established in 1936 for Africans; the
Bunga, which was supposed to be the law-making body of the Transkei; and the District
Councils Advisory Boards. The Conference called upon our people to resign from all these.
It urged the employment of weapons of struggle, like general strikes, stay-at-homes,
boycotts, protest demonstrations, defiance campaigns. It sought to transform the
organisation from one which drew its leadership from the elite to one whose leadership
represented all sections of our people.

The 1952 Campaign for the Defiance of Unjust Laws, in which 8,500 people defied certain
laws, were arrested and sent to jail, that was the result of the implementation of that
1949 Programme of Action. As you would imagine, a programme of this nature led to heated
debates in the 1949 Conference of the ANC, because some of the leaders of those days were
never prepared for mass action, to say nothing of arrest and imprisonment. There was a
great deal of controversy, heated discussions and even insults. It was in that conference
that Dr Xuma, who had led the ANC for several years, was toppled. I think after so many
years I must now confess what we actually did. As the Youth League, we asked Dr Xuma
whether he was prepared to start mass campaigns and be prepared to go to jail. He said:

"You`ll have to get another president to do that, not me." We then approached
Professor Z K Matthews and asked him to stand. He said: "Please excuse me, I`m
lecturing at Fort Hare."

Then we wanted somebody of status. We couldn`t find one in the ANC. And then we went to
a rival organisation, which was also having its conference here in Bloemfontein, and got
Dr Moroka, who was the Treasurer General of the All African Convention, a rival of the
ANC; we asked him if he was prepared to stand as President of the ANC. And we asked him
further, whether he would be prepared to launch mass action in this country and go to jail
if necessary. He said yes. Then we wrote out and gave him a ticket, a membership card. And
he came to the Conference, and that is how he was elected President General of the ANC.
Nevertheless, that Conference was one of conflict and tension.

Then there was also the 1955 Congress of the People, attended, like this Conference, by
3,000 delegates. They came from a wide range of organisations: political, labour,
religious, cultural, sports bodies, and they came together and passed and adopted the
Freedom Charter. Thereafter, the ANC held its own conference, in order to adopt the
Charter. Again, there were tensions and conflicts - serious differences. It was after the
ANC had adopted the Freedom Charter that a group of dissidents who had charged that this
was a Marxist document, emerged at that conference, and subsequently broke away and formed
the PAC.

The present Conference is remarkably different from those two conferences I have
referred to. For one thing, this Conference has confounded the prophets of doom who
predicted that the leadership would be roasted by delegates - by you - for neglecting the
concerns of its constituency and concentrating on reconciliation. They said that the
leadership would be attacked for the way they had mismanaged the affairs of Umkhonto we
Sizwe. They told the country that there would be fierce battles for positions, and that
some leaders would be toppled. Contrary to such predictions, delegates here during these
last five days have shown an unprecedented degree of unity.

One of the dreams of every national organiser, and indeed of every member of the ANC,
is that from every conference, especially a national conference, the organisation should
emerge from that conference more motivated, more united than ever before. That is what we
have achieved in this Conference. Four top officials were returned unopposed. The rest -
that is, two of the officials - were elected with massive majorities, demonstrating the
supreme confidence in the integrity and ability of such leaders.

Throughout these five days delegates realised and appreciated the historic mission of
the African National Congress and that the organisation will discharge that mission only
if delegates approach issues before conference with a high sense of responsibility and
discipline. In this regard, the comprehensive report by the Secretary General, and the
input by the then National Chairperson on strategy, set the tone for the success of this
Conference. Like several conferences before, this one was also a mirror image of the new
South Africa we are building, from both the ethnic factor as well as the gender question.
I have not taken count of how many ladies have been appointed at this Conference, but I
think that there are close to fifteen. And for the first time in our history, delegates
discussed, not resistance, but reconstruction and development. No more did we discuss
subjects like the suspension of the armed struggle, like negotiations, which were hot
issues in the last National Conference. Our delegates were concerned with implementation
of the RDP, bettering the lives of our people. The level of discussion was very high and
the concerns of people on the ground - the building of a better life for all - formed an
important part of the agenda. All commissions contributed to the success of the
Conference, and gave excellent guidance to delegates during the discussions.

As has been pointed out here by many speakers, what is of immediate concern to us now
are the forthcoming local government elections, which we must win at all costs. In many
respects, these elections are far more important - far more crucial - than the national
elections on the 27th of April. It is in the level of local government that we come into
physical contact with the problems of the people. It is at that level that delivery in
terms of the RDP has to take place. We cannot be general in fighting for local government
elections. We have to move from the elevated, from the general tone of our work to
specifics. At that level what the people want to hear is: How many jobs are you going to
create within the next 12 months? How many houses are you going to build? How many
clinics? How many schools? How many boreholes are you going to make? You have to know the
conditions in that particular area very thoroughly to make an impact on people at that
level.

To succeed in this regard, there are certain measures that we have to take. We must
explain, very carefully, why now we need these elections, barely two years after the
national elections.

I was talking to Cde Sam Nujoma, the President of Namibia, the other day. And he told
me that they had problems when they conducted the local elections two years ago. As they
went around the country and asked people to prepare to vote, people said:

"Now what is the point about this, why must we have local elections?"

And SWAPO said: "No, in terms of the law, you rule yourselves here, and therefore
the time has come for us to have a new government, a local government here." They
said: "But we elected you only a few years ago to rule the whole country, including
our area. Why must you now want another election?" They had to explain very carefully
to convince the people that those elections are necessary. In these last national
elections, the voters of Namibia performed excellently. But that is the result of a very
systematic and vigorous campaign, from SWAPO, to explain the issues to the people on the
ground in very simple terms. And that is what we are required to do. Success in local
government elections will, among other things, require a broad and effective machinery. We
will have to discard the sectarian tendencies of establishing structures which are
confined only to members of the ANC. We can`t win elections in that way. We have to have
broad structures, in which we are going to involve influential community leaders in that
area.

In all levels of the organisation - whether local, regional, provincial or national -
we need new blood, fresh blood. One of the problems we have had as an organisation is the
almost instinctive resistance to fresh blood. Some of us, unfortunately, feel threatened
when we say let us have new, young people, well trained. In this developing situation, we
cannot survive if we do not recharge our organisation by ensuring that we have fresh
blood. People who are not burdened with many duties as members of our National Executive
are. Members of our National Executive, at least the outgoing National Executive, spend
the whole day, starting from about 08h00, sometimes earlier, attending one meeting after
the other, sometimes in Johannesburg, Pretoria and elsewhere. And by the time they go to
bed, they are hopelessly tired and unproductive.

Well, on a serious note, one of the aspects of prison life I appreciated, in spite of
the tragedy of being imprisoned, especially for a long term of years, in prison for many
years, is the fact that one got the opportunity to sit down and think. We do not have that
privilege here. To sit down and think at the end of the day and to assess your humble
contribution as member of a team, is an important part of organising and of carrying out
your political duties. In fact, I have urged all the members of the National Executive,
and I now repeat that appeal, that after this Conference they must all disappear and
forget about problems, about political problems. They must go for a holiday. Then they
will come back fresh and ready to lead.

Comrades are bound to differ on numerous issues that come before the Executive.
Differences of opinion among comrades, honestly held and expressed in a disciplined manner
within the structures of the organisation, should be encouraged rather than discouraged.
They are healthy, they lead to vigorous debate and to an examination of problems from all
angles. Unfortunately, some comrades do not always welcome opposition, even from their
comrades and tend to sideline, and even slander, comrades who have independent views.

But when you do so, please do not make the mistake I made in the fifties. We went to a
meeting of the National Executive and Chief Lutuli was President at the time. And Prof Z K
Mathews, who had lectured to me at Fort Hare, was Deputy President. They went to a meeting
called by the Institute of Race Relations. At that time it was all white. And when they
came back we asked for a report. They said: "We went there in our private capacity.
We have no obligation to report to you." We said: "No. You went there because of
the positions you hold in the African National Congress." They said: "No, no,
no, we went there in our private capacity; we`re not going to report." We tried to
pressurise them, then one comrade suggested that we should adjourn, and during the
adjournment they said: "Nelson, you must launch an attack on these old men. We are
going to support you." Well, I was very young, and headstrong, and we went back to
the meeting. I then pressed the Chief and the Prof to give us a report, immediately. They
said: "You can do what you like, we are not reporting." Then, in my frustration,
I said: "Well, then it`s clear that you are inferior to whites. You are prepared to
share secrets with whites which you are not prepared to share with us." So Prof
Matthews says to me: "What do you know about Whites? I taught you at Fort Hare. You
came from the countryside, you are a country bumpkin. You heard of whites from me, you had
never even seen them before you came to Johannesburg." Whilst I was suffering from
this acute embarrassment, Chief Luthuli made it worse. And he says: "Now, you say I
am inferior to whites. Then I`m not fit to be a leader of the ANC. I tender my
resignation." Now I never thought that he would resign. I thought that I could pull
him down and he would remain in that position. But when he threatened to resign, those
fellows who said they were going to support me started saying: "This man has gone too
far. This man has gone too far." And I remained all alone. I had to retreat and
apologise. Don`t make that mistake.

We are grateful to the outgoing National Executive Committee for the excellent
leadership they have given during the last three years. The masses of our people have,
throughout the decades, fought very hard against racial oppression and many paid the
highest price. We are all indebted to them. But few will deny that it was the outgoing NEC
that skilfully led the entire country to an impressive victory, that has been hailed both
inside and outside South Africa, as having committed a modern miracle. It is the outgoing
National Executive Committee that achieved that impressive victory.

The Cabinet, the outgoing Cabinet, as well as the incoming Cabinet, consists of highly
motivated, able and hard-working men and women who, as I have said, work 24 hours a day to
discharge their duties. Members of the Cabinet have done so in order to honour the pledges
we made in the run-up to the elections. We are fortunate to have such remarkable leaders
in the government. They will guarantee, and I hope the present Executive as well, that the
endemic corruption, waste and inefficiency that characterised the apartheid government
will be tackled effectively in the weeks and months and years that lie ahead. But it is,
we must confess, something of an irony that, as a government dominated by the ANC, we
should talk of fiscal discipline, the waste and the inefficiency of the apartheid regime
when, in fact, there is no financial discipline in the African National Congress, when
there is waste, where there is inefficiency. I am sorry a comrade objected to us
presenting our Financial report, because it is proper, this is a public organisation, it
is your organisation, you should know the facts in detail about how we have been
incompetent in this regard. How we had no financial discipline. How a parasitic class in
the African National Congress has emerged, where regions cannot raise funds themselves,
they depend on the headquarters. If the regions have no money, where do they think their
organisation, the headquarters, get the money. The late Treasurer General, Tom Nkobi, went
around the world all alone. He did marvellously. Between February 1990 and June last year,
he raised no less than $66 million cash from Africa. In Asia, he raised no less than $44
million. That was more than $100 million. Before he died this year he had collected no
less than $25 million this year. And we have reduced the overdraft which the press is
talking about. We are a poor organisation. We had enormous responsibilities. But we, under
the leadership of the late Treasurer General, were able to raise that amount. What were
the regions doing, because an organisation, if it is an organisation, must be able to
finance itself.

I have told a story some time before. That story will be known to Cde Billy Nair. Dr
Dadoo and Dr Naicker, then Presidents of the Transvaal Indian Congress and the Natal
Indian Congress respectively, after the passive resistance campaign launched by the Indian
Community in this country, a rousing campaign in which almost every Indian family went to
jail, they used a lot of money. They then decided to go to India to raise funds. And they
met Ghandi. And they said: "Well, we have come to raise funds." And he said:
"Have you got a following from the Indian Community?"

They said yes, and quoted figures. Ghandi said: "Now you go back to South Africa
and raise your money from your following. Go back." And they never came back with a
penny. The result is that that changed the attitude of the Indian Congress. They went to
their own people and built massive reserves, from which they were able to finance their
activities.

We are far from that as an organisation. Every region pesters the head office for
financial support. They don`t know how to go round and raise money in their respective
areas. As long as that situation exists, it is ironical for us in government to talk about
monetary discipline, waste, inefficiency on the part of the apartheid regime. This is one
of the matters which we must attend to.

There is another aspect which I want to raise. I have expressed my confidence in the
outgoing National Executive Committee, I have that confidence in the incoming National
Executive Committee. As I say, they are men and women of high integrity and outstanding
ability and commitment. But we must never forget the saying that power corrupts, and
absolute power corrupts absolutely. It has happened in many countries that a liberation
movement comes into power and the freedom fighters of yesterday become members of the
government. Sometimes without any idea of mischief, precisely because they are committed
and hard working, they concentrate so much on their portfolios that they forget about the
people who put them in power, and become a class, a separate entity unto themselves, who
are not accountable to their membership, and who rely on law, that now I am a Cabinet
Minister, the political organisation that put me in power can do nothing. One of the ways
of preventing that temptation is for members of the Cabinet to go regularly to their
areas, talk to the people. Go to the squatters or informal settlements, enter those rooms
and see how people live, talk to them and also explain to them, on a regular basis, what
the government is doing to give them feedback as to what the government is doing to
address their needs. Such a disaster, I am confident, will not happen to these men and
women. But it is not our good wishes that are going to avoid that disaster. It is an
inbuilt system in your style of work that will prevent such disasters. I am confident that
I lead a Cabinet that will endeavour to scrupulously avoid such pitfalls.

Lastly, I must congratulate the incoming National Executive. I am proud to lead such
men and women of a high calibre. I also would like to thank all the members of the
Preparatory Committee, the staff of the Secretary General, and all others who have helped
for the remarkable work they have done to make this Conference the success it is. Similar
thanks go to the staff and workers of this University. It was a significant gesture for
this University to allow a Conference of an organisation they once condemned as
subversive, as treasonable, to hold a Conference here.

Unfortunately, the behaviour of some of our delegates during these last five days left
much to be desired. This point was made by the now Deputy President of this organisation,
Cde Thabo Mbeki. Some of the things they did cannot be repeated, cannot be explained here.
It would be discourteous to the audience for us to spell them out. I had, yesterday, to
contact the Acting Rector here, and to apologise for that disgraceful behaviour. Now, that
is an indictment, not only against the organisation, even though we know, as the Deputy
President said yesterday, that these are not members of the organisation. The Deputy
President is more diplomatic than I am. What he was saying was that these people who
behaved in this manner are men who have been infiltrated into our organisation by the
enemy to tarnish our image. It is the duty of every leader of the delegation to
investigate this behaviour. They ought to have been more efficient and more strict than
they were. They should have been able to account for the movement of all their delegates,
and now that they have not done so I hope they`ll go back to their areas and conduct a
searching investigation, because people who behave in this way are not fit to be members
of the ANC.

And my final word of thanks goes to the delegates, as I have said, for the high level
of discussion they have shown. It was from all angles, an impressive performance. Please
travel safely back to your areas, and I wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Thank you. .