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JULY 1991

ANC President Nelson Mandela

Comrades, I must first thank the independent Electoral Commission for
the excellent work they have done. Their work has been professional in
the proper sense of the word. They briefed us very carefully and very patiently
about the procedure that was going to be adopted, and all of us clearly
understood what they required. They put aside long hours in order that
they should keep up with the pressure of work which the extraordinarily
large number of delegates cast upon them. We will forever remain indebted
to them for their magnificent performance.

I would also like to thank the National Preparatory Committee which
made the elaborate arrangements in order that this Conference should take
place according to plan. I also thank our comrades in Durban for their
efforts. I must express, as I did in my opening speech, our appreciation
to Professor Reddy for having made this university available to us in order
to hold this Conference. It is an indication of the changing times, because
this university was established as a bush college. It was never intended
that an organisation like the ANC would hold a conference in a place of
this nature.


You have entrusted me with the presidency of the ANC. It is a daunting
task. In February last year shortly after I was released from prison I
travelled all the way to Sweden to visit Comrade Oliver Tambo as he was
recuperating in a clinic. One of the first things I told him was that in
view of his state of health he was no longer in a position to carry out
his duties as President. He then offered to resign from that post. I pointed
out to him that it was not necessary for him to do so. He must give himself
and ourselves a chance to let him carry out his duties and those of us
who had worked with him over the years would see how his duties were carried
out in his absence, and that if by the next conference of the ANC he still
felt that he could not discharge his duties, he should leave the matter
entirely until the next conference. Although he tried to persuade me I
staunchly refused to accede to his request. However, as I told you the
other day, he again approached the NEC and indicated that he was not available
to serve. We then released him. You have now given me this responsibility.
It will not be very easy for me to follow the giant footsteps of Comrade
OR. Comrade OR, who is affectionately known as Chief to his comrades, paved
the way forward with gold, the gold of his humanity, his warmth, his democratic
spirit, tolerance and above all intellectual brilliance, which in the end
outwitted the racists in this country.

Of course, comrades, no struggle can depend on one person. The struggle
is basically a collective affair. But there are exceptions to every rule,
and looking at the history of the 30 last years of exile, one may be tempted
to think that Comrade OR is that exception. As I pointed out, I know his
humility, I will not continue to embarrass him by with further praise;
it is sufficient to say there is not enough rain in the skies for us to
be able to shower on him the honour he deserves.

We have had the privilege to participate in one of the most democratic
processes this country has ever seen. During the past five days we have
witnessed a process which will be remembered in the history of the ANC
and the country as a whole as having set a standard for democratic participation.
This historic conference has had a total of 2,244 voting delegates who
were democratically elected at branches. Eighty five percent of this number
were elected from the branches inside the country. We have changed the
face of conferences to come by having the participation of our membership,
represented in the steering committee and the preparatory committee of
this conference through their regional representatives. Thus, comrades,
we are all responsible for the successes we have achieved here today.


Debates leading up to this conference included rigorous debate within
branches and at regional level on the policies which formed the basis of
the debate at this Conference. The discussions within the plenary and in
the commissions were remarkable for their frankness. Criticisms were given
and taken in a debate organised to facilitate such a process. This conference
has reflected the shifts we have made in our own organisation, and the
transformation from a banned illegal formation to a mass based and democratic
organisation. And this conference has also reflected the amount of work
we have to do to consolidate our policies among all the people in this

We have achieved an important milestone in our history, and that is
a merging of the different strands of our organisation. The lessons we
have learnt from our experiences in exile have been strengthened by the
lessons we have learnt from all our attempts to build a mass-based ANC
inside the country. These processes have allowed outstanding men and women
to emerge as our leadership, and today we can say the process at all levels
has begun. And exiles are strengthened by the wealth of experience of those
of our cadres who built organisation in the towns, in rural areas of our
country, at a branch and leadership level. This executive we have just
elected is a clear indication of this fact. We have both leaders from exile
and leaders from inside who are now entrusted with the task of leading
the overwhelming majority of our population, indeed of leading the whole
country to a new South Africa. We have adopted a constitution which provides
for the fullest participation of the membership at grassroots level, and
a national leadership with the power to lead and guide on matters of the
moment, as well as the major long-term issues facing us. I have the honour
to congratulate the new leadership, and wish them success in their respective


I must also pay and add my compliments and appreciation to the services
of the outgoing executive and especially to those who have not been able
to maintain their position. The fact that they have not been elected does
not indicate dissatisfaction with their performance. I am sure they will
be the first to understand that that is how the democratic process works.
It is me today, it will be comrade Cheryl Carolus tomorrow who will lead
this organisation. We thank them. We are indebted to all of them for the
amount of work they put in, and that is why today we have such a strong
organisation. The logical question to pose is: what happens to those members
of the executive who have not been able to be reelected. Many of them are
fairly old. They cannot get employment in industry; they have to maintain
families and send children to school. The ANC will have to look at the
matter as a of matter of urgency, and not allow men and women who have
sacrificed so much to suffer. We have no resources but will do everything
in our power to make their living conditions as bearable as possible.

The leadership we have elected here today reflects the national character
of our people, including class and gender composition. Our people have
strong commitments to the goals that the overwhelming majority seeks, that
of justice, peace, democracy, unity and non-racialism. Our people have
elected a leadership mature in character, men and women who will lead our
collective with brave foresight.


We will ensure that our strategy and tactics are informed by the experiences
of all the people in this country. Comrades, it is our revolutionary duty
to support this leadership and to guide it so that we will ensure that
we involve the people as fully as possible in the vital decisions we have
to make in this very critical.,period of our struggle. The nonracial unity
of our country is non-negotiable, and may not be compromised. We also have
to ensure that the policies we have adopted here are given the correct
administrative support. We believe that it is not only the task of the
NEC, but of every member of the ANC.

As I have said earlier, we have had a very serious debate here, and
today we can return to our branches with clear mandates. On the question
of negotiations, this conference has given us all a very clear mandate.
We have reaffirmed the premise that negotiations is a terrain of struggle
leading to our central objective, the transfer of power to the people.
Delegates have determined that we are not yet in a state of transition.
There still remains an enormous difference in the perceptions of the oppressed
about the nature of the necessary changes that have to occur, and the character
of future society; and that of the Nationalist Party government. We have
determined here that we cannot accept the regime`s claim to recognition
as the main agency of change and the manager of the current period of transition.
Conference thus confirmed the position as previously communicated to the


The ANC is an equal partner, and not simply an organisation that is
to be informed or consulted by the regime. We have asserted that everything
has be done to build maximum unity among the forces committed to the perspective
of a non-sexist, non-racist democracy; and to ensure that such forces act
in unity throughout the process of negotiations.

The leadership has been mandated to establish a patriotic front as soon
as possible. Conference has also given this, the NEC, the mandate to establish
a comprehensive and representative team of negotiators, to continue our
task of ensuring that the transfer of power to the people is a peaceful
one. We must also admit that the manner in which we have handled the negotiations
up to now has been subject to severe criticism both inside and outside
this hall. Some of these criticisms have been fair, have been valid. One
of the criticisms has been that there has not been sufficient consultation
before we entered negotiations on a particular issue. There has also been
the fair criticism that there has been no systematic and regular reporting
on the outcome of negotiations, and that the membership has remained ignorant
of what was going on in these discussions. We fully acknowledge that criticism.
We acknowledge it without reservation, and we can assure you that we have
taken note of this fact, and that in future we will try and work as systematically
as you have demanded.


We have also resolved to build our organisation into a strong and well-oiled
task force. The NEC has been mandated to take an inclusive approach to
the question of building a programme of action to strengthen our organisation.
Door-to door-campaigns to bring the policies of the ANC alive to the people,
strengthening of the tripartite alliance, and sensitivity to the fears
expressed by minority groups in our country were debated, and we can confidently
say that this conference has endorsed the perspective of building a mass-based
ANC to the fullest extent. I think it is proper here to be absolutely brutal
about our weaknesses in this regard.


There has been no effective communication between the ANC and the minority
groups of this country. Many of us have made the mistake of thinking that
the mere declaration of our policy in the Freedom Charter, because it is
the most progressive policy ever published by any political organisation
in this country, meant that the masses would come rushing to join the ANC.
This is not the position. Some of our structures have been so set up as
to exclude the minority groups. That has been a serious weakness, because
it indicates that the overwhelming majority of the Africans in this country
are not taking into account the minority groups of this country. It is
true that our policies are non-racial, but let us be realistic about it.
There are different ethnic groups in this country, and ethnicity, especially
because of the policies of the government, is still a dangerous threat
to us. We have to redouble our efforts to make sure we have the confidence
of all the different sections of the people of this country, something
which is not there at the present moment.


Whilst we deliberated here our membership in the Vaal area and this
province have been attacked by vigilantes and, it is believed, by some
elements of the security forces. We will have to make certain that the
resolutions taken here on violence are implemented, and that we reaffirm
our resolve to defend our country from the attempts being made to destabilise
the peace process. In this regard you will have noted the statement which
appeared on television and in the press made by President De Klerk in which
he condemned the attacks very strongly and expressed his sympathies to
the victims of these cruel attacks. We welcome such a statement from President
De Klerk. We have criticised him very harshly, and that criticism was justified,
but when he does something which is commendable, it is part of honesty
as public figures and as leaders to acknowledge it. When he makes a mistake,
we will express ourselves quite openly on that point, as we have done on
numerous occasions before. If he had done this right from the beginning,
this violence would not have intensified to the state it has. We must defend
our people at the same time as we push forward the process of leading to
the transfer of power to our people. We have to move faster on the question
of achieving a Constituent Assembly. The power of our organised masses
will outweigh any attempts to destabilise us. The Interim Government debate
has been a long one, and we have reaffirmed our position that it would
be incorrect for the Nationalist Party to continue to govern this country
on its own, and we have resolved that an Interim Government would have
to be formed in such a manner that it is broadly acceptable.


The MK commission was lively and the debate well rounded. We have resolved
that MK should have a structured relationship with all levels of the organisation,
and that the organisation shall take responsibility for the maintenance
of the army both inside and outside the country. We will do our very best
in this regard.

On Friday I attended a session of the MK commission. It became clear
to me after listening to the speakers that the problems of MK cannot be
properly addressed in a one-day commission. A separate conference of MK
cadres attended by leading members of the NEC is necessary if justice is
to be done to their complaints. The question of the suspension of armed
action will be an important question on the agenda. It has already surfaced
in the discussions that we have had. Although we have given what we regarded
as an adequate explanation for having taken this action, nevertheless dissatisfaction
continues to surface, and it is our duty to address that question.

Sanctions, as you all witnessed, also generated a great deal of debate,
and I hope I am not patronising when I say Cde Thabo Mbeki handled this
matter very well. I did not have the opportunity of listening to his entire
address, but the little bit that I had the privilege to listen to I endorse
it without reservation, because it is an attempt to get the delegates as
well as the organisation not to rely on mere rhetoric but to look at the
problem as it is developing. We want to continue to hold the line on the
question of sanctions, and unless there is a great deal of flexibility
and imagination we will be left holding; a shell and nothing else.


We will continue to call on the international community to support the
position of the ANC for peace and unity in this country. We have asked
conference to consider the question of using a phased perspective on the
question of sanctions, and we have not been disappointed in the vision
of our people. Sanctions have been a potent weapon, and we have made many
gains. We have to continue to achieve maximum benefit out of this strategy.
Many of our friends are under pressure to lift sanctions, and will not
do so without consulting the ANC. We have to make a particular comment
on the position taken by the Danish Parliament, whose position is to ensure
that the EEC maintain sanctions until all the conditions in the Harare
Declaration have been met. We also have to make particular comment on the
position of the Bush Administration, whose position has been to consult
the ANC before making any decision, even though the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid
Act will force them to lift sanctions once all the apartheid laws are off
the statute books. But we have problems with some of our colleagues in
Africa, whose economies are strained as a result of the support they have
shown to our cause. We cannot be inflexible in our approach to this particular

I do not want my remarks to be misunderstood. We are calling for flexibility
and for imagination; for an approach which is realistic. But our position
is very clear: sanctions must continue to be maintained and applied. That
is our position. The flexibility we want exercised is intended to ensure
that this weapon is kept in our hands.

This conference has had a significant and historical debate on the question
of the participation and representation of women, and this debate has carried
the ANC much further than it has ever been. This heated frank and open
debate was one of the most important in this conference because we were
talking about a fundamental principle, a fundamental policy of the ANC,
firmly entrenched in our alliance. We have to begin to work on mechanisms
which ensure that affirmative action becomes positive reality. I can say
with all confidence that after that debate, and after the women had demonstrated
their intensity of feeling on this issue, the ANC will never be the same.


Then there is the question of the homeland leaders, which has been raised
very strongly. Again, we must confess that we have made mistakes in this
regard. It is true that in some areas we have entered discussions with
homeland leaders without proper consultations with our grassroots members
in that particular area. We must assure you that this mistake will be attended
to and in fact it is already being attended to. One can quote a few examples.
In KaNgwane we have been able to consult our local branch there and the
region. Not only that, we have brought the homeland leaders, as well as
our people, our comrades, in a joint meeting to discuss their differences.
We have done the same thing in Gazankulu. Our local membership has been
brought together with the homeland leaders there to discuss their differences
and iron them out. The emphatic point is that this matter is already being
attended to, and we appreciate the frankness of delegates on this matter


Then there is the question of mass action. Many people have alleged
that we are now giving more attention to negotiations and ignoring mass
action. We regret to say that this is an allegation which is made by people
who have no real idea of what is happening in their own organisation, in
their own country. Because it is common knowledge that at no time in our
history have we had so many forms of mass action as we have done during
the last two years. So much so that our labour organisations have had to
give us a warning that we must not just resort to mass action every time
we get angry, that the question of mass action must be carefully examined
because of the downturn in the economy of the country, and the high level
of unemployment. And those people therefore who continue saying that we
have abandoned mass action, with respect, they are not very sure of their

Because of the enthusiasm that has been shown here, I do not consider
it necessary to go into details about our achievements. But perhaps it
is necessary for me to just to say in very brief outline that the ANC in
this country continues to hold the strategic initiative, and those people
who say that the initiative has passed on to Mr De Klerk are just giving
vent to their own wishes. The point is the ANC has made very significant
achievements. It has been able to isolate the regime. As comrade OR showed
in his address, we have no less than 40 representatives with foreign governments,
and sanctions continue to bite deep in the coffers of this country. We
were able to reject the conditions which the government sought to impose
for the release of political prisoners; they said before they could release
us we must condemn violence, we must distance ourselves from the Communist
Party; we must go to the homelands, to rule ourselves there comfortably
without interference. We rejected all those conditions, and today, all
the political prisoners covered by the definitions to which I referred
are back with us, without signing any of those conditions.


Most important, we have made a gain on the ideological level. The government
during the last 40 years has told the country and the world that the solution
to the problems of .his country was the policy of apartheid, in which blacks
would continue to be hewers of wood and drawers of water. On the contrary
we announced a non-racial policy; we announced that we were and still are
fighting for a democratic South Africa, moulded on the principle of one
person, one vote. The government has now admitted they were wrong and we
were right. They have embraced our policy, and there could be no greater
victory than that.

On the question of sanctions, where they say sanctions are crumbling,
that may be true but they are exaggerating the matter; they do not tell
us that the decision taken by the EEC countries in December last year to
lift sanctions on gold and iron ore, those decisions cannot be taken because
of a decision of the Danish government; a decision of the EEC is that all
decisions should be taken unanimously, and the decision of the Danish government
rejecting the decision of the EEC makes that unanimity impossible; and
that decision on the authority of the president of the EEC, to whom I spoke
about three weeks ago, on his authority, that decision cannot be carried
out until the Danish parliament changes its decision.

In conclusion, comrades, we are very happy indeed to have had such a
successful conference. We are happy about the contributions you have made,
the constructive criticisms that you have brought forward. The leadership
must listen to the member-

ship, because we are here to serve the membership and our people. But
you must also listen to us. You have given us a mandate to lead this organisation
and we are going to do just that. But we are a great organisation which
believes in collective responsibility. That collective responsibility means
not only that the National Executive should take collective decisions,
it means we must listen carefully to what you say, and take that into account
in our political activities.


We want you to know that you yourselves, whether you are on the National
Executive or not, on the Regional Executive Committee, on the Branch Executive
Committee or not, you as a member of the ANC are a leader in your own name
and right; and it is in that spirit that we address you. It is in that
spirit that we will listen to your criticisms and your suggestions, and
if you do that there is no doubt that the road to Union Buildings and Tuynhuys
has become all the shorter. .