The Presidential Years

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I must apologise, I have contracted a cold and I hope my voice will be able to stand up to the pressures this evening. My doctor who examined me very early this morning, asked me to rest for today and tomorrow and to do as little talking as possible. And he said if I do that this cold will clear in two days’ time. I hope you will not disclose to him that I did not obey his instructions.

Fellow South Africans – the people of South Africa:

This is indeed a joyous night. Although not yet final, we have received the provisional results of the election. My friends, I can tell you that we are delighted by the overwhelming support for the African National Congress.

Within the last few hours, I have received telephone calls from State President de Klerk, General Constand Viljoen, Dr. Zac de Beer and Mr Johnson Mlambo, the first Deputy President of the PAC, who pledged their full co-operation and offered their sincere congratulations. I thanked them all for their support and look forward to working together for our beloved country.

I would also like to congratulate President de Klerk for the strong showing, for the strong showing the National Party has displayed in this election. I also want to congratulate for him for the many days, weeks, months, and the four years that we have worked together, quarreled, addressed the sensitive programmes – problems and that at the end of our heated exchanges, we were able to shake hands and to drink coffee.

My congratulations also go to Dr. Zac de Beer, as well as to General Constand Viljoen, with whom I have had numerous discussions and whom I regard as worthy South Africans who are going to make a contribution in the Government of National Unity.

I also look forward to having discussions with the leaders of the liberation movement who have not been able to make the threshold. I will go to my organization because I have got certain ideas. They have suffered together with us. I was in jail with many of them - we suffered together in the battlefields, and it hurt, hurts me a great deal that they should not be able to have made the threshold which other parties have made.

To all those in the African National Congress and the democratic movement who worked so hard these last few days and through these many decades, I thank you and honour you.

To the people of South Africa and the world who are watching: this is indeed a joyous night for the human spirit. This is your victory too. You helped end apartheid; you stood with us through the transition.

I watched, along with you all, as the tens of thousands of our people stood patiently in long queues for many hours. Some sleeping on the open ground overnight, waiting to cast this momentous vote.

South Africa's heroes are legend across the generations. But it is you, the people, who are our true heroes.

This is one of the most important moments in the life of our country. I stand before you filled with deep pride and joy: - pride in the ordinary, humble people of this country. You have shown such a calm, patient determination to reclaim this country as your own, and joy that we can loudly proclaim from the rooftops – free at last!

I am your servant; I don’t come to you as a leader, as one above others. We are a great team. Leaders come and go but the organization and the collective leadership that has looked after the fortunes and reverses of this organization will always be there. And the ideas I express are not the ideas invented in my own mind. They stem from our fundamental policy document - the Freedom Charter; from the decisions; resolutions of the National Conference and from the decisions of the National Executive Committee. That is the nature of our organization. It is not the individuals that matter; it is the collective leadership which has led this organization so skillfully.

And I stand therefore before you humbled by your courage, with a heart full of love for all of you. I regard it as the highest honour to lead the ANC at this moment in our history, and that we have been chosen to lead our country into the new century.

I pledge to use all my strength and ability to live up to your expectations of me as well as the ANC.

I am personally indebted and pay tribute to some of South Africa's greatest leaders including John Dube, Josiah Gumede, GM Naicker, Dr. Abduraman, Chief Luthuli, Lilian Ngoyi, Bram Fischer, Helen Joseph, Yusuf Dadoo, Moses Kotane, Chris Hani and Oliver Tambo. They should have been here to celebrate with us, for this is their achievement too.

Tomorrow, the entire ANC leadership and I will be back at our desks. We are rolling up our sleeves to begin tackling the problems our country faces. We ask you all to join us - go back to your jobs in the morning. Let's get South Africa working.

For we must, together and without delay, begin to build a better life for all South Africans. This means creating jobs, building houses, providing education and bringing peace and security for all.

This is going to be the acid test of the Government of National Unity. We have emerged as the majority party on the basis of the programme which is contained in the Reconstruction and Development Programme. There we have outlined the steps that we are going to take in order to ensure a better life for all South Africans.

Almost all the organizations that are going to take part in the Government of National Unity have undertaken in the course of the campaign to contribute to the better life of our people. That is going to be the cornerstone, the foundation on which the Government of National Unity is going to be based.

And I appeal to all the leaders who are going to serve in this government, to honour that programme. And to go there determined to contribute towards its immediate implementation.

If there are attempts on the part of anybody to undermine that programme, there will be serious tensions in the Government of National Unity.

We are here to honour our promises. If we failed to implement this programme, that will be a betrayal of the trust which the people of South African have vested in us. It is a programme which was developed by the masses of the people themselves in People’s Forums. It has been accepted by state corporations, by government departments, by business, academics, by religious leaders, youth movements, women’s organizations. And nobody will be entitled to go to that, to participate in that Government of National Unity to oppose that plan.

But I must add we are not going to make the Government of National Unity an empty shell. We want every political organization that participates in that Government to feel that they are part and parcel of a government machine which is capable of accommodating their views within the context of the Reconstruction and Development Programme. We do not want to reduce them into mere rubber stamps, to rubber stamp the decision of any organization except to say that that Programme has to be carried out without reservation.

The calm and tolerant atmosphere that prevailed during the elections depicts the type of South Africa we can build. It set the tone for the future. We might have our differences, but we are one people with a common destiny in our rich variety of culture and traditions.

We also commend the security forces for the sterling work done. This has laid a solid foundation for a truly professional security force, committed to the service of the people and loyalty to the new constitution.

People have voted for the party of their choice and we respect that. This is democracy.

I hold out a hand of friendship to the leaders of all parties and their members, and ask all of them to join us in working together to tackle the problems we face as a nation. An ANC government will serve all the people of South Africa, not just ANC members.

We are looking forward to working together in a Government of National Unity. It is a clear mandate for action. To implement a plan to create jobs, promote peace and reconciliation, and guarantee freedom for all South Africans.

Now is the time for celebration, for South Africans to join together to celebrate the birth of democracy.

Let our celebrations be in keeping with the mood set in the elections, peaceful, respectful and disciplined, showing we are a people ready to assume the responsibilities of government.

I promise that I will do my best to be worthy of the faith and confidence you have placed in me and my organisation, the African National Congress. Let us build the future together, and toast a better life for all South Africans.

Lastly, I just want to say that in some areas we may not have done as well as we hoped. But that is how democracy functions. There should be no tensions in any region in which we have not emerged as the majority party. Let us stretch out our hands to those who have beaten us, and to say to them: we are all South Africans, we have had a good fight. But now this is the time to heal the old wounds and to build a new South Africa.

I also want to say that there are sports teams that were supposed to come to South Africa. They have not done so because of the state of emergency. I invite all of them to come to South Africa irrespective of the state of emergency.

I and the people of South Africa will welcome them with open hands.

I thank you

[Some time later in the evening he was given a gift from James Motlatsi President of the National Union of Mineworkers. He then returned to the microphone and said:]

Well I’m sure you’ll bear with me. I can’t resist saying thank you to Comrade James. You must know that my association with the Mineworkers’ Union can be described only by words intimate, because my first job, my very first job, was in the mine as a mine policeman. So I appreciate this gift because those links between me and the mineworkers have lasted and given me strength and hope throughout these many years. And I thank you.

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