The Presidential Years

As the end of his term approached, Mandela took leave of the country's first democratically elected Parliament at its last sitting, reflecting on the contribution it had made to the transition and to transformation

Because the people of South Africa finally chose a profoundly legal path to their revolution, those who frame and enact constitution and law are in the vanguard of the fight for change.

It is in the legislatures that the instruments have been fashioned to create a better life for all.

It is here that oversight of government has been exercised.

It is here that our society in all its formations has had an opportunity to influence policy and its implementation.

In brief, we have laid the foundation for a better life. Things that were unimaginable a few years ago have become everyday reality. And of this we must be proud.

Questions have been raised, we know, as to whether this House is not a carriage of the gravy train, whose passengers idle away their time at the nation's expense.

To those who raise such questions we say: Look at the record of our Parliament during these first years of freedom

Look at the work of the nation's representatives when they formed themselves into a Constitutional Assembly.

With a breadth of consultation and public participation that few would have imagined possible, and in a spirit of unprecedented consensus-seeking, it was here that a constitution was formulated and adopted to enshrine our people's deepest aspirations.

Look at the one hundred laws on average that have been passed by this legislature each year.

These have been no trivial laws nor mere adjustments to an existing body of statutes. They have created a framework for the revolutionary transformation of society and of government itself, so that the legacy of our past can be undone and put right. It was here that the possibility was created of improving the lives and working conditions of millions.

Look at the work of the committees that have scrutinised legislation and improved it, posed difficult questions of the executive and given the public insight and oversight of government as never before,

This is a record in which we can take pride.

But even as we do so, we do need to ask whether we need to re-examine our electoral system, so as to improve the nature of our relationship, as public representatives, with the voters.

I raise this question with great pride in what has been done to lay the foundation of democracy in our country. Personally I dare to say that moments in my life have been few and far between when I have sensed the excitement of change as in this august chamber.333