LEBOTLWANE, HAMMANSKRAAL, NORTH WEST PROVINCE : APRIL 16, 2002
The Programme Director; the Honourable Premier of the North-West Province, Dr Popo Molefe; Kgosi MS Nawe; the District Mayor, the local Mayor and Councillors and the community of Lebotlwane. It is a great pleasure for me to be with the Premier of the Northern Province and the people of this community on this important day. Today is a day of great importance because of first the opportunity for us to come together to take stock of how much has indeed been achieved since the time of our liberation on April 27, 1994 and, secondly, how much more remains for us to complete. I have been asked by the organisers of this event to commence and stimulate our discussions by relating to you some of the themes of the debates around the State of the Nation address which our President, His Excellency Mr Thabo Mbeki, delivered at the opening of Parliament this year. I responded to this invitation with great pleasure because, as many of you know, I have always believed in bringing dialogue there where it counts most, at community level.
As you may know, I have been charged with the responsibility of government and leading our people for almost half a century. This is indeed a very long time. However, I have survived for this long because I have never led away from the people. A leader must be amongst his people, listen to its voice and constantly engage in discussions at community level. I come from a rural area and I have lived all my life amongst the poorest of the poor. For half a century I have been in meetings such as this one, debating the issues of the day and invoking our collegial wisdom to find our way forward. Through Imbizos such as this one, our people found courage and direction to deal with the challenges of the past. We found our way in the liberation struggle and dreamt of a South Africa which could one day be free, democratic, non-racial and non-sexist.
When I began my political career in the service of the people, the notion of the freedom of all South Africans from the tyranny of race and oppression seemed to be an impossible dream, far too distant for us to achieve. However, we dared to dream and we had the courage to pursue our dream with single-minded determination. We came together to discuss the issue of violence when violence erupted amongst our people tearing apart the fibre of our communities. I became vilified because I did not believe in violence and rejected the notion of an armed struggle and the possibility that our freedom could be achieved through a military insurrection. I called for a negotiated solution because I believed that only through negotiations, negotiations and negotiations could we in the end reach a type of democracy on which we could base genuine reconciliation and future prosperity. For years and years we came together to discuss issues of this nature. Now we must come again together to discuss issues which are even more momentous, even more tremendous, even more challenging than those
which engaged us in the past. The dream we now nourish seems as unobtainable as our liberation dream did many years ago.
Our dream is bigger than any we had before. For this reason, it is now more important than ever that we come together and invoke our collegial wisdom to map the way forward. The dream we nourished is one of achieving the final stage of our liberation and fulfilling the promise that one day we shall all be free from poverty, unemployment, under-development and ignorance for lack of education, knowledge and exposure. Our dream is that of ensuring that one day South Africa will be equally developed and prosperous. I have dedicated my entire life to the dream that one day all our areas, all our people and all our communities may become as developed, as prosperous and as knowledgeable and well-informed as our most affluent communities which prospered and received the benefits of past segregation. In my heart, I know that this dream will come to pass. However, we need to understand that we are now in as much of a struggle for our liberation as we ever were before. Our struggle needs strong, visionary and clear leadership which has the courage to deal with the real issues and to motivate our people to do what it takes to change around our communities and begin the process of development.
Some of these themes were discussed in Parliament during the address of His Excellency Mr Thabo Mbeki, the President of our Republic. I also participated in that debate, pointing out how much our government has done to achieve a better South Africa, and how much more there is still to do. The road ahead remains long and uphill and whoever tells you differently, is not being totally candid with you. Throughout my life I have never lied to our people. I have always been brutally honest about the difficulties ahead. I have never made promises which I could not fulfil. I only promised that I would never stop, I would never hesitate and I would never falter to push forward our struggle for liberation. What we now need is to promote development from the ground up and to motivate our communities to become the engine of their own development.
As you know, throughout my life I have preached and practised the culture of self-help and self-reliance. Government alone cannot solve all the problems of our communities. We are confronted by an ocean of needs which we need to address with insufficient resources and capacity. We need to promote a revolution of goodwill to empower all the people of goodwill in each of our communities to bring a real revolution of development, development and development. Government can only place the initial seeds for the activities which communities must development by themselves to improve on their own conditions. We can place the seed but you must make the tree grow, nourishing it during each stage of its development.
For this reason I think that it is so important that we operate from this multi-purpose community centre which is a clear example of what I mean about the potential and the limits of what government can do. This centre has enormous potential and yet it is limited if it only enables this community to do things that the community itself must achieve. This centre offers an opportunity for the community to come together and become informed. It is a tool in the hands of this community. Its value and potential depend exclusively on what communities make of it. It can become a place where great things are achieved or remain totally useless because the community does not wish to empower itself or move forward.
Leadership must be promoted at community level and real leaders are those who can identify what a community can do by itself, through its own means and on the strength of its own goodwill to promote its own development. In each household and in each community there are things that people can do to improve on the conditions of life in all times and in all circumstances. People do not need to wait for formal employment. There is work waiting for us to do all around us, and people must begin working even if they are unemployed. The most important thing is to ensure food security for all the members of our community and guarantee that everyone is properly nourished. It is essential that the community takes care of its children, ensuring that they are properly fed and looked after. Similarly, it is essential that the elderly are provided for. A multi-purpose centre like this one is the right place where members of the community can meet, interrogate their problems and have access to all government departments.
Another essential priority is that of promoting the human development of our community. Physical development, the building of roads, the infrastructure and many other aspects of material prosperity, require money and resources which are often limited and unavailable. However, human development can be promoted only on the strength of goodwill. Communities must develop programmes to train, train and train all its members. We must develop a pervasive culture of human development, growth and training which stimulates people to teach and people to learn. Any one of us needs to teach and to learn. Life is a great school in which we are constantly both teachers and pupils. We all have something to learn and something to teach, and centres such as this one must become the constantly open university in which these issues are discussed and people learn, learn and learn.
Our dream of a better future and our quest for final liberation can only come to pass if we break the chain of ignorance and lack of exposure, and if we become as knowledgeable, as worldly and as empowered as possible. For this reason I have felt it important to bring you copies of the addresses during the President's State of the Nation debate so that you may be empowered to carry discussions forward amongst yourselves.
The struggle for development begins here and must be led by local leaders. I have never believed in a top-down approach in government. I have always believed that we must empower community leaders, municipalities and provinces. I feel that your Premier, the Honourable Popo Molefe, and his government are essential to the struggle for development. As you know, I have always been a federalist and believe that provinces should exercise a much greater role to determine what needs to be done in their territory, develop policies, address issues and find the way forward to bring about development for all. If we wish to bring our struggle for liberation forward, we must give more latitude and allow greater initiatives at the provincial level.
Issues such as our war on HIV/AIDS can benefit from the knowledge and expertise of provinces and the leadership of their Premiers. As you know, the war against HIV/AIDS is of great concern to me. Our people are dying throughout the country. It is essential that communities come together to discuss the facts of AIDS and become knowledgeable about ways to prevent the spread of this infection and to care for those whoa are infected. It must lift the stigma. Our brothers and our sisters, our children and our parents have AIDS. It is a fact of the reality which surrounds us. We must accept them and love them even more because of their condition. They need us more and we must respond to the call with greater love and care.
The war against AIDS can only be won through individual responsibility. It is essential that pregnant women check their status and are tested for HIV/AIDS so that if they are positive, they can demand the use of anti-retroviral drugs to prevent AIDS from being transmitted to their new-born. These drugs are effective only six or seven times out of ten and therefore they cannot save all our children of mothers who are HIV infected, but only six or seven of them out of ten. However, each mother has a duty to ensure that she is tested before giving birth and if she is HIV positive she gives her child a chance to be saved.
It is also important that people understand the facts of sexuality and practise faithfulness or abstinence, or use condoms. These are the three options and it is a matter of individual responsibility to choose amongst them. However, there is just no alternative if we are to stop the spread of this infection and win the war against this enemy which is killing our people. We must also develop a much higher awareness of all the other diseases which are also killing our people and ensure that we can provide community responses to limit their spreading around and assist those who have ailments. The home-care of people who are not well is an important community responsibility.
In the end, it is the community which must identify its own priorities. Neither I nor your Premier, nor government is really in a position to dictate to you what the priorities of your community should be. All I can plead for is a change of mind-set and for you to embrace what I call the revolution of goodwill. You must identify your priorities, discuss them in venues such as this one, and on occasions such as this one interrogate what government can do to help you to achieve your priorities, and then just get down and pursue your priorities with single-minded determination. Make it happen at community level. Utilise whatever resource government has available. Interrogate government officials. Ask them to help you but in the end take the initiative. Government is a resource. It is a tool in your hands. You need to become familiar with this tool and understand its full potential and then utilise it to build your community up and promote our struggle for development, development and development. Together we can build a better future for our children and grand-children, and I am honoured to be among you today, and to be part of whatever dream this community wishes to pursue for its development.