It is a great pleasure for me to be able to address you this afternoon.
When we consider the challenges that confront us, when we read of gloom and despondency, we should step back for a moment and remember two consoling thoughts: that we live in one of the most beautiful and vibrant cities in the world; and that this is by far the best time in human history.
We should also remember the remarkable progress that we have made during the past 26 years – and we should remind ourselves of our proven ability to confront and overcome the most enormous problems.We should cast our thoughts back 30 years, to January 1986. It was just four months after PW Botha’s catastrophic Rubicon speech: the bottom had fallen out of the rand; the country was wracked by violence, we were fighting a life or death struggle to avoid a cataclysmic financial crisis after international banks had refused to roll over our short term loans. We were involved in escalating conflict against Soviet and Cuban-led forces in southern Angola. We were facing increasing international isolation; the international media was circling over South Africa like so many vultures waiting for a wounded animal to die.
Or think back to September, 1992. The ANC had withdrawn from CODESA on the premise that if it could get enough people into the streets for long enough in what it called rolling mass action, the government would collapse just as the East German government had collapsed a couple of years earlier after prolonged nationwide demonstrations. That’s why the ANC called it “the Leipzig Option.” The ANC reasoned that if the government could be brought to fall in this manner it would not be necessary to make the painful compromises that successful negotiations always require.
But we came through all that! How did we do it?
We had decided to embark on a negotiated settlement at the end of the 1980s after years of intense introspection.
The principal reality that my colleagues and I had to acknowledge was that apartheid had led to manifest injustice for the great majority of our people. We accepted that it could not be reformed and that only the fundamental constitutional transformation of our society could lead to a potentially positive outcome for all our people.