It is a great pleasure once again to address the Cape Town Press Club.
In the course of my speech I shall endeavour to revisit the remarkable process that culminated 25 years ago in the fundamental constitutional transformation of South Africa.
I shall examine how we have fared since then in advancing the values on which our Constitution and our new society have been founded. And, on the eve of critically important national elections in May this year, I shall briefly assess our prospects for the next 25 years.
Now, 25 years later, we South Africans are inclined to forget our historic achievement in successfully managing the fundamental transformation of our society from rule by the white national minority to genuine non-racial constitutional democracy.
Indeed, in the darkest days of 1985 such a prospect seemed to be quite impossible.
Many South Africans and most international observers believed that South Africa was descending inexorably into a catastrophic racial war.
- Widespread civil unrest throughout the country was threatening to make many of our communities ungovernable.
- Scenes of chaos and mayhem were being broadcast nightly on international TV and were eroding whatever confidence still existed in the South African government’s ability to maintain control.
- The country was internationally reviled; it was increasingly isolated and threatened by sanctions; and, following the refusal of international banks to roll over our short-term loans, was facing bankruptcy.
- The SADF was involved in escalating conflict in southern Angola with surrogate forces of the Soviet Union that saw Southern Africa as a principal area of contestation in its global struggle against the West.
Let me make it clear to critics of our transformation process that had we not taken the actions that we initiated in February 1990 we would have continued down the 1985 road to a catastrophic racial war; to the destruction of our economy; and to a very bleak future for all our people.
And then after 1985 – slowly but surely – the situation began to improve.