Thank you very much for the honour which you have shown me by being the first speaker to participate in the Beeld Forum.


I wish to congratulate you on this initiative to stimulate open discussion.  This is precisely what the new South Africa needs.  A number of warning lights are flashing and this requires a constructive debate, in which opinion formers express their opinions constructively, but nevertheless fearlessly and honestly.  It is in this spirit that I wish to speak with you this afternoon.


At this time ten years ago on 1 February 1990 I was busy putting the final touches to my speech of 2 February.    I was convinced to the core of my being of the direction we had taken and of the necessity for the steps that I would announce the next day.


Today ten years later and with the full advantage of hindsight, I believe that we have been proved right.  The positive results that we have achieved stand in stark contrast to the dark picture that would have unfolded if we had not at that time chosen the path of drastic reform and justice.


For those who today speak nostalgically of the so-called ‘good old days’  and wonder whether it wasn’t all a great mistake, I have a very simple message:


To compare what was good in the old South Africa with what is going wrong in the new South Africa, is a false and erroneous comparison.


They must ask themselves how South Africa would have looked today if we had not reformed drastically.  How many young South Africans would have lost their lives in a devastating civil war?  What hope would there have been for their children in a country which would have fallen into a state of total siege and isolation?   How much greater would the risk to life and property have been – than even now with the present crime wave?  How much higher would the unemployment figures not have been?


No, there is no doubt on my part that the new South Africa, with all its faults and weaknesses, is a much better place than what it would have been had we not broken fundamentally with the old dispensation ten years ago.


Naturally, during the late ‘eighties there was a much more important motivation for drastic reform, than simply the threatening thunder clouds of civil war, revolution and isolation.   It was the voluntary process of deep self-examination which the governing National Party had undertaken – a process which led to the recognition that separate development had failed to bring about justice for everyone in South Africa; that continuation of the old dispensation had become morally indefensible and that a new vision was necessary.


I do not want to burden you with an extensive exposition of the philosophical repositioning of the National Party.  In August 1986 the National party broke with separate development.  A new vision of a single united South Africa, with one-man, one-vote stripped of discrimination, but with protection of minorities, was accepted.   The white voters said ‘yes’ to this in the 1987, and again in the 1989 elections.  And thus was the foundation laid for 2 February 1990 – the beginning of a dramatic decade in our history.


I have been asked to give an evaluation of this remarkable decade.  In a book a writer would in all likelihood have carried out such a commission by analysing and evaluating a list of subjects and disciplines – subjects such as the negotiation process and the constitutional results, the two general elections, the government of national unity, the economy, affirmative action, the TRC the justice system, education, health, crime, etc, etc.


In a speech, a speaker cannot however do justice to such a detailed and structured approach – unless a person wants to talk for hours or days, like Dr Malan and Jan Smuts and even a few of the current political figures in our more recent history!  I would like to spare you that!


I would accordingly like to begin with a general statement:


The successes of the past decade far surpass the failures.

The positive overshadows the negative.


If we look back we have many and good reasons to be grateful.  I mention only a few:


All of the elections and the transition to a new dispensation were concluded more peacefully than anyone could have expected.


We have placed a well-balanced Constitution and Charter of Fundamental Rights on the law book.


We have established a rechtstaat with quite a number of mechanisms in place, which, if properly utilised, can limit the abuse of power.


There are signs of growing realism and pragmatic solution orientation by the government, particularly in the spheres of the economy, education and the struggle against corruption.


The foundation has been laid for economic growth and we are moving in the right direction.


South Africa is back in the international community and the private sector is well under way to taking advantage of the opportunities that this offers.


There is a strong common will to make a success of the new South Africa.


South Africans from all population groups have shown a remarkable adaptability in dealing with far-going change.


There has been remarkable reconciliation in a number of areas and the mutual attitudes between population groups is characterised by the absence of bitterness.


Naturally, it is possible to say with regard to each of these factors; ‘Yes, but…’  Yes, the constitution is reasonable, but it could have been better.  Yes, the economic policy is basically healthy, but what about the labour legislation.  Yes, control mechanisms are in place, but look how weakly some of them are performing.


There is, indeed, room for many ‘Yes, buts’, because many mistakes have been, and are being, made.   I myself have in retrospect in all likelihood made certain errors of judgement which I don’t want to run away from and for which I am sorry.  In just the same way, mistakes have been made by other leaders.  The fact is, however, that if we look at other comparable situations – such as those in East Europe, Latin America and Africa – then the unavoidable dramatic transformation process of the past decade has gone remarkably well, with relatively little pain and disruption.


When I say this, I do not wish to talk away the enormous concern which exists regarding a whole spectrum of matters.  The list of problems which is driving many South Africans to cynicism and even despair, is formidable.   You know that list just as well as I:


Crime and violence; an unbridled series of bomb explosions; corruption; unemployment; crises in education; an apparently losing struggle against AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis; poor provision of services; rising numbers of illegal immigrants; new forms of discrimination and racism, among which is often unfair affirmative action; falling standards; over concentration of power in the hands of one party, etc, etc.


Everyone would be able to add something else.  Some of these problems are a cause for concern for all South Africans, rich and poor.  Others are more the priorities of the advantaged part of our society.  However this may be, it is, and remains, a formidable list, which can have negative consequences across a broad spectrum.  It undermines confidence inside and outside South Africa, it undermines good relations; it cripples new investments; and tourism and threatens all the fine things that have been achieved.


This then is the picture at the end of certainly one of the most significant decades in the history of our country.


On the credit side there is a great deal to be thankful and proud about.


On the debit side, the scales are groaning beneath a heavy weight of painful problems of great proportions.


We have made a good beginning.  Firm foundations for a peaceful and prosperous future have been laid.    We are moving in the right direction in virtually all the main areas.  However, dark and threatening clouds hang over our country and all its people.


The euphoria of 1994 is past.  South Africa’s opportunities for preferential treatment from the international community have dried up.  South Africans, and to a large degree South Africans alone, will have to systematically tackle and solve the formidable list of problems that confront us.


Once again the limitations of a modern speech do not allow me the scope to make a detailed analysis of the problems to which I have referred  – and even less to suggest specific solutions for each one of them.   This is in any case, rather the task of the present policy makers, political and other leaders and experts.


I believe however that during the past decade a more fundamental agenda than simply a list of serious questions has crystallised.  All the problems to which I referred are soluble, however great and formidable they might be.  In fact, there are reasonable policy directives and action plans on the table with regard to most of these problems.  For this reason, I wish to dig deeper and ask about the problems behind the problems.


Firstly, I believe that there are a number of factors which have a crippling effect on our society – factors which seriously undermine our ability to utilise all our country’s talents to the best effect.  I shall mention a few of them without extensive motivation.


There is a dulling with regard to basic values which constitutes great danger for the basic character of our society.  This dulling manifests itself in different manners.   Thus, for example, murder and violent death are no longer news unless they are particularly gruesome.   Respect for life is being eroded. Others climb squarely onto the bandwagon of corruption, with the excuse that we are in any case living in a corrupt society.


And some allow themselves to be swayed by a more subtle form of corruption and become lapdogs of those in power who hand out contracts and subsidies – they come with presents,  jump if ‘the boss’ snaps his fingers and  keep quiet – even if they do not agree.  It is tragic that so many South Africans have become soft and that there are so few who have the courage of their convictions to stand up for what they believe in.


Enough, however, about the problems behind the problems.  My list is not complete.  I do not want to overwhelm you with a flood of words.  The core of my message is that we must cut to the root of the evil, instead of becoming mesmerised by the symptoms.


Something can be done about the problems behind the problems.  It will, however, require great courage to turn the situation around.  In all modesty, and without wanting to be prescriptive, I should like to propose that the following steps should be considered.




I still believe that South Africa will for some time need a consensus-seeking model of government, rather than simply a winner-take-all model.   You will recall that the failure to make provision for this, was in fact the cause of my withdrawal from the GNU.


When I call for a consensus-seeking model, then I am not proposing a government of national unity such as we had from 1994.  Its time has passed.  What I in fact believe is necessary is an initiative which will give all substantial parties more opportunity to make an early contribution to the formulation of policy on national questions and which would allow all significant minorities to feel that they are part of the solution rather than part of the problem.


However, it is not enough simply to involve significant minorities in political decision-making.  It is just as much necessary to make them feel at home in all other spheres of the new South Africa; and to feel at ease with regard to their language, culture, traditions and the education of their children within their own cultural ethos.


Ten years after 2 February 1990 we are running the risk of reverting to a de facto system of ethnically defined government – a system in which


one group governs and other groups are governed;  and where cultural communities feel threatened and excluded.


The over-emphasis on diversity, ethnicity and race was one of the greatest mistakes of the architects of separate development.   It will be an equally grave mistake to ignore the reality of the language and cultural diversity of our society, in particular, or to under estimate the forces that they can unleash


One of the greatest challenges of the coming decades and the next century will be to ensure harmony between all our communities.  I believe that this can best be done by taking measures such as those which I have suggested today, and further by:


The Foundation which I have already begun to establish, will, in particular, be focussed on these objectives.


I am raising these questions, not to start a polemic, but to make a contribution to a creative and constructive debate.  I am doing it because the past ten years have brought our country to a new crossroads.  2 February 2000 calls on everyone in South Africa to make choices:



There will be many listeners who will accuse me of dreaming.  They will ask: Where in the world has that which you are advocating been achieved?


My reply is:  where in the world is that which we achieved in 1990, 1994 and 1999 been equalled?    We dare not give up!  There is a way to solve the problems behind the problems!