Mr Chairman, ladies and gentlemen


It is a great honour for me to be able to address you this evening.


One of the most important contributions that we in South Africa can make to the rest of Africa and to the international community is to show that even the most bitter, complex and intractable problems can be solved peacefully, through compramise and through negotiations.


Naturally, every conflict situation is different.  Each one has its own history and complexities and will require its own solution.


Accordingly, I would not presume to suggest that our experience in South Africa will necessarily or automatically be applicable to the conflicts elsewhere in Africa and the world.   I will, however, be happy to share with you some of our  experiences during our own process of transformation.   I will leave it to you to decide what is, or is not, relevant to other conflict situations.


Fourteen years ago South Africa was caught in the grip of a seemingly irresolvable conflict.  Indeed, it would be difficult to imagine parties that were further apart than the National Party, the IFP and the ANC.   All of the parties involved saw one another – not as they really were – but as the stereotypes depicted by their own propaganda:





What  enabled these parties and the other twenty-three that joined them in the  multi-party negotiations to bridge the enormous chasms that divided them?  I should like to suggest the following.  There was common acceptance that:


There were also certain objective circumstances that had created a window of opportunity for us:


It was factors such as these that enabled us, in December 1993, to reach basic agreement on our new Transitional Constitution, despite the numerous crises, boycotts and walk-outs that we experienced during the process.   The key compromises that lead to our agreement are now a matter of record:


The result of this process was the  adoption in December 1993 of our new Transitional Constitution.  It made provision for a fully democratic system of government based on the rule of law, with  guarantees for the full range of human and civil rights.


Looking back on our experience we can identify the following key factors that contributed to the success of our negotiations:

is doubtful that the National Party government would have been able to take its followers with it.   If we had launched our initiative too late, we might have entered the negotiation process when the balance of power had begun to shift against us – as Ian Smith did in Zimbabwe.


History sometimes opens a window of opportunity, when all the forces involved are ripe for negotiation.  It is the task of statesmen to recognise such windows and lead their followers through, before history once again slams the window shut.


These are among the factors and processes that enabled South Africa to reach agreement on our peaceful transition to multi-racial democracy.   The fruits of our successful compromise have been well worth the effort, sacrifices and frustrations involved in negotiations.  The price of continued conflict would have been bitter and unacceptable.


The best contribution that we in South Africa can make will be to work day and night for the continued success of our own peaceful transition.   We must continue to show the world that there is another way,  that violence and conflict are not inevitable,  that there is a peaceful solution to even the most complex problems and disputes.