The FW de Klerk Foundation would like to commemorate Nelson Mandela’s birthday by reminding South Africans of his enormous contribution to national reconciliation and to the birth of our non-racial constitutional democracy. The following extracts from some of his most famous speeches provide an insight into his courage and his deep commitment to justice, non-racialism and reconciliation.Happy Birthday Madiba!
Speech from the dock, Pretoria, 20 April 1964
“During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”
Statement at the opening of CODESA, 20 December 1991
“Today will be indelibly imprinted in the history of our country. If we, who are gathered here, respond to the challenge before us, today will mark the commencement of the transition from apartheid to democracy. Our people, from every corner of our country, have expressed their yearning for democracy and peace. Codesa represents the historical opportunity to translate that yearning into reality…
“It is imperative that we also reach consensus on the definition of democracy. From the ANC`s perspective, democracy entails:
- that all governments must derive their authority from the consent of the governed;
- no persons or groups of persons shall be subjected to oppression, domination or discrimination by virtue of their race, gender, ethnic origin, colour or creed;
- all persons should enjoy the right to life;
- all persons should enjoy security in their persons and should be entitled to the peaceful enjoyment of their possessions, including the right to acquire, own or dispose of property, without distinction based on race, colour, language, gender or creed.
- all persons should have the right to hold and express whatever opinions they wish to subscribe to, provided that in the exercise of that right they do not infringe on the rights of others.”
Speech in acceptance of the Nobel Peace Prize, 10 December 1993
“We live with the hope that as she battles to remake herself, South Africa will be like a microcosm of the new world that is striving to be born.
“This must be a world of democracy and respect for human rights, a world freed from the horrors of poverty, hunger, deprivation and ignorance, relieved of the threat and the scourge of civil wars and external aggression and unburdened of the great tragedy of millions forced to become refugees.
“The processes in which South Africa and Southern Africa as a whole are engaged, beckon and urge us all that we take this tide at the flood and make of this region a living example of what all people of conscience would like the world to be.”
Inauguration speech, 10 May 1994
“The time for the healing of the wounds has come.
The moment to bridge the chasms that divide us has come.
The time to build is upon us.
“We have, at last, achieved our political emancipation. We pledge ourselves to liberate all our people from the continuing bondage of poverty, deprivation, suffering, gender and other discrimination.
“We succeeded to take our last steps to freedom in conditions of relative peace. We commit ourselves to the construction of a complete, just and lasting peace.
“We have triumphed in the effort to implant hope in the breasts of the millions of our people. We enter into a covenant that we shall build the society in which all South Africans, both black and white, will be able to walk tall, without any fear in their hearts, assured of their inalienable right to human dignity – a rainbow nation at peace with itself and the world.”
Speech after the adoption of the new Constitution, 8 May 1996
“…we stand today before our people and humanity to present this our new basic law of the land, whose founding principles of human dignity, non-racialism and non-sexism, and whose commitment to universal adult suffrage, regular elections and multi-party democracy are immutable.
“This is our national soul, our compact with one another as citizens, underpinned by our highest aspirations and our deepest apprehensions.
“Our pledge is: Never and never again shall the laws of our land rend our people apart or legalise their oppression and repression. Together, we shall march, hand-in-hand, to a brighter future.”
Farewell speech as President, 16 June 1999
“Five years ago the world welcomed South Africa to the community of free nations. Leaders of the international community joined us here in Pretoria in the dawn of our freedom.
“Together with the peoples of the world we celebrated a victory that belonged to the world. It was a victory that flowed from, and affirmed, a shared commitment to our common humanity.
“South Africans from every sector had reached out across the divisions of centuries, and averted a blood-bath which most observers believed inevitable. So much so that our smooth transition was hailed widely as a miracle…
“For my part, I would want to say how privileged I feel to have participated in the achievements of our nation during the past five years. I have been humbled to have been honoured, as their representative, in the name of the principles for which our people stood. It has been an inspiration to serve a nation that has helped renew the world`s hope that all conflicts, no matter how intractable, are capable of peaceful resolution.”
Happy birthday, Madiba!