Item 1060 - Address at Gala Dinner, Johannesburg Press Club at receiving Newsmaker of the Decade" Award

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ZA COM MR-S-1060


Address at Gala Dinner, Johannesburg Press Club at receiving Newsmaker of the Decade" Award


  • 2001-10-31 (Creation)

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Transcription of speech made by Mr Mandela

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(18 July 1918-5 December 2013)

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Migrated from the Nelson Mandela Speeches Database (Sep-2018).

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Johannesburg Press Club "Newsmaker of the Decade" Gala Dinner

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  • English

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It is an exceptional honour to be recognised in this manner by the real newsmakers of our society. Those of us who have been in public life long enough know that how much we may regard ourselves as important, it is the media people who at the end of the day decide how and where we rank.

I have reason to believe that this award had been motivated primarily by that traditional respect for grey hairs and perhaps also the knowledge that an unemployed pensioner poses no threat to anybody and can therefore be made Newsmaker of the Decade without any harm coming from it.

Whatever the considerations, though, I am deeply honoured and humbled by this generous gesture. So much has happened in our world over the past decade and so many remarkable people made an impact on the course of events.

And if it were to be that I was involved in events that were worth honouring it would have been as a member of a collective and one amongst many who made those achievements possible.

I have not been privy to the rationale behind the decision to make this award to me. If I were to venture a guess or to express a wish about those reasons, it would be that they relate to the search for peaceful solutions in our country and the promotion of the ideal of peace in the world.

If that is in fact the case, I am even more honoured by this award. For there can be no greater cause in the world today than the quest for peace. Few of the problems and challenges facing the world can be addressed on a sustainable way in conditions of violent conflict, instability and warfare.

That message needs to be repeated and amplified in the times that we are living in currently. Events of the past month have shocked and evoked anew anxieties about the state of peace in the world.

The brutal acts of terror in the United States of America suddenly shook our belief that we might have entered a century of lasting peace amongst nations and between people; and that fears about the physical safety and security of people were being overtaken by a new international resolve to work towards peaceful means of resolving differences.

The cold-blooded audacity of those acts of terror against innocent civilians, and the extent of the carnage and loss of life, woke us up to new forms and volumes of violence humankind was capable of.

It was a source of encouragement to note that almost the entire world responded with utter revulsion to such cowardly acts that cruelly and horrendously took the lives of so many innocent people merely going about their ordinary daily lives. Amidst the indescribable tragedy the overwhelming decency of human beings the world over found expression in the unreserved condemnation of those terrible deeds of cruelty.

It is that pool of common human decency that needs to be tapped into as our world seeks to address and eradicate the scourge of terrorism and other forms of violence by human beings against fellow human beings. We need to continue emphasising the fact of the overwhelming existence of such common decency and desire to live in peace with one another in the world. Ordinary women, men and children across the globe, irrespective of different backgrounds, histories or persuasions, merely desire for the opportunities to live lives of dignity.

Commentators have pointed to many remarkable features of our transition from racial minority rule to non-racial democracy. One of those is that the people of South Africa chose a profoundly legal path to their revolution, placing such institutions as parliament central in the process of transition, reconstruction and reconciliation. Each step of that transitionary process, even while the institutions of the old regime were still operative was studiously legal and constitutional. That is a truly remarkable feature of the negotiated process from the evil of apartheid to a legitimate democracy.

That scrupulous respect for law and legal institutions is something that we as a nation can therefore justifiably expect also in international affairs. We have consistently called for the role of particularly our world body and the dictates of its charter to be supreme in all international dealings. We must ask again that in the fight against terrorism the United Nations play that key role as the legitimate institution representing our common desire for a better and peaceful world.

Tomorrow morning very early we shall be departing for the Burundian capital of Bujumbura to witness the installation of the transitional government agreed to by the nineteen parties involved in the Burundi negotiations in Arusha. The road ahead is still fraught with many dangers, but there can be no gainsaying that the installation of that transitional government represents a major achievement by the Burundi leadership. They have thereby made a major contribution to peace in Africa.

We are grateful for the support received from UN Secretary-General Kofi Anan and from the United Nations Organisation in general. We trust that the Security Council will find it in its path to as quickly as possible to move towards full authorisation of the peace-keeping exercise that will be needed to sustain the peace process in this transitional phase in the history of Burundi.

I cannot conclude, or step off this important chapter of peace in Africa, without paying tribute to our President and government, his Minister of Defence and Chief of the Defence Force, the officers and soldiers, and the people of South Africa generally, for committing their support to the Burundi peace process by sending a special protection unit to Bujumbura. We wish our soldiers well, and we salute their commitment to peace on our continent.

Without peace the regeneration of our continent is not possible. South Africa has this week made a major contribution to the concrete realisation of the African Renaissance.

It is therefore on behalf of our soldiers and other South African combatants for peace that I accept this award tonight.

I thank you and ask you to keep the people of Burundi in your thoughts. And those of you in the media to report on that country and its peace process with insight, sensitivity and sympathy. The lives of people depend on it.

Thank you.

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Acquisition method: From hard drive ; Source: Nelson Mandela Foundation Prof J Gerwel. Accessioned on 26/02/09 by Razia Saleh




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