Item 1186 - Acceptance Statement by Nelson Mandela President of the ANC at the Ceremony to present The Freedom of Nine Cities , Boroughs and Districts

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ZA COM MR-S-1186


Acceptance Statement by Nelson Mandela President of the ANC at the Ceremony to present The Freedom of Nine Cities , Boroughs and Districts


  • 1993-10-10 (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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ANC Archives, Office of the ANC President, Nelson Mandela Papers, University of Fort Hare

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  • English

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Father Huddleston,

Lord Provosts, Lord Mayors,

Your Excellencies and other representatives of the Diplomatic Corp,

Ladies and Gentlemen

It is with humility and gratitude that I accept this scroll which symbolises the Freedoms which have been granted to me by nine cities, boroughs and districts in Scotland, Wales and England, at ceremonies earlier this morning. I wish to express my appreciation for the honour which has been bestowed upon me by the councillors and citizens of the City of Aberdeen, the City of Dundee, the City of Glasgow, the London Borough of Greenwich, the Borough of Islwyn, the City of Kingston upon Hull, the District of MidLothian, the City of Newcastle upon Tyne and the City of Sheffield.

It is a special privilege to be a guest of this great City of Glasgow. It will always enjoy a distinguished place in the records of the international campaign against apartheid.

The people of Glasgow in 1981 were the first in the world to confer on me the Freedom of the City at a time when I and my comrades in the ANC were imprisoned on Robben Island serving life sentences, which in apartheid South Africa then meant imprisonment until death.

Whilst we were physically denied our Freedom in the country of our birth, a City, 6,000 miles away, and as renowned as Glasgow, refused to accept the legitimacy of the apartheid system, and declared us to be free. And in a real sense we were free, because however cruel the treatment meted out on us in prison, we never lost sight of the vision of a new South Africa as enshrined in our Freedom Charter.

The City of Glasgow in granting us the Freedom of the City also took upon itself a very special obligation. It resolved to do everything possible to secure our freedom from the prisons of apartheid. It took up our plight in Britain and internationally. For example, the following year the Lord Provost co-ordinated a Declaration signed by over a thousand Mayors from 56 countries across the world which called for our freedom. Then in 1985 it joined with over 100 British local authorities in petitioning the then Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, to press for my release. Such initiatives were thankfully successful.

I regret that time prevents me from expressing my thanks for everything that was done in furtherance of the anti-apartheid cause by the people of this country.

I am even more disappointed that it proved impossible to visit the other eight cities, boroughs and districts which have granted me their Freedom. I know that your record is equally commendable as demonstrated by actions you have taken in support of the cause of peace and democracy in our country and indeed by many, many other local authorities who sought to identify in one form or another with our struggle. I hope when you return home you will express my thanks to all who were responsible for the honours which have been bestowed on me and the oppressed masses of South Africa today.

I hope that you will also take home another message. It is a simple message. Today, I and the majority of our people still do not enjoy the most precious of freedoms - the right to vote.

Over the past three and half years the African National Congress has spared no effort to secure a negotiated settlement which will lead to a genuine end to apartheid and a new united, non racial, non-sexist and democratic South Africa.

This prospect is now clearly on the horizon. April 27 1994 has been set as the date for South Africa's first non-racial elections. Legislation has been enacted to establish a Transitional Executive Council which will represent the end to exclusive white minority rule. Other legislation provides for an Independent ElectoralCommission, an Independent Media Commission and an Independent Broadcasting Authority.

Negotiations are continuing on the Transitional Constitution. Once this is finalised and enacted, a comprehensive framework will be in place for the democratic transformation of South Africa.

Real and tangible progress has been made and to encourage this process we have called for the lifting of economic sanctions. We thank all of you who individually and collectively took up the call to boycott apartheid South Africa. We will for ever be grateful for your actions.

However the road ahead is not easy. Unprecedented violence has been unleashed in our country by those determined to prevent democratic change. There are others who cling to the old order or yearn for ethnic privilege. They fear the democratic will of our people.

Our message today is clear: "let democracy triumph". We need your help to make sure that the elections take place as agreed and that they are genuinely 'free and fair'. In particular, we look forward to a major international presence in the country by the United Nations, the OAU, the Commonwealth and the European Community to assist with the supervision, monitoring and verification of the electoral process. We hope that the British government will make a positive contribution to such an international effort.

We, in particular, wish to express our gratitude for the support we have already received from the people of Britain for the ANC's Election Fund - our 'Votes for Freedom' campaign. The elections in South Africa cannot be deemed to be 'free and fair' unless the ANC has the resources to contest the elections on an equitable basis. We urge everyone of goodwill to support this initiative.

But we also have a message for the future. Our country and the Southern African region as a whole face the enormous task of overcoming the legacies of apartheid and the destructive consequences of its policies. The bonds of solidarity which united us in our common struggle to end apartheid must now take on a new form. As structures of non-racial regional and local government take shape in South Africa we will look to local government in Britain to extend effective forms of support and solidarity. We also need to encourage new forms of people to people solidarity so that the spirit of internationalism which found expression in the anti-apartheid cause can now help us in the new era of reconstruction and development with which we will be engaged following the April 27 elections next year.

My final word of thanks is to you Father Huddleston. It is your moral authority which has provided a unique leadership of the Anti- Apartheid Movement in Britain and indeed of the entire Movement world-wide. It inspired millions of people to take up our cause which is testified by the ceremony today. We thank you very much for everything which you have done for freedom and justice in our country.

Once more our thanks go out to all of you gathered here today - and to the people of Britain in general - for the continued and practical support you are giving so that we too can realise a democratic dispensation in South Africa.

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Acquisition method: Hardcopy ; Source: ANC Archives, Office of the ANC President, Nelson Mandela Papers, University of Fort Hare. Accessioned on 19/01/2010 by Zintle Bambata




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