Item 1220 - Notes for President Nelson Mandela's Address at the Veterans' Banquet

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ZA COM MR-S-1220


Notes for President Nelson Mandela's Address at the Veterans' Banquet


  • 1994-07-23 (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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Banquet held for struggle veterans by Mandela

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  • English

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It is with pride and honour that I welcome you to this gathering of veterans of the anti-apartheid struggle. To call this a banquet would be to attach to the function a lavish connotation that it does not deserve. Yet to refer to it merely as a gathering constitutes a phenomenal understatement.
Nay, this is a celebration, a home-coming to where all of us belong: the seat of government in our country. At last we are here, where the laws that kept us in bondage were conceived; where the schemes of social engineering that rent our country apart were hatched.
It is our task today to traditionally grace this whole establishment with the blessings of the veterans. Because, before these settlements and offices are cleansed by the your towering presence, they will not be worthy symbols of the new democratic order.
So I thank you dear veterans, for taking the trouble of traversing long distances to be here with us. Many an excuse would have been in order if you were not able to come: old age, health, organisational work, business undertakings, and so on. But you dared to defy all these, so we could meet in this unique assembly of the cream of veteran fighters for human rights. I once more thank you.
I also wish to thank the organisers and fund-raisers who left no stone unturned to ensure that this event takes place and becomes the success that it promises to be: Rica Hodgson, Richard Maponya, Legau Mathabathe, Amina Cachalia, Moss Nxumalo, Omar Motani and others. We however deemed it necessary that from the limited resources allocated to the President's Office, the government should contribute to the catering and other services offered here. Because you deserve this - for your role in bringing about a democratic and non-racial South Africa.
I welcome you all from the bottom of my heart - including those who join us from abroad.
Four decades ago - for us veterans, a short space of time! - who would have imagined that we would meet here in a forum of this nature? Yes, we used to dream and sing about the day of freedom and democracy. But we knew it would not be easy to accomplish. We did have great confidence in the final realisation of the democratic ideal. But, prepared as we were to give the anti-apartheid struggle our all, many of us sometimes felt that the new era would dawn only after we had departed.
In this regard, we should consider ourselves honoured to have been part of the generation that has reaped the fruits of the struggle in our life-time. There are hundreds - no, thousands - who deserve to be here today but whose lives were cut short by the burden of a wretched apartheid existence. Others fell to the blow of the torturer and the bullet of the defender of apartheid. We salute them all. It is in their honour too that we are here today. When we say, thank you for dedicating your lives to the efforts for freedom, justice and democracy, we also extend our profound tribute to them.
We salute all veterans for daring to stand up to those who hounded you for your role in the Passive Resistance Campaign, the Great Miners' Strike, the Defiance Campaign, the Congress of the People and other campaigns; for your defiance of those who called you traitors in parliament for telling the truth; for your challenge to those who attached all kinds of insulting
appellations to your names for opposing the pass laws and constantly exposing the terrible state of race relations in our country.
I refer to you all: veterans from the ANC, the PAC, the SACP, the trade union movement, the Progressive Party, the Liberal Party, Black Sash, the Institute of Race Relations, women's organisations, the Natal and Transvaal Indian Congresses and many many more.
Today, we can together say: when we said the truth will triumph, it is because we knew the truth would indeed finally prevail. And we knew too, that South Africa and all her people would benefit by this.
We gather here not in a dance of the vain-glorious, nor a celebration of a victor over the vanquished. Rather, ours is
a solemn acknowledgment of the nation's triumph over a heinous past. It is a celebration of the victory of South
Africa's humanity: that together, as a people, we have discovered our common bond, our common destiny, our
common interests. Our country is morally cleaner, spiritually richer and socially more secure for all its people, because patriots like you stood up to the challenge, even in the darkest days of apartheid repression.
And we cannot find words to thank you dearly enough, for the role that you played in the elections - to whichever party you might belong, whoever you might have voted for. Because, by taking part in that election in opposition to apartheid, you ensured that millions of South Africans come out to vote and to give a resounding victory to the collective of anti-apartheid forces.
The time to merely reminisce about the past has passed. Now is the time to look ahead, to create a better future for
all, through our efforts today. Among the urgent challenges that we face is to consolidate the spirit of reconciliation that has helped deliver democracy to our land. In the townships and villages, in the seats of power, in our homes and places of
work - all of us have the task of ensuring that South Africans relate to one another with respect and as equals, even where we might differ.
It is every South African's responsibility to preserve peace like the apple of our eye; to nurture our new-found liberty like the tender off-spring opening its eyes to the wider world. Yet peace and reconciliation will flourish only if we rapidly embark on programmes to improve the lot of the people. Certainly, the problems created by years of apartheid will not be resolved overnight. It will take time and a lot of hard work. But the implementation has to start, so that the people can realise that, difficult as their conditions might be, something is being done to start addressing the problems.
We mention these twin tasks of the Government of National Unity - reconciliation and reconstruction - because we believe that the veterans have a central role to play. The wisdom you have gathered in the anti apartheid effort; the respect for life you have accumulated throughout the years; the patience you have amassed through experience; and, at the same time, the urgency to want things to happen in your life-time: these are qualities that will stand the Reconstruction and Development Programme in good stead. We are confident that, there in the thick of things - as in the past - is where you will be found.
The Government of National Unity has not only made a good start in ensuring broad agreement on the approach to the major questions facing the nation. We have also reached consensus on the practical measures that need to be undertaken to build a better life for all the people. Already, we have started implementing the programmes to ensure free medical care for children under the age of six and pregnant mothers; to introduce feeding schemes in primary schools where need exists; to start the housing programme in earnest and to intensify the electrification effort.
The programmes are many and varied. However, we would be wrong to assume that this is all that could have been achieved in this period. We would be arrogant to take it that the implementation is without problems. But these are challenges, not impediments: to speed up the process, to complete the planning and get down to practical work, and to correct the problems emerging in the process of implementation.
It would not be possible to realise these objectives if everyone were uncritically supportive of the government. Without criticism, good government will be virtually impossible. Out of differences of approach will emerge the most suitable and practicable solutions to the problems we face.
Present here today are individuals from different political parties united in their historical opposition to the system of apartheid and their quest for justice and democracy. We meet as veterans from across the colour, gender and ideological lines. People who speak many languages and who come from virtually all areas of the country. Indeed, a true reflection of the rainbow nation that we are.
We are united in our efforts to rebuild the social fabric of our society - in the home, at work, in our businesses and professions, within government structures and so on. This is what keeps our nation together and this is what we need to consolidate.
In conclusion, I wish to venture a thought: is there an organisational channel - across political affiliations - in which veterans of the anti-apartheid struggle can help consolidate nation-building, democracy and reconstruction? How do we ensure that we share our successes and problems wherever we are in the country and abroad? How do we ensure that future generations benefit from our collective experience? All these are questions that need further consideration!
I once more thank you for accepting the invitation to be with us today. If anything, those of us you have delegated to be in high office, wish by this small and humble gesture, to say: we are indebted to you. You will remain in our hearts as we grapple with the challenges before us.
Thank you.
23 July 1994

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Acquisition method: Hardcopy ; Source: ANC Archives, Office of the ANC President, Nelson Mandela Papers, University of Fort Hare. Accessioned on 21/01/2010 by Zintle Bambata




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