Item 1391 - Address by Nelson Mandela to the Government Borrowers Forum, Mount Nelson Hotel, Cape Town, 20 March 2002

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ZA COM MR-S-1391


Address by Nelson Mandela to the Government Borrowers Forum, Mount Nelson Hotel, Cape Town, 20 March 2002


  • 2002-03-20 (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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20th conference of the Government Borrowers Forum, (GBF)

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  • English

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We often joke at these occasions about the incongruity of having a retired old pensioner, with no office, power or influence, speaking at such high powered gatherings.
This occasion highlights that incongruity even more than usual.

We were informed by the kind letter of invitation to speak, that at this gathering experts will be sharing debt management strategies and experiences. And, those topics to be discussed include such weighty ones as the current challenges facing investors, intermediaries and issuers in the world financial markets.

There is no mock modesty in my statement that I am a simple country boy whom history and circumstances have favoured with the opportunities to be involved in one of the great moral struggles of our times, and through that involvement to have gained a measure of prominence.

Our involvement in that struggle needed no complicated or theoretical prompting or explanation. It was in many ways the simple steps of a simple country boy that brought us into that struggle, and it was that same simplicity that guided and motivated us through decades of struggle.

We were faced with the simple fact of people being made second and third class citizens in the land of their birth. We saw the poverty and suffering of the masses of our people. We saw racism, oppression, greed and exploitation. And we resolved simply, together with the millions of our compatriots, that it was intolerable to allow such suffering to continue without resistance.

The simple precept that guided our struggle was to create a better world for all our people. The ultimate enemy we were fighting was poverty and deprivation.

Humankind entered the twentieth century full of expectations that science, reason and progress would have made that the century of true human emancipation. Sadly, we closed the century with the divide between the powerful and the marginalised, the rich and the poor of the world as deep and wide as ever; in many respects those divisions grew even deeper and wider.

It is with that simple understanding of the moral imperative to address poverty that I stand here today to speak to this august gathering. I could of course had asked for and received a technical background paper on debt management strategies and the challenges of world financial markets. Perhaps, however, it is good on this occasion not to be too informed about the theoretical and other complexities of the issue.

We may have the need generally in world affairs to ask the simple questions once more. Of course, human affairs are never one-dimensional and without nuances and complexities. It may be, though, that the complexities we construct and build around or deliberations and operations, lead us away from the simple underlying problems we sought to address in the first place.

We have, for example, had that experienced in some of the conflict situations in which we were involved as mediator. When we managed to cut through the complicating issues and aspects and concentrate on the fact that, for example, people were dying in those conflicts, we invariably succeeded in making progress.

The theme of your gathering this year is "20 years in world financial markets". If you were to make an assessment for somebody like me, what would you report on progress towards the elimination of mass poverty in our world? Is the world in that respect a significantly better place than it was twenty years ago?

Are the global and multilateral institutions working in ways that make a difference to the lives of poor people the world over? Are the poor and the powerless benefiting as much from the undoubted advantages of globalisation as the rich and the powerful do?

If we look around our world, we cannot help to conclude that global poverty is one of the outstanding features of our globalised world. And it must be a question whether our institutions and practices are sufficiently geared towards the elimination of that dehumanising feature of our world.

Tomorrow will be Human Rights Day in our country. I am sure that your presence in this country so close to Human Rights Day will make you focus too on the socio-economic aspects of human rights.

This is the first time that this forum meets on African soil, I am informed. The issue of debt is one that features on your agenda. We trust that the deliberations of this forum will in some way contribute to resolving one of the burning issues on the continent, viz. that of crippling national debt.

I may be way off the mark in assuming that the matters I raise fall within the ambit of your concerns. Then again, your letter of invitation said: "You are free to talk on any topic that suits you for the day".

If the alleviation and elimination of poverty is not within the concerns of this Government Borrowers Forum, I would be hugely surprised. And it would mean that the complexities of our operations had taken us so far away from the simple human concerns that ask to be addressed, that we have spun ourselves into a dehumanised world where suffering human beings are not paramount. I have no doubt that this not true of this esteemed gathering.

Let me conclude with the restatement of the simple idealism that has seen me and countless others give lives to a struggle to build a better life for all, especially the poor and marginalised. Nothing can surely be so complex and sophisticated that it loses sight of that ideal of global human solidarity.

I trust that your deliberations will have been fruitful and that it will contribute to the realisation of those ideals.

I thank you.

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Acquisition method: From hard drive ; Source: Nelson Mandela Foundation Prof J Gerwel. Accessioned on 01/02/2010 by Zintle Bambata




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