Item 1457 - Speech on South Africa's water quality and needs

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ZA COM MR-S-1457


Speech on South Africa's water quality and needs


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Transcription of speech made by Mr Mandela

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

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  • English

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Democracy has allowed us to begin to transform our society into the country of our dreams where everybody is safe, has access to shelter, health care, education, and employment. Water, sanitation, electricity, and other basic services are reaching more and more South Africans. In short, we have laid the foundation for a better life for all. I say water. Many of you here take water for granted. In fact, when we laid our priorities when we came into power, we said priorities are jobs, houses, hospitals, education- in that order. Electricity. We went to the countryside and we said "These are our priorities" and we were shocked to go right round the rural areas and when we say to people these are our priorities they say, "No, those things are essential but not of immediate importance. We want water." And, you have to see how our people live in the countryside to appreciate how important water is.

It is a question of life and death. I was crossing a little river in my village, taking a walk. It was during a dry season, and the water was trickling from the upper end of the river up to a little pool, stagnant pool. It was full of algae and tadpoles. And I found three women fetching water from here. I say to them, "What are you going to do with this water?" They say, "We are going to use it, we are going to cook with it and drink it." And I say, "But you see it has got algae and tadpoles. What do you do with it before you actually use it for cooking and drinking?" They say, "Nothing. We use it as it is."

So, I made a mistake. Now, I normally in jail and outside, I read a lot about my country district, my country village. I followed everything. But it was the first time since adulthood that I actually touched the difficult living conditions in which our people found themselves. I said, "But don’t you boil it?" And the three of them exclaimed at one and the same time. They say, "We have no electricity. Look around right up to the horizon. You won’t find a single tree. With what must we boil it?" They say, "We use cow dung for fire, and that thing gives more smoke than heat." That hit me flush in the face. Although I’d been reading, but I did not actually come into physical contact with the difficulties of living in the countryside. That is why water is such an important thing

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Acquisition method: Video Recording ; Source: Verbatim transcript by NMFVideo recording found on CD entitled "New Beginnings for the Eastern Cape". Accessioned on 2012-06-26 by Kelsey Duinkerken




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