Item 027 - Nelson Mandela's Wembley Speech

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Nelson Mandela's Wembley Speech


  • 1990-04-16 (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 Website

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  • English

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Master of Ceremonies,
Distinguished artists,
Members of the International Reception Committee,
Dear friends here and elsewhere in the world:

Our first simple and happy task is to say thank you. Thank you very much to you all. Thank you that you chose to care, because you could have decided otherwise. Thank you that you elected not to forget, because our fate could have been a passing concern. We are here today because for almost three decades you sustained a campaign for the unconditional release of all South African political prisoners. We are here because you took the humane decision that you could not ignore the inhumanity represented by the apartheid system. Even through the thickness of the prison walls at Robben Island, Pollsmoor, Victor Verster, Pretoria, Kroonstad, Diepkloof and elsewhere, we heard your voices demanding our freedom. During all the days we spent buried in the apartheid dungeons, we never lost our confidence in the certainty of our release and our victory over the apartheid system. This was because we knew that not even the hard-hearted men of Pretoria could withstand the enormous strength represented by the concerted effort of the peoples of South Africa and the rest of the world.

I would like to take advantage of this occasion to extend our special thanks to the artistes of the world who have, for many years, lent their talents to the common effort to end the apartheid system. We thank you especially for what you did to mark our 70th birthday. What you did then made it possible for us all to do what we are doing here today.

It is a great honour to have had my name used by you, to pay tribute to the oppressed people of South Africa in their struggle for freedom, in naming your streets and avenues, schools and parks, in awarding prizes, honours and awards, in your poetry, music and art.

We are meeting here to celebrate the victory represented by the release of some of us. We must however remember that only a few have been released. A greater number remains in prison. We should therefore treat this day of celebration as one of rededication to the continuation and intensification of the struggle for the emancipation of all the remaining political prisoners.

We must also view it as a day of renewed commitment to the furtherance of the struggle against the system which keeps those outstanding sons and daughters of our people in jail. Together we must pledge to continue our united offensive for the abolition of the apartheid system.

The apartheid crime against humanity remains in place. It continues to kill and main. It continues to oppress and exploit. Its blood-stained offsprings continue to rain death and destruction on the peoples of Mozambique and Angola. Every day it produces orphans throughout Southern Africa.

Therefore do not listen to anyone who says that you must give up the struggle against apartheid. Reject any suggestion that the campaign to isolate the apartheid system should be wound down. It is only those who support apartheid who can argue that the Pretoria government should be rewarded for the small steps it has taken, such as our release and the unbanning of the ANC and the other organisations.

The reward the people of South Africa, of Southern Africa and the rest of the world seek, is the end of apartheid and the transformation of our country into a non-racial democracy. That prospect will only become reality as a result of struggle, including the struggle represented by the international sanctions campaign. All of us must therefore refuse to be demobilised, even if those who seek to demobilise us plead that they are doing so out of a new-found concern for the oppressed and out of the goodness of their hearts.

Dear friends, you are to us more than fellow-fighters against apartheid. You are allies in the common struggle to bring freedom, democracy and peace to all the people of South Africa. You chose many years ago to be on the side of those in our country who fight for this perspective. You elected to support the ANC, the mass democratic movement and others who have been willing to give their lives for justice and liberty.

There are some in the world who wish to support the South African government by giving it rewards and carrots. But we, representing the overwhelming majority of the people of our country, turn to you for support, which we need more than ever before.

We need your support to ensure the implementation of the perspectives contained in the United Nations General Assembly Declaration on South Africa, which was unanimously adopted by that body last December. We need your help in terms of material resources we must provide to resettle the returning exiles. We require your assistance to generate the means which will enable us to reconstruct the ANC after 30 years of illegality.

Dear friends, it will not be long now before we see the end of the apartheid system. The dreams of millions of people to see our country free and at peace will be realised sooner rather than later. We are determined to ensure that our country is transformed from being the skunk of the world into an exemplary oasis of unrivalled and excellent race relations, democracy for all, a just peace and freedom from poverty and human degradation.

Let us continue to march forward together for the realisation of that glorious vision. It will be a proud day for all humanity when we are all able to say that the apartheid crime against humanity is no more. Then shall we all converge on the cities, towns and villages of South Africa to celebrate that moment when by ending the system of white minority domination, humanity will have ensured that never again shall the scourge of racial tyranny raise its ugly head.

You will all be welcome to attend those historic victory celebrations.

I cannot complete my speech without referring to our Comrade President, Oliver Tambo. As you know, Comrade Oliver Tambo is recovering in a clinic in Sweden. I saw him in March this year and was happy to see that he has made a remarkable progress in his illness. We know, we know, it is your desire, in fact your prayers and wishes that he should recover as speedily and completely, so that he can come back and lead this organisation again. On my left is his beloved wife, Adelaide Tambo. In wishing our leader complete recovery, we at the same time would like to assure her that we are fully behind her and the family in their moment of concern. There is no man, there is no man in this country [South Africa] and anywhere else in the world who could have performed as magnificently as he has done over the last 30 years. He kept our organisation united and strong under the most difficult conditions and we say therefore that our prayers are that he should be able to recover sufficiently to take his position of leadership of this organisation.

Finally, I want to tell you, as I have told many other meetings before, that we respect you, we admire you and, above all, we love you!

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Acquisition method: From website ; Source: ANC Website. Accessioned on 6 Nov 2006 by Helen Joannides




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