Item 397 - Speech by President Nelson Mandela on receiving the freedom of the City of London at Guildhall

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Speech by President Nelson Mandela on receiving the freedom of the City of London at Guildhall


  • 1996-07-10 (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 Website

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Receiving the Freedom of the City of London at Guildhall

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  • English

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Paragraph beginning: "You can imagine, then, what a joy it is to be granted the freedom of your great city."
Sentence in web text: "t is an honour which is rightly that of the whole of our Rainbow Nation; and it is in that spirit that I gladly accept it."
Changes made: "Rainbow Nation" changed to "rainbow nation"



My Lord Mayor;
Your Royal Highnesses;
Your Excellencies;
My Lord, Aldermen, Sheriffs;
Ladies and Gentlemen.

On behalf of my delegation and myself, I should like to express my appreciation and gratitude for the kind words to me and to my country spoken by the Chamberlain on behalf of the City and the Corporation of London. We are most honoured by the generous and warm hospitality of the City of London.

I am personally delighted to be back in London. I have long looked forward to this visit. I was, after all, brought up in a tradition of admiration for British democratic institutions.

I first came to London in 1962 under rather different circumstances. At that time I was not a free person. Like most of my compatriots, I had no vote in the country of my birth. And even here I had to resort to underground ways and move about secretly, since the tentacles of the apartheid security forces reached all the way to London. Not long after I returned to South Africa I was arrested and imprisoned.

As a nation united in diversity, we feel strong affinity with London; because this seat of colonial power that once ruled much of the globe has drawn into its body people from countless countries. The communities that established themselves here have in turn made London a part of each of those far-flung nations. Inasmuch as London and Britain left part of itself in the colonies; in this city resides part of the heart and soul of South Africa, India, Jamaica and other nations.

You can imagine, then, what a joy it is to be granted the freedom of your great city. What an honour it is to be accepted as a citizen of this renowned commercial and financial centre in the heart of London. It is an honour which is rightly that of the whole of our rainbow nation; and it is in that spirit that I gladly accept it.

Our visit is much more than a ceremonial occasion to celebrate bonds and look back on past friendships, ordeals and triumphs, important as that is.

It is an opportunity to report on our progress in addressing the legacy of an inhuman system that was ended by the people of South Africa with the support of others, including the people of Britain. It is an opportunity to show Britain that democratic South Africa has indeed joined the rest of the world, that we are facing up to the challenges and realities of being a full member of the international community of nations and part of the global marketplace.

I know that I am among friends who wish South Africa well, and so I can candidly acknowledge that we do face major challenges. I know that we have a common interest in seeing our new democracy succeed and develop in peace with the help of international capital.

What gives us confidence is that the political and macroeconomic frameworks are in place to achieve this ideal. We are confident that in the development of detail, all the major sectors of the economy have come on board.

All these strategies combined will ensure that we attain the six per cent growth rate required by the turn of the century, to create jobs and generate the resources required to improve the quality of life. They provide a comprehensive programme for tackling poverty; dealing with crime; modernising our economy; and democratising our society.

It is the readiness of all sections of our society to join hands and work together that is the greatest source of our strength. We have found that no problem has been too great and no differences too wide, to be overcome through discussion. In the end our future will be secured by the common commitment of South Africans to unite in their diversity, and to seek negotiated solutions that put long-term interests above short-term considerations.

Time and again the sceptics and the prophets of doom have been proved wrong by the people of South Africa. Most recently, it was the voters of KwaZulu/Natal, a province hitherto regarded as a synonym for political violence - who went to the polls without serious incident to cast their votes for peace, democracy and development. They have taken to heart the uniform message of all parties for peace; and reinforced by security forces, they have sued for an end to the carnage.

We do face major challenges, but none are as daunting as those we have already surmounted.

My Lord Mayor;

I have come to Britain not as a petitioner with begging bowl in hand, but as a partner inviting investors to join hands with us in building a long-term future for our country and for the Southern African region.

It is against this background, that I appeal to my fellow citizens of the City of London, for even closer economic links and co-operation between the City and South Africa.

It will be a partnership of mutual benefit; and the long-term potential for growth in South and Southern Africa is immense. For decision-makers, it is a time for bold initiatives to seize the opportunities that South Africa has to offer.

Together let us create a model of economic partnership for prosperity and equity which will reverberate across the oceans and continents.

Allow me, My Lord Mayor, to once again thank you for the honour you have bestowed on me and the people of South Africa. I will always cherish this moment; because becoming a citizen of your great city is to me the culmination of a long walk started here in 1962.

In a sense, I leave part of my being here.

I thank you.

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Acquisition method: From website ; Source: ANC Website. Accessioned on 22/11/06 by Helen Joannides




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