Item 663 - Address by President Mandela on accepting the Deutscher Medienpreis

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Address by President Mandela on accepting the Deutscher Medienpreis


  • 1999-01-28 (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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On accepting the Deutscher Medienpreis

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  • English

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Master of Ceremonies;
Distinguished guests,

It is a distinct privilege and great honour to receive this esteemed prize tonight. You honour me not only by the award itself, but also by the calibre of previous recipients with whom you bracket me.

My pleasure in accepting the award is enhanced still more by the knowledge that the Media Prize recognises not only the individual recipient but, more importantly, also the cause which that person represents; the flame of hope and inspiration which motivated individuals to chart unknown territory for the benefit of many.

I am deeply humbled by this association with such noble enterprises of the human spirit, especially at a time when so much gives cause for despair and cynicism.

I accept the award as a tribute to the efforts of millions of men and women in my country who over decades, indeed centuries, kept alive faith in the indestructibility of the human spirit and the capacity of good to triumph over evil.

History and circumstances privileged me to be part of an inspiring and highly supportive collective of leaders, a member of a liberation movement that with consistency and discipline championed the cause of our people for more than eight decades. I was likewise privileged to be born in a country whose people courageously resisted one of the cruellest systems of racial oppression and domination this century has witnessed.

It is they whom you honour tonight, and on their behalf I thank you for your enduring support and solidarity.

The fight against apartheid will, I am certain, be remembered by future generations as one of the major moral struggles of this century, because the inhumanity of apartheid offended and challenged the moral sensibility of all.

What was singular about our struggle was that it won the support and solidarity of virtually all political persuasions throughout the world. When we acknowledge those that have made it possible for me to receive this award tonight, we cannot therefore fail to mention the international community.

South Africans have now turned to rebuilding their society into one where all people will with equal dignity find a home, true to the opening lines of the Freedom Charter, the basic policy document of our liberation movement adopted more than forty years ago: "We the people of South Africa declare for all our country and the world to know: that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white." And when we speak of black and white we speak of all South Africans in their rainbow diversity, however they were categorised and divided by apartheid.

Today they are working together to create a society where there shall be a better life for all and where no man, woman or child shall be subjected to hunger, illiteracy, homelessness, preventable ill-health and other forms of social deprivation.

The world in which we are undertaking this challenging task is vastly different from the early years of the century when the racially-based Union of South Africa was established and our liberation movement founded.

Since then modern communication and the global economy made the world a smaller and more intimately connected place. But we have, alas, also learnt that many of the brave hopes of universal progress that ushered in this century, remain unrealised.

Then, we were confident that science and reason would bring progress for the benefit of all humanity; that backwardness and poverty would be eliminated; that a world order would emerge of equal nations at peace with one another; and where racial discrimination, ethnic and religious strife, and bigotry would be consigned to the past.

As we take stock at the end of the century, we find conflict and war still gripping many parts of our planet. We find that most of the world's people live in poverty; and that relations amongst nations remain skewed in favour of the most powerful.

This is said not to broadcast despair and hopelessness, but to identify some of the challenges as we enter the new century.

If the experience of South Africa means anything to the world at large, we hope that it is in having demonstrated that where people of goodwill get together and transcend their differences for the common good, peaceful and just solutions can be found even for those problems which seem most intractable.

It was the common wisdom in the world that South Africans were doomed to self-destruction in a bloody racial confrontation. But the leaders of the different communities and political parties confounded those prophets of doom through their willingness to negotiate and compromise.

Today South Africa conducts itself in world affairs with the justifiable expectation that what its people achieved under the most unlikely circumstances, should be repeatable in other situations of conflict and gross inequality.

Our vision for the future is one of renewed dedication by world leaders in all fields of human interaction to a twenty-first century of peace and reconciliation.

Unless we wish to repeat some of the worst follies of this century, we need those who shape world events and national developments to commit themselves openly, not only to themselves and to their own ideas and ideals, but also to those from different backgrounds, cultures and creeds.

Quite often reference is made to the "miracle" of South Africa's peaceful transition. It needs to be stated that the miracle happened because of, amongst other things, hard work over many decades to build and sustain a political culture of tolerance and non-racialism.

Even when the liberation movement as a last resort turned to armed struggle as one of its pillars of resistance, that was explicitly made subject to the political goals of non-racialism, democracy, peace and friendship amongst all our people.

Leaders will have to give clear and decisive leadership towards a world of tolerance and respect for difference, and an uncompromising commitment to peaceful solutions of conflicts and disputes.

Poverty and material inequality are enemies of lasting peace and stability. We realise only too well that our struggle in South Africa is not over. As long as our country is beset by the curse of poverty and the concomitant ills of hunger, disease, joblessness, crime and corruption, we will know that we have not completed the task of freeing ourselves from the past.

We have no illusions about the enormity of the task of creating opportunity and providing the means for people to improve their lives, nor of the length of time it may take. Perhaps it will not be not as long as our walk to freedom; but certainly not an overnight task either.

But we take pride and confidence from the fact that while the problems and challenges remain myriad, some significant progress had been made in bringing change to the lives of people. The basic amenities of modern life that are taken for granted in the industrialised world, such as clean supplies of water; accessible health-care; electricity and telephone communication which apartheid denied to most South Africans are surely but steadily reaching millions of our people.

Free and democratic South Africa will, as it continues to improve the lives of its citizens and deepen and consolidate national unity, work with the countries of Southern Africa, of Africa and the world to realise those long-cherished ideals of peace, justice and prosperity on our entire globe.

We know that in this inter-dependent world, no country can succeed on its own or solve problems alone. We must therefore make of the United Nations and other multilateral bodies, organs that can effectively serve the interests of all and strengthen the sense of our common humanity.

Soon we will bid farewell to a century that has in many respects been a painful era for humankind. We have seen frightening examples of our inhumanity to one another. We have destroyed animals and plants, bringing many to the brink of extinction and assaulting our natural environment.

We cannot deny, however, that we have also witnessed the triumph of the human spirit in science, literature, art and many other fields of endeavour.

Instrumental in keeping us in touch and informed; in the dissemination of both the good news and the bad, the sensational and the mundane, has been the media, I wish to pay tribute on this occasion to their unflinching, and often ill-appreciated, commitment to their task and their contribution to a more informed, and hence, a better world.

Whatever our woes and failings may be in the contemporary world, it has become extremely difficult, if at all possible, to hide them. The poor and the vulnerable of our world do at least have not protection to a much greater extent than ever before.

I thank you once more for this honouring me, and I gladly accept the award.

I join all of you in hoping for a twenty-first century that will build on our human achievements and create a world where human beings can live in dignity and in friendship with each other.

I thank you

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Acquisition method: From website ; Source: ANC Website. Accessioned on 11/12/06 by Helen Joannides




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