Item 073 - Address by President Nelson Mandela at the South African Freedom Day Celebrations

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Address by President Nelson Mandela at the South African Freedom Day Celebrations


  • 1998-04-27 (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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South African Government Information Website

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  • English

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Master of Ceremonies; Premier of the Western Cape; Minister of Arts & Culture, Science & Technology; Chief of the SANDF; Mayor of Cape Town; Friends and Compatriots.

When we gathered here on the Grand Parade in February 1990, we knew that our march to freedom was irreversible, that nothing could stop our dream of a free South Africa coming true.

The people had opened the prison doors and we knew that it would not be long before we found the way to peace and democracy.

We knew that apartheid had devastated our society and that it would be no easy and short-term task to eradicate the poverty and inequality it had created.

But on that day we understood that we could overcome whatever obstacles lay ahead, because the great majority of South Africans had recognised that they had a common future.

Four years later, on 27 April 1994, the people of South Africa in all their millions declared before the world that they would govern themselves.

On that day we founded our nation upon the pledge that we would undo the legacy of our divided past in order to build a better life for all our people.

Today we meet here again, with four years of freedom to celebrate. We meet to reaffirm that we are one people with on destiny; and to recommit ourselves to the achievement of the goals that define us as a people.

Fellow South Africans;

The history of what is now the Western Cape - like that of all our country - taught us that freedom is indivisible. The freedom of one is the freedom of the other, and where one is unfree, no-one is unfree.

The rule of a minority could last only as long as it could force people into the acceptance of which Adam Small speaks in his poem:

"Die Here het geskommel en die dice het verkeerd geval vi' ons daai's maar al "So dis allright, pellie, dis allright"

But now that all the oppressed have united and taken their destiny into their own hands; and oppressed and former oppressors have together accepted responsibility for a common future, Adam Small can say with more hope:

dit is allright, pellie, dit is allright.

On this Freedom Day, the Parade and the streets of Cape Town are alive with the unity in diversity of a society at peace with itself because the rights of all are respected.

The diversity of colours and languages once used to divided us are now a source of strength. The basic law of our land, our Constitution, declares that we are all one. We have been liberated from a system that held us all in its chains, free at last to be who and what we really are, secure in the respect others have for our cultures and religions.

The languages of this province, like all our country's languages, are no longer distinguished as official or unofficial. They are no longer associated with injustice and oppression on the one hand or with disadvantage and deprivation on the other. All are free to flourish as languages of all our people in all their diversity.

We cherish our constitution and want to ensure that its rights become a living reality for all our people. That is why Government has declared this week Constitution Week. All of us should play our part in popularising this manifesto of our democracy, in our work-places; in our schools and universities; in our communities and in our homes.

Political parties should also take care, in the cut and thrust of the coming election campaign, that they do not stir up baser emotions which were created by our divisive past and which are yet to fully disappear from our society.

Dear Friends,

Our freedom and our rights will only gain their full meaning as we succeed together in overcoming the divisions and inequalities of our past and in improving the lives of especially the poor.

Planning and policy development have long since given way to implementation, and we are moving at an increasing pace. We take great pride in the fact that basic amenities which were once only a dream to most communities are beginning to change the lives of millions.

But this task is far from completed. Though the old lines no longer have the force of law, they are still visible in social and economic life; in our residential areas, in our work-places, between rich and poor.

When we celebrate the start that we have made in undoing that legacy, it is in the knowledge there is still much to be done.

That requires hard work by all of us; employers and workers; teachers and students; government and communities.

On the part of all of us, wherever we stand in society, it requires us to work together to reverse the disparities of the past.

Amongst other things it means giving greater effect to our policies for opening opportunities at work to those previously excluded or disadvantaged. As we finalise details of the Employment Equity Bill, as an instrument to correct historical wrongs caused by discrimination and prejudice against Africans, Coloured, Indians, women and the disabled, we must make it absolutely clear that anyone who tries to apply such action to favour only one group, is acting contrary to the principles underlying this bill.

Our freedom is also incomplete, dear compatriots, as long as we are denied our security by the criminals who prey upon our communities; who rob our businesses and undermine our economy; who ply their destructive trade in drugs in our schools; who do violence against our women and children.

Even though government's strategy is beginning to take effect and, with your support, has begun to turn the tide, crime is at an unacceptable level and we must do more.

In particular we must break once and for all the long hold which organised gangs have had on so many communities. The way in which the Western Cape is uniting to fight this scourge is encouraging.

Today's launch of a campaign that brings community structures and government agencies together in narrowing the space for the gangs will boost the fight. To the extent that this mass campaign succeeds in mobilising communities to work with the police and the courts, the Western Cape Commission on Gang Violence will expand the freedom which we celebrate today.

I will also be discussing with my Ministers proposals made to me two days ago by a delegation from the Inter-Religious Committee on Crime and Violence in the Western Cape.

The gains we make will have lasting effect as we eradicate the socio-economic conditions that allow the criminal master-minds to implement their sinister plans.

To achieve all these goals requires sustained economic growth. The groundwork has been laid in our economic policies and in our new place in the world. Together we must seize the opportunities to produce the resources and create the jobs that will transform our people's lives.


As we enter our fifth freedom year, we have taken great strides along the path that stretched out before us when we gathered here eight years ago, at the start of our transition from a painful past to a bright future.

We face challenges which in many ways are even greater. As we overcame the obstacles that lay before us then, we will meet those of today.

The foundation for a better life has been laid, and the building has begun.

Today let us renew our pledge to work together, to make South Africa into a land of our dreams!.

I thank you



Paragraph beginning: "Today we meet here again, with four years of Freedom to celebrate."
Changes made: "Freedom" changed to "freedom"

Paragraph beginning: "Today we meet here again, with four years of Freedom to celebrate."
Changes made: "Freedom" changed to "freedom"



Occasion: Freedom Day celebrations
Date: 27 April 1998

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Acquisition method: From website ; Source: South African Government Information Website. Accessioned on 8 Nov 2006 by Helen Joannides




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