Item 889 - Remarks from the Office of the President on President Mandela's wedding

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Remarks from the Office of the President on President Mandela's wedding


  • 1998-07-20 (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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President Mandela's wedding

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  • English

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We understand the considerable frustration of the media in not being able to publish and have access to the wedding of the President and Mrs Machel. The President's marriage was - and still is - a very popular story which every news organisation or newspaper would like to report on. It at the same time remained a private matter. We would urge the media to however concede they were not driven by a commitment to inform the public, but the urge to publish a good story. Because we are aware of the need to keep the public informed of national developments, the Deputy President called a press conference half an hour after the ceremony had taken place and provided all the detail required. This however did not subtract from the private nature of the ceremony itself and the wishes of the President.

We concede immediately that had any public resources of funds been utilised for the ceremony, we would have been obliged to inform the public not only about the fact of marriage but the plans as well as guarantee access of the mass media. But that was not the case. The ceremony took place at President Nelson Mandela's private home and was attended by a very small group of people.

In the years that we have worked with the President, he has never refused to speak to the media. He has never denied the media access to any of his activities, even private ones. An example of this was the manner in which the media went as far as breaking the law and committed the most blatant violations of his privacy during the divorce case with Mrs Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.

South African and even international media are aware that if there is one head of state whom they have unlimited access to, it is President Nelson Mandela. No other person has contributed to press freedom and transparency from than President Mandela.

So that when the President made his intention known that he wanted to wed in private, we understood what the implications were for a wish to be expressed so emphatically by a man who had done so much to uphold transparency and openness in the country. It is possible that the Office of the President and its officials overstepped the mark in its attempt to uphold the Presidents privacy, but this is a matter of conjecture about which there will always be argumentation.

We would urge our detractors not to conflate government policy with the private wishes of the Presidential couple. Mr Brendan Boyle of Reuters is reported to have said: "For the Presidents Office to deliberately mislead the media once the news of the wedding has been leaked, sets a very dangerous precedent for the future." Mr Boyle has not denied to us that he is the same person who said: "How am I supposed to believe him the next time he tells me South Africa is not selling arms to Libya." We expect that comparison will be drawn between the denial we issued on the Libya story and the private affairs of the President. We take comfort that so far, the comparison is being made by opponents of the government both in the media and other fora. This denial does not confirm anything about Libya that our cynical detractors did not already believe in. And their suspicion is fed not by our actions, but by disbelief in everything the government of the day does.

The government has an obligation to inform the public - and inform accurately - about actions and decisions it takes which arise from the execution of their mandate as elected representatives.

Sceptics and opponents of the government who question our integrity in dealing with other countries or who have ideological misgivings about the future of this country can continue the debate with us, but should not go out of their way to confuse private affairs of the President and matters of state. We believe that a great majority of journalists will not make this confusion. We believe they will remember our record in the past.

Our detractors are free to predict dishonesty in future, they will listen to what we say and report what we do. And they shall always enjoy the freedom to prove us wrong.

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Acquisition method: From website ; Source: South African Government Information Website. Accessioned on 21/12/06 by Helen Joannides




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