Item 1047 - Speech at Shell SA Centenary Celebrations

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ZA COM MR-S-1047


Speech at Shell SA Centenary Celebrations


  • April 2002 (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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Shell SA Centenary celebrations

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  • English

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Thank you very much for the honour to be present at this great and auspicious occasion where you are celebrating 100 years of operations in South Africa. It is indeed a marvellous and exceptional achievement and an occasion worth being proudly celebrated. To be able to share in this celebration is a great privilege and honour.

I have no doubt that you invited me mainly because you did not wish the company to feel out of place amongst you younger people. Hence the invitation to somebody who is a virtual contemporary of and almost as old as Shell South Africa. Well, if advanced age puts me in such illustrious company as that of Shell, than I accept my age gladly and with pride!

To celebrate one hundred years of operation as a company in South Africa is an exceptional piece of economic history. If one takes the industrial changes that came about after the discovery of minerals as a starting point of the modern South African economy, then we have an economy that is not very much older than a century. For a company to have been around for a hundred years, is a remarkable South African achievement and piece of history.

To merely exist and be around is never what is significant in life. It is what one contributes to the building and development of the world and how one helps to change the world for the better that ultimately count. Whether in the life of an individual, an organisation or an institution the significance of life is measured by what one leaves behind as a legacy, no matter how small or big, how well known or little known.

In the hundred years that it has been in South Africa Shell has left its mark on the development of our country, its economy and its people. I have recently had reason on more than one occasion to quote from the Preamble to our Constitution, pointing specifically to three phrases that are explicitly placed next to each other.

I quote: "We honour those who suffered for justice and freedom in our land; respect those who have worked to build and develop our country; and believe that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, united in our diversity."

Shell counts pre-eminently amongst those whom we respect for having worked to build and develop our country. If we claim that we have an economic infrastructure that can compete with the world and that is exceptional in the developing world, it is because of the sustained presence of the Shell's of this world in our country. Shell South Africa is, we know, wholly owned by Shell International; in our minds and hearts we recognise Shell South Africa as South African as Table Mountain.

The phrases from our Constitution that I quoted enjoin us as South Africans from our different backgrounds and histories to now work together to develop our country and build a better life for all. Shell's long history of presence in South Africa is vindicated and given contemporary meaning by the manner in which the company is playing a leading role in the transformation of various aspects of our society.

We are aware of the community development projects that Shell is involved in, helping to create a better life for those who have over years and decades been deprived and marginalised. We have also taken note of its efforts at advancing black economic empowerment.

For South Africa to really consolidate our hard won and precious young democracy it is imperative that we as a nation address the socio-economic aspects of that democracy. We must all collectively work to eradicate poverty, because as long as there are those who go hungry, homeless, illiterate, ravaged by preventable ill-health and other forms of deprivation, none of us can sleep at ease. The hunger of one is the concern of all others in a caring society.

Similarly, we have to ensure that all sectors of society feel that they own the economy and that they participate meaningfully at all levels in that economy. This is not a requirement of philanthropy. It is imperative for the long term health, stability and development of our society.

Shell is already playing its part in this regard and we know that it will redouble its efforts to help achieve that kind of transformed South African society. I was struck by the phrase you use: waves of change. I think it is very evocative and apt. It is no longer the winds of change which threaten in South Africa; there are these inviting waves on which we all can surf joyously in pursuit of the common good.

I cannot conclude without making reference in such influential and powerful company to the overshadowing threat of HIV/AIDS in our national life. I do not wish to expand on this in any way tonight, except to say that all of us, as individuals or corporations, have a responsibility to join in one way or the other in the war against this terrible scourge that threatens to decimate all the gains we have made.

Let me congratulate Shell South Africa on so marvellous an achievement. We wish them well as they enter their second century. We know without any doubt that they shall continue to be such exemplary corporate citizens of our country.

I thank you.

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Acquisition method: From hard drive ; Source: Nelson Mandela Foundation Prof J Gerwel. Accessioned on 23/02/09 by Razia Saleh




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