Item 1150 - Speech of the President of the ANC Nelson Mandela on his Acceptance of a Doctorate Honoris Causa

Identity area

Reference code

ZA COM MR-S-1150


Speech of the President of the ANC Nelson Mandela on his Acceptance of a Doctorate Honoris Causa


  • 1991-12-08 (Creation)

Level of description


Extent and medium

Transcription of speech made by Mr Mandela

Context area

Name of creator

(18 July 1918-5 December 2013)

Biographical history

Archival history

Migrated from the Nelson Mandela Speeches Database (Sep-2018).

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

ANC Archives, Office of the ANC President, Nelson Mandela Papers, University of Fort Hare

Content and structure area

Scope and content

Acceptance of a Doctorate Honoris Causa

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling


System of arrangement

Conditions of access and use area

Conditions governing access

Conditions governing reproduction

Language of material

  • English

Script of material

Language and script notes

Physical characteristics and technical requirements

Finding aids

Allied materials area

Existence and location of originals

Existence and location of copies

Related units of description

Related descriptions

Notes area



President William H. Harris, Honoured President of Texas Southern University;
Leaders of the host institutions responsible for this joyful occasion;
Students, workers, researchers, lecturers and professors:

I would like to thank you most sincerely for the honorary doctorate which you have just awarded to me. We accept it with humility and on behalf of the countless South Africans who have learnt in the university of life and from the example of other nations, to value freedom and liberty and valuing them, to fight for their realisation.

This institution, and others like it that are represented here today, is a centre of learning and research. Discovery of the truth and its propagation are its mission. We are honoured thus to be associated with it. We trust that we will, in our conduct, respect its high purposes and at all times commit ourselves to the pursuit of the truth.

Among all the truths that are part of the common human experience, there is perhaps none that is more important than that all societies have true greatness only to the extent that they create the opportunity for the all-round fulfilment of each and every individual citizen.

Without this, knowledge itself becomes a tool in the hands of tyrants and dictators. Science, a product of the gift of the genius of the human mind, is prostituted to serve anti-human purposes. Economies are used to enrich a minority and impoverish the majority. Even language is corrupted to advance the interests of those who have the exclusive privilege of power.

Such has been the case in our own country, South Africa, where the black majority has been victim to the system of apartheid which, precisely because it sought to treat that majority as a sub-human species, has been categorised as a crime against humanity.

It is for all these reasons that this and other centres of learning cannot be indifferent to the purposes to which the accumulated store of human knowledge is put. Nor can they be true to the calling of scholarship and enquiry if they do not themselves see what they can do to expand the frontiers of human freedom.

It is with these considerations in mind that we salute Texas Southern University for its decision to establish the “Mickey Leland Centre on World Hunger and Peace”.

It is fitting that the outstanding African-American, United States Congressman, George Thomas “Mickey” Leland, who represented the 18th District of Texas, should thus be honoured. We feel particularly moved by this act of committed scholarship because Mickey Leland died tragically on our own continent, while he was on a mission to help and give hope to the suffering people of Africa.

Mickey Leland died shortly before I myself was released from prison. I therefore never had the honour and privilege to meet him. Nevertheless it feels as though I have been with him. Nevertheless it feels as though I have been with him. This is because those of my colleagues who knew him have spoken to me of him as a true friend and an untiring fighter against the system of apartheid.

We take advantage of this opportunity to extend our best wishes to the wife, Mrs Alison Walton Leland, and the rest of his family and look forward to meeting them in the future.

Mr President,

Dear friends:

Our common struggle to end the apartheid crime against humanity is nearing its victorious conclusion. This has not come about because those who have oppressed the people for centuries had a voluntary change of heart.

It has come about because of the struggle that has been waged both inside our country and throughout the rest of the world. We would like to take this opportunity to thank you for everything you in the state of Texas and other parts of the United States have done over the years to express your solidarity with the ANC and our struggling people.

Your denunciation of apartheid in your millions; your support for the perspective of a non-racial, non-sexist and democratic South Africa; your effective campaign to isolate apartheid South African through the imposition of sanctions; the material assistance you have extended to the ANC and other formations of the South African Democratic Movement; all these combined with the efforts of our own people and those of other countries to make a powerful contribution to the common offensive to liquidate the system of apartheid.

As a result of these efforts, in 12 days time the Convention for a Democratic South Africa will meet in Johannesburg. This will be an historic moment in our struggle, since the Convention will begin the process leading to the adoption of a new constitution.

Among the issues that the convention will discuss is the issue of an Interim Government of National Unity. We have demanded that such a government should be formed to take charge of the country during the period of its transition from an apartheid to a democratic society.

This is an issue of critical importance to the future of the peace process in our country. It addresses the central issue that the major obstacle to the process of change is the fact that of our country continues to be governed by a white minority regime. It will also address more effectively the question of ending the violence which continues to afflict our country.

We have argued that it would be incorrect to allow the ruling National Party to be both player and referee in the transitional process. It cannot both govern the country and be one of the negotiating parties at the same time. It cannot contest elections and, at the same time, be the party in control of the machinery that will organise and supervise such elections.

We are therefore determined that the Interim Government of National Unity of which we have spoken should be installed as soon as possible. We will pursue this matter vigorously within the convention, in the interests of expediting the process of transition to a democratic society.

You also need to know that, in accordance with the decisions of the last National Conference of the ANC, we have also said that economic and diplomatic sanctions should be lifted as soon as this Interim Government is in place.

This is for the simple reason that this would be a broad based government of National Unity, acceptable to the majority of the people and charged with the task not of implementing apartheid but of moving the country away from this evil system towards its democratic future.

It would obviously be illogical to demand that such a government should be boycotted and isolated. Rather, it would require all the support it can get so that is succeeds in its tasks.

Also of importance to the process of transition will be the formation of a forum to negotiate the new constitution. With regard to this, we have proposed that a Constituent Assembly be elected on the basis of a universal franchise.

This would ensure that the people themselves decide who should draft the new constitution and give them the possibility to decide what kind of constitution they desire for their country.

In the light of the developments in South African what then do we see as the tasks of the Solidarity Movement! One of these is to press for the maintenance of economic sanctions until an Interim Government has been installed. We will also need to press for the continuation of the arms embargo, the oil embargo and military nuclear cooperation until South Africa has a new constitution and a democratic government elected.

Secondly, it is necessary that we speak not only against apartheid but also for a democratic South Africa. It is necessary to put on the public agenda in this country the issue that all of us are in struggle not just against apartheid.

We are also for a new constitution that will enshrine the principle of one person one vote and protect the fundamental human rights of all South Africans. We are for a social order which will also strive to meet the material and social needs of the millions of people who were condemned to deprivation and suffering by the system of apartheid.

Our third task is concerned with what we have to do to consolidate the new democracy and ensure that is leaves up to the expectations of the people, not only within South Africa but also in the rest of Africa and the world.

It is critically important that this new democracy should succeed. This will constitute an important blow against racism everywhere. It will give renewed hope to the African continent that it will succeed to develop itself. It will serve as a beacon to black people everywhere, enabling them to reaffirm their own sense of human dignity. It will help to reinforce the universal struggle for human rights and peace.

It is our hope that we can establish relations of friendship and cooperation between our country and the people of the state of Texas so that we can work together in all fields of human endeavour to our mutual benefit.

This should enable you investors to invest in the new South Africa and to help modernise our technological base. It should enable the universities and other centres of learning to enter into cooperative arrangements with their counterparts in South Africa to help us end the education crisis in our country and rapidly to raise the levels of education and training.

We trust that the relationship between yourselves and ourselves that has been established by the award of this doctorate will signal the beginning of the relationship we are talking about. When established it can make a very important contribution to the process of dismantling apartheid and reconstructing South Africa as a truly democratic country with which you would be proud to be associated.

As we leave the borders of this state tomorrow, we shall depart with fond memories of the warmth of your welcome, and strengthened by your support and commitment to our common cause.

We know that you, like ourselves, are impatient for the victory of the struggle against apartheid. That victory is in sight. We will make sure that you are not disappointed in your expectations.

Thank you.

Alternative identifier(s)

Access points

Subject access points

Place access points

Name access points

Genre access points

Description control area

Description identifier

Institution identifier

Rules and/or conventions used


Level of detail

Dates of creation revision deletion

Acquisition method: Hardcopy ; Source: ANC Archives, Office of the ANC President, Nelson Mandela Papers, University of Fort Hare. Accessioned on 18/01/2010 by Zintle Bambata




Accession area

Related subjects

Related people and organizations

Related genres

Related places