Item 244 - Speech by President Nelson Mandela at the Freedom Day Celebrations

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Speech by President Nelson Mandela at the Freedom Day Celebrations


  • 1995-04-27 (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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ANC Website

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Freedom Day celebrations

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  • English

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Honourable Ministers;
Premier of the Gauteng Province;
Councillors of Pretoria and Johannesburg;
Friends from abroad and the diplomatic corps;
Distinguished Guests;
Fellow South Africans;

As dawn ushered in this day, the 27th of April 1995, few of us could suppress the welling of emotion, as we were reminded of the terrible past from which we come as a nation; the great possibilities that we now have; and the bright future that beckons us.

And so we assemble here today, and in other parts of the country, to mark a historic day in the life of our nation. Wherever South Africans are across the globe, our hearts beat as one, as we renew our common loyalty to our country and our commitment to its future.

The birth of our South African nation has, like any other, passed through a long and often painful process. The ultimate goal of a better life has yet to be realised.

But if any one day marked the crossing of the divide from a past of conflict and division to the possibility of unity and peace; from inequality to equality; from a history of oppression to a future of freedom, it is 27 April 1994.

On this day, you, the people, took your destiny into your own hands. You decided that nothing would prevent you from exercising your hard-won right to elect a government of your choice. Your patience, your discipline, your single-minded purposefulness have become a legend throughout the world.

You won this respect because you made the simple but profound statement that the time had come for the people to govern.

You turned our diversity from a weakness to be exploited for selfish ends; into a richness to be celebrated for the good of all. Today, we meet to reaffirm that we are one people with one destiny; a destiny that we can now shape together from the sweat of our brows.

Dear compatriots;

We have learnt over the First Freedom Year that there is no short-cut to making South Africa the country of our dreams.

It requires hard work by those entrusted with positions of responsibility in government.

It demands that workers and employers work together to produce efficiently and compete with the best in the world, to achieve equity and to help create more jobs.

It requires hard work on the part of farmers and farm-workers, to feed the nation and provide raw materials, even in the face of adversity.

It requires hard work by students and teachers to build a literate, skilled and learned nation.

It requires greater exertion by our sports-persons and artists to always offer the best for the country and its people.

It demands of all of us, wherever we may be, to exercise our rights as citizens; and do so without infringing on the rights of others.

South Africa is firmly set on the road to peace and prosperity. In the spirit of Masakhane, we must, as a nation, strive to do better, and even better, all the time. This is the challenge that we face, as we enter the Second Freedom Year.

The rights that we now enjoy should be improved as we draft the new constitution. And you, and only you, can ensure that the Constitutional Assembly produces what is best for the country.

We must ensure that democracy reaches our localities, at work and everywhere we interact. To make the RDP work, we must all register for the November Local Government elections.

On its part, Government is finalising guidelines for next year's budget: to ensure greater spending on education, health, housing and other needs. We are determined that public funds must be spent responsibly and in an open fashion.

The projects we have started in Odi-Moretele, Weenen, Ibhayi, the East Rand, Kutama-Sinthumule, Mogopa and other areas have shown that the people, working together with government, can improve their lives.

The phasing in of free education; free medical care to children under six and pregnant mothers; the school nutrition scheme; land restitution - all these and others are the beginnings of programmes to give freedom real meaning.

In the Second Freedom year, we must speed up these programmes; cut down on bureaucratic red tape; ensure that there are community structures to manage them; and direct more relief to the

Fellow South Africans;

27 April bequeathed us the supreme bodies to make laws and guard our democratic rights.

As we move into the Second Freedom Year, our democracy will be strengthened by the welcome role of bodies such as the Constitutional Court, Human Rights Commission and the soon-to-be-established Truth and Reconciliation Commission, not only to correct past wrongs, but also to create a better future.

In the same vein, we shall need more systematic work in parliament to complete the legal framework needed for transformation.

But freedom would be meaningless without security in the home and in the streets.

It is for this reason that government has set in motion a plan to deal firmly with crime and violence. Discussions have been completed to allocate more resources for the training of police officers, improving facilities in areas ignored under apartheid, and to facilitate the setting up of more Police Community Forums. These funds will be acquired both from the shifting of priorities in the ministry concerned, and from the RDP Fund.

In the spirit of Masakhane, where communities succeed in co-operating with the police to bring down the levels of crime, and where they ensure that services are paid for, serious consideration will be given to increase the investment of public funds in these localities.

We thank the security forces, whose support for the process of change has been invaluable.

In the spirit of goodwill that accompanies this, our first Freedom Day, I have decided to grant amnesty to the following categories of prisoners:

Firstly, a special remission of sentences of one quarter for all prisoners with a maximum remission of six months. This amnesty will not apply to prisoners sentenced for child abuse.

Secondly, a remission of sentences on all persons who were charged solely for the possession, before 6 December 1993, of arms, ammunition, explosives and explosive devices, associated with political conflicts of the past, irrespective of their political affiliation.

These measures will come into effect as soon as the Departments concerned have completed the necessary administrative procedures.

We hope that through this act of goodwill, we are sending message to all prisoners that they should mend their ways and make a fresh start. We appeal to society to help them resettle in communities as responsible and law-abiding citizens.

Fellow compatriots;

Over the past year we have confounded the prophets of doom; and we shall do so for many, many more years to come.

On behalf of the Government of National Unity, I wish to thank all South Africans who have made this, our miracle possible. As a nation, we extend our gratitude to the international community whose force of example, encouragement and support has strengthened us in this difficult task.

I also wish to congratulate Minister Ben Ngubane and his team for the excellent work they have done to make this celebration the success that it promises to be. Theirs has been a lofty example of united action in the national interest.

As our nation did a year ago, let each community take its destiny into its own hands by ensuring that everyone registers as a voter by the 1st of June.

Enriched by the experience of the First Freedom Year, let us work together, with each other and for each other, in the spirit of Masakhane!



Paragraph beginning: "South Africa is firmly set on the road to peace and prosperity."
Sentence in web text: " In the spirit of Masakhane, w must, as a nation, strive to do better, and even better, all the time."
Changes made: "w" changed to "we"

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Acquisition method: From website ; Source: ANC Website. Accessioned on 15/11/06 by Helen Joannides




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