Item 367 - 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


  • 1996-04-27 (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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Paragraph beginning: "We shall indeed be able to adopt the new constitution in a matter of days, because the New Patriotism infusing our society beckons us as leaders to fashion an appropriate basic law of the land. "
Changes made: All "New Patriotism" changed to "new patriotism"

Paragraph beginning: "Yet we dare remember everyday and every minute of our lives, as we enter the Third Freedom Year, that the solemn undertaking we made two years ago, was that we will work together to improve our lives. "
Changes made: All "Third Year of Freedom" changed to "third year of freedom"



Master of Ceremonies;
Distinguished Heads of State and Dignitaries from abroad;


Honourable Guests;

Friends and Compatriots.

For generations to come, the abiding image of a patient citizenry in long voting queues on 27 April 1994, will remain deeply etched in the collective memory of the nation.

As the world held its breath, South Africans together made their mark to bring into being one of the truly remarkable events of this turbulent century. Once more, we affirmed a truism of human history: that the people are their own liberators.

And so today we meet here to pay tribute to you, the people - the midwives of the new South Africa; you, the true healers and builders of a nation once rent asunder by bigotry; you, the expert builders of a great future that beckons.

We are truly honoured today, to play host in the ceremony, to distinguished world leaders, UN General-Secretary Boutros Boutros-Ghali, His majesty King Hussein bin Talal of Jordan, Presidents Jose Maria Figueres of Costa Rica, Benjamin Mkapa of Tanzania and Jean-Pascal Delamuraz of the Swiss Confederation, Ministers from as far afield as Europe and Latin America, Africa and the Pacific, North America and Asia, and the Heads of various multilateral agencies.

Perhaps, it was time that those who shared with us the trials and tribulations of struggle; those who helped break the back of apartheid; those whose presence during our historic negotiations and elections helped to stay the hand of backward elements - perhaps it was time that they joined us in this colourful Freedom Day tribute to our young nation, united in its diversity.

For the next two days, we shall all be witness to a celebration of unity in diversity: by our army and police; workers and industrialists; professionals and religious communities and others - all in honour of our common loyalty to our common motherland.

The flowering of this New Patriotism of the new South Africa will find even more vivid expression in the display of our distinguished artists, reflecting the rich tapestry of the sources that make up our national heritage.

Today, the friendship and harmony among South Africa's communities underlines that to us, diversity is becoming a source of strength and collective enrichment.

Distinguished Guests;

Beyond matters cultural, this enrichment is becoming a living reality in the evolution of our democracy and human rights practices.

In some ten days from now, we shall adopt a new constitution for our country.

We say this with confidence because, we know that, as we practised democracy in the past two years, as we strove to better our conditions, and as we pursued the collective interest in government, we all came to better appreciate what is truly common among us, and thus to clear the cobwebs of mutual suspicion.

We say this with a measure of certainty because as we recognised that the security of one community is the best guarantee of that of other communities, we became better placed to set the constitutional framework required to transform our society into one based on genuine equality.

We shall indeed be able to adopt the new constitution in a matter of days, because the new patriotism infusing our society beckons us as leaders to fashion an appropriate basic law of the land.

In a sense, there in the sports-fields and workplaces; in the farms and villages; in the institutions of learning and worship; there where young children play with gay abandon; where the women of our country endeavour to achieve genuine equality; there where the unemployed and the disabled sue for their rightful stake in society - that is where the new constitution has been written.

Like any truly historic act of creation, this has not been and will not be easy. But we have the leaders and the collective wisdom to weather any storms.

Yet we dare remember everyday and every minute of our lives, as we enter the third freedom year, that the solemn undertaking we made two years ago, was that we will work together to improve our lives.

The feeling of freedom that infuses every South African heart, at last liberated from the yoke of oppression, underlines the fact that we have all, in one way or another, been victim to the system of apartheid.

In no other activity is this more lucidly captured than in the heart-rending evidence being led at the hearings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. It is only natural that all of us should feel a collective sense of shame for the evils that, as compatriots, we inflicted upon one another. But even in the few days of these hearings; even if its work is still tentative, we can all attest to the cleansing power of the truth.

We wish on this occasion to congratulate the Commission and the witnesses, and once more to urge all citizens to co-operate with it.

Master of Ceremonies;

Within weeks, in metropolitan and rural Western Cape and, hopefully, in KwaZulu/Natal, voters who were excluded from last November's local government elections will join their compatriots as proud rulers of their own localities.

It is our fervent wish that these elections should take place as soon as practicable in KwaZulu/Natal; and take place in an atmosphere free of violence, intimidation and fraud. Not one province, not a single one of our citizens, should be subjected to second-rate democracy. It is in this spirit that we shall be examining the report of the Task Group investigating conditions in that province. The better life for which we all strive, requires that all of us join hands to build a climate necessary for the growth and development of our economy. This imposes heavy obligations on the main role-players in the economy; government, labour and business.

I wish therefore to report that the provinces and relevant departments are making substantial progress in working our concrete actions required to achieve the kind of growth that will create jobs and promote socio-economic improvements. The process is on track; and it has been profoundly enriched by the welcome contribution of the trade union movement and business organisations.

Needless to say, our society has long passed debating about the broad targets of economic policy. Rather, we need to ensure that the concrete measures we propose do indeed point in the direction of these targets.

Already, in the first few months of the year, great strides have been made in the field of education, health, the public service, water provisioning, municipal services and housing policy and delivery, to ensure that we carry out the programmes required to improve the people's quality of life. Only in this way, can freedom have real meaning.

Similarly, integrated mechanisms to fight crime are starting to bear fruit in many parts of the country. Improvements include the plodding industry to ensure proper management and sharing of information, public education and participation, decisive deployment and action where required, and co-operation with foreign partners.

But as we make these short-term improvements, and finalise long-term strategies, we are again reminded that success depends above all on partnership among all sectors of society. The same applies to the measures required to deal with the pockets of political violence remaining in KwaZulu/Natal. Through joint efforts across the political spectrum, we should send a clear signal that, especially in a democracy, political violence does not pay.

Distinguished Guests;

To the extent that we were our own liberators in the process culminating on 27 April 1994, to that extent are we collective builders of a better life. Indeed, all the projects undertaken thus far have confirmed that success depends on community initiative and participation.

The government has therefore decided to set up the President's Award for Community Initiative, to acknowledge communities that have put their shoulders to the wheel; communities who, will scarce resources, took the initiative to uplift their conditions. This Award will be presented annually to nine provincial communities. From them, a national winner will be selected, with prizes including further injection of resources.

We hope that through this initiative, we will be able further to draw out the best in all our communities, in the spirit of Masakhane, to build one another and together build a bright future.

Again on this our Freedom Day, we should thank the international community for the solidarity they continue extending to us as we proceed with the difficult task of reconstruction and development.

We are immensely gratified, in particular, that, a glimpse at the programmes being undertaken by our departments reveals, without exception, references to practical projects involving Unctad, Unicef, the Food and Agricultural Organisation, the UNDP, the ILO, the Habitat housing initiative and many others. Such benefit as we derive from this association has further strengthened our resolve to help build the United Nations into a powerful force for good, as we enter the new millennium.

We once again wish to thank the United Nations for allowing us to host Unctad IX - an eloquent demonstration that, as a nation we have become an equal and proud participant in world affairs. We pledge to continue contributing, in our own humble way, to peace and development in Southern Africa, in Africa and further afield.


Freedom Day comes at a time when we are making progress on all fronts to build South Africa into a land of our dreams. Our confidence derives not from overlooking the real difficulties.

But we know that, now that we have redeemed our pledge to attain the freedom to be free, we have it in our power as a nation to march together to a better life.

As we enter our third freedom year, infused with our new patriotism and with the spirit of Masakhane, we are confident that no obstacle will be large enough to block our path. A bright future beckons. The onus is on us, through hard work, honesty and integrity, to reach for the stars.

I Thank You.

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Acquisition method: From website ; Source: ANC Website. Accessioned on 21/11/06 by Helen Joannides




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