Item 710 - Notes for an address by President Nelson Mandela at a breakfast meeting hosted by The South African Association for Business and Cultural Affairs with Russia

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Notes for an address by President Nelson Mandela at a breakfast meeting hosted by The South African Association for Business and Cultural Affairs with Russia


  • 1999-04-13 (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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Breakfast hosted by The South African Association for Business and Cultural Relations with Russia

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  • English

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Our approach for foreign relations

It is all too easy when thinking about foreign relations to have one's attention caught up by the events of the day or the week, and to be distracted from the longer term. In reality the development of our country's relations with the world and the achievement of our goals unfold over years. Even a single initiative may only succeed after long and patient work. Lockerbie, to take just one example, occupied us from 1992 till now, seven years in all.

It is only five years since democracy brought South Africa the opportunity to begin define its role in the Southern African region; in the African continent, in the developing world; and in the international community of free nations.

This had to be done at the same time as - indeed as part of - the transformation of our society through reconstruction and development in order to eradicate apartheid's legacy of inequality and poverty.

Crucially, liberation came in a rapidly globalising world economy, which thrust issues of world development; international competitiveness and the democratisation of the international order to the top of our agenda.

Achievements in our relations with world

Within this complex context South Africa has made use of its first five years of freedom in a way that is remarkable by any account. We have established friendly and expanding bilateral relations with virtually every country. We have become a respected member of the international community of nations. We have been accorded the privilege of playing an active role in the affairs of our region, our continent and in the developing world as a whole. Strengthening co-operation amongst the nations of the South has also provided a basis for extending the potential for equitable partnerships with the countries of the North.

Our approach is guided by the firm conviction that in this interdependent world, none of us can achieve our goals on our own. What ever happens in any one country has an impact of its neighbours, and even on countries far away. The recent period of financial turmoil has left no country untouched, although the heaviest burden falls of course on the people of the developing countries. The situations of war and conflict in various parts of Africa threaten to destabilise whole regions.

Equally, none of our goals is achievable on its own. Our newly-won rights and freedoms will remain empty and fragile unless they bring material improvement in the lives of our people. But without peace within and between countries the sustained economic growth and development that will life our peoples out of poverty, will not occur. Nor can any of us enjoy lasting peace and security while the majority of our fellow-citizens and other countries in the world system are mired in poverty.

Our own liberation bears witness to the interdependence of the modern world. Without the support of the international community our freedom which have cost much more human suffering. What the world often sees as the miracle of our transition to democracy was also the product of their practical insistence that we should enjoy the rights that have been proclaimed universal. In overcoming the divisions of centuries by reaching out to on another, we earned the respect and admiration of the world, and we strengthened the hopes of all for a better world. We are conscious of our obligation to live up to those expectations, and to work with others for world peace, equity and development.

Leave-taking and strengthening relations

It seems appropriate to start by recalling some of these basic goals and principles, since they form the context of our forthcoming State Visits to the Russian Federation and China.

Also part of that context is the goundwork laid by the may-sided effort of building relations between our countries over these past years; the establishment of diplomatic relations; the negotiation of agreements; exchanges of visits by officials and ministers; and the building of economic links. All this was taken to a new stage when Deputy President Mbeki made official visits to both countries last year.

These two state visits will be amongst the last of our first term of democratic government. Like other visits during these past months, for me personally, they will have in them the element of taking leave from those who supported us during the years of struggle against apartheid. It was important that we should visit Russia and China before retiring from public life, given their strong support for our freedom and for the anti-colonial struggle in genera.

But at the same time the visits are also part of the business of government. They will consolidate and expand our relations with two of the largest and most important countries in the world.

Economy and development

Economic matters form a strong focus of those relations, and the specific characters of our economies are reflected in the development of those relations

Thus there is emphasis in our developing relations with Russia on our common interest with regard to mineral resources, and the application of science and technology.

Increasing trade and investment between South Africa on the one hand with China and Russia on the other is of the utmost importance, within a framework which promotes development and joint venture and which promotes a more equal balance in trade.

The current scale of economic interaction falls a long way short of the potential and therefore one of our principal objectives must be to raise awareness on both sides of the opportunities for links that are profitable for business and of mutual benefit to our countries.

In this regard, it will be part of our task to report to those who helped us win our freedom and who today are our partners in reconstruction and development, of what we have done to begin changing the lives of millions of South Africans by delivery of services, the entrenchment of rights in constitution and law.

We will give an account of the restructuring of our economy and the soundness of the economic policies that have allowed us to weather the financial storm better than most developing countries. And we will share with them the problems we face - such as unemployment, crime and corruption - and how as a nation we are mobilising to deal with them.

South Africa also regards both countries as important partners for co-operation in the multilateral arena. They can help re-orient the international and multilateral institutions that regulate the world's political, social and economic systems, so that they better serve the needs of development and better reflect the democratic ideals of our age - and so that they support rather than hinder the rebirth of Africa.

The co-operation of China, as one of the world's largest economies and given its relationship with the Group of 77 and the Non-Aligned Movement, would be important for advancing South Africa's strategies for addressing the negative aspects of globalisation and enhancing the positive aspects.

Partnership in building our relations with other countries

In short, the two state visits will take us further along the path that we have embarked.

Success, however, cannot come from visits by government officials and heads of state alone. It requires the initiative and enterprise of our private sectors to give substance and depth to friendly relations. We are confident that we will realise the potential.

That confidence is strengthened by the knowledge that we have vigorous communities within South Africa with ties of one kind of another to Russia and China who are keen to build links. It is a great pleasure to see so many of you here today. With your support, the experience and work of these past five years will become the basis of even faster progress in the coming years under the guidance of a new generation of leaders. I look forward eagerly to my visits to China and Russia, knowing that they will give impetus to that process.

Let us join hands to build partnerships for growth, peace and prosperity

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Acquisition method: From website ; Source: South African Government Information website. Accessioned on 13/12/06 by Helen Joannides




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