Item 920 - Speech at receiving Freedom of the City, Johannesburg, July 2004

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Speech at receiving Freedom of the City, Johannesburg, July 2004


  • 2004-07-23 (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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Award Ceremony was part of the City of Johannesburg's celebration of South Africa's 10 years of democracy

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  • English

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Your Worship The Mayor
Distinguished Guests
Friends and Comrades
Ladies and Gentlemen

We know that this is the highest award and the greatest tribute paid by the City of Johannesburg, for which we are greatly honoured.

We are, however, also told that it confers no special rights or privileges. And the Mayor, Councillor Amos Masondo, in his statement says that he is sure that even Madiba will agree that this can only happen in a free and democratic South Africa.

We may agree with that but it does not mean that we forget that in certain ancient cities of Britain and Europe the freedom of the town meant that we could drive cattle through the main street without paying tax!

Would it be rude for an old man from the Transkei to ask that this town to which he emigrated so many years ago restore at least that right or privilege to the award? We would love nothing more than to fetch our cattle from the place of our birth and drive them through the main street of this city that has in so many respects been the place of our political birth.

We are truly honoured by this award, especially as it binds us to two great South Africans who had been the previous recipients, namely Walter Sisulu and Beyers Naudé. We are not convinced that we can truly walk in the company of those two men, both whose greatness resided in their exemplary humility.

Both of them, each in his own way and his own historical space, made such an enormous contribution to shaping our country’s future towards what we presently enjoy and look forward to in coming years, decades and centuries. But none of them ever sought personal glory out of that contribution; they were the inspirers of those of us that eventually received recognition, glory and awards.

May there ever be ones like Walter Sisulu and Beyers Naudé. Men and women who forsake everything else for the common good. Men and women who go out, defying tradition and authority, striving to build new cities - cities where all are welcome; cities in which all can work without restrictions of colour, caste, background and origin; cities in which building a better life for all is paramount.

One of them has departed; the other is in the health condition of advanced years.

We accept this award in humble recognition of their work of a lifetime. Being thought to be in their company humbles us.

And we remember today - and we know that Beyers Naudé and Walter Sisulu would want us to do that recognition - Oliver Tambo who was so much part of our being in Johannesburg.

Long live this town of vibrancy and activity. We know that it will transcend our history of division. We know that it is becoming one of the leading spaces of national unity in our country. We know that it is the centre of prosperity in our country, providing the opportunity to create that better life for all our people.

Thank you for this award. May the people of the city and of the province prosper. And may it go well with all our people.

And may I ask to drive my cattle through your main street without let or hindrance?

I thank you.

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Acquisition method: From hard drive ; Source: Nelson Mandela Foundation Prof J Gerwel. Accessioned on 30/06/08 by Razia Saleh




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