Item 926 - Interview by Lorie Karnath : Nobel Leareates Interview

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Interview by Lorie Karnath : Nobel Leareates Interview


  • 2004-04-01 - 2004-04-30 (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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  • English

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1)Your life has spanned a period of freedom, followed by a long detention and eventually again freedom. What
does freedom mean to you today....and what is the difference as compared to your early years of freedom?

NM) One can debate whether that first period to which you refer was really one of freedom. Freedom is not only the absence of being in jail, just as it is always said that peace is not merely the absence of war. We went to jail that long detention to which you refer because of our struggle against the oppression, discrimination and exploitation of our people. That was not a state of freedom. In fact, no black South African could be said to have been free in those circumstances and times. One cannot therefore compare two periods of freedom.

The freedom for which struggled all our lives and for which so many people over so many decades sacrificed often being the supreme sacrifice was a state in which all people would have the opportunities to optimally realise their human potential; where human solidarity and human caring would be supreme values; where human dignity and equality would be primary values.

I am confident that democratic South Africa the state of freedom for which we struggled aspires towards those values and goals.

2)How mentally and spiritually were you able to cope with your imprisonment?

NM) One’s imprisonment was never only, or even primarily, the fate of an individual. The acts that led up to arrest and imprisonment were not individually inspired deeds but the collectively planned conduct of an organisation and movement representative of the masses of the people. Our presence in prison was that of a collective of comrades. Mentally and spiritually we supported one another and were collectively sustained by the knowledge that we were there on behalf of the people. Of course, ultimately one had to cope as an individual but that was made infinitely easier by the knowledge that we were acting for a moral cause.

3)What do you consider the greatest roadblocks for peace today?

NM) At the end of the Second World War the world placed its faith in the international multi-lateral organs to ensure that conflicts were resolved through peaceful means. It was hoped that a new world order of democracy and equality between nations could be developed and that the multilateral organs would take developmental issues seriously so that dissent and conflict would not fester amongst the poor and the weak across the globe.

That has unfortunately not happened, or not happened sufficiently. The multi-lateral organisations have too often become the tools for the interests of the rich and powerful. The tragedy of Iraq is but one example of the folly of undermining multilateralism.

We must return to the belief on which the United Nations was founded, viz. that all conflicts should be settled though peaceful means and through the various multilateral organisations. This would include conflict prevention where we observe conflict to be developing.

4)What can be used from the South African example as a roadmap to peace?

NM) We must be careful not to project our unique circumstances too much on other situations. People can often take offence at what may be perceived as South African arrogance if we were to do that. I always took great care in mediation, like for example in Burundi, not to refer to South Africa as a model.

What we did, however, demonstrate is that people have the capacity to put reason above emotion even in the seemingly most intractable situations of conflict. Our leaders confounded all the predictions of doom by sitting down to negotiate a peaceful settlement of our differences. If we could do that, it should be possible in other situations as well.

5)What are your hopes for the future, are you optimistic? (perhaps in tangent with this answer you could describe the goals and work of the Mandela Foundation)

NM) I am very optimistic about the future of South Africa. To have overcome our historic differences and to have established so firmly within one decade the foundations of a healthy non-racial democracy speak for itself about the future of this country. We have one of the most admired democratic constitutions, the organs of democracy are functioning, our economy is brilliantly managed, basic services are steadily being brought to people, and the future looks good. Of course, the challenges of development remain enormous, but be have the human and material wherewithal to tackle these.

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Acquisition method: From hard drive ; Source: Nelson Mandela Foundation Prof J Gerwel. Accessioned on 16/10/07 by Razia Saleh; Adam Kaloides




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