I Greet You All In The Name Of PeaceToday marks the 20th anniversary of the release of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela from the then Victor Verster prison outside Cape Town. A symbolic re-enactment of the occasion is planned, and while the organisers had hoped that Mr. Mandela would join them, it is doubtful he will. It is a lot too ask of the frail elder statesman. Perhaps we’ll see an address from the great man via video.
Even if he doesn’t make an appearance or speech today, I feel that the address he gave to the people on that day back in 1990 is still a powerful message. I wonder what will be going through is thoughts as he reflects on the past 20 years and tries to reconcile the state of the nation today with his vision from that day.
Friends, comrades and fellow South Africans. I greet you all in the name of peace, democracy and freedom for all. I stand here before you not as a prophet but as a humble servant of you, the people. Your tireless and heroic sacrifices have made it possible for me to be here today. I therefore place the remaining years of my life in your hands.
The need to unite the people of our country is as important a task now as it always has been. No individual leader is able to take on this enormous task on his own. It is our task as leaders to place our views before our organisation and to allow the democratic structures to decide. On the question of democratic practice, I feel duty bound to make the point that a leader of the movement is a person who has been democratically elected at a national conference. This is a principle which must be upheld without any exceptions.
In conclusion I wish to quote my own words during my trial in 1964. They are true today as they were then:
‘I have fought against white domination and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.’
You can read his full address on the ANC’s web site.
The image accompanying this post was constructed from a photograph of the Mandela statue on the V&A Foreshore in Cape Town, where it stands alongside those of FW de Klerk, Walter Sisulu and Desmond Tutu.