Address by Nelson Mandela at banquet hosted by the President of the Republic India

15 October 1990

Your Excellency, Mr Venkataraman, President of the Republic of India;
Your Excellency, Mr Sharma, Vice-President of India;
Honourable Prime Minister, Mr V.P. Singh;
Honourable Members of Parliament
Distinguished Guests;
Friends, Ladies and Gentlemen.

First of all, I would like to thank you most sincerely, Mr President, for your kind and gracious words about me and your warm welcome to our delegation. What you have said will remain in our hearts and minds for many a long year.

We are especially pleased to be in India. This country is, to us, like our home and away from home. Since we had arrived this morning we have been overwhelmed by the friendship of everyone we have met. We have been struck by the strength of the feelings of oneness and solidarity with us which seem so deeply in the consciousness of your people.

We had, of course, imagined that we would be received as friends. But the actual experience has gone beyond anything we could have visualised. Indeed when we depart these shores, we shall leave greatly strengthened to continue the common struggle in which both our people's are involved until victory is won.

It must surely have inflicted great pain on those of your compatriots who were wrenched from their country in the last century, and exported as indentured labour to South Africa. Then they were called "coolies", a pejorative term which unfortunately persists to this day, and subjected to all manner of indignities and degradation, since the white settlers a viewed them as sub-human, in the same way that they saw and treated the African people.

But at the end of the day, Mr President, when we have got the better of those feelings of anger and wiped off our tears of pity at the recollection, we as South Africans must admit that what British colonialists exported as disposable beasts of burden, our country has inherited as a remarkable component part of the one South African nation which is in the process of formation.

For in the wake of the indentured labourers came an ancient culture from the East which has already become an indelible part of what today we call South African, and when I speak of culture, are use this word in its broad meaning, to encompass the very mode of existence of the human person.

In the continuing process of the intermingling of the peoples of the African, Asian and European origin, there is emerging as a people that is uniquely South African, talented, friendly, inspired by the humane or objectives and civilised, in the best meaning of that word. The indentured labourers and their offspring have made no mean contribution to this outcome. They are today African and have helped to form this both South African by the positive values and practices they have contributed to the making of our nation.

The indentured labourers also served to establish an umbilical cord that ties together the people's of our respective countries. As much as India is a particle of our country, so are we too a particle of India. History has condemned us to seek each other out, to deal with each other as members of the same family.

It is that history which makes it possible for each one of us to claim the immortal Mahatma Gandhi as our national hero. It is that history which drove us and drives us still to look to the examples he set to decide what we should make of our own destiny. It is that history which brought Jawarlal Nehru's daughter the late Indira Gandhi to our country, which she visited as a young woman. It is that history which brings us here today and brings us to a country with an unequalled record of struggle against the criminal system of apartheid.

Mr President;

Ladies and gentlemen;

The common struggle which we have waged to uproot this system and to free all the people of South Africa is approaching its successful conclusion. We have not got there yet but our victory day is not far off. In the end, the weight of internal and international struggle has produced the situation in which the architects of the apartheid system have been obliged to admit that their policy has failed and that the system can no longer be maintained.

It is our firm and honest view that you should rejoice in this victory as your very own. It is not for us to lecture you about India's contribution to the impending success of the struggle for emancipation of all the people of South Africa are. All we need to do is to reaffirm that we would not be talking victory today if the example set by the young Republic of India had not been followed by the rest of the world. That, today, even school children in all countries known what a apartheid is and are engaged in action to end this criminal system, is testimony to that fact.

We still need to walk the last mile together, to achieve the common objective of the transformation had of South Africa into a united, democratic, non-racial and a non-sexist country. We are strengthened by the knowledge, confirmed by you this evening, Mr President, that as the government and the people of this great country remain loyal to the commitment made a number of decades ago to fight on until not only South Africa but the entire African continent is liberated.

Mr President;

As the struggle advances, so do the demands of the ANC increase. We look forward to your assistance to help us elaborate a detailed view of the democratic South Africa we seek to build, as well as generate the resources which will enable us to rebuild the ANC as a legal organisation, resettle the released political prisoners and the repatriated exiles and mobilise the masses of our people to participate in the political process which must lead to the adoption of a democratic constitution.

We also carry a special message of greetings to you, Mr President, the government and the people of India, from our President, my brother, friend and colleague, Oliver Tambo, who has had the honour to visit India in the past. We also bring the warm greetings of the rest of the ANC and the millions of our people, of all races, who value India as a proven and dependable ally.

I would also like to take this opportunity to convey my own thanks to you for the determined fight you waged for our release from prison. We heard your voices even through the thick prison walls. And when we heard that demand wafting across the vast expanses of the Indian Ocean, we knew that there was no possibility that apartheid regime could hold us in jail forever, as it intended.

And so we are here in New Delhi today because you refused to forget us. Tomorrow we will receive diplomatic representatives of the Indian government and people, because you would not accept the argument that the issue of apartheid was a matter domestic to the racist Pretoria regime. As we further break down the walls which continue to separate the people of South Africa because of the apartheid system, both now and in a free South Africa, so will the contribution of the original indentured labourers blossom to its former fullness so that all South Africans can enjoy free and unfettered access to everything which makes this country a jewel in the combination of things which combine to make human civilisation.

In the midst of all of that must surely be the certain eventuality of relations between our two countries and peoples when we shall co-operate to mutual benefit, for the advancement of the common objectives of freedom and, democracy, independence, social progress and peace.

Thank you.

Source: Nelson Mandela Foundation