Christmas message by Nelson Mandela

25 December 1990

Fellow South Africans,

It is my privilege to speak to you today, on Christmas Eve, the first Christmas in almost 30 years that I have been able to spend with my beloved family, my closest colleagues, including our President, Oliver Tambo, and you, our people. I will spend Christmas without being a fugitive or a prisoner.

Wherever you are, I trust that you will join me in a prayer for peace to prevail throughout our common motherland, for justice to reign supreme and for all of us to be driven by the spirit of goodwill towards one another as we work together for the rebirth of South Africa as a non-racial democracy.

Our thoughts turn to all those others in our country who will not be able to be with their families; those who are still held as political detainees and prisoners, including those on death row.

I refer also to the thousands of our people who are still in exile who, like the prisoners, had hoped that in the light of the changes taking place in our country, they too would he spending Christmas with their relatives whom they have not seen for many years.

Our thoughts also turn to those who lie injured in Natal, the Transvaal and elsewhere in our country, victims of a dirty and unacceptable campaign of violence which this year alone has claimed too many lives, left many permanently maimed and thousands homeless. The ANC sends its condolences to the families of the deceased.

This is a year that has been marked by moments both of hope and despair. As it comes to its close, the message we wish to convey to you all is one of hope. We have confidence in the wisdom and good sense of the majority to share the hope with you that the New Year will bring all of us nearer to a situation of justice and peace for all the people of our country.

We take this opportunity to thank all of those, regardless of their political affiliation, who have made a contribution this past year to the difficult process of resolving the problems of our country by peaceful means. We urge them all to persist in their noble efforts.

Over the years our country has seen too much violence. Indeed, as I look around I have fears that the culture of violence is becoming endemic. It is afflicting not only society as we have seen in the senseless killings that continue in Natal, the East Rand and elsewhere. Many in the security forces use maximum force as an instrument of first resort.

There is the violence of a social system which has produced, for one section of the population, massive unemployment, widespread poverty and death by starvation. In these circumstances. violent conflict becomes inevitable.

The time has come that we abandon this terrible past which made our country an object of hatred by the nations of the world. We can and must all join hands to make a better future for all the people of our country, to secure a common victory over a racist system which the overwhelming majority of the people of our country agree has to be ended without delay.

We must all strive to be inspired by a deep-seated love of our country, without regard to race, colour, gender or station in life. We must strive to be moved by a generosity of spirit that will enable us to outgrow the hatred and conflicts of the past. We must anchor all our efforts in the common determination to build a South African society that will be the envy of the world.

As we spend these holidays with our families and friends, let us hope that none will be killed as a result of criminal or politically-inspired violence. Let us hope that none will die as a result of reckless driving on our roads.

Above all, let us commit ourselves to work together for peace, for the speedy transformation of South Africa into a genuinely non-racial and democratic country. In such a democratic country there will be no international sanctions against our common motherland - our sports people, industrialist, diplomats and all our citizens will be received with open arms in all countries of the world.

Then we will be able to turn our attention to the enormous task ahead of us of redressing the racial inequalities inherited from the past, and creating the wealth that should provide a decent standard of living and prosperity for all our people. Then will the day have dawned when our country will know real and permanent peace and be true to the spirit of Christmas.

The ANC has just concluded the most important conference in the past 30 years. Delegates came from all parts of our country and abroad. Intense, frank and open debate over three days resulted in the adoption of major resolutions and a framework which will guide us for the next six months.

The South Africa so many have sacrificed so much to achieve is within sight. Together let us walk this last, long gruelling mile to reach a non-racial, non-sexist society, where all our people will be equal before the law, where all forms of racial discrimination are abolished, where a bill of rights protects every individual, where political tolerance prevails, and the existence of different political parties is encouraged.

Together we have it in our power to defeat those who continue to kill to maintain the old order. We have it in our power to transform our country into the peaceful and prosperous homeland of all our people. Let us work together to achieve these goals. Let us vow never to celebrate another Christmas in chains.

We have a right to be free. and we shall be free!

I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a peaceful New Year

Source: Nelson Mandela Foundation