Address by Nelson Mandela on receiving the Freedom of Miami Beach Medallion of Honour

29 September 1992

Mr Joseph,
Distinguished Visitors,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a singular honour to be with you this evening, and a unique privilege to receive the Miami Beach Medallion of Honour. The fact that people, communities and their elected representatives from such far-off places have taken South Africa, with all our triumphs and our tears, into their hearts is a source of great encouragement. We know we do not stand alone in our endeavours to achieve peace, freedom and basic human rights.

I am deeply moved that you, Mr Joseph, have had the commitment to travel to South Africa, despite the recent grievous loss of your wife, to make this presentation. This makes the award all the more precious to me: know that you have our heartfelt sympathy. We wish you strength and courage in the days ahead.

This function coincides with a visit of a technical exchange mission, and we warmly welcome you to South Africa.

We are sure that during your seven-day stay you will have the opportunity to visit many parts of our country. This will bring home to you the enormity of the problems decades of apartheid race rule has bequeathed any future government. To address the backlog in housing, the impoverishment of millions of squatters, lack of education or primary health care requires a sustained effort to implement clear policies, combined with stable government.

We have millions of people who were forcibly relocated into rural impoverishment; millions who continue to flock to urban destitution; children who grow up knowing only violence and hunger; generations of youth deprived of education, family life and any hope for the future.

Our people have resisted oppression with every fibre in their being. They have witnessed enforcement of policies that have systematically shattered the very fabric of society. The resistance of the South African people has been accompanied by an equal determination to reconstruct a fairer, more equitable and just society, a society in which all can live in peace and prosperity.

As we move forward into a new era of hope, we need to pay careful attention to what our people say, listen to how they want to reconstruct their dismembered lives. Development cannot be imposed from above: to be sustainable, it must emerge from engagement with people and grow from the realities of the prevailing socio-economic conditions.

And this is why your visit is of such importance. We want to learn from your experience in other parts of the world. We want you to be familiar with our needs, our goals, our problems. We want to benefit from international developmental experience.

The resources, both human and material, that are required are enormous. The foundations for the future must be laid now. Freedom must not become a slogan without meaning because stomachs remain empty.

It should be recognised that we are beginning to emerge from what was tantamount to 45 years of war against the people. And the damage continues to be inflicted, particularly through the ongoing violence.

South Africa cries out for peace. Sustained development requires stability. We are sure your stay with us will be mutually beneficial. Just as anti-apartheid organisations worked to isolate the regime, we are confident that all that creative energy and concern for our lives and our future will be harnessed to consolidate support for medium and long-term development, so that all South Africans can benefit from the fruits of freedom.

Allow me to again extend our sincere appreciation of the honour you have bestowed upon me, and through me on all those throughout the world who stand in defence of the liberty of the human spirit.

We hope that this award, just as it extends a hand of friendship across the miles that separate us, will also help heal the divisions that erupted in the Miami community during my visit there in 1990, my first visit to the United States.

As South Africa begins the painful process of establishing a democratic society in which all shall live with dignity, we need your friendship and support. We dare not fail.

Thank you.

Source: Nelson Mandela Foundation