Address by Nelson Mandela to the International Solidarity Conference

19 February 1993

Dear Friends and Colleagues.

There are certain moments that capture the essence of life itself. Today is such a moment for me. For you are the friends from five continents who kept hope alive. You took the plight of our people, our hopes, our dreams and our struggle, to your hearts and made it your own. You have forged bonds of friendship that are unbreakable. You refused to let the world ignore the tragedy wreaked by apartheid.

And today you are here with us, many of you for the first time. While you are here you will see what 1 saw coming out of prison after 27 years:

That our people are still the hewers of wood and the drawers of water;

That our people know only hunger, disease, poverty and violence;

That in the decades of apartheid rule, we were reduced to beggars in our own land.

You are here to help us transform all this, to help us move from apartheid to democracy. We are on the eve of great changes, that place enormous responsibilities on all our shoulders.

These are complicated and difficult times, for which there are not pat answers. Before we have even attained our freedom we are experiencing an incipient counter-revolution. After so much sacrifice by so many, we have the obligation to prevent disintegration into a Yugoslavia.

And one of the ways to do this is to hold free and fair elections, where every South African will vote, for the first time, for a government of their choice.

We know that you will march this last mile with us, will work with us to win a resounding victory in these elections. We know you will help us reconstruct South Africa in the vision of the Freedom Charter, as a country that belongs to all its people, black and white.

We know you will go back to your countries and begin work on the enormous tasks that lie ahead.

Together we cannot fail.

Source: Nelson Mandela Foundation