Address by Nelson Mandela at unveiling of Gandhi Memorial

6 June 1993

We are living during a time when the concept of non-violent resistance is facing a serious challenge.

Organised demonstrations which are routinely met with brutal force and equally brutal reaction on the part of those who are victims of orchestrated violence is the order of the day. We are forced to reflect on whether violence will hold sway in this era of history.

This occasion is an auspicious one in that we have an opportunity to renew our commitment to forging peace.

It is an honour for me to be here to unveil the very first statue of hope. The hope that once all South Africans are treated as equals we will be able to forge a non violent society from the havoc wrought by apartheid and colonial oppression.

This event is also very significant because we are unveiling here the very first statue of an anti colonial figure and a hero of millions of people world wide. Gandhiji influenced the activities of liberation movements, civil rights movements and religious organisations in all five continents of the world. He impacted on men and women who have achieved significant historical changes in their countries not least amongst whom are Martin Luther King. Mahatma Gandhi came to this country 100 years ago, to assist Indians brought to this country as indentured labourers and those who came to set up trading posts. He came here to assist them to retain their right to be on a common voters roll. The Mahatma is an integral part of our history because it is here that he first experimented with truth; here that he demonstrated his characteristic firmness in pursuit of justice; here that he developed Satyagraha as a philosophy and a method of struggle.

On Tolstoy Farm, resisters and their families learned a tolerant and non-exploitative way of life.

The Indian Congresses which have their origin in this period were fashioned by Gandhi as instruments with the assistance of people like Thambi Naidoo, Parsi Rustomji, E I Asvat and others to achieve Hindu-Muslim unity in a just cause.

Today as we strive to achieve a date for the first democratic elections in this country, the legacy of Gandhiji has an immediate relevance. He negotiated in good faith and without bitterness. But when the oppressor reneged he returned to mass resistance. He combined negotiation and mass action and illustrated that the end result through either means was effective. Gandhi is most revered for his commitment to non-violence and the Congress Movement was strongly influenced by this Gandhian philosophy, it was a philosophy that achieved the mobilisation of millions of South Africans during the 1952 defiance campaign, which established the ANC as a mass based organisation. The ANC and its congress alliance partners worked jointly to protest the pass laws and the racist ideologies of the white political parties.

In 1960 after nearly 50 years of passive resistance and struggles which were mass-based but non-violent in character the ANC decided to embark on an armed struggle. We were convinced that our oppressors would never be moved through means other than organised armed and militant action. It was a painful decision originating out of our reluctant acknowledgement that if we did not fight back the racists would destroy our people through genocide. The dramatic socio-economic deterioration engendered by apartheid is here for all of us to witness.

The enemies that Gandhi fought ignorance, disease, unemployment, poverty and violence are today common place in a country that had the potential to lead and uplift Africa. Today we are faced with the formidable task of reconstructing our country anew. Now more than ever is the time when we have to pay heed to the lessons of Mahatma Gandhi.

It is the victories of Umkhonto we Sizwe in the battlefield, the organisation of the masses within the townships and the countryside, the sanctions campaign and the willingness of our people to stand firmly against the brutality of the apartheid regime that eventually pushed the regime to the negotiations table.

It is the combination of non violent struggles and military action that inspired our people to carry on struggling under the most heinous conditions.

We decided to suspend armed action because we believed and still do that much more progress would be made in achieving a negotiated settlement would be made.

I believe that this occasion is an ideal opportunity to place a challenge to the leaders in this country. We sat down together and signed a peace accord. We have witnessed the endless murders of our people in every part of this country despite our commitment to jointly building peace and political tolerance.

We need to come together again and revisit the source of the violence in our country. We need to meet collectively and achieve a permanent recommitment to end the violence.

I believe that any permanent solution will need to be driven by the leaders of every political party through the mobilisation of their respective constituencies.

A free and fair election will not be achievable unless we can assure that the violence is stopped and to do this we will have to stop the source of the violence.

I will be requesting a meeting with Mr John Hall and I will ask him to reconvene the signatories to the peace accord as soon as possible.

On the 3rd of June a momentous resolution was passed by the Negotiating Council to hold elections on April 27 1994. We will do everything in our power to make sure that this resolution is upheld. It is only a newly elected democratic government that will guarantee peace.

We laud the courage of the Southern Natal Region of the ANC for their proposal for a peace plan. It is a timely initiative that we must work together to bring to fruition. The wounds of apartheid driven violence are deep and we have a painful and difficult path ahead. We must base ourselves on our tradition of unity and purpose in action.

Unity, so that our children can walk in peace and learn in purpose. Unity, so that our aged can live out the rest of their lives in dignity. Unity, so that we can build one nation one people one country.


Source: Nelson Mandela Foundation