Address by President Nelson Mandela at the Golden Doves of Peace Award Ceremony

7 June 1994

(Madame/Master) of Ceremonies
Members of the National Peace Secretariat
Members of the Diplomatic Corps
Distinguished guests

For me personally, the Government of National Unity and the African National Congress, today marks one of the most important occasions since our historic elections.

We are meeting to honour not merely leaders and politicians of high repute. But to thank ordinary men and women whose plodding industry makes life that much more bearable for ordinary people in strife-torn areas.

We are meeting to pay tribute not simply to those in high office. But to humble individuals who, by their efforts, have demonstrated that they cherish peace and life itself.

We are meeting to sing praises not to the high and mighty. But to bestow on unsung heroes what they deserve, for their efforts in the face of danger.

I wish to thank the National Peace Committee and its Secretariat, as well as Education Africa for inviting us to this solemn occasion. I also wish to congratulate the winners of the Golden Doves of Peace Awards. You are the true heroes, the soldiers of peace, of whom all South Africa shall always be proud.

(Madame Master) of Ceremonies,

This important occasion is both timely and symbolic. Not only as an opportunity for us to reflect on the futility of violence as a means to resolve disputes. But also as a challenge to find the ingredients to make peace possible and real.

The Peace Awards ceremony could not have come at a better time: hard on the heels of our historic first democratic elections.

We cannot help but note that, in this election, when South Africa's hearts beat as one, we rediscovered the human being in all of us. Indeed, we have learnt that when there is a common national objective to which all have a stake, we can achieve peace, harmony and security.

This is the central challenge that we all face as we embark on the course of reconstruction and development. For it is in positively addressing the needs of all the people, in ensuring that each and every South African has a stake in society, that we can effectively build peace and reconciliation.

The overwhelming majority of South Africans want to get on with their lives in an atmosphere of peace and security. They want to get down to work and improve their lot and that of their families.

This is the message issuing not only from the schools and work-places. It is the clarion call from the unanimous voice of the Government of National Unity.

All the parties in Parliament and in Government are at one that we must join hands to improve the lives of ordinary people. That, through concerted efforts to create jobs, to build homes and to open up opportunities for all, we shall be contributing to the removal of the major causes of conflict. We shall be contributing to the building of peace.

This is indeed what gives one hope and profound confidence that South Africa has a bright future.

In the negotiations with representatives of the far-right parties, we have found a new determination to resolve problems by peaceful means. We do differ and differ sharply. But it is our obligation to ensure that these differences are thrashed out in rational discussion and negotiations.

The Government will continue to pursue this cause with a patient determination.

We do recognise the moral and historical obligation to ensure that the wounds of the past are healed. In equal measure, we shall ensure maximum openness and disclosure, so that the healing is meaningful, permanent and serves as a beacon to future generations that the mistakes of the past will never be repeated.

(Madame Master) of Ceremonies,

South Africa has gone a long way in resolving the problem of political violence. But we shall be failing in our duty if we turn a blind eye to the continuing carnage in some parts of the country: the killings in parts of KwaZulu/Natal, the feuds among rival taxi associations, the scourge of blood-letting among groups hiding under the cloak of self-defence units, and the gang warfare in some townships which has turned criminals into warlords and a law unto themselves.

All these problems require stern action as well as joint efforts to build the culture of tolerance and respect for human life. It is not helpful to classify this or the other act of murder as "political" or otherwise. Violence is violence; and in whatever form, it can neither be condoned nor justified. At its core is the demon of intolerance and a culture that sees human life as cheap and expendable.

We wish to lend our support to Project Golden Wings. And we join those institutions which have offered to promote the project in committing ourselves to its noble objectives.

It is not enough to have legitimate Government, no matter how loud we can shout from the rooftops. It is less than human to wallow in the comfort of the reduction of incidents of violence. Rather we should together build a grassroots movement to eliminate this scourge. And where resources permit, we should meet our obligation to the international community in lending a helping hand to make the world a better and safer place to live in.

We are confident that, along with reconstruction and development efforts, the Golden Wings project will help consolidate the spirit of tolerance and respect within communities.

Then South Africa shall be a safer and secure place for all its people. Then more women and men of talent shall emerge and make their contribution to the well-being of the nation.

Then we shall be able say with confidence: There is Peace and Friendship in our beloved country.

Thank You.

Source: Nelson Mandela Foundation