Address by President Nelson Mandela at a breakfast of the Raadzaal Rotary Club

17 September 1994

Honourable Chairperson,
Distinguished Guests,

Allow me to thank you most sincerely for the invitation to attend this assembly of the Rotary Club. From the outset, I wish to congratulate your Club for the noble work you have been engaged in, to uplift those in our midst who are less fortunate.

The advent of democracy in our country is an important first step towards bringing relief from the deprivation of the past. It has also brought with it new obligations and tasks.

Our major challenge as a nation is to create new conditions of life - conditions which will result in the healing of the wounds apartheid inflicted on our citizens. This Province is one shining example of the kind of togetherness we can forge among people of different races, cultures, languages and religions.

We have committed ourselves to build a society that is non-racial, non-sexist and democratic. This constitutes an obligation on the part of all of us to eschew discrimination of any kind. In particular, we need to pay special attention to those members of our society who were born with disabilities or suffered injuries or illnesses that led to such disability.

They deserve to enjoy the rights enshrined in the constitution. The fact of their disability does not mean that they are totally incapable of contributing to the rich social order we are now creating. It is our duty both as Government and as society in general to empower them so that they may realise their potential.

Your Rotary Club has taken laudable steps towards focusing attention on the plight of the disabled. For this you deserve our praise and the support of all sectors of the population.

A special word to the disabled themselves: We salute you for the role that you have played to bring about a new society. In playing this role, you also brought to the attention of the rest of the nation, the need and indeed the obligation for us to create the necessary conditions and infrastructure for you to enjoy the rights you deserve. Refuse to play second fiddle to anyone. It is your duty and right to participate fully, alongside other citizens, in all fields of human endeavour.

The Tswellang School for the physically disabled, which is receiving a cheque from the Rotary Club, is an important example of what can be achieved if we work together. I refer in particular to the curriculum, which is aimed at improving the intellectual prowess of the students, as well as equipping them for employment. You have also correctly identified the need to develop the spiritual, physical and social attributes of the children. This is critical for them to play productive and fulfilling roles in society.

Tswellang is also a good example of the partnership that needs to be built between Government, the private sector and communities. We extend our congratulations to the Free State Association for the Physically Disabled, for the splendid role you have played in making Tswellang a towering example of fortitude, creativity and perseverance.

This is the spirit that the nation needs to succeed in its endeavours to reconstruct and develop our society. Such qualities are demanded of us as employers, workers, Government, organs of civil society and communities in general. For it is through hard work and determination that our efforts can bear fruit.

I am confident that the people of Bloemfontein, the Orange Free State and South Africa as a whole will live up to the expectations of the times we live in. Together, we have it in our power to make our nation succeed, to build South Africa into the land of our dreams.

Source: Nelson Mandela Foundation