Address delivered on behalf of President Mandela by Jay Naidoo, Minister in the Office of the President, at the opening of the First Annual South African Junior Wheelchair Sports Camp

4 December 1994

Master of ceremonies;
Honourable Ministers
Distinguished guests;
Ladies and gentlemen.

Today is a very special day for South Africa. The youngsters who are taking part in this sports camp are making history. What you are doing is helping to change not only your own lives, but the future of our entire nation.

In the past little was done in South Africa to allow people with disabilities access to physical recreation programmes. In reality, there is no reason why any children should be denied the fun of participation in sport and recreation. But it has taken the disabled themselves to show the way.

I would like to pay tribute to Lisa Ericson-Siff for bringing us the practical example of what children elsewhere in the world have done and for her tenacity in persuading others that South Africans can do the same.

An event like this depends on the initiative and contributions of many people and organisations, working together. You set us all an example and a challenge.

The new South Africa we are building should be accessible and open to everyone.

Disabled children are equally entitled to an exciting and brilliant future.

We must see to it that we remove the obstacles to events like this, whether they stem from poor access to facilities; poor education; lack of transport; lack of funding; or unavailability of equipment such as children's wheel-chairs.

Only then will the rights of the disabled to equal opportunities become a reality.

Like the camp itself, these aims will be achieved only if we all join hands in partnership. The Disability Strategy which the Government has adopted calls for the active participation of local authorities; sports authorities; the business sector; schools; community leaders and all of those who care for and work with the disabled.

We are confident that we will succeed in the end, because the future of this country depends on its young people, including those who have disabilities.

One of the worst things that apartheid did was to prevent our children from simply being natural young people and playing and working together. We can see today that young people are leading us into a new South Africa.

Together with all the youth of our land, you are the greatest wealth that we have, more precious than all the gold and diamonds beneath our soil. You are the future of South Africa - the hope of our rainbow nation.

I want each one of you here today to know how much I admire you and love you.

Your courage and determination will inspire us all to work together to make sure that our dream of a better life comes true for everyone, including the disabled.

It is now my privilege to declare the first Annual South African Junior Wheelchair sports camp officially open.

Source: Nelson Mandela Foundation