Address by President Nelson Mandela at a banquet in honour of President Ben Ali of Tunisia

5 April 1995

Your Excellency, President Ben Ali;
Deputy President Mbeki;
Honourable Ministers;
Distinguished Guests;
Ladies and Gentlemen.

It is a special privilege and a great honour for us to host President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali of Tunisia and current Chairman of the organisation of African Unity. Your presence on our soil, Mr President, is confirmation that South Africa is indeed a fully fledged member of the African community.

On a personal note, Mr President, I am pleased to reciprocate tonight, after three decades, the hospitality offered to me by Tunisia in 1962. The warm spirit of solidarity and brotherhood with which I was received has remained with me ever since. Perhaps it was befitting that when the OAU welcomed democratic South Africa, the occasion took place in Tunisia. And again, Tunis - Africa's northernmost city - opened its welcoming arms to us.

Now it is our turn to share with you the hospitality of the other extreme, the southernmost city in Africa. I hope you will return home with as good memories.

At the Summit in Tunis we spoke about the symbolism of Carthage - that city which was destroyed by the Romans and must be rebuilt by Africans. Here in South Africa we have no such spectacular monuments to acient history. But we have a nation that was torn apart by centuries of colonialism and racial domination. We are, at present, working tirelessly to rebuild that nation ourselves. Perhaps, in our own humble way, our nation can thus leave a monument for Africa and the world.

And so, Mr President, we arrive from opposite ends of the continent at the same conclusion: that Africa must be reborn, that the glory of Carthage must arise again, built by the genius, the devotion, and the dedication of the children of Africa.

The example you have set over the past year at the helm of our continental organisation, the OAU, has been an inspiration to us all. Your actions have set a standard that others will follow. We refer in particular to the initiative and leadership to establish the Central Organ for the Resolution and Prevention of Conflict. We think too of your efforts to champion the lot of the marginalised, the victims of poverty and hunger.

And you did not end with gestures, Mr President, but you sent your own citizens to assist the refugees of Rwanda.

In the Middle East you have played no lesser part. When the Palestine Liberation Organisation had to leave Beirut in 1982, they found a home in Tunis. We have followed with keen interest and appreciation your involvement in the Middle East peace process. Let me assure you, Mr President, that South Africa supports your efforts to get all parties to adhere to their commitments for the realisation of everlasting peace and the rebuilding of that shattered land.

Co-operation between our developing nations is vital for our success. Africa needs unity and solidarity for her to rise from the ashes of underdevelopment and economic recession. No nation will succeed simply on its own.

The Joint Commission to be established under the agreement signed today will provide a framework for the development of relations between South Africa and Tunisia. Several areas identified for co-operation are already under discussion by officials of our governments.

The way ahead is indicated by the agreement signed today on Tourism. This is an area in which our two countries, both blessed with natural beauty, have much to gain through co-operation.

We had the honour this morning to bestow on you the Order of Good Hope. This is the highest award with which South Africa honours citizens of other countries who have contributed to the well-being of its people. In so doing, we acknowledge the unqualified support you rendered to us during the hazardous years of struggle.

Ladies and Gentlemen;

I ask you to rise and raise your glasses in a toast to President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and the people of Tunisia, and to continuing good relations between Tunisia and South Africa.

Source: Nelson Mandela Foundation