Address by President Nelson Mandela at a Pitso (public meeting), Lesotho

13 July 1995


My visit to the Kingdom of Lesotho would be incomplete without an opportunity to join you, the people, in such a gathering.

This is the first time in our history that the Head of State of South Africa could take part in a pitso. Never before have the government of our two neighbouring countries met as equals and brothers. Our presence here today is a clear demonstration that a new era has, indeed, dawned on our region.

It has always been my long-cherished desire to meet you, the heroic people of this Kingdom, and thank you, on behalf of the people of South Africa, for what you did for our country and for humanity.

Despite your vulnerability to the pressures of the apartheid regime, you defied all odds. You stood firmly on the side of freedom, peace, and democracy.

In the tradition of Moshoeshoe The Great, the fact that you faced a much more powerful force did not deter you from opposing what you believed was wrong. For that you paid dearly, but you persevered.

Because of your sacrifices and your understanding, South Africa is today free. Free to make its own humble contribution to the reconstruction and development of our Southern African region. Free to join hands as an equal partner with our neighbouring states to bring peace and prosperity to our peoples.

Dear brothers and sisters;

Your history, like ours, has also not been a smooth one. You have had your turbulent periods. Like us, you have experienced times of tension and confrontation.

Unavoidably such a traumatic period produces hatreds and grudges. Our experience has, however, taught us that the way to a prosperous and peaceful future passes through reconciliation and forgiveness. That is the most important, albeit hard, lesson we have learnt in our era of transition. The bitter experiences of the past should never be allowed to deflect the plans for the future.

We rejoice that your country today is a democracy. You have your destiny in your own hands. That is the most precious foundation on which the future of a country can be built, the condition of all progress towards a better life for its citizens.

Here in Southern Africa our destinies are inextricably tied together. What affects one nation affects the rest of us. That is why the yoke of apartheid that was on our necks for decades, was as much a burden on you as well. Last year when your democracy caught cold, the whole region sneezed. Presidents Masire, Mugabe, and I put aside our national schedules and gave immediate attention to problems affecting this country. Because you are our brothers and sisters; our own flesh and blood.

Yesterday I had the privilege of meeting with all political parties as well as Prime Minister Mokhehle and His Majesty King Moshoeshoe. Together we discussed the issues that affect your country. I was left in no doubt about the preparedness of your leaders to address and redress all the problems your nation faces. But governments and leader can only do so much, and their success will depend on the support they draw from you, from your love of your country and your freedom.

The Basotho nation has a rare potential which can propel Lesotho on the path to development. You have trained countless engineers, computer technicians and other professionals. Your institutions have even trained thousands of professional from other countries, including hundreds of South Africans.

Brothers and Sisters;

We have a demanding task ahead of us. The development of this region requires our joint efforts. None of us in the region can pull through on our own. We are in this together and we shall succeed together.

When South Africa commits itself to acting as an equal partner with our fellow Southern African neighbours, that is not just out of humility. It is because we face the same problems. And so when we encourage our businesses to invest in Lesotho, or when we promote joint development projects, we require the same conditions as we expect for ourselves. All investment and aid should create jobs, help develop human resources and transfer skills. That is why we are proud of our part in the Lesotho Highlands Water Project, and regard it as a model for the future.

My special plea to you is for us to face the future together and with confidence. In unity we defeated the most dreadful monster mankind had ever seen since Nazism. When your democracy was threatened last year, the whole region stood firmly beside you.

That united strength cannot fail us as we tackle the issues of development.

Your heroic history speaks volumes about you. You were one of the few nations on our continent not to have been conquered by foreigners. You preserved your sovereignty in the fact of endless pounding by colonisers who wanted to subjugate you.

As neighbours, and as brothers and sisters, let us hold hands and close ranks firmly against poverty.

We have the natural and human resources. We are not lacking in infrastructure.

With democracy deepening its roots in the region, we dare not fail. Let us turn our backs on underdevelopment.

The future is bright and it belongs to us. I thank you all.

Source: Nelson Mandela Foundation