Address by President Nelson Mandela at the graveside of South Africans buried in Botswana

5 September 1995

We are gathered here, not to re-open old wounds or to re-kindle grudges. It is to pay fitting homage to those who opened the way and paid the supreme sacrifice so that we could be where we are today. It is to say to them: Your sacrifices were not in vain.

Interned here is a cross section of the patriots of our motherland. Among them is Professor Z.K. Matthews, once Provincial President of the ANC and the first of our leaders to initiate the idea of a Freedom Charter. It is one of the anomalies of South Africa's past that such talented leaders were prohibited from building our country.

In this graveyard also lie martyrs whose lives were tragically cut short by apartheid death squads. Others were murdered in cold blood in their sleep during commando raids while those like Vernon Nkadimeng and Onkgopotse Tiro were assassinated with booby-traps. Botswana citizens were also killed or maimed, her economic infrastructure destroyed, and her sovereignty violated. But Botswana defied intimidation and supported our struggle till victory.

Situated at the heart of Southern Africa, Botswana suffered criminal raids from more than one quarter. In this cemetery are also the graves of fifteen gallant sons of this nation ambushed on the orders of the Ian Smith minority regime in 1978. This was part of the exorbitant price that Botswana paid for the liberation of our sub-continent.

Today our compatriots lying here can rest in peace, knowing that the system that slaughtered them is no more. The ideal for which they lived and laid down their lives is becoming a living reality. South Africa is now a democracy.

As we honour them, we re-iterate our gratitude to the Botswana government and people for the unrelenting support you rendered to our liberation struggle and for allowing our comrades to rest here.

Our visit today is a pledge that South Africa will never again be a source of hostilities and destabilisation in the region.

Rest in Peace Dear Comrades!

Lalani Ngoxolo Maqabane!

Robalang ka khotso!

Source: Nelson Mandela Foundation