Address by President Nelson Mandela at a civic luncheon on the occasion of being granted the Freedom of Uitenhage

14 September 1995

Provincial Premier Raymond Mhlaba
Dr Siva Pillay, Chairperson of the Transitional Local Council
Distinguished Guests;
Ladies and Gentlemen.

Permit me to thank you, and through you the residents of Uitenhage, for the honour you bestowed on me today. It is a great pleasure to join you in this gathering and to share these memorable moments with you.

A striking feature of Uitenhage is the way you have decided to think big and act big. You are not overwhelmed by the size and the level of economic development of your town and your determination knows no bounds. You have refused to be an extension of your big sister, Port Elizabeth.

The working relationship you have established with Volkswagen South Africa deserves special mention. A path-breaking accord of this kind must be nurtured and developed even further.

The partnership will provide a good platform on which you can base a campaign to attract more investment to your town. Uitenhage is reeling under mass unemployment, with less than half the potential work-force employed. It is your prime responsibility to address this problem. The Public Works Programme can help, but it will be a relatively small contribution to so large a problem. Investment is the key. With all town and cities in South Africa striving to attract investment, success will require all the energy and initiative you have displayed.

The time has also come for Uitenhage to find creative and imaginative ways of diversifying your economy.

Ladies and gentlemen;

History and changing patterns in our manufacturing industry have faced Uitenhage and its leaders with immense challenges. But you have shown your mettle.

I would be failing in my duty if I did not commend you for the progress you have made in national reconciliation. If one recalls that the first mass evictions in this town were instigated by white local residents, it is encouraging to see how the people of Uitenhage are rapidly merging into one community. Admittedly, there are elements still clinging to the past, but they are losing ground by the day.

You are also setting high standards in encouraging participation. Community involvement and shared responsibility is the key to the success of the Reconstruction and Development Programme.

The forthcoming community elections will be another opportunity to consolidate reconciliation and to deepen community involvement in the decisions that affect their lives.

The duty of the TLC is to ensure the success of the elections irrespective of which party emerges victorious. Its achievement as a transitional structure will be measured in the smooth establishment of a representative local authority after the elections.

With the registration of voters re-opened, you have an opportunity to encourage more people to register. We all understand how complicated this election will be as compared to the 1994 elections. The next seven weeks must be used to ensure that by the election date, we reduce spoiled ballot papers to the minimum, through a concerted voter education campaign.

Dear friends and fellow citizens of Uitenhage:

May I thank you for the love you have shown me, in singling me out for the honour of sharing your town, and in the warm welcome we were given.

I thank you all.

Source: Nelson Mandela Foundation