Address by President Nelson Mandela delivered on behalf of Walter Sisulu at the launch of "The World In Soweto"

1 December 1995

Honourable Mayors of Soweto and Johannesburg;
Members of the Provincial and Johannesburg Metropolitan governments;
Esteemed foreign dignitaries
Distinguished Guests;
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Today the world has descended on Soweto. Not to monitor the police violence or other infamous abuses of the apartheid regime which made this township an international household name. On the contrary we are all here to give her residents a hand in transforming Soweto into a decent suburb.

Throughout the apartheid years, the world community was appalled by the South African townships. These areas were built for third class citizens, people whom the powers-that-be regarded as sub-humans. The architects of these townships didn't care what became of their residents, their health, the potential for crime, or the general welfare. With the dawn of a new era, these residential areas must be upgraded.

Soweto became a symbol of these townships. Over the years foreign dignitaries who visited our country always came here to pledge their solidarity not only with Soweto residents, but with all the oppressed.

Upgrading of residential areas is the responsibility of municipalities. But for Soweto, with its millions of inhabitants and its vast area, it would take decades because of the limited available financial resources. Joining forces with international partners was the only option.

"The World in Soweto" is, therefore, an opportunity for governments and civic bodies around the world to make a real difference to the lives of Sowetans who live amid garbage heaps and dust storms.

Gathered with us today are representatives of governments, international organisations, and foreign cities. They are here to hold our hands in the drive to better the lives of our people.

In doing so they will not assume the responsibility of the municipalities we elected a month ago. Those will remain responsible for normal municipal services like provision of water and electricity and garbage removal. Rather "The World in Soweto" will assist with things which otherwise would have been pushed to the bottom of the priority ladder like the paving of sidewalks, provision of rubbish bins, planting of trees, parks development, and the general beautification of the area.

"The World in Soweto" will provide us with an opportunity to link up with still more foreign governments, cities and civic bodies. Most were involved in our fight for freedom. They campaigned against the apartheid regime and raised funds for our struggle. Some came here to pledge their solidarity.

They sustained our morale by assuring us that we were not alone.

Now they are returning to help us to help ourselves. They are launching this project because they have confidence in our determination to succeed. It is not their objective to do our work for us. They know that they are helping a hard-working nation, ready to assume responsibility for our own upliftment. They are joining with us in the spirit of Masakhane.

"The World in Soweto" will also be a window through which the international community views our reconstruction process. Our response to their assistance will either spur them to more joint projects or may discourage them from further involvement. The responsibility is on all Sowetans to exploit this opportunity to the fullest. Success will open similar ventures for other townships across the country. If we fail, we shall be letting our entire nation down. As pioneers we must excel.

It is encouraging to see our local business fraternity joining up, strengthening the bonds with the communities they serve. It is a sign that they are not simply in business to line their pockets. I would therefore urge the rest of the business community to associate themselves with such efforts. During the apartheid era most of them voiced their opposition to the system. Now is the time to correct the wrongs of that system. Our people will be waiting for concrete actions. As the local business community, they are expected to do more than our foreign friends because they will be helping themselves as well.

"The World in Soweto" is another sign that we are indeed now part of the world community of nations. May I thank all our foreign guests for having made this function such a resounding success and for putting their faith in us.

As a Sowetan myself, I pledge to spare neither strength nor effort to ensure the smooth running of this venture.

I thank you.

Source: Nelson Mandela Foundation