Address by President Nelson Mandela at a banquet in honour of President Nujoma of Nambia

13 May 1996

Your Excellency President Nujoma;
Honorable Ministers
Distinguished Guests;
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Your visit has a very special significance for South Africans. The first official state visit of a Namibian President to our country sets the seal on the reunion of our peoples, no longer resistance fighters against apartheid colonialism, but masters of their own destiny.

Even in the short hours you have been here you will have felt the pulse of a nation whose elected representatives have just adopted a constitution embodying our people's deepest aspirations. You will have sensed the confidence with which our people embrace the prospect of completing our transition to fully-fledged democracy.

We know that you share our joy, because these are the aspirations that have kept our peoples on a common path. Walking this path ahead of us, the Namibian people set an example that we could emulate. You have also demonstrated what our people know to be true, that unity and reconciliation do not depend on enforced co-operation among political parties.

Nor do we need to explain to you, as we might to others, that even in the time of rejoicing we do not forget those who suffered for freedom and justice. We do not need to explain, because your freedom fighters and ours were confined by the same prison walls and went defiantly to the same gallows. Our people and yours learnt to love freedom and universal justice in the same crucible of brutal repression and denial of our humanity. We shared the same trenches in armed struggle and trudged the world together in search of solidarity.

For all these reasons, the warmth of our welcome to you and your delegation is deeper than friendship. Through you we embrace the people of Namibia as our own.

Freedom for Namibia and South Africa brings the opportunity for us to join hands, as neighbours and fellow-members of SADC, to work together for peace and prosperity not only in our countries, but in the entire region and in our continent as a whole. In particular we look forward to contributing together to the formulation of strategies for investment and growth for our countries and our region.

We are most encouraged by the progress that has been made in strengthening bilateral relations in the short era of our new democracies. The steps that have been or will soon be taken to foster co-operation in science and technology; telecommunications; health; education, sea fisheries and policing will be of mutual benefit to our countries. They will also help us develop a uniform approach towards problems of the region.

Deserving of special mention are the bilateral efforts at resolving problems arising specifically from the apartheid era and the occupation of Namibia. We are gratified by the progress made in matters arising out of the transfer to Namibia of Walvis Bay. The return of the Riemvasmaker community from Namibia to the Northern Cape serves as a model for co-operation between our countries. We appreciate the efforts made by your government in this matter.

We look forward with confidence to continuing progress in all these bilateral matters and in multilateral matters, including the completion of negotiations on the South African Customs Union.

At long last, neighbours, friends in need and friends indeed, can join hands at all levels in pursuit of the common interest. At long last, the southern tip of Africa has restored to her crown the jewel of Africa's political freedom.

Ladies and gentlemen;

I ask you to rise and raise your glasses in a toast to President Nujoma and the people of Namibia; and to the flourishing of relations between Namibia and South Africa.

Source: Nelson Mandela Foundation