Address by President Nelson Mandela to German Bundestag, Bonn

22 May 1996

Madam President of the Bundestag;
President of the Federal Republic, Dr Roman Herzog;
President of the Bundesrat;
Federal Chancellor, Dr Helmut Kohl;
Honourable Members of the Bundestag;
Members of the Diplomatic Corps;
Distinguished Guests.

The marching tide of history and the vagaries of its moods have located Africa and Europe, South Africa and Germany, in close proximity - products of the rapacity of a colonial era, and victims of humanity's technological genius.

And so, today, we stand at the dawn of a new millennium chal- lenged to reassert the true meaning of the moment at which history has placed our generation, the birth of an acknowledgement of the universal human ideal. It is an ideal in one instance within grasp, and in another, a dream in a long walk where the horizons are no more than the vague and misty imagination of prophets.

We have come from South Africa and Africa, heads unbowed and forever hopeful, to declare, in this one fountain of human advance- ment, that the single humanity of which we speak yearns for a better life; and that none can be secure and at peace if others are insecure and strife-torn.

We are fully aware, Madam President, that the opportunity afforded us, to speak to the elected representatives of the German people, is a rare one indeed. Thus we thank you from the bottom of our hearts that we can today speak of the joy and the pain of creation that is the lot of South Africa's people; that we can sing to you and with you, of the fulfilment of a struggle consummated, of a democratic victory attained.

We are confident that our ballad will find resonance among the German people because they share in our joy of success and our pain to recreate and reconstruct.

In reporting through you, to them, about the freedom attained by their fellow human beings in South Africa, we are also acknowledging the sacrifices of ordinary German working people and professionals, poets and writers, politicians and religious leaders, and many more, who made it possible that we could stand here, proud representatives of a truly African rainbow nation, to proclaim to the echo of the valleys and hills of Europe, that we are free at last!

That the pronouncement of this freedom, the culmination of Africa's quest for her dignity, is no longer anathema to the ears of Europe, speaks of the advancement of human civilisation. As we toiled together to attain that freedom, together we knew that its realisation would be a source of mutual enrichment.

At last, the springs of the Rhine, the Danube, the Thames and the Volga and the forests they irrigate, are to all as much a source of serenity as those of the Congo, the Nile, the Limpopo and the Zambezi. Rationalise otherwise as others might, we are one humanity with one destiny.

This, the realisation that all are equal and deserve no less or no better, inspired the German people in their millions to give and to give generously to the struggle for freedom in South Africa - not out of pity, but because they knew that our victory would also be theirs.

From the actions, the debates, the condemnation of links with those who had arrogated to themselves the status of racist masters in South Africa, emerged a consensus that was as much German as it was European, African, Asian and American: that apartheid was a crime against humanity and it had to be destroyed.

Thus we wonder if it is not misplaced to thank the people of Germany for their contribution and sacrifice to fulfil what is as much ours as it is theirs. Nay more, the summit we have attained has only unveiled the real pinnacle lurking in the distance; and, in our long walk, we dare not wander:

"Yes! At last I have found the meaning of wisdom:
only he deserves freedom as much as life itself,
who must win it each day".

The profound challenge that Goethe talked about captures our own experience in South Africa; and it epitomises the tasks that the new world outlook of the new era has placed on all of us.

At the end of the Cold War, the dividends that this massive change would bring to the world seemed so obvious.

If in the past, imperatives predicated on the paradigms of earlier civilisations of geopolitics, spheres of influence and balance of terror, decreed that we attain less in human freedom and prosperity, we dare honestly to ask ourselves today: have we grasped the full meaning of the new opportunities to pursue the universal interest, and eschew relations amongst nations and peoples that consign others to poverty and dependence!

We should honestly examine whether we are providing the requisite new leadership for the new age; or whether as leaders, we still wander in the dark, hoping that order will emerge from disorder, particularly international economic relations!

Do we have the courage to explain to the expectant why these obvious dividends seem to elude us!

We raise these questions precisely because we know that their answers can be found in history, in its theory and in its praxis.

As we join you tomorrow in marking the 47th anniversary of the promulgation of the Federal Republic's constitution, we celebrate with humanity the wonder of creation: that the best can emerge from the worst.

We marvel at the determination of a people, assisted by others better placed, to rise, like a phoenix, from the ashes.

We acknowledge the prodigy of reconstruction and rapid growth that the discipline of work and creativity of innovation have brought and can bring.

We draw strength from the persistence in adversity to forge ahead towards realising the kind of regional integration that the dictates of history and socio-economic advancement have imposed.

We acknowledge the social partnership that a united people can forge in pursuit of the common interest, in the full knowledge that while social rifts cannot be totally eradicated, there is something common that can be built together; and that such partnership is not, by definition, the fleeting convenience of ideological self-defence, but an important prerequisite for national and international reconstruction.

We are truly grateful that in all these areas, you have seen it as your obligation to make a contribution to our own efforts.

On the 8th of May this year, the date on which your constitution was adopted 47 years ago, our own Constitutional Assembly adopted the basic law of our land, ushering in a new era in which we can further mature as a normal democracy based on the universal prin- ciple of majority rule. The delegation of constitution-makers which came to your country at the invitation of President Herzog, the experts who advised our teams and the material support we received from you - all these speak of the universality of the ideals we pursue.

We are proud that after the visit by Madam President to our country, multifaceted links are being strengthened between our two legislatures. We are proud of the growing links between your Lander and our provinces.

We will never forget the words of Chancellor Kohl, during his visit to South Africa, that: when Germany needed assistance, the Marshall Plan was there. His commitment to strengthen co-operation between South Africa and Germany and his personal wish to see to the removal of disadvantages suffered by South Africa in its access to European Union market, are highly cherished by our eople.

Let us admit human frailty, and acknowledge that we sing praises to these your achievements because we firmly believe that our own nation has started along a road to reconstruction and development, to redeem itself of a treacherous past and attain prosperity for its citizens.

We pride ourselves with the national consensus that has emerged around basic constitutional issues, including an abiding culture of human rights. Within such a system, we expect to see a vibrant civil society and an active opposition, with all of us bound together by loyalty to the basic values contained in the constitution.

It is this context too, that, like the people Goethe referred to, we shall continue to deserve our freedom and our life by regaining them each day.

We are regaining them in the Truth and Reconciliation Commis- sion, as our citizens come to terms with the pain they inflicted upon one another during the apartheid era. We seek the truth because we know its profound potential to heal; because it is the seed that will germinate in reconciliation and not vengeance; because from it, we can restore the dignity of the victims and ensure such repara- tions as our nation can afford. With the weapon of the truth, we can say without equivocation, that never again would such gross violations be visited on any of our citizens.

We are regaining freedom and life each day, in our quest to ensure that our economy grows and creates the conditions in which we can address the legacy of apartheid.

This we know, that such conditions cannot emerge on their own, but must be created and nurtured by government in co-operation with other economic role-players. Indeed, as a result of hard work, we have entered a period in which the economic fundamentals in our country are not only sound; but they point in the direction of an even better performance.

In working out our strategy for growth and development, in order to accomplish the reconstruction of our economy and our society, we have succeeded in ensuring that resources are shifted more and more from the old apartheid objectives to service poor communities. This we undertake within the overall commitment to fiscal discipline and sound monetary policies.

The judgement for our actions is borne by no less than the serious long-term investors from Germany and elsewhere who are establishing and expanding operations within South Africa.

These investors understand better than anyone else, the advan- tages that our country offers in terms of infrastructure, prospect for long-term growth, and the overall positive environment in which they have to operate. They understand too the serious intent with which government is addressing whatever administrative or social bottlenecks there might be, deriving from our apartheid past.

These investors know that the best insurance to the survival of our democracy is in sustained growth and job-creation, and therefore that such engagement in South Africa should derive, on the one hand, from the real gains that they can make, but, on the other hand, they should be underpinned by the long-standing commitment to rid our society of the scourge of apartheid.

Like Chancellor Kohl, they know that what is needed in our country and the Southern African region is something akin to the Marshall Plan, premised on the efforts of the people themselves; but reinforced by the international community.

Thus the struggle of our people to deserve freedom and life itself, in a changing and highly competitive world, is a common struggle of humanity to find answers to the challenges posed by the new post-Cold War situation.

These answers are in part provided by the multi-faceted relations that are developing between Germany and South Africa, relations which are maturing at such a pace that we can talk of a high-level Bi-national Commission to co-ordinate and deepen them.

The answers are provided in part by the growing co-operation between Southern Africa and the European Union, which though formally tentative, can boast of a major boost as your country launches its Southern Africa initiative.

Few other parts of this globe endured the direct assault, blood- shed, denigration, devastation and deliberate economic destabilisa- tion that the countries of Southern Africa endured and survived. Their own development was deliberately stifled by apartheid assault, and willy nilly they became hostage to this diktat, their prosperity depending on the degree of their principled defiance or firm disagreement. I must express my personal gratitude to the Federal Government for having been the driving force behind this Southern Africa Initiative.

The answers to the challenges posed by the new post Cold War situation are provided by the common search for solutions in multi- lateral fora such as the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, which met recently in South Africa to bridge the gap in perceptions and programmes between the North and the South.

They are provided by our preparedness to embrace the lobali- sation of world trade and money flows, of the information society and of general technological progress and finding appropriate ways of adapting this revolution to the needs and conditions of developing countries.

In all this, we know we have a friend indeed in the Federal Republic of Germany.

If in the relations between our two peoples, history decreed that the worst in human character should give way to the best that humanity can offer, today we can speak without equivocation of the flowering of a new relationship.

We dare say as leaders, to paraphrase Goethe, that we shall see a free humanity in a free world; a humanity which, though encircled with dangers, provides the good fortune of more than a momentary glimpse of beauty.

Vielen Dank, dankeschon.

Issued by: The Office of the President

Source: South African Government Information Website