Address by President Nelson Mandela at a banquet hosted by President Herzog of Germany, Bonn

22 May 1996

Dear Mr President, dear Mrs Herzog;

The warmth of Germany's welcome to us, Mr President, makes us feel at home. For that we thank you sincerely, as we do for your support to our country and your active commitment to our endeavour to strengthen our young democracy.

The Chancellor's recent visit to South Africa left indelible impressions upon us, and strengthened the bonds between our peoples. Those bonds reach back to the last century, when German missionaries established schools, hospitals, and churches. Their presence is recalled by South African towns bearing names like Hanover, Hamburg, Brunswick and Luneburg.

That historical relationship has been transformed and now, in the dawning our freedom, we are partners.

We benefited from Germany's assistance in the management of our first democratic elections.

As we wrote our constitution we drew deeply from the well of Germany's experience. The opportunity to do so, we owe to you, Mr President, and the invitation which you extended to our Constitutional Assembly to send a delegation to Germany for that purpose.

As we reconstruct our country, German investment, development aid and technical co-operation give concrete substance to your partnership in our development.

Germany is our major trading partner and has become one of our main sources of tourism - you are therefore woven into the daily fabric of our economic life.

Our visit to Germany provides a welcome opportunity to consolidate these rapidly growing relations and develop a framework to strengthen them in the future. Co-operation in all these fields, including education and training, sport and cultural exchange, environmental protection, technology and joint research is of great importance to us. It will enable us to produce goods of high quality and help us develop new concepts, ideas, and products. It will help ensure we lose no time in developing our country.

In our aspiration for speedy reconstruction, Mr President, we draw inspiration from the resent history of your people. Like the proverbial phoenix, you have, within half a century, risen from the ashes of war to become a world leader and a key member of the European Union. We are certain that your experience has important lessons for us.

Mr President;

When Chancellor Kohl visited South Africa and Namibia he shared with us the idea of a Southern Africa Initiative, in order to promote German private sector involvement in economic development of our region. The involvement of the private sector is central to our strategy for sustained growth and balanced development, both for South Africa and for Southern Africa as a whole. The idea of such an initiative was therefore most welcome to our region. We are encouraged at the speed with which it has taken shape, and that its launch coincides with our visit to Germany.

When our first democratically-elected government was established, your government was among those who wished us well and promised assistance. You have kept your promise and I am happy to report to you that our own efforts to address the legacy of our past and improve the quality of life of all our people, are beginning to bear fruit.

Our housing programme is steadily getting off the ground, thanks in no small measure to the fifty million marks we received from German Ministry of Economic Co-operation and Development. We are making progress in restructuring our education system to link it with the country's economic trends while also widening it to cater for all. Our health system is gradually improving the lives of our people, especially in the rural areas. In this regard, we are anxiously awaiting a contingent of German doctors who will help alleviate the situation in several hospitals around the country.

These programmes will continue to advance within the framework of economic policies premised on the efficient use of our national resources, democratic governance and human rights.

Underpinning the achievements we have made is a powerful impetus towards national unity and reconciliation. Putting behind it generations of conflict and division, our rainbow nation is welding itself into a single entity. Our new constitution embodies a national consensus that we should join the world in governing ourselves by the universal norm of majority rule. Our Truth and Reconciliation Commission bears witness to the healing power of coming to terms with the past in a way which enhances reconciliation and forgiveness.

Although we have far to go, we are fighting our way to a better future, a part of Africa's rebirth. We are grateful to Germany, as one of the leading nations of the world and of Europe, for the hand of friendship that you have extended to us.

I now wish to propose a toast to President Herzog and the German people.

Issued by: Office of the President

Source: South African Government Information Website