Address by President Nelson Mandela at the signing of the Golden Book of Bonn, Germany

23 May 1996

Dear Mrs Dieckmann;
Honourable Guests,

It is an honour and a pleasure for me to sign the Golden Book of Bonn.

Madame Mayor, it would take a heart of stone to be in Bonn and not to be enchanted by the breathtaking beauty of the Rhine. It would be a dull mind that did not marvel at its endless traffic of industrial goods.

The Rhine, this ancient highway, speaks to us of the sweep of history over the ages and the transformations it brings. This artery of human labour and ingenuity evokes a continent's prodigious wealth and power, in former times often turned upon itself and used to enslave our continent of Africa, but now dedicated to peace and partnership.

To be in Bonn, the city that gave birth to Ludwig van Beethoven, is to be reminded of Germany's monumental contribution to world culture. We are happy indeed that a free South Africa will bring more and more of the great German traditions in music, in literature, in art, to generations of South Africa's children; as it will also mean that South African traditions now find greater expression in world forums.

For us therefore, Bonn is, and always will be, more than just one city among others. It is here in the federal city of the Federal Republic of Germany that we have, by our visit and by the welcome we have received, sealed the compact between our governments and our peoples.

It is a compact that makes a common heritage of all that is best in each of our traditions. It is a compact, born of our separate experiences of anti-human ideologies and practices, that never again shall such racial doctrines find sanction in our lands.

So, Madame Mayor, entering our name in the Golden Book we are mindful of all this and of our own privilege in having an opportunity to pay tribute to this small place that has loomed so large in the history of the German people.

In doing so we would also want to say to the citizens of Bonn who selflessly supported our struggle for freedom and provided a home of our exiles; to the institutions which have assisted in our transition: On behalf of the people of South Africa, thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

Our mutual pledge that the welfare of the ordinary person, everywhere, will be the universal concern of all of us, will take much hard work and constant commitment.

For that reason Bonn, as a continuing centre of North-South dialogue, will always be central to the co-operation between Germany and South Africa, and between our two peoples.

It is a tribute to the relationship we are building that many representatives of South Africa's people have visited your wonderful city, and many more will do so in the future.

I thank you.

Source: Nelson Mandela Foundation