Address by President Nelson Mandela at the official opening of the Cape Town SOS Children's Village

25 May 1996

Mr Helmut Kutin, President of SOS-Kinderdorf International;
Honourable Ministers;
Members of the Western Cape Provincial Executive;
Distinguished guests;
Ladies and gentlemen.

The children of South Africa have assumed a responsibility beyond their years, both in the freeing of our country and in building its future. This SOS Badge of Honour in Gold really belongs to them, and to all those who have joined hands to ensure that the children of the future have a better life than themselves. It is on their behalf that I humbly accept the award.

I am also greatly honoured to accept the jersey presented to me by our young football star. As some of you may know, I am a keen collector of jerseys and I shall certainly treasure this one.

It is a great pleasure to join you in celebrating the opening of another worthy project for the benefit of our country's children. I would especially like to thank Mr Kutin, President of SOS-Kinderdorf International, for making the long journey from Austria to be with us today. Your personal attention to the plight of our country's children is greatly appreciated.

The plight of South Africa's children is also of concern to me, personally. Our children have borne the brunt of Apartheid's ravaging deprivation. Most were robbed of their right to a decent education; adequate health care; stable family lives and sometimes of their entire childhood. And this applies to the majority of children. The graver circumstances of those who are homeless, destitute or orphaned without any love or care, are deeply distressing.

Soon after my release from prison I visited the Ennerdale and Mamelodi SOS Villages, where I was warmly welcomed by the children. I found that these children now had a home, a mother and a safe, secure place in which to live.

During a recent visit to South Africa by Queen Noor of Jordan I learned from her of the inspiring world-wide work of the organisation. Its holistic and nurturing approach reflects the vision and ideals of the South Africa we are building.

Democracy has brought us the opportunity to make a reality of this vision. It means that our country has a government that puts the needs of people first. And it means that our friends in the international community who share our democratic ideals, like SOS-International, are now able to join hands with us in addressing these needs.

Our government is extremely pleased to work with you in providing a permanent home for the orphaned and abandoned children of South Africa. We deeply appreciate the decision of SOS-International to invest R60 million in its work for children in South Africa.

Your work is a shining example of kind of partnership on which the achievement of all our goals depends. The tasks we face, great though they are, can be achieved when government is able to work together with every sector of society - non-governmental organisations, the private sector, international funders, and the community.

Democratic local authorities, to be established for the very first time in this province in next week's local elections, will give local communities a new voice, and strengthen the relationship between the Children's Villages and the communities in which they are located. We are encouraged by your approach to also making the villages serve as resource centres and models for communities.

Of great importance, too, is the fact that you are not only meeting the immediate needs of your children, but also creating opportunities for them to develop into self-sufficient, dynamic adults who will contribute to their fullest potential to the development of our country.

For all these reasons, we welcome your efforts to provide more beautiful children's projects across the country, such as this one. I encourage you to have one in each of our provinces as a symbol of hope and peace for children in need of love and security all over South Africa.

As your next project is to be in Umtata, I hope I am permitted to be an occasional visitor. It will be near my childhood home, from where I take my strength and which holds fond memories. I look forward to watching this new project grow for the benefit of that region's children.

Dear Friends;

It is my hope that within this community a culture of understanding, acceptance and love can be nurtured. Let this Children's' Village be an example of tolerance and reconciliation so that we, as adults, can learn from these children.

I would like to end by saying to each young person here today, that I love you very much.

You are the future of South Africa. The hope of our rainbow nation.

Thank you.

Source: Nelson Mandela Foundation