Address by President Nelson Mandela at a State Banquet hosted by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

9 July 1996

Your Majesty;
Your Royal Highness and Honoured Guests.

It is indeed an honour to be received by Her Majesty this evening, an honour for our government; for the South African nation, and for me personally.

We were overjoyed to receive your invitation to visit the United Kingdom. Together with last year's first Royal State Visit to a democratic South Africa, this visit, we believe, will set the seal on the new relationship between our two countries.

The enthusiasm with which you were welcomed, wherever you went in our country, will have told you more clearly than words that the antagonisms of past centuries are no more. As we approach the twenty-first century our relationship is one of friendship, fortified on South Africa's side by a warmth and respect for yourself, for Britain and for the Commonwealth.

This century has also been one of profound change for the world as a whole. Through many changes have led to a better world, much of the globe is still pervaded by poverty or conflict which it should have been within human capacity to eliminate. South Africa is eager to join hands with Britain in the world community of nations as a partner for peace and prosperity into the new millennium.

As an African country, we cherish our links with the rest of the world. We value in particular our burgeoning cultural, historical, and economic relations with Her Majesty's Government and the people of Britain.

The British Military Assistance and Training Team continues to do sterling work in assisting with the transformation of our Defence Force. Cultural, educational and technical co-operation between our peoples is flourishing in the climate of our new relationship.

Sporting links have their own dynamic. This visit does also give me the opportunity to do what I can to ensure that no damage is done to our good relationship by the way in which our sportsmen have been treating yours. I would therefore like to make an apology on their behalf. However victors are well-advised to cultivate humility. We do not count on winning future contests!

It is in the economic sphere that our links are most developed and growing most rapidly. Over the past two years British investors have shown their confidence in South Africa's future by increasing the already substantial levels of trade and investment. We are especially pleased at the strong growth in South African exports to Britain.

We appreciate the active support which Her Majesty's Government has given to the promotion of increased British trade and investment in South Africa. One of the principal purposes of our visit will be to further strengthen those links. Our delegation is keenly looking forward to its engagement with your business leaders, and is grateful for the commitment and the efforts that have been put into making this possible.

South Africa treasures its membership of the Commonwealth. We are very glad to have been accepted by an organisation which spans continents and brings such a rich diversity of nations together with the objective of promoting international understanding, world peace, and prosperity. South Africa is determined to make its humble contribution to realising these noble goals.

We were honoured last December to host the Commonwealth Health Ministers' Conference. In February this year I joined the Commonwealth Military Legion, as one of its proud members, in celebrating its 75th anniversary inn Cape Town. The occasion reminded us that our friendship had been tested in the crucible of the two world wars, in the struggle to attain and defend human dignity.

Your Majesty,

Once more, may I say how honoured we feel to be here on a State Visit. We keenly look forward to the opportunities which the next three days will bring.

May I ask everyone to raise their glasses and drink a toast to Her Majesty the Queen, His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh, the Government and the people of the United Kingdom, and the Commonwealth for Nations.

Source: Nelson Mandela Foundation