Address by President Nelson Mandela at the launch of the Friends of Nelson Mandela Children's Fund, London - United Kingdom

12 July 1996

Honourable Mendi Msimang;
Chairperson of Friends of the Nelson Mandela children's Fund in the UK;
Mr Nicky Oppenheimer and other Directors of Friends;
Distinguished guests.

Early tomorrow morning I will be leaving Britain. Over the past five days I and my colleagues have been privileged to engage with the government and people of Britain in a way that we had never dreamed of.

We had expected to be well-received. But the goodwill and warmth we have experienced on this visit has been beyond our wildest expectations. It has been quite overwhelming and deeply humbling. I will cherish the memories of my encounters with the people of this great country.

Wherever we went we felt the commitment in government and in every sphere of society to build strong relations between our countries. I will be able to tell my people that in Britain we have true friends, partners in making a reality of the vision of a better life for all.

What was clear in all our encounters was that the welcome we received grew from two things: a shared commitment to the goals of freedom and justice; and an appreciation of the way in which South Africans have so speedily put behind them the division and conflict engendered by the apartheid system. People are moved by the spectacle of former enemies joining hands to work for the important things they share, rather than remain divided because of the lesser things about which they disagree.

This is something that moves me too. Time and again ordinary South Africans have proved to be far in advance of the politicians in reaching out to each other and building a new society based on equality and mutual respect.

It is this powerful impulse towards unity and peace which has given the government the strength to chart a clear and firm path of reconstruction and development.

We do not underestimate the problems we face. On the contrary we recognise their enormity, but we are nevertheless confident that South Africans have the capacity and the will to deal with them. Our confidence grows out of the readiness of all major role-players to join hands and find solutions, putting long-term interests above short-term considerations: be it in the implementation of the government's macroeconomic strategy; in defining labour relations and labour market policies; or in dealing with crime.

Broad partnerships which harness our nation's resources are the key to achieving our goals, because they give each and every person the opportunity to be part of bringing about change.

One area of consensus which binds South Africans is the concern for their children. We have recently launched a National Programme of Action for Children in which government is working hand in hand with its social partners to make the interests of the child paramount and give them first call on society's resources.

A small part of the alliance for children's needs is the Children's Fund, the British chapter of which we are launching today. Tonight therefore marks a special and very exciting moment in the development of our Children's Fund.

Assembled here are distinguished members of British society and South Africans, joined in their commitment to alleviate the plight of South Africa's youth.

It would be improper to select some for special mention, but I cannot contain my pleasure at being in the company of so many old Friends and the members of the Board of Directors of the Friends of our Fund registered here in the United Kingdom. I wish to thank you all assembled here, for replying to our call.

This is a new alliance in the making. Eminent people from this land are again reaching out across the oceans to join hands with the Rainbow Nation that is now South Africa. The antagonisms of centuries gone by are transforming into a partnership for the future.

I am very proud to be associated with so generous and so noble a development.

The Children's Fund was initiated in South Africa in order to lend urgency to the task of addressing the wrong done to our youth and to help them prepare for the future. It is this humble wish which motivated me to launch the fund and pledge over one third of my salary to it for five years. It was also a way of making a personal commitment to the World Declaration on the Survival, Protection and Development of the child.

For me personally, it is one of the cruellest facets of South Africa's history that so many young people are living a life on the margins of the society.

In building a new South Africa, our children must be one of our highest priorities. they are the foundation on which our future is being built.

The Fund is all about opening the doors of opportunity and releasing the potential of our young people.

Our main aim is to strengthen their capacity to engage positively and successfully in every aspect of life.

Issued by: Office of the President

Source: South African Government Information Website