Address by President Nelson Mandela at the official opening of the Nelson Mandela Community Park, Mamelodi

6 September 1996

Your Excellencies;
Minister of Water Affairs and Forestry;
Boys and Girls;
Ladies and Gentlemen.

It is a great joy to be with you all today. Soon this park will be filled with the sound of children laughing, playing and learning. There could be no greater honour for me than the idea that one day my name will be associated with people's fond memories of childhood.

While I was in prison I tended a small garden. I had to excavate a great many rocks in that garden to allow plants to grow. But the end result was always worth the effort because planting a seed and watching it grow gave me simple, enduring pleasure. It taught me to appreciate nature and how to be productive in spite of my restrictions.

I have a bigger garden now. But my list of chores for the day seems to have extended somewhat over the last six years, and I have very little time to do gardening. However I still feel an immense sense of pride when news about projects such as this reaches my ears.

I am inspired firstly by the partners of this project. When communities, government, civil society and the private sector co-operate, barriers are broken down and we are strengthened as a nation.

The building of this park has captured the spirit of the new patriotism in our land. By transforming an area once used as a dump into a recreational area the community is reclaiming its life. It demonstrates that the people are ready to participate in the socio-economic upliftment of our country. It is a living example of the spirit of Masakhane, of working together to build one another.

It also shows that communities, when given the chance, want to beautify our urban surroundings with nature. These townships were build as dormitories for a despised workforce, rather than areas of permanent residence. As a result they were neglected and provided with few services and facilities. This is what we inherited.

That is why it is so heartwarming to visit a community that is working to provide a recreational facility for children, for the aged and the community at large.

Democracy took South Africa back into the world economy, opening up new opportunities for growth and industrial development. The road that passes through this area is part of the Maputo Corridor Development Project. It is a powerful example of the potential for growth and development. But as the pace of industrialisation and growth quickens, we should take care to prevent the decay of our beautiful country. Our cities and towns must be planned with this vision in mind.

Every tree planted today will benefit many future generations. A Sotho saying comes to mind: Moaha moriti ha adule - Plant trees for others. For years to come this park will be a source of joy to the community of Mamelodi and to their friends and visitors. South Africa can be proud of Mamelodi's achievement.

And now, it gives me great pleasure to officially declare this park open.

Source: Nelson Mandela Foundation