Address by President Nelson Mandela at banquet in honour of President Rafsanjani of Iran

12 September 1996

Your Excellency President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani,
Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and gentlemen

It is a great privilege to host you and your distinguished delegation. We hope that you will enjoy your short stay in our country. I still remember with great fondness the visit we paid to your country four years ago.

At the time of that visit, our country was still clawing its way out of decades of the apartheid nightmare. Our first ever democratic elections still lay ahead of us. As you know, Mr President, that transition was a resounding success and we are today a fully-fledged democracy.

Within a short time democratic South Africa has been accepted among the nations of the world. We are an active member of a number of international and regional organisations. As survivors of a repressive and criminal system, we have identified the protection of human rights as a top priority in our foreign policy.

Our freedom has brought the opportunity at last to address the basic needs of our people. Although the task is gigantic, an encouraging start has been made along the road of Reconstruction and Development towards the goals we have set ourselves.

As we rebuild our country we also seek to strengthen bonds with those who stood by us during the darkest of times. After the triumph of the 1979 Revolution your country, Mr President, sacrificed much in support of our cause. Iran refused to oil the system which the world regarded as a crime against humanity. That approach informed your policy towards South Africa until apartheid was dismantled. Although we conveyed our gratitude through your high-powered delegation at the inauguration of our Government. I still feel obliged to say once more to the people of Iran: "Thank you."

Today we meet as free men and women. With the bitter history behind us, we must now tackle the daunting task of eradicating poverty and improving the lives of our peoples. The ties of brotherhood we forged during the struggle for freedom form the foundation of co-operation in this new campaign.

Mr President;

It is heartening that relations between our governments have made very good progress, thanks in part to the work of the Joint Commission which we established. Indeed we can boast of good working relations in a variety of fields.

The potential for economic co-operation has been manifested by the way trade between our countries has multiplied; as well as the growing interchange of business delegations. More work is being done to further strengthen these relations, including the exploration of ways to redress the imbalance in the trade between our two countries.

A key to our development lies in closer co-operation with other developing countries. No country will succeed in breaking out of underdevelopment on its own. Southern Africa and the Gulf States need to share resources and experiences, and pull together in unison until we achieve our goal. That is why South Africa places such emphasis on the activities of our regional economic bloc, SADC. And that is why we play an achieve role in organisations like the OAU, the Commonwealth, and the Non Aligned Movement.

Mr President;

I look forward to our meeting tomorrow. I do so with the conviction that we will be able to explore possibilities for further joint co-operation as well as ways to broaden our trade ties and improve mutual understanding between our two nations.

Ladies and gentlemen;

May I now ask you to join me in wishing long life to President Rafsanjani and the flourishing of relations between the peoples of Iran and South Africa.

Source: South African Government Information Website