Address by President Nelson Mandela at banquet in honour of Her Majesty Queen Beatrix of The Netherlands

30 September 1996

Your Majesty,
Your Royal Highnesses;
Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Distinguished guests;
Ladies and Gentlemen

It is indeed an honour for the whole South African nation, for our government and for me personally, to welcome you here this evening.

Your visit to a democratic South Africa is a very special occasion for us.

Our relationship spans more than three centuries, and for most of that time it has been a complex one. But so inextricably have the Netherlands and the Southern tip of Africa been linked, that history has bequeathed us ties which are now of great value.

Die blote feit dat ek 'n taal van ons land kan gebruik wat U Majesteit maklik verstaan, dui op die uitgebreide bande wat sedert eeue tussen ons twee land bestaan - bande, nie net op taal en kulturele terrein nie, maar oor die hele spektrum van die Suid- Afrikaanse samelewing.

Our Rainbow Nation is enriched by this cultural legacy, and it is one in which we take pride. It is also one that will serve our countries well as we build the partnership that has evolved so rapidly since our transition to democracy began.

South Africa would not have achieved democracy without the support of millions across the world.

It has not escaped the notice of South Africans that the country from which the majority of European settlers in our country originated, the country from which the architects of apartheid were spawned, the country from which racists sought to draw succour, is a country that stood amongst the firmest against racism in South Africa.

It has not escaped our notice that the Dutch people mobilised massively in a strong anti-apartheid movement, that amongst its campaigners were many that shared our struggle in the trenches, including the underground - and that there is so much that we gained and continue to gain from the Netherlands in terms of material support and your force of example in democracy and human rights.

We take this opportunity to say once more to the government and people of the Netherlands: Thank you for your unwavering commitment to justice, freedom and peace.

We appreciate deeply the extent to which your commitment to our freedom has been translated into generous support for development and the strengthening of democracy in South Africa.

South Africa also appreciates the support from the Netherlands in international fora such as the European Union.

The expansion of economic ties between our two countries in recent years is most heartening, especially in the areas of shipping, banking, tourism and telecommunications. The exchange of high-level visits and several recently signed agreements have helped consolidate this development.

But there is room for much more and the fact that Your Majesty has brought a business delegation with you is very welcome. They will find South Africans from every sector of society mobilised within a macroeconomic framework that is gearing the country for increased growth and trade. They will appreciate first hand the massive opportunities that South Africa offers, including many incentives for their investment to flourish. They will notice without the mediating force of other people's perceptions of South Africa, especially where these perceptions come from people who were opposed in the first instance to democratic change, that South Africa is not problem-free but that our strength as a nation lies in our determination to address these problems.

In short, Your Majesty, they will find us more ready than ever to do business!

The rapid growth in our bilateral relations extends to every sphere. The way has been opened for still stronger bonds through the talks we held today and the agreement we signed for co-operation in the fields of education and science, arts and culture, health, welfare and sport.

Your Majesty and Your Royal Highnesses, I and many South Africans have fond memories of our visits to the Netherlands. We are delighted to have you as guests in our country. I wish you a pleasant stay, and I am confident that wherever you go, you will feel the warmth that South Africans bear in their hearts for Your Majesty and for your country.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I ask you all to join me in a toast to Her Majesty Queen Beatrix and the people of the Netherlands; and to the flourishing of friendship between our peoples.

Issued by: The Office of the President

Source: South African Government Information Website