Address by President Nelson Mandela at International Leadership Reunion Dinner

20 October 1996

Master of Ceremonies;
Mr Shimon Peres;
Minister Edelstein;
Cabinet Ministers;
Chief Rabbi Harris;
Distinguished guests;
Ladies and gentlemen.

It is a great honour for South Africa, and for me personally, to welcome so distinguished a gathering of leaders in business, the professions, and political and community affairs from across the world.

Your concerns make you doubly welcome. As people of influence both in your own communities and in the affairs of the nations to which you belong, democratic South Africa is eager to show you what we have to offer. And the cause of peace which unites you is very dear to South Africans, and close to my own heart.

South Africans defied the prophets of doom by putting division and conflict behind them. Problems we do have, yes. But we pride ourselves on the giant steps we have taken to eradicate racism and injustice as well as religious and other forms of intolerance.

This impulse towards the peaceful resolution of differences is deeply rooted amongst ordinary people. They have consistently been far ahead of the politicians in this regard. It shows itself in the way that most sectors of our society are ready to join hands and put long-term interests before short-term considerations.

If South Africa has become a symbol of the peace process, it is due to the people of South Africa themselves. It is they who are honoured by the award which you have bestowed on me.

On their behalf, I humbly accept it, in the fervent hope that what we have achieved as a nation will in some small way serve as a powerful force of example to our continent, and further afield. We pray, too, that by rising as a Rainbow Nation from the ashes of apartheid, we give encouragement to those who work to banish racism from the world.

The initiation of the peace process in the Middle East brought a powerful message of hope. We are convinced that not even the tragic assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin will derail it.

However, like all peace-loving people throughout the world we are extremely concerned by the apparent impasse regarding the implementation of the accord.

Our own humble experience has taught us that such accords are delicate matters, reached after plodding industry and requiring compromise on all sides. Integrity in their implementation, and mutual consent where a review of their content may seem necessary, are as important as the substance of the agreements.

Needless to say, such is the nature of the world we live in, that it is not possible in the long-term to sustain arrangements that do not guarantee self-determination, justice and security as well as religious and other freedoms to communities who desire and deserve them.

We are encouraged by the fact that all the leaders of good standing in the Middle East have resolved to find the most amicable and lasting solutions to the current impasse. Indeed, none of us, wherever we may be in the world, can countenance a reversion to that which laid bare the worst in human nature.

We truly fell honoured today to be in the company of Shimon Peres - a soldier of peace, whose contribution to the peace process we can only marvel at and try to emulate. We are proud to be among men and women, South Africans included, who we know will occupy and defend the trenches of peace with fortitude.

South Africa once more earnestly appeals to everyone concerned to see to it that the process unfolds, without unnecessary delay, to its appointed goals of peace and security for all.

South Africa cannot solve other people's problems, thought we do stand ready to assist in whatever way we can within the limits of our capacity. But our experience has taught us that with goodwill a negotiated solution can be found to even the most profound and seemingly intractable problem.

Our experience has also vindicated our judgement that we had, some years ago, reached a point in our history when it was in the interests of us all to stand together on the important things that united us. Had we not seized that moment, I believe that history would have delivered a harsh judgement upon us all, and especially upon those who were leaders.

It will take years for us to fully reap the fruits of peace, democracy and reconciliation. But the first two years of democratic government have laid a solid foundation for the reconstruction and development of our country.

Already millions have felt the impact on their daily lives of the first steps we have been able to take. As our newly established democratic local authorities get down to work, the pace at which the programmes are implemented will quicken.

Thanks to policies conducive to growth, our economy has moved out of stagnation. The macroeconomic framework adopted five months ago will lift it to still higher levels of growth - six per cent by the year 2000 - in order to create 400,000 jobs a year and produce the resources for reconstruction and development.

A combination of disciplined fiscal and monetary policies, investment incentives, tariff reduction, industrial restructuring and massive training programme is gearing us for success in the global market-place. It is enhancing our capacity to make a significant contribution to the development of Southern Africa and the regeneration of the African economy.

We do not underestimate the problems we face. But our confidence in achieving our targets is founded in the consensus taking root among all sectors of the population.

The same applies to the early successes we have achieved in combating crime. Co-operation between communities and police, together with reform of the police service, is the key to bringing incidents of crime to a minimum.

Ladies and gentlemen;

We are pleased to have so many decision-makers visit us, because it will allow you to see our country with you own eyes and make your own judgements.

You will find a nation proud of the progress it is making in overcoming the legacy of its past, and united in its determination to succeed. We are sure that you will conclude that here is an ideal destination for your Investment, an environment conducive to a partnership of mutual benefit.

We are proud that you are hosted by the South African Jewish community that has made such a signal contribution to South African life in all its spheres, including the world of business and the struggle for human rights. It is a community that is amongst the builders of our new society, a community of patriots determined to make South Africa realise her enormous potential.

We are honoured to be associated with your initiative to promote peace, and we sincerely wish you success in your endeavours. I thank you for the honour that you have bestowed on me, and through me, the people of South Africa. I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Issued by: Office of The President

Source: South African Government Information Website