Address by President Nelson Mandela on receiving Freedom of Heidelberg at the Ratanda Stadium

29 November 1996

Your Worship, Busi Modisakeng, Mayor of Heidelberg,
Members of the Heidelberg Town Council,
Members of the National and Provincial legislatures,
People of Heidelberg,
Ladies and gentlemen

I feel greatly honoured to be counted amongst the citizens of Heidelberg. This is a town stands on the spot which was once the cross-roads for travellers across our land. For that reason it has played an important part in the development of our country's transport system.

But it has also been a cross-roads of history, part of an area in which many of the political forces that have shaped our country met and often clashed in epic struggles.

We think of the ancient civilisation to which this area was home before the turmoils of the past two centuries.

We think of the mighty Mzilikazi whose kingdom reached here for a time. We think of those who struggled to regain their independence, only to lose it again to better-armed colonial forces.

The monuments of Heidelberg recall the struggle of those self-same Boers for freedom from the British imperial forces.

For close on two hundred years the region was a theatre of struggles for freedom and independence; it witnessed short-lived alliances in which only the most powerful benefited and the majority were deprived of rights.

Out of such experience was born the understanding that there could be no lasting peace and prosperity in this town and the rest of South Africa unless all enjoyed freedom and justice as equals.

Out of such experience was born the vision of a free South Africa belonging to all who lived in it, of a nation united in diversity and working together to make a better life for all.

In our own time the yearning for freedom saw intense struggles and sacrifices on the part of the democratic organisations of this town. Tragically, promising leaders like John Parkie and Linda Motsepe were taken from us on the very eve of liberation, leaving wounds that may one day be soothed by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

But Heidelberg has put these conflicts and divisions behind it. In April 1994, along with the rest of our country, you voted for democracy. In your first democratic local elections you chose a council which brings together those whom apartheid once separated.

That is why I feel so honoured to receive the freedom of your town. This is a town whose people treasure their own freedom, and are determined to work together to make Heidelberg a better place to live.

Today we stand at a new cross-roads.

Democratic government brings us the opportunity at last to realise our Vision of a better life. But it will not come easily, and it will not come over-night. It will require commitment and hard work. It will require the active participation of all our people, and a partnership of ail sectors of society working to improve the lives of all our people.

Your municipality is already setting an example, by the RDP projects it is implementing, and by its concern to involve community organisations in its decisions.

When this is combined with the level of Heidelberg/Ratanda's service payments - one of the highest in Gauteng - then we know that the spirit of Masakhane lives in your hearts. It means that the citizens of Heidelberg and those they elected as their representatives, recognise that development and the provision of services are the responsibility of all of us.

This spirit will stand us in good stead as we face the challenges ahead of us.

One of these challenges, for our nation and for this area, is the housing backlog. Government is doing its utmost in this regard. The donation by a local farmer of land for the development of housing for farmworkers is a good example of how all sectors can lend a hand.

Amongst our greatest challenges is to create jobs in an area where more than half the people are unemployed.

Business, labour and community organisations in this area need to work with local government to find ways of realising Heidelberg's potential for growth and development. The self help projects and the efforts by the town council to attract investment are a good start.

Fellow-citizens of Heidelberg;

By rising to these challenges we can turn this town and its surrounding areas into the proud homes of all who live here. You have it in your power to make Heidelberg, Ratanda, Shalimar Ridge and Suikerbosrand into truly South African communities, peaceful and prosperous localities of our Rainbow Nation.

Madam Mayor;

Once more I would like to thank you and your council and the people of Heidelberg for the honour you have bestowed on me today. I will always be proud of my association with this community.

Source: Nelson Mandela Foundation