Address by President Nelson Mandela on receiving the Freedom of Howick

12 December 1996

Your Worship, Mayor Dlamini; Councillors; Members of the Provincial and National legislatures; People of Howick; Ladies and Gentlemen,

I have been to Howick many times before. But never has a visit had such meaning for me as today.

In 1962 I drove through Howick, never imagining that I would be arrested not far along the road, or that it was to be my last day of freedom for many years to come.

Two days ago, a long chapter of heroic struggle in our nation's history was crowned at Sharpeville, when our new democratic constitution became the highest law of our land.

In coming here today to receive the freedom of your town from you, the people of Howick, I join you in celebrating an event of great importance for the freedom of the entire nation.

We can take pride, as South Africans, in our new constitution. It embodies the ideals and aspirations for which generations have sacrificed.

We should never forget those on whose shoulders we stand; and those who paid the supreme price for freedom.

Howick and the surrounding areas have their share of these heroes and heroines of our freedom.

We remember the farm workers and labour tenants uprooted from the land.

We remember those who helped build our mines and industries, without fair reward; and the trade union leaders who were killed for trying to improve conditions.

We remember those who devoted their whole lives to the eradication of apartheid, some of whom paid with their lives.

We remember those who fled their homes to escape the violence that rocked this region in the late 1980s and early 1990s. And we pray that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission may help ease the pain of these and other memories.

We remember how apartheid divided our communities, so deeply that many lives were lost in conflict; so deeply that some still fear to return to this town.

Above all, we salute all the people of Howick. Because you have looked to the future, beyond your pain and suffering. You have contributed to nation-building by resolving conflicts that for a long time were threatening to wreak havoc over the entire region.

Your efforts to assist the building of democratic local government form part of the nation-building campaign.

Mpophomeni has set a shining example in its positive response to the Masakhane campaign. The strong local tradition of consultation and negotiation will help resolve the deadlock in other areas.

It is encouraging to learn that your elected council, young as it is, has already begun in earnest to address your biggest problem - job creation; that there are many RDP projects underway to improve the infrastructure of townships and health and education facilities; and that land has been identified for the construction of low income housing next year.

These plans will only succeed if you all get involved in the improvement of your own lives and the development of your town.

Co-operation between communities, the town council, the police and others is essential.

The economic development of Howick requires a partnership between government, business and labour. Our new Labour Relations Act provides a framework for such a partnership, based on fair labour relations. It will ensure that never again will Howick, or any other community, experience such devastation as the Sarmcol dispute brought.

Together let us promote youth development projects that give hope to the next generation. Let us assist the authorities in creating agricultural and industrial jobs. Let us enhance the skills of Howick's people so that Howick prospers.

In common with most of KwaZulu/Natal, Howick and the other towns in this area differ sharply from the surrounding rural areas in their party political make-up.

It will be difficult to achieve our plans for development of all the political parties do not co-operate. It will be impossible to maintain peace, if the ANC and IFP in particular do not work together.

In granting me, and through me the people of South Africa, the freedom of Howick, you are pledging your commitment to our shared vision of a peaceful and united South Africa and KwaZulu/Natl. United, we can triumph over all the problems we face.

Let me say once more, how honoured I am to be a citizen of Howick.

Let us join hands for peace and prosperity.

I thank you.

Issued by: Office of the President

Source: South African Government Information Website