New Year's message by President Nelson Mandela for 1997

31 December 1996

Good evening!
Ke a le dumedisa! Ngiyanibingelela!
Ri Perile! Goeienaand!
Ndi madekwana!

1996 draws to a close as South Africa enters a new stage in the nation's efforts to build a better life for all.

Halfway through the term of our first democratically elected government, the seal has been set on our transition to democracy. Our rainbow nation is united by a new patriotism that feeds upon each success as we together build a common and bright future.

Across the land the impact of reconstruction and development is beginning to be felt.

In short, we have laid solid foundations: the challenge for 1997 is to build on them.

When our new Constitution was signed in Sharpeville, the rights for which so many sacrificed, became the supreme law of our land. That was a fitting way to end a year in which we completed the local government elections, to ensure that we do indeed govern ourselves.

The challenge now is to ensure that these constitutional rights become a living reality; that our new local authorities have the capacity to serve those who elected them; that our communities seize the opportunity to work with government to uplift themselves.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission has entered our hearts in a way that few could have foreseen. It has proved itself a powerful instrument of healing and reconciliation. The force of its plea to extend the amnesty date has set the stage for our nation to deepen further still the precious unity which we have forged.

Economically the year ahead will be a testing time for all: government, business and labour; producers and consumers alike. But the fundamentals are sound. By keeping our sights on the long-term we can manage the ebbs and flows of the present.

Congratulations to all law-abiding citizens for uniting and mobilising as never before to tackle crime. We have taken the war to the criminals, and we are gaining the upper hand. This we owe to our security forces and to every South African who has joined the campaign to combat crime.

We can take pride in the fact that millions of people have gained access to water, electricity and health care; that a national education system that will afford quality education is taking shape; that land reform and our housing programmes, are now firmly on track.

It is our duty in the New Year to build on these successes, and forge a society in which our children and grandchildren, and all South Africans, can know peace and security, and enjoy a rising quality of life.

We do know that we have only made a start.

The emphasis for 1997 will be on speeding up the implementation of all these programmes. And on that count, you are the most reliable agents of change: in the villages and towns, in the cities and countryside, in the workplace institutions of learning, in the sports-fields and cultural centres.

You will make this country a winning nation.

In the spirit of Masakhane, let us join hands in a partnership to build a better life for all.

Through tolerance and respect for one another's views, let us entrench the peaceful conditions which create space for the emergence of the good men and women who exist in all communities, and who are the true leaders of our society.

Working together as a united nation, we are bound to succeed.

I wish you all a happy and prosperous New Year.

May God bless South Africa!

Source: Nelson Mandela Foundation