Address by President Nelson Mandela at the banquet in honour of the Prime Minister of Singapore, Cape Town

25 February 1997

Your Excellency, Prime Minister Goh and Madame Goh;
Deputy President Mbeki;
Members of the Diplomatic Corps;
Distinguished Guests;
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It gives me great pleasure to welcome you to our country. I hope that your visit will be as rewarding as the short time I had the good fortune to spend in Singapore not long ago.

On that all too brief visit I was struck by both the differences and similarities between our two countries. We may be set apart by the size of our countries and by the general levels of prosperity, not to mention sheer geographical distance and language. Yours is an entirely urban country, while ours has a large rural population. But we do have in common the experience of changes which have led those who contemplate our recent histories to speak of miracles.

Singapore went through a rapid economic transformation from a small, poor country into a global financial centre boasting one of the highest per capital incomes in the world; the preferred location of many major corporate headquarters; a transport hub for the region; and the destination of over 7 million visitors per year, amongst them many South Africans.

South Africa's political transformation has taken it in the space of a few short years from division and conflict within an oppressive system based on racial discrimination into a society whose citizens are united in working together to build a better life for all its people.

In each case we speak of a miracle because we are only too mindful of the contrast between where we might still have been, and where we are today. Yet we do all know that the changes were brought about because the people of our countries were determined leave the past behind and work for a common future.

During your visit you will sense a mood that will be familiar to you, a confidence that feeds on progress in overcoming challenges through unity, shared commitments and a readiness to put long-term interest above short-term consideration.

We do not underestimate the problems we face but this same approach, we have no doubt, will enable us to achieve our goal of sustained economic growth and development. We are strengthened in this not only by the sound economic foundations we have laid, but also by the readiness of other countries to share with us the benefits of their own success, not least Singapore.

The rapidly growing bilateral trade between Singapore and South Africa, increasing investment from Singapore and the participation of a growing number of South Africans in your government's valued Technical Assistance Programme - these expanding economic relations help fuel our engine of growth and development.

Your presence in our country will add impetus to these encouraging beginnings. It will help swell the number of Singaporeans visiting our country as tourists, traders and investors, as well as the stream of South Africans going to Singapore.

It will be our purpose in visiting Singapore next week - accompanied like you by a strong business delegation - to add yet more bricks to the structure of economic relations linking our countries and our peoples.

We are encouraged by the fact that you will be visiting other countries of Southern Africa. Our region is taking great strides towards realising its immense potential for development through co-operation, and we look forward to substantial growth in the coming years in the bonds between Southern Africa and Southeast Asia, between SADC and ASEAN. Within the framework of the Indian Ocean Rim initiative as well, we see great opportunities to unleash the benefits of co-operation between Asia and a resurgent Africa.

Mr Prime Minister, we welcome you to South Africa as a statesman and a friend. Without detracting from these serious matters, we hope that you and Madame Goh will find the time to savour our country's beauty, the rich diversity of its people and culture, and the warmth of their hospitality and friendship for the people of Singapore.

Ladies and gentlemen;

I ask you rise to join me in a toast to President Ong Teng Cheong and the people of Singapore, and to the flourishing of relations between our countries.

Issued by: Office of the President

Source: South African Government Information Website