Address by President Nelson Mandela at the banquet in his honour in Brunei

3 March 1997

Your Majesties,
Your Royal Highnesses,
Distinguished guests,
Ladies and gentlemen

It is certainly a great pleasure for me to be in your country, and to enjoy the privilege of His Majesty's hospitality.

Seven years ago I had the pleasure of visiting your country and holding discussions with Your Majesty, under very different circumstances from today.

Then I was a freedom fighter recently released from prison but still denied citizenship in the country of my birth. And Brunei was scarcely in the sixth year of its independence as a nation.

Today Brunei is well-established as a respected member of the family of the nations of the world. Its mark is felt in the multilateral forums that represent the collective effort of humanity towards a better world: the United Nations, the Commonwealth and the Non-Aligned Movement.

Since that visit South Africa has lived through seven tumultuous years which have taken it across the threshold from oppression and conflict to the unity of a nation that has a common mission to improve the lives of all its people.

The international community, without whose support our freedom would have been unthinkable, has embraced a free South Africa with open arms. We too are now full and equal members of those same world forums with Brunei. The representatives of our two countries, we believe, can be counted on to find each other in consensus and mutual support, imbued with the aim of improving international relations and strengthening the bonds between our two countries.

In such ways are freedom and independence the midwives of co-operation between nations. We take the greatest satisfaction in the knowledge that South Africa's first High Commissioner to Brunei presented her credentials to Your Majesty just weeks ago. The foundations have been laid for the building of a strong and expanding relationship. I trust that our visit to your country and your warm reception will lend good speed to these developments.

Your Majesty,

In gaining our freedom we won the chance at last to address the basic needs of our people. We have seized that opportunity to work for a better life for all South Africans; to join hands with our neighbours in Southern Africa to realise its dream of development through co-operation; to claim our place in the ranks of Africa's nations working for the rebirth of our continent. We take pride in the fact that our own freedom has been associated with the removal of so many impediments to development, and that our own achievements are recognised as Africa's achievements.

We are greatly encouraged by the positive response of Asia, including specifically countries in South East Asia, to these developments. Some now rank amongst our top trading and investment partners. In this context we look forward to closer co-operation between ASEAN and our own regional organisation, SADC, as a development that can only bode well for the 600 million inhabitants of these two regional blocs.

Your Majesty, our respective histories have decreed that our relationship as free countries has started with very little in the way of two-way trade. We believe that there is scope for significant change in this regard over the next few years, and are confident that such a development would be to the advantage of both Brunei and South Africa.

Beyond the commercial profits of expanded trade and investment between our countries, such relations also bring positive effects on the lives of people as economic growth is translated into the benefits of development. And with rising prosperity comes stability, peace and security, ideals which I have learnt are expressed in the name of your country; Brunei Darusssalaam.

May our visit and the discussions it brings be a firm step in that direction.

Ladies and gentlemen;

May I ask you to join me in a toast to the continued health and happiness of our most gracious host, His Majesty, and to the Government and people of Brunei Darussalaam. May the bonds of friendship between ourselves and our peoples flourish in the years ahead.

Source: South African Government Information Website