Address by President Nelson Mandela at a banquet hosted by the President of Bangladesh

26 March 1997

Mr President
Your Excellencies
President Suleman Demirel of Turkey
President Yasser Arafat of Palestine
Madam Prime Minister
Distinguished guests
Ladies and gentlemen

It was a great privilege indeed to participate today in the celebrations of your independence along with my distinguished colleagues from Turkey and Palestine. These events bring back warm memories of the birth of a free South Africa, close on to three years ago.

Then, all of South Africa celebrated the dawn of freedom. We rejoiced as a nation at peace with itself; as a people that had, with the support of the world, fulfilled their determination to govern themselves; as a country setting out on the road of democracy.

Those same emotions are alive as we celebrate Bangladeshi independence. Your recent elections have reaffirmed your nation's commitment to multi-party democracy and basic human rights.

Because of that commitment the people of Bangladesh stood with us in our struggle for freedom. For that we thank you.

With freedom comes the opportunity at last to address the basic needs of our people. South Africans have lost no time in using the freedom which they have won. In the first years of democratic government we have laid a solid foundation for a better life, and we are working with increasing effect towards that goal.

If we speak with confidence it is because we have learnt that a nation united in pursuit of shared goals can overcome the most difficult problems. We have learnt about the benefits of co-operation between nations, in particular between those at similar stages of development and with a common legacy of colonialism and poverty.

The ancient network of economic and cultural interaction between Africa and Asia, disrupted by colonial powers and turned to their interests, is being given new life. As independent nations we can shape our own destinies in co-operation with each other. South and Southern Africa's rapidly expanding relations with the countries of the East is a part of that rebirth. And it reaffirms the cultural bonds that exist between our two nations, given concrete meaning by the Bengali community that is part of the South African rainbow nation.

That is the context in which trade between South Africa and Bangladesh has doubled in the past five years. As two economies seeking accelerated growth with export-led expansion and strong manufacturing sectors, we have much to gain from widening these ties. There is enormous potential to do so.

These objectives will be promoted by the Declaration of Intent between South Africa and Bangladesh that I and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina signed yesterday, as well as by the Trade Agreement that our officials are busy negotiating.

South Africa is committed to working with Bangladesh in the international sphere to promote our common goals. In particular we look forward to close co-operation in forums such as the Non-Aligned Movement, the Commonwealth and the United Nations.

Ladies and Gentlemen;

We are greatly encouraged by the ever strengthening relations between ourselves and nations across the world who share our vision.

Together we can help ensure that the emerging international order bring s equity, peace and prosperity to all nations and all peoples as we enter the new millennium.

Allow me to propose a toast to the health of President Ahmed and the people of Bangladesh; and to the flourishing of relations between our two nations.

Issued by: Office of the President

Source: South African Government Information Website