Address by President Nelson Mandela at a public rally in celebration of the 25th anniversary of the independence of Bangladesh

26 March 1997

Master of Ceremonies;
President Shahabuddin Ahmed;
Your Excellencies;
President Suleyman Demirel of Turkey President Yasser Arafat of Palestine Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina;
Distinguished guests;
Ladies and gentlemen;

We have come to Bangladesh to pay homage to a people that knows what it is to fight for freedom.

While South Africa's democracy is still in its infancy, while we are still crawling from the darkness of apartheid into the sunshine of freedom, Bangladesh today celebrates 25 years of independence. The people of South Africa, indeed the entire African continent, join you in these hard-earned celebrations.

As every people that has emerged from the jaws of colonialism and oppression knows, the road to independence and freedom is never easy. We are here today to pay tribute to the commitment and the sacrifices of the people and leaders of the Indian sub-continent, in the first instance in the struggle against British colonialism.

I have a great regard for Sheikh Mujibar Rahman, the leader of your Independence movement, Bangabandhu - Friend of Bengal. Standing here today, I too would like to become a "Friend of Bengal", as part of the partnership we are forging with the people of this sub-continent.

South Africa has much to learn from your rich and proud history. You have faced the same challenges that our country is grappling with today - creating effective government, economic renewal; and working with other nations to ensure self-determination and co-operation for peace and development.

Since your independence, you have been steadfast in your support for the struggle for freedom in South Africa. The long distance between out countries did not make you care less for our needs. You knew that none can be free until all are free.

For your selfless support; for making our cause your own, we thank you in the name of the people of South Africa. I am proud to report to you as their elected representative that in the short time since we achieved democracy with your help we have laid the foundation for a better life for all South Africans.

Today democratic South Africa is committed to working with Bangladesh for the same noble goals within the international community: in the Non-Aligned Movement, the Commonwealth and the United Nations.

Today the bonds of solidarity between Bangladesh and South Africa are being turned into friendship and co-operation between independent nations.

During our visit to Bangladesh we will take the opportunity to explore with your government how to open the way for closer co-operation in the political, economic and cultural fields.

We will discussing how we can work together within the International community to make the world a better place for all peoples; how we can work together to eliminate the root causes of regional tension and conflict, and build equitable relations among all countries.

We will add strength to the growing relations between our continents of Asia and Africa.

South Africa and Bangladesh shared in the struggle for freedom. Let us now join hands as free peoples in a partnership for peace among nations.

Let us co-operate to create jobs and banish hunger, disease and illiteracy.

Let us build strong Bangladesh-South African relations.

Long live Bangladesh-South African Friendship!

Issued by: Office of the President

Source: South African Government Information Website