Address by President Nelson Mandela at the Food for Life Festival

23 April 1997

National Director of Hare Krishna Food for Life;
Sponsors of the Food for Life Festival;
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am delighted to be here today. It always gives me great pleasure to be surrounded by the beautiful children of our land. Whenever I am with energetic young people such as yourselves I feel like a recharged battery; confident that our country can look forward to great things. You are the future of this country - you are the people who will lead us into the next century.

It is the job of today's leaders to make sure that by the time your turn comes to lead our country, it will be an enjoyable task to perform.

The programme of our government is like building a big house for all South Africans. It must be well-built with strong foundations. It must be big enough to shelter the whole family; and all who live in it must be in comfort and have their basic needs met.

Many of you are too young to remember much about the old house of apartheid. It was built on very shaky foundations. It barred doors and divided us into a few who lived well and the rest who were held back, and then it kept us apart from each other. Your parents' generation had to fight apartheid, get rid of it and then lay the foundation for a free and secure society.

It is only three years since South Africa achieved democracy. But in that time the foundations for a better life have been laid. Now it is up to each one of us help build on those foundations.

One of the most important building blocks is our concern for our children. That is why children have special protection in our new constitution, the most important law of our land. That is why one of the first things the government did was to make sure that young children under the age of six could get free health care in the clinics and hospitals of our country. That is why we have school feeding schemes, to make sure children do not go hungry at school. That is why we are making sure that all South Africa's children can get the best education the country can afford. And that is why we are doing our best to prevent the abuse of children.

Another important building block fur new democracy is the love and goodwill we show to each other. That is the spirit of Masakhane, of building one another together it is also the spirit of today's festival organised by Hare Krishna Food for Life.

I take this opportunity to extend our warmest thanks on behalf of all of us here today for the kindness and dedication that you have shown by bringing us all together. Your goal of a hunger-free South Africa is one that is shared by the government and the ANC. It is central to the reconstruction and development of our country. Already more than four million people - school children and other people - have been reached by our nutrition programmes. Your efforts are making a practical contribution to this most urgent task.

Together with the sponsors, you have helped us send a message to the world that the children of South Africa are free and that South Africa cares for its children that apartheid did was to divide our children, and prevent them from living, studying and playing together. Today we can see how much we all missed. Today we can see that our children are leading in the building of the new South Africa.

You should never forget that most of your parents did not have the rights that you enjoy; and that they struggled hard and sacrificed much so that you could enjoy them. We must all work even harder to protect them. By studying hard at school and acquiring skills so that you can become productive members of society you will also protect our new democracy and make South Africa a better place to live.

When I look at the joy on your faces I know that we have a bright future. Let us all work together to ensure that our country grows into a happy family, free from the divisions and the poverty of the past.

Let me end by assuring each and every one of you that we love you. You are our nation's most precious treasure and the hope of our Rainbow Nation.

I thank you.

Source: Nelson Mandela Foundation