Address by President Nelson Mandela on receiving the Freedom of Pietermaritzburg

25 April 1997

Mayor Omar Latiff;
Distinguished guests;
Ladies and gentlemen,

I feel deeply honoured to be awarded the Freedom of the City of Pietermaritzburg. For me personally this city has strong associations that make this a moving occasion.

I accept the Freedom you bestow on me with humility, knowing that, through me, you are honouring the whole South African nation. It is a tribute to their achievement in building democracy, peace and unity upon the ashes of apartheid.

Pietermaritzburg has produced more than its fair share of freedom fighters. Some are still with us to see how South Africa, and this city, are using freedom to build a better life for all. Others, like Moses Mabidha, Harry Gwala, Dr. Chota Motala, Jabu Ndlovu and Alan Paton we will always remember.

Pietermaritzburg has its legions who, like the legendary Gandhi, could not be deflected from their struggle to end racism and oppression in our country. Amongst them are those who are today honoured graduates of Robben Island and other prisons of apartheid. I know, Mr Mayor, that the freedom you have conferred on me is theirs too.

There are the countless fighters - men and women, young and old, prominent and unknown - who braved detention and torture. There are those who paid the ultimate sacrifice, and others who lost sisters and brothers, husbands or wives, children and parents in violence whose fomentors are being exposed through the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. We remember them all. We salute them, glad that members of their families who are with us today will know it was not in vain.

In its very names your city evokes powerful currents of our history: the spirit that brought the Voortrekkers to this place; the proud independence of Umgungundhlovu, the Royal Kraal of Dingane, lost to better-armed colonial forces but never forsaken.

It is our good fortune to be living in a time when all the people of South Africa are uniting to put into practice the basic truth that none can enjoy freedom and stability unless all are accorded equal rights.

Today Pietermaritzburg has a democratically elected council in which its citizens in all their diversity are represented. We salute the leaders of this city who have joined hands in the quest to make Umgungundhlovu a better place for all who live in it.

Mr Mayor,

In the first two and a half years of democratic government, the foundation for a better life has been laid. The success of our programme of reconstruction and development depends on the collective efforts of communities to uplift themselves.

Government will continue to assist our people in these endeavours. The yardstick by which our progress must be judged is the impact they have on people's lives.

The Municipal Infrastructure Programme allocates over a billion Rands of public funds to improve the delivery of basic social services throughout the country. Greater Pietermaritzburg, we can be sure, will make good use of its R56 million Rand portion to improve roads, water supply, sewerage connections, build clinics and sport facilities.

It is through this kind of concrete project, whose success depends on co-operation among all sectors, that our new nation is being forged.

Our strategy for growth, employment and redistribution is beginning to bear fruit. The industrial revolution through which we are going brings great opportunities at the local level. Government is working with local authorities, business and labour to realise the potential.

That is why the Department of Trade and Industry is engaging with your footwear and leather industry to help it gear itself for international competition. That is why it is promoting the establishment of aluminium factories here, downstream from the enormous Hulett's project. All these efforts have great potential for job-creation and exports.

Through such developments Pietermaritzburg is destined to become an important link in the Southern Industrial development corridor extending to Durban and Richards Bay. I am confident, Mr Mayor, that your council will not be found wanting in the efforts that are needed to get them off the ground.

We are heartened by the decline of political violence in KwaZulu/Natal. Our gratitude and congratulations must go to all those who have helped bring this about - security forces, religious leaders, business-persons and political leaders.

It is because the KwaZulu/Natal Peace Initiative must succeed, that government has allocated it R100 million of RDP funds in the 1997/98 budget. If we unite to reject and isolate elements who abuse our organisations to fan the flames of violence for whatever reason, we will not just reduce levels of violence, but wipe it out completely.

Mr Mayor, Councillors;

In accepting the freedom of Pietermaritzburg, I do so confident that its people will rise to the challenges of building on the foundations we have laid, as they met the challenges of the past.

May I once again thank you for the honour you are doing me. I am proud to be a citizen of a city that has made so much progress in uniting its people; in creating the conditions under which the good men and women who exist in all communities and parties can work together for the benefit of all.

I thank you.

Issued by: Office of the President

Source: South African Government Information Website