Address by President Nelson Mandela at Freedom Day celebrations, Upington

27 April 1997

Translated from Afrikaans

Master of Ceremonies; Premier of the Northern Cape; Minister of Arts & Culture, Science & Technology; Mayor of Upington; General Romano; Ladies and gentlemen; Friends and Compatriots.

Three years have passed since the people of South Africa proclaimed their freedom; three years since we made a pledge to work together as a nation to bring a better life for all.

On that day, too, by our votes, we gave birth to new provinces - including your Northern Cape Province - so that government should be closer to the people and reflect the diversity of our country.

And in a process that we completed during our third Freedom Year, we voted in our millions to create democratic and non-racial councils, where they never existed before.

And so today we gather in Upington to celebrate our nation's three years of freedom with you: liberators who helped bring democracy to our land, to this province and to the communities where you live; patriots who turned their backs on division, oppression and conflict, in order to found a new South African nation whose watchwords are Unity, Peace And Prosperity.

This year we have added cause to celebrate. Our deepest aspirations are enshrined now in the basic law of our land. The new constitution has strengthened our unity, both in the democratic manner it was written and in the hopes it embodies. It has become a cornerstone of the New Patriotism. It is a framework for undoing the legacy of our divided past and improving the quality of life.

Dear friends;

The strength of the new South African nation we are building lies in the room it gives for each and every language, culture and religion to flourish. These have the same power to unite us as the international achievements of our sports men and women. That is why we are celebrating our unity by giving free reign to the rich diversity of our cultures in every province. That is why we are here in Upington.

In holding the national Freedom Day celebrations in the Northern Cape, we are paying tribute to a shining example of nation-building and reconciliation; to people who - away from the legacy of neglect as great as anywhere else in our country; to a region with an inspiring history and richness of culture that has been too long hidden from view.

In a part of our country almost as diverse as the whole nation, a new distinctive identity is being woven from the strands of Griqua and Tswana; Khoikhoi and Afrikaner, San and Xhosa; Coloured, White, Indian and African.

Across our land communities and researchers are working to undo the distorted accounts of our history forced on us by colonialism and apartheid. Our legacy of hundreds, indeed thousands, of years of civilisation in South Africa is being recovered. The epic resistance of proud communities defending land, independence and dignity is being told for all to hear.

Later today we will be commemorating the vision of Abraham September, a man born in slavery, who began the irrigation that makes this such a fertile area. In doing so, we will be helping give recognition to the skills and knowledge of ordinary people which over centuries have turned the rich natural resources of our country into the wealth of our nation.

As we seek to know the truth about our divided past, nothing is more painful than confronting the terrible hurts that we inflicted on each other during the last decades of apartheid rule. But the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission has shown us, beyond what anyone could have foreseen, the power of the truth to heal. We should take this opportunity to congratulate the TRC for the work they are doing.

We are encouraged at the growing numbers willing to help the commission uncover the truth about human rights abuses, and hope that their example will be followed by many more.

The best recompense that can be made to the vicce for reconciliation, is our success in building a new society.

The new constitution, and its place in the hearts of our people, is a powerful assurance that never again will South Africa allow such things to happen.

Today we will also be presenting a copy of this document to the Upington Fourteen. Their suffering, as part of a community afflicted by repression, represents that of many, many of our people, in the Northern Cape and in South Africa as a whole.

When they were on Death Row the name of Upington became known across the world as the international community campaigned to save their lives. Today Upington is sending a different message to the world - that it is a town whose people have joined hands in striving to make a reality of the vision of a better life for all that is embodied in our constitution. We are saying that the freedom they helped us achieve is being put to good use.

This is a message that is heard across the country as communities get down to work with their new democratic councils to improve their lives.


It is right that we ask ourselves, now that we are halfway through our country's first democratically elected government: What progress have we made as a nation in fulfilling our pledge to work together to improve our lives.

We can say with confidence that the foundation for a better life has been laid. Government has the right policies for the challenges South Africa faces. Slowly but surely the policies are taking effect and making a difference to the way people live. As a government we have sharpened our programme of action and set ourselves concrete targets for this year and beyond to which you, the people must hold us.

We take immense pride and joy in the fact that since 27 April 1994, millions have for the first time experienced access to clean water; electricity; housing subsidies; free health care, nutrition programmes and land. In the budget that government has just adopted we shifted still more resources to social spending so that these programmes can be extended during the coming year.

In this regards we should congratulate the Northern Cape Provincial government - and other provinces - for their plans to use funds provided by the national government, to speed up delivery of basic needs.

We also congratulate the Northern Cape police for their work in uncovering the province's largest organised crime syndicate.

Such breakthroughs, here and elsewhere, are helping us turn the tide against crime. They will be boosted by the increased resources which government is providing to the criminal justice system. They will be strengthened by the high-density crime prevention operation by police and 10 000 members of the SANDF throughout the country which is taking place right now.

The successes that are being made are the result of dedicated work by our police service. The great majority are men and women committed to the safety and security of our people. We acknowledge the work they are doing, often under difficult and dangerous conditions. And we urge every community and each sector of our society to join hands with them to defeat the criminals.

Lasting and long-term solutions to the problem of crime will come from the improvements in living conditions and the eradication of poverty. In turn that will be made possible by the success of our economic policies.

All the signs point to our being on track. The stagnant economy we inherited is now on a path of sustained growth as investment, productivity and exports increase.

Our provinces are facing up to the challenge of devising their own growth and development strategies within the national framework, so that they can deal with the special needs and contribute to the country's economic success.

We admire the determination of your province to find ways of breaking from dependence on agriculture and a shrinking mining sector by diversifying into manufacturing and tourism. With the help of the private sector your plans to establish more factories to add value to the products of mining could not only create jobs in the province - they can help us in one of the primary economic goals of boosting exports.

However good the policies of the government are, national or provincial, nothing will come of them without the active participation of each and every one of us. Our democracy will become a living reality and a force for transformation only when communities become involved, calling their elected representatives to account, voicing their needs and their ideas for improving things, and paying for services.

Our shared vision of a non-racial society will be realised through bold and conscious action by communities and councils to deracialise our towns and cities so that they reflect the character of the Rainbow Nation we are building.

The response to the renewed Masakhane Campaign encourages us to believe that communities and councils are indeed joining hands in order to repair the tattered fabric of our society.


As our new nation matures the challenges we face are shifting to the provinces and the localities in which we live. The call now on each and every one of us as we enter our fourth Freedom Year, is to roll up our selves.

Let us build on what has been achieved, for the sake of Unity, Peach and Prosperity.

Umanyano, Uxolo neNkqubela;; Tshwaragano, Kagiso le Katlego

Compatriots; The foundation for a better life has been laid - Forward Ever!

Issued by: Office of the President

Source: South African Government Information Website