Address by President Nelson Mandela on receiving the Freedom of the City of Bloemfontein

16 May 1997

Premier Matsepe-Cassaburi;
Chief Justice Mohammed;
Brigadier Swanepoel;
Mayor Jannie Mohapi;
Distinguished Guests;
Citizens of Bloemfontein,

The history of South Africa would have been very different without events that have taken place in Bloemfontein.

Bloemfontein is an important part of the evolution of our nation, starting from the conflicts and divisions of the past to the reconciliation of today. When you give me the Freedom of Bloemfontein, you are honouring this achievement of our whole nation in creating a non-racial democracy. I accept it in their name, in all humility.

This was the birthplace of the African National Congress and the National Party, organisations that largely came to determine the political landscape of our country. That they were founded here reflects the fact that this region has been a crossroads of our history - a geographic centre and a political hub in its own right.

Here the forces and the peoples who make us what we are today interacted and clashed. Contacts and conflicts between Mosotho; Griqua; British settler, Tswana, Afrikaner and Xhosa set the scene for the choices communities had to make about the co-existence of all South Africans.

Like the rest of our country, you have finally found the answer. Today's event confirms that Bloemfontein has come full-circle. Once an outpost of an invading colonial force and then the capital of a republic that excluded the majority, today it is the seat of a democratically-elected non-racial provincial government. It is the proud host of the Supreme Court of South Africa.

Meneer die Seremonie-meester;

Bloemfontein het gegroei vanaf 'n tipiese ras-verdeelde platte- landse dorp tot 'n stad wie se demokraties-verkose raadslede die Reenboog samestelling van sy omgewing weerspieel.

Die Vrystaat is op 'n tyd beskou as 'n bakermat van konser- watiewe denke. Vandag dien hierdie provinsie, en in besonder die hoofstad Bloemfonten, as 'n maatstaf van ons transformasie en van die sukses van ons pogings tot nasie-bou.

Nasionale versoening behels 'n erkenning van die wandade van ons verlede, en die onderlinge aanvaarding van mekaar. Dit beteken egter ook dat ons saam sal werk om 'n erfenis van ongelykheid reg te stel, sodat al ons mense kan deel in die rykdom van ons land - 'n rykdom wat per slot van sake deur die werksaamheid van almal geskep is.

Die erfenis van verdeeldheid en ongelykheid is steeds sigbaar in die afsonderlike woonbuurte waartoe die African en Kleurling- bevolking van Bloemfontein beperk is - soos die van ander stede en dorpe. Daar is nog soveel wat ons moet regstel: behuisingstekorte; gebrek aan ontspanningsgeriewe en gesondheidsdienste; die swak gehalte van skool-geboue en paaie. Ons is baie bemoedig deur die bree ondersteuning wat daar in u Stadsraad bestaan vir pogings om fondse en middele in te span ter uitwissing van hierdie historiese agterstande en ongelykhede.

Communities also have their part to play. We can no longer simply bemoan the past. The fact that we were deprived does not entitle us to free services. And it would be self-defeating to refuse to pay for services because we demand improvements first; or to pay self-imposed flat-rates where services are being efficiently delivered. The more our councils are strapped for cash because of our debts, the less they can do to improve conditions or even to maintain services.

The answer lies in all of us - council, political parties and people - taking the responsibility to improve our lives together. That is the spirit of Masakhane. Indeed, the extent to which South Africa acknowledges the status of Bloemfontein as one of its leading cities, will depend on how seriously the city takes its responsibilities for good governance and civic duty.

Government, communities and all sectors of our society have to join hands for us to succeed at all levels. The lives of millions across the land have begun, slowly but surely to improve, because of this abiding partnership: in the provision of electricity and, water; the building of sewerage works and sports and leisure facilities; and the implementation of housing projects. It is happening across the country as it has started to happen in Botshabela, Mangaung, Heidedal and Phahameng.

The role of the private sector is also crucial in developing our country, including cities such as this, in achieving the growth that will create jobs and produce the resources for improving the quality of life. We urge every business in Bloemfontein and in this Province, to follow the example of those who are already doing so.

We know that we have only made a start in the immense task of reconstruction. And the changes may not yet have reached all of you. But the foundation for a better life has been laid.

As we meet the challenges of reconstruction and development that lie ahead, local government has a crucial role to play. The strength of local councils as instruments of change depends on the active participation of communities.

That is why all the residents of Heidedal should participate in the by-election next week, and choose a representative who will always be ready to listen to the community.

That is why the citizens of Bloemfontein should participate in the activities of the council they have elected - calling them to account; ensuring there is open and clean government; making sure that every cent is spent properly and where it is needed.

Councilors should account to you and consult with you, the people of Bloemfontein. Their mandate derives from you. But they need your active support. Working together, government and the people, we can make this city one that we all can be proud of.

Mr Mayor,

I am honoured to be a citizen of a city endowed with the kind of people you are. It is a privilege to be associated with a city that has contributed so much to our nation's history. Each time I come to Bloemfontein, I feel I am home away from home. It will be even more so now that I am one of your honoured and loyal citizens.

May Bloemfontein continue to strive with the nation to build a better life for all who live in it.

Khotso! Pula! Nala!

Issued by: The Office of the President

Source: South African Government Information Website