Address by President Nelson Mandela on receiving the Freedom of Kwekwe, Zimbabwe

20 May 1997

Your Excellency President Mugabe,
Honourable Mayor of KweKwe,
Distinguished guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen.

It was unfortunate that I could not come to KweKwe in 1989 to personally receive the honour your bestowed on me to be a free citizen of your town. Not even my fervent desire to do so could open the prison doors.

I am proud to be a citizen of KweKwe. It is a town whose part in the resistance to the Anglo-Rhodesian effort to maintain the oppression of the majority of Zimbabweans is well documented. It is a town that wanted to share its freedom with South Africans when they were not free in their own country.

Today owing in part to the unwavering support of the people and government of Zimbabwe, apartheid's prison walls have been broken down, and I am free to come and receive this honour in person. I do so with deep humility on behalf of all the people of South Africa.

It was the support of our neighbours and the world that kept us strong in prison, and steeled our resolve to intensify the offensive against Apartheid.

Your generous gesture in sharing the freedom of KweKwe was yet another building block in the relationship between the South African and Zimbabwean peoples. We are one people, united by common experiences and by a common desire for peace, stability and prosperity for our own countries, for the Southern African region and for Africa as a whole.

Indeed, we are also here to celebrate your own hard-earned freedom won almost seventeen years ago. We are here to commend the contribution which the people of KweKwe made in the achievement of democracy both in Zimbabwe and South Africa. Because you knew the pain and anguish of oppression, you were prepared to make sacrifices for others. Our people will never forget.

Mr Mayor,

Under the leadership of President Mugabe, Zimbabwe has contri- buted to peace and stability in the region: to the brokering of peace in Namibia; Angola and Mozambique; and more recently to United Nations peace operations in Rwanda and Somalia. South Africa has been honoured to work with Zimbabwe and other SADC members to promote human rights and stability in the region.

Precisely because of our political success, we face new economic opportunities and challenges. Regional peace and stability depend on sustainable economic development. KweKwe as a steel producing town is destined to play an important role in this regard. Our visit to your country will enable us to explore ways of seizing the opportunities for development through co-operation.

In the past we have overcome the worst because we chose to work together. That makes us confident that we will succeed in making our countries a better place for all our citizens. We have it in our power to ensure that future generations live in a prosperous and peaceful Southern Africa.

In 1989 KweKwe pledged its faith in the future of a free South Africa. Today let us make a new pledge, South Africans and Zimbabweans, to work together for peace and prosperity in Southern Africa.

I thank you.

Issued by: SA Communication Service

Source: South African Government Information Website