Address by President Nelson Mandela at a public rally in Masvingo, Zimbabwe

20 May 1997

Minister of Foreign Affairs;
Distinguished guests;
Citizens of Zimbabwe.

We have come to Zimbabwe to strengthen the bonds between our two countries. I am honoured to stand before you today, men and women who have fought for their freedom; allies who shared the trenches of struggle with us; and partners in rebuilding our societies.

South Africans are free today because the government and people of Zimbabwe considered their own freedom incomplete while their neighbours were still oppressed.

Though thanks are not needed between those as close as we are, we do thank you from the bottom of our hearts, knowing the cost inflicted upon you by the apartheid regime because you supported us. Despite the cost to yourselves, you gave us material and moral support; a home from home for our exiles; and a voice in the councils of the region, the continent and the world.

There could be no better place than this for South Africa's first democratically elected President to meet with you, the people of Zimbabwe.

Great Zimbabwe reminds us of the ancient civilisation of Africa, of the kingdoms and empires that flourished in the subcontinent, building wealth on vibrant trade in the region and with Asia until the disruptions of colonialism caused them to wither.

Great Zimbabwe is an inspiring monument to independence lost and now regained. As the heart of a culture that reached beyond today's borders between our countries, it reminds us of the many threads that bind the history and the lives of South Africans and Zimbabweans.

Just as our region was once held in the chains of colonial and minority rule, so it freed itself through the solidarity of its peoples. As each country gained its independence, the prospect for South Africa's freedom increased. In that process Zimbabwe played a pivotal role, as a regional leader in the Front-line States; in the Organisation of African Unity, and in the United Nations.

So it is with great pride that we come to report to you that South Africa is making good use of the freedom you helped us win. We have joined hands as a nation to begin to heal the wounds of the past, and we are united in addressing the dreadful legacy of poverty.

Freedom in Southern Africa has brought us the chance to realise our region's dream of co-operation for peace, development, and prosperity. The birth of SADC, the Southern African Development Community, was made possible, amongst other things, by the independence of Zimbabwe. It has grown with leaps and bounds since the ending of apartheid and destabilisation.

South Africa is very proud to be a full and active member of SADC in this exciting time.

As we move towards the goal of economic integration, we want to make sure that these changes benefit you and other people of the region. They should not only benefit the rich and the powerful.

So we are consulting thoroughly, as governments, in order to get the trade relationship between our countries right. Amongst other things, South Africa is opening its market to Zimbabwean clothing and textiles. Together we are working hard to increase the areas of free trade. Zimbabwe is an extremely important trade partner of South Africa - our number one trade partner in Africa and number eight in the world.

Boosting trade between us is important for creating growth, more jobs and balanced development. But it is also only a part of the all-round relations between our countries that are strengthening by the day.

We see this in the growing stream of visitors in both directions across four borders: from myself and President Mugabe to government officials, businessmen, tourists and workers. We see it in the progress that is being made in defence and security co-operation. And we see it in the healthy competition between our soccer teams, in cricket, rugby, golf and other sports.

The new Beit Bridge, which I had the honour of opening with President Mugabe, points to what can and must be done to improve the transport infrastructure linking us together. The Cross-Border Investment Initiative set up last year between the governments and business houses of our two countries has great potential to boost joint ventures that bring investment into Zimbabwe.

Today we think in particular of the enormous potential for co-operation in tourism, based not only on the beauty of our countries but also on our common heritage of the great Zimbabwe culture. It is a part of the African civilisation of which we are so proud. It is part of the civilisation we are renewing through our joint efforts as Africa's children to abolish hunger, illiteracy and disease from our lands.

Friends and comrades:

In the few years since we together defeated apartheid, we have laid the foundation for co-operation between our countries within the framework of a rapidly developing Southern Africa. We know we have only made a start and that there are enormous challenges before us, difficult choices and a harshly competitive world market to test us. But we have shown that through co-operation and unity we can overcome the most difficult circumstances.

The peoples of South Africa and Zimbabwe, and all the peoples of Southern Africa, have freed themselves from a long oppression, by their own efforts and with support from each other and from the world. We pay tribute to the heroes who died for freedom: Josiah Tongogara; Jason Moyo; Joe Gqabi; Basil February and others.

Today we reaffirm our pledge, that never again will South Africa be a source of violence and destabilisation against Zimbabwe.

Let us join hands as friends; brothers and sisters to build a better life for all.

Thank you.

Issued by: Office of the President

Source: South African Government Information Website