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

11 July 1997

Lord Mayor of Oxford;
Councillors and citizens of Oxford and Oxfordshire,

It is always a deeply moving experience to be awarded an honour as a representative of the South African people. This is especially so when a community, through its local authority, confers its own rights and privileges on our nation as a whole.

When our people fought unrepresentative councils enforcing apartheid rule, we were strengthened by the knowledge that democratically elected councils across the world were mobilising in our support.

We are free today because the people of Oxford, and the people of countless other cities, towns and villages, considered their own freedom incomplete while we were denied ours.

We appreciate your support through each stage in our struggle: your response to the call for world-wide sanctions the home from home which you provided to the many exiled South Africans who came to drink from the wells of Oxford's learning; the part that you played in the international campaign for free and fair elections.

South and Southern Africa are making good use of the freedom from apartheid and destabilisation which you helped us win.

Great strides have been taken in turning the Southern African Development Community into a powerful engine of regional development.

South Africa has established democratically-elected government at every level. Our new constitution enshrines the deepest aspirations of our nation as the highest law of the land. We have turned our economy around from stagnation to growth. Our programmes for socio-economic improvement have begun to touch the lives of millions. We can say with confidence: the foundation for a better life has been laid.

But we recognise that one of our most urgent challenges is the building of capacity. In particular we must turn our new local authorities into effective agents of change, as servants of their communities and partners of central government in reconstruction and development.

Once again, you are responding to our needs. The City Council's assistance in the training and development of some of our local government officers, and the County Council's support for our schools in the Eastern Cape, are most practical and welcome contribution. By allowing us to draw on your own rich experience you are helping to redress the legacy of educational neglect and political exclusion. You are furthering our shared goals.

Allies in struggle have truly become partners in reconstruction and development.

Such are the reasons that make you gift of the Freedom of Oxford so highly appreciated.

Let us continue to work together for peace and prosperity.

I thank you!

Issued by: Office of the President

Source: South African Government Information Website