Address by President Nelson Mandela at a banquet in his honour, Jakarta - Indonesia

14 July 1997

Mr President;
Distinguished guests;
Ladies and gentlemen,

This is my second visit to Southeast Asia this year. My frequent visits, I assure you, are not only in pursuit of your fine weather, or your good food, or your fine sense of hospitality. It is because of the importance which South Africa attaches to this part of the world. Southeast Asia is a shining economic example and inspiration for what we have set out to achieve in our own country and our region of Southern Africa.

Mr President,

The motto of your country is "Unity in Diversity". I have seen this motto also written in Bhasa Indonesia, but I will refrain from attempting to pronounce it. I might cause more diversity than unity in doing so!

To unify a country with over 17,000 islands, and 200 million people who use more than 300 languages, is certainly a challenge. Many would say it is an impossible task. We can only admire you and your country's leaders for the progress you have made in this regard.

"Unity in Diversity" is a phrase we use often in South Africa, which is also a country of widely diverse peoples and cultures. These differences were misused by apartheid in order to divide our nation. But today our diversity is a source of strength. We are a nation of many colours and cultures, but forming a harmonious unity like a rainbow after a heavy storm.

This is not the only common thread between two nations. The many graves, or kramats, in the Cape of religious leaders from the Indonesia Archipelago bear witness to the rich heritage we share. Amongst those banished to the Cape by our common coloniser were such famous resistance leaders as Tuang Yusuf, Tuang Madura and Tuang Guru, who are deeply revered by our people.

Indonesia's active and unwavering support for our people's struggle against apartheid was a fitting tribute to those early freedom fighters. I expressed our gratitude to you during my previous visits to your country, in my capacity as leader of the African National Congress. It is my privilege to do so again on this first South African State Visit to Indonesia, as the President of a free and democratic South Africa. Our people will not forget your contribution to our most cherished possession, our freedom.

Our challenge now is to use that freedom to foster development in our country, our region, our continent and beyond. An important vehicle to attain these objectives it the Non-Aligned Movement, in which Indonesia has played such a critical role over the years. We are heartened by the co-operation between our two countries as South Africa prepares to host the next summit of the Non-Aligned Movement. Your experience will stand us in good stead.

It is also from your practical socio-economic achievements that we hope to learn. Through your vision and leadership, Mr President, Indonesia succeeded in raising the nation's living standard. You have changed your country from a major importer of food to one based on self-sufficiency. Your experience in this regard will be valuable to many countries in the developing world, not least on our African continent.

Indonesia has already become one of South Africa's most important trading partners in Southeast Asia. But the four-fold growth in bilateral trade in the past four years has only scratched the surface. We in Southern Africa have been furiously laying down the foundations for effective participation in the global economics of the new millennium. The easing of exchange controls is but one measure of our economic programme designed to boost trade and investment.

At a multilateral level, the second Africa-Asia Forum recently held in Bangkok confirmed the commitment of both our continents to co-operate more closely. We welcome these initiatives and fully support them. Indeed, though our continents and our countries will not agree on every issue, we are convinced that, where we do differ, we shall in time find common ground.

Mr President.

I would like to end by expressing my sincere thanks for the warm welcome and wonderful hospitality my delegation and I have received in your beautiful country.

"Terima kasih dan selarmat malam"

May I now propose a toast to the good health of President Sceharto and to the bonds of friendship and co-operation between the people of South Africa and Indonesia.

Thank You!

Issued by: Office of the President

Source: South African Government Information Website