Address by President Nelson Mandela at the official dinner hosted by President Koller of Switzerland

3 September 1997

Mr President;
Distinguished guests;
Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a great honour to have been invited to visit your country and I am humbled by the wonderful way in which I was received today. I have been to Switzerland several times before, but only for the briefest visits. So I will always cherish the memory of these few days in your beautiful country and the warmth of her people.

South Africa attaches great importance to our political and economic relations with Switzerland. Our visit has brought a welcome opportunity to discuss relations between our two countries. I am sure that you will agree with me that these are on an excellent footing, and that they will be strengthened by our fruitful talks today and the other meetings and discussions that have taken place.

Through the dark years of apartheid, the Swiss people were an indispensable part of the world-wide support for our struggle for freedom and democracy. For many South African exiles, you provided a home from home. For many of our political prisoners the name of Switzerland became indelibly linked with that of the Red Cross, often the last tenuous but precious shield against an even more brutal condition.

The freedom we won with your help has brought new challenges. We are tackling them with confidence, safe in the knowledge that we have the support of our good friends, including Switzerland. We are grateful for the high priority which your government accords to relation with democratic south Africa.

Your support to our Constitutional Assembly and our Truth and Reconciliation Commission has helped us entrench democracy and confront our past so that we can heal our nation and reconcile ourselves for a bright future.

Your development assistance and co-operation makes Switzerland a true partner in the rebuilding of our country.

Since the reconstruction and development of our society depends also on economic growth, the rapidly growing economic links between our countries are more than welcome. We appreciate the Swiss government's actions to encourage this process, amongst others the inclusion of South Africa amongst those benefiting from your General System of Preferences. The large trade delegation accompanying me reflects our serious intent to expand trade and invite further investment.

For us this relationship is also a means of absorbing new technology and acquiring skills previously denied to most of South Africa's potential entrepreneurs. It will fortify us as we draw on the untapped business potential of South Africa's people and as we take our place in the global economy.

Mr President;

Switzerland is renowned as a model of peaceful coexistence and cooperation. Your wealth of experience in nation-building, reconciliation and constitution-making provides invaluable lessons for a fledgling democracy such as ours.

Your country has also come to symbolise international efforts for peace; for disarmament and the prevention of war; for action to regulate the conduct of war and mitigate its consequences.

It is therefore with pride that we join with you in urging the international community to find ways of freeing the world of land-mines and assisting the victims of their use. It is my wish that we maintain a close dialogue on this matter as our countries can greatly benefit from our shared experiences.

I am sure, too, that all of us here tonight would wish our joint action to be seen also as a tribute to all those who have campaigned against the use of land-mines, including Princess Diana - may her untimely and tragic death strengthen our resolve to bring an end to this scourge.

Mr President;

As we approach the new millennium, the countries of the developing and developed world need to move closer together if we are to overcome the challenges facing the world.

The special relationship of Switzerland, at the heart of Europe, with the Non-Aligned Movement, symbolizes that vision of a worldwide partnership for peace and prosperity. The growing all-round links between our two countries contribute to its realisation.

Ladies and gentlemen;

I ask you all to join me in a toast to His Excellency, President Koller; and to the flourishing of cooperation and friendship between Switzerland and South Africa.

Issued by: Office of the President

Source: South African Government Information Website