Address by President Nelson Mandela at the banquet in honour of Prince Sultan Bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud of Saudi Arabia, Cape Town

24 September 1997

Your Royal Highness;
Distinguished guests;
Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a great privilege to welcome you and your distinguished delegation to South Africa. We still have fond memories of the visit we paid to your country in 1994. And so it is a pleasure to be able to repay some of the kind hospitality that was bestowed on us then.

My visit to Saudi Arabia took place not long after South Africa's first democratic elections. Today South Africa is a proud member of the international community, and an active participant in international and regional organisations. Wherever we can, in fora such as the United Nations and the Non-Aligned Movement, we co-operate with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on matters of mutual concern.

The support which our liberation struggle enjoyed from Saudi Arabia in particular, and the entire Arab world, not only helped secure the defeat of Apartheid. It brought us the opportunity to improve the lives of our people, through our reconstruction and development program. And our freedom is serving us well. Already millions have gained access to primary health care, clean water, electricity, schools, houses and many other basic needs to which they were denied access.

We do know that we have only just set out on this task and that it will require years to complete. But we are confident that we will meet the challenges that lie ahead, strengthened by our unity as a nation and by the support of our friends.

As we rebuild our country the bonds with those who stood by us during the struggle for freedom are being strengthened in the service of peace and prosperity. I am therefore encouraged by the progress in working towards a South Africa-Saudi Arabia Strategic Partnership.

We have much to benefit from each other, and South Africa is keen to learn from the experience of Saudi Arabia.

Side-by-side with co-operation in these crucial fields, there has been a welcome growth in people-to-people contact.

Due to the existence of a strong Muslim community in South Africa there have long been strong cultural and religious ties between our peoples. These can now flourish without impedimet and add strength to the all-round relationship that is developing between our countries. We are glad that you will have the opportunity during your visit to meet with leaders of the Muslim community. When you do so, you will be meeting representatives of a community that has made an indispensable contribution to the life of our nation in every sphere.

Your Royal highness;

A key to our development lies in closer co-operation with other developing countries. No country will succeed in breaking out of underdevelopment on its own.

It is for this reason that South Africa places such emphasis on its participation in the Southern African Development Community. That is why we seek to play an active role in organisations like the OAU, the Commonwealth, the Non-Aligned movement and UNCTAD.

That is also why we value our relationship with Saudi Arabia as a key member of the Gulf Co-operation Council and the Arab League. The fruitful co-operation and consultation between the Arab League and the OAU should encourage the development of similar contact between SADC and the GCC.

I look forward to discussing some of these matters when we meet tomorrow. I am confident that these and the other discussions which you and your delegation will be having, will help our bilateral relations go from strength to strength. I firmly believe that my visit to Saudi Arabia in the near future will further consolidate our relations for the mutual benefit of both our countries.

Ladies and gentlemen:

May I now propose a toast to the good health of the Prince Sultan Bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, and to the bonds of friendship and co-operation between the people of South Africa and Saudi Arabia.

Issued by: The Office of the President

Source: Nelson Mandela Foundation