Address by President Nelson Mandela at the official opening of the redeveloped Park Station, Johannesburg

2 October 1997

Master of Ceremonies;
Honoured guests,

It a great honour to be here today to proclaim a landmark achievement of our new democracy. The renewal and transformation of Park Station brings all of us many reasons to celebrate.

This station, at the heart of our greatest city, has mirrored the changing character of our country over the past 100 years.

Before re-development, the station-building bore all the hall-marks of its origin in the early years of National Party rule: a job-creation project for the benefit of the minority; and a physical construction that embodied grand apartheid in the segregation of white and black commuters into different travel classes, with separate and unequal facilities.

Park Station, as it was - as it was known by all of us who worked in this city and lived in its environs - was part of the machinery of apartheid. The station itself became a symbol of a divided Johannesburg, cut in two by a river of steel made up of railway lines and unfriendly buildings.

The Park Station we are launching today tells a very different story. The signs of its apartheid past are well and truly buried. The station has been refurbished to meet the needs of all commuters for safe and effective travel. It is a real contribution to the de-racialisation of our society.

We are also celebrating the new Park Station as a major boost to the regeneration of Johannesburg's Central Business District, giving impetus to Gauteng's Mayivuke initiative.

By addressing the needs of close on 300 000 train- and taxi-commuters, long-distance travellers, tourists, and shoppers who go through its facilities every day, the Park City project must have a substantial impact on the city.

It is no easy task to reverse the consequences of a long history of unjust social policies. The challenges of doing so in this case were great.

They included the terrible conditions for the informal traders; they included homeless people who had made the station their home; and they included the disorganised facilities for mini-bus taxis. The station was left by apartheid to slowly decay. People ventured into this area only out of necessity.

Now we are changing all this; as part of our national Reconstruction and Development Programme. By investing in our transport system we are investing in our people; we are fulfilling the challenge to build a better life for all, slowly but surely.

What is even more impressive is the involvement of all stake-holders in achieving this feat. The participation of the informal traders and their eventual accommodation; the housing of the homeless and the employment of many of them on the project itself; the representative character of the contractors; the building of a proper taxi facility; the inclusion of a shopping mall: all these things will mark the completed project as one that has truly reflected the concerns of all, with their participation.

Everyone involved in this project, include the multitude of railway workers, should be congratulated.

The great city of Johannesburg deserves a central station of which it can be proud, one that reflects its contribution to our country and our region as a transport hub on which workers, rural people, business people, tourists and others converge from all directions.

Park City will not only enhance the conditions of travellers. It is a part of the reconstruction and development of South and Southern Africa; it is a part of the rebirth of Africa.

It is a fine example of what can be achieved when South Africans work together to develop world class facilities.

It will also help break down the divisions of our past and give us new confidence in public transport, public places and the future of our cities.

It now gives me great pleasure to unveil the plaque for the new Park Station.


Source: South African Government Information Website