Address by President Nelson Mandela at National Men's March, Pretoria

22 November 1997

Master of ceremonies; Men, women and children of South Africa,

I am proud to be with you on this historic day. I feel honoured to join with South African men in giving this bold message to our fellow men, and to the women and children of our nation - that violence against women and children is unacceptable.

This occasion is both a joyous one and a sad one. It causes us all great pain that citizens of a free country should need to march in protest against this kind of violence. And we fervently hope that such marches will not continue to be necessary; that the time will soon come when no single South African man shall behave to a woman like a beast to its prey.

But it also inspiring to know that we have reached such an important milestone in the struggle against rape, domestic violence and child abuse.

The burden of the fight against these crimes has always been treated - by both men and women - as one for women to carry. Our society has behaved as if men had no power to change these things, as if they were hapless automatons driven by a so-called "natural urge" and, at times. As if they had the right to behave like animals.

In fact, as we know from our country's history, the misuse of power diminishes both the oppressor and the oppressed, the violator, and the victim. In case we forget, the hearings of the Truth and Reconciliation remind us every day. As a nation we finally chose to solve our problems without the use of violence, but rather through negotiation and discussion.

Our children are our greatest treasure. They are our future. Those who abuse them tear at the fabric of our society and weaken our nation.

As long as we take the view that these are problems for women alone to solve, we cannot expect to reverse the high incidence of rape and child abuse. Domestic violence will not be eradicated. We will not defeat this scourge that affects each and every one of us, until we succeed in mobilising the whole of our society to fight it.

That is why today's march, and the gathering here of men, women and children, is so important.

We do know that many men do not abuse women and children; and that they strive always to live with respect and dignity. But until today the collective voice of these men has never been heard, because the issue has not been regarded as one for the whole nation.

From today those who inflict violence on others will know they are being isolated and cannot count on other men to protect them. From now on all men will hear the call to assume their responsibility for solving this problem.

That call goes out from here to men in every walk of live:

To religious leaders, to champion the cause of women and children.

To teachers who can help ensure that children know their rights and that they grow into adults able to handle disagreement and conflict without violence.

To trade union leaders, who should mobilise against domestic violence and child abuse.

And to business leaders to help provide the resources for counselling and the care of women and children who have been victims of abuse.

To men wherever they work or live it is also a call to support and strengthen government's policies to remove the inequalities and the discrimination that help give men the power to inflict violence with impunity.

South Africa is proud to have signed international conventions that commit us to protecting the rights of children and eliminating discrimination against women.

This march is a clear message that you share these commitments. More than that it is a pledge to use our collective strength to work for the safety and empowerment of the women and children of our country.

Let us join hands: young and old, to make South Africa safe for all who live in it.

I thank you


Issued by: Office of the President

Source: South African Government Information Website