Address by President Nelson Mandela at launch of book "Madiba the Rainbow Man", Bonteheuwel

27 November 1997


Master of ceremonies;
Teachers and children,

It gives me great joy to be here with you today. It is always a special pleasure to talk to children about my favourite pastime: reading.

The story of the Rainbow man is not the story of just one person. It is the story of all South Africans and our struggle for freedom. It is as typical as the story of the author, Lionel Maxim, whose family was forced to come to Bonteheuwel as part of the group areas removals.

It is the story of how oppressed people in a deeply divided land came together: Coloured, Indian and African, as well as democratic forces in the White community, to nurture our future Rainbow Nation through its darkest years.

It is as typical as the story of many young people who sacrificed their youth, their studies and life with their families all for the sake of freedom. We can never forget the magnificent contribution made by the youth of this community and elsewhere, many of whom lost their lives, like Desmond Truter, Ashley Kriel, Anton Fransch and Colline Williams.

Today, I would like us to give a special thought to the many young people who went to prison and served long sentences, who left to join the liberation struggle in exile, often at a very young age. Many could not complete their schooling.

Now that we have won the freedom they helped us win, we are duty bound to ensure that these same young men and women have the opportunity to study and to obtain the skills our country sorely needs, and to receive the support that enables them to rebuild their lives.

The opportunities we provide must be of a kind that builds self-reliance and rewards hard work - anything that encouraged a culture of entitlement would undermine our hard-won freedoms.

Today we are faced with even greater challenges and we need that pioneering spirit, that determination and that self-reliance as we build the new South Africa.

The challenge to all of us adults - teachers; government; business - is to create the opportunities that build this spirit and let it flourish.

Amongst other things we have to create an environment for learning and teaching, without the fear of drugs, gangsterism and criminal activity hanging over the heads of our children.

It is very disturbing to hear of instances where young people who have so much to contribute are losing their lives in gang violence.

The message that criminals have no place in our communities must be given teeth by community co-operation with the police. The Bonteheuwel march against crime in August told the criminals that senseless violence would never be tolerated by this community.

Only by working together in our communities with community organisation, business and government can we hope to put an end to our high school drop-out rate, our joblessness, our homelessness and our poverty.

We also need the help of our young people.

You young people are our greatest treasure. Today we are building a South Africa that will provide for all our people. You have a big part to play in building that South Africa because you will have to take over from us old people.

Unlike your parents, all South Africa's children today have the right to a proper education. You must seize the opportunity and study hard so that you will be ready when you are called on to take over that responsibility.

Your education and your books are your best tools. When we read we are able to travel to many places, meet many people and understand the world. We can also learn how to deal with problems we are having by learning from the lessons of the past.

Some of the proceeds of the book that is being launched today will be used by our Children's Fund to help many children across our land; children who have been deprived of love or education or who have special needs.

These children, like you, are precious to us. Each one of you is needed in the new South Africa that we are building, where there is a better life for all.

I thank you

Issued by: Office of the President

Source: South African Government Information Website