Address by President Nelson Mandela on receiving the freedom of the City of Cape Town

27 November 1997

Premier Hernus Kriel;
Mayor Theresa Solomon
Distinguished guests;
Citizens of Cape Town,

It is a great honour to be given the freedom of one of South Africa's leading cities.

I must confess, that when I learnt of the decision to offer me this privilege I lost no time in accepting it - I know that councils can sometimes change their minds in these matters. But I was reassured when you conferred the Freedom of Cape town on one of South Africa's greatest sons and one of the pioneers of our new patriotism, Archbishop Tutu. In that sense I am proud to be in the league of such a great patriot.

I do know that when such honours are conferred on me, it is not by virtue of any personal achievement. It is rather a tribute to our whole South African nation. I humbly accept it in their name.

Cape Town's greatness lies not only in its contribution to our economy, but in its involvement in our country's history.

It was here, three centuries ago, that sailors from Europe triggered off the chain of dispossession whose consequence we are still grappling with today.

If Cape Town's Robben Island was for centuries the symbol of repression, this City has also been the scene of stirring resistance from the very start of colonial occupation to the triumph of our people over oppression.

In Cape Town resides part of the souls of many nations and cultures, priceless threads in the rich diversity of our African nation.

This legacy of our history is both a strength and a challenge.

The Island has become a monument of the struggle for democracy, part of a heritage that will always inspire our children and our friends from other lands as we strive to build a just and prosperous nation.

In offering the City's rich historical and cultural heritage, and its fine amenities, as a proud part of the Western Cape's economy, Cape Town is helping tourism to make a vital contribution to our national strategy for growth and development.

We need such creativity to develop the City's economy, to create jobs and resources for reconstruction and development.

To succeed in this we must harness all the energies and resources of our people. Your determination to build a partnership for development between government and the private sector is encouraging. So too are the plans to integrate your booming informal business sector into the City's mainstream economy. Not only will this boost growth, but it will create real openings for those who were previously excluded from the world of business.

Like all our cities, and in some ways even more than others, Cape Town bears the scars of our past in its still largely separated residential areas, and the great disparity in the conditions and opportunities they offer.

It is therefore only right that the first of our country's Urban Spatial Development Initiatives is taking shape here, in the Landsdowne-Wetton-Phillipi corridor. This exciting project is blazing a trail for the deracialising of our cities, uplifting and bringing back into the City's fold the under-developed and under-services areas once relegated to the City's outskirts.

It is also right that one of the pre-eminent urban initiatives of reclamation finds expression in the efforts around District Six.

In such projects Cape Town joins communities across our land as they work together with provincial and national government to overcome, slowly but surely, the divisions and the deprivations of the past; to build truly South African towns and cities that all can be proud to live in.

The 11 clinics built or upgraded in Cape Town since 1994; the 1,400 houses built; the 9,000 electricity connections in areas that lacked it - all this is part of the national effort of reconstruction and development that brings another two clinics each week with access to health-care for 20,000 people; 1,000 electricity connections each day; and 1,000 houses into construction or to completion every two-and-a half days.

Partnership and co-operation is also they key to defeating crime. The gang-related violence in Cape Town has a long and complicated history. Nevertheless, this is a war that the gangsters are destined to lose. With increasingly active support from the community, the police are getting to the bottom of it. As arms are confiscated and arrests made in special police operations, the involvement of a few police officers in gang violence is also being exposed. It may take time, but those who are behind this violence must know that the law will catch up with them. We know the Cape Town community is with us.

We know too that the people of Cape Town will help South Africa grapple with the complex and difficult, but urgent, question of how to meet the country's need for a single capital. As our country united around the Olympic Bid; as we are succeeding in developing provincial growth and development strategies that complement rather than compete with each other, so too shall we find a way of resolving this matter in a spirit of national unity.

Madame Mayor;

I am confident that a city which has overcome such great obstacles in the past will be equal to the challenges facing not only Capetonians, but all of us throughout the country.

This City hosted me and my colleagues for over 26 years. It was the people of Cape Town who welcomed me on my first day of freedom.

Today I am proud to be associated with citizens who are uniting at last to build a better life for all who live in Cape Town.

I thank you!

Source: Nelson Mandela Foundation