Address by President Nelson Mandela at the opening of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project Katse

22 January 1998

Your Majesty, King Letsie III
Your Excellencies,
President Masire;
President Nujoma
Distinguished guests,

Bo mme le bo ntate, ke a le dumedisa!

History has bound Lesotho and South Africa so closely that we are even more than neighbours, friends and allies. Our joint presence here today confirms that those who shared the trenches of struggle are today working together as free nations to realise the possibilities of freedom.

The resounding success of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project testifies to the powerful spirit of co-operation that is growing as Africa lifts itself through its own efforts, with the strong support of the international community.

The flow of fresh water is the concrete result of the welding together of our efforts at nation building and regional development. This is a most significant day. Let us salute it!

Here in Southern Africa we have worked four our mutual benefit we have turned a scheme conceived in the previous, unhappy era of our region's history into a fine instrument for development and progress for all.

It is a special pleasure that so many children all over South Africa and Lesotho have taken part in this celebration.

My young friends, you are the future custodians of this scheme which bring water for South Africa, electricity for Lesotho, and development for both our countries into the next century. the responsibility for caring for the scarce natural resource of water will required great skill and dedication. However we are confident that you will be worthy custodians of our life-giver, fresh water.

Your Majesty, the Lesotho Highlands Water Project, like all the undertakings worthy of our nations, derives its importance from the benefits it brings to our citizens.

Its value will be measured by the changes it helps make in the lives of millions of poor people inn South Africa and Lesotho who have not had access to clean running water. Its impact will be felt in the remote villages of the Highlands that have been opened up by the roads, communication services and electricity supply that have been installed. It will go on feeding the local economy through the skills which were gained in construction and which are being expanded by the continued training offered to those directly affected by the project.

It is also a great joy to know that as South Africans use the water from Lesotho, the income from the royalties we pay will flow into the Lesotho Highlands Water Revenue Fund to fund rural development all over Lesotho.

Ladies and gentlemen;

The interdependence of the countries of our region is such that none can prosper in isolation, or enjoy freedom ad security on its own. Economic growth, human rights, security and stability are all conditions of the success of our joint endeavours to bring development and prosperity through co-operation. Failure in any one of these conditions affects the others, and affects us all.

As we have done in this great enterprise, let us therefore continue together to transform the legacy of a past when human dignity and basic human needs were denied, when sovereignty and statehood were threatened.

This project is more than a bi-national venture between two governments. It has international significance. The success of our combined endeavour should stimulate more than the passing interest of countries so well represented here today. We have built a spectacular vehicle to create a more sharply focused development environment, a contribution to the reconstruction of Southern Africa.

Last year South Africa signed the United Nations Convention on the Use of Non-Navigational Rivers. By doing so we gave formal expression to our commitment to reach fair and mutually beneficial agreements with all our neighbours. It therefore also pleases me to welcome the esteemed presence here today of the Presidents of Namibia and Botswana. Your attendance bears witness to the tireless efforts of our region to strengthen our Southern African Development Community.

In conclusion, may I salute everyone who played a part in creating this massive work. The stage is set for sustained development and growing prosperity. It is the promise of a better future for our children.

Morena Letsie wa bo raro, ke re ka Sesotho: Hae dume! (Your Majesty, Letsie III, I say to you in Sesotho: Let it thunder!)

Issued by: Office of the President

Source: South African Government Information Website