Address by President Nelson Mandela at the announcement of the winner of the architectural competition for the design of the new Constitutional Court building, Johannesburg

8 April 1998

Master of Ceremonies;
President of the Constitutional Court;
Minister of Public Works;
Distinguished guests;

I am very proud to be here today as we place an important milestone on the physical landscape of our constitutional history. The occasion takes added meaning from the fact that the announcement of the winning architectural design also marks the birth of the first major civic building in our democratic era.

Our democratic Constitution is at the heart of our triumph over oppression and division. It is the bastion of our victory over a system that caused extreme deprivation, hardship, and suffering; a system that caught oppressor and oppressed alike in a web of ceaseless conflict.

The site housing our Constitutional Court and a Constitutional Museum will therefore stand as a monument to the women, men and children of our nation whose sacrifices ensured that our dreams of democracy should become a reality.

The Constitutional Court building, indeed the entire Constitutional Hill Precinct, will also stand as a beacon of light, a symbol of hope and celebration.

Transforming a notorious icon of repression into its opposite, it will ease the memories of suffering inflicted in the dark corners, cells and corridors of the Old Fort Prison. Rising from the ashes of that ghastly era, it will shine forth as a pledge for all time that South Africa will never return to that abyss. It will stand as an affirmation that South Africa is indeed a better place for all.

When South Africans elected to put conflict and division behind them, when they chose a negotiated path for their transition and a profoundly legal path for their revolution, they confounded the prophets of doom and the sceptics who could only project our dark past into the future.

By making the Constitution the supreme law of our land, and resting it on the three fundamental pillars of Parliament, the Executive and an independent judiciary, we also kept faith with the countless men and women all over the world who made our struggle their own.

We were true to the ideals that inspired them to contribute selflessly to the creation of our democracy.

The esteem in which our Constitutional Court is held, both by ourselves and in the international community, is aptly demonstrated by the interest which this competition attracted from across the world.

A special word of appreciation must go to the adjudication panel whose members brought their prestige and professional standing to an institution which we cherish.

In the international participants in this process, whether in the competition or in the adjudication, we see the living reality of solidarity in struggle transformed into partnership for development and the entrenchment of democracy. For that, our special thanks.

Those who worked to bring the idea of a competition to fruition have done us proud. It has successfully broadened participation in transforming the face of our public institutions. The results, as we see them in the plans and models before us today, vindicate the belief that this would be a fruitful route to take.

I would like to congratulate all those who participated in the competition. Every one of the five finalists, and in fact each and every entrant in this competition is indeed a winner. You have shown, yet again, that the democratic culture of participation which once found such stony ground in our beloved country, seizes every opportunity to take root and to flourish.

To the creators of the winning design, we say: Congratulations on your outstanding achievement!

May your accomplishment be a beacon of encouragement to each and every South African as we carry forward the momentous task of reconstructing and developing our beloved country.

May it become a part of our conception of ourselves as a nation dedicated to freedom and justice!

I thank you!

Issued by: Office of the President

Source: South African Government Information Website