Address by President Nelson Mandela during a visit to the Mayor and Council of Rome, Italy

17 June 1998

Honourable Mayor;
Ladies and Gentlemen,

On behalf of my delegation and myself, I should like to express my appreciation and gratitude for your kind words to me and to my country, Mayor Rutelli, spoken on behalf of the citizens of Rome. We are honoured by the generous and warm hospitality of the City of Rome.

It is indeed a privilege to stand in the place that has been at the centre of Rome for more than two millennia.

To be in the square which Michelangelo himself designed is inspiring enough. But this is not all - we are moved by the knowledge that so much of the learning and art linked to the European Renaissance is rooted in this city. We will cherish these moments when we return to Africa and attend to our continent's own revival.

It is also a humbling experience to see in the Piazza Campidoglio the brave faces of many of this city's residents who made a huge impact in our struggle to be free. It was such people who, even when it was not popular to be an anti-apartheid campaigner and without regard for themselves, took up the cudgels on our behalf.

It is to them and to all of you that I owe the privilege of being a citizen of this great city. I know that when you bestowed that honour upon me, you were paying tribute not to me personally but to the people of South Africa.

Today, seven years later, I am sure that you feel proud of the nation that you honoured in that way. South Africans have defied the prophets of doom and joined hands to overcome the legacy of their divided past. With this achievement, we face the future with confidence as a new generation of leaders takes over, even though there are many difficult challenges ahead.

Our confidence also derives from the knowledge that we have good friends, such as the people of Rome. As we rebuild our own country, we will savour the lessons we have learnt here from our Italian friends.

May our friendship grow and prosper, I thank you.

Issued by: Office of the President

Source: South African Government Information Website