Address by President Nelson Mandela at a luncheon hosted by President Scalfaro of Italy, Rome

17 June 1998

President Scalfaro;
Ladies and Gentlemen,

May I begin by expressing our pleasure at being invited to visit Italy. Those of us who are here, I am sure, are the envy of many a South African. For us the name of Italy is that of an ancient fountain of learning and culture; a country renowned today for its beautiful clothing accessories and its beautiful people; the home of some of the world's great football teams; an ally in struggle and a partner in development.

Your warm welcome today has made us feel that we are home from home - as indeed South Africa is the home of a vibrant Italian community that enriches our nation.

When I last visited your country I came as a freedom fighter, a person with no vote in the country of his birth. Today I speak as the elected representative of my people, to convey, on behalf of all South Africans, our gratitude to the people of Italy for your steadfast support in our fight for justice. Without your efforts, and those of freedom-loving people across the world, our struggle would have been more difficult than it was, and more costly.

So that our freedom shall have real meaning for all our people, we are busy reconstructing our country, rejuvenating its economy and extending basic services to the majority of South Africans for whom they were only a distant dream a few years ago.

Though we have laid the foundation for a better life for all our people, our young democracy is still far from achieving the goals it has set itself.

We have much to learn from a country such as Italy, whose dramatic growth in the past decade has put it amongst the world's leading economies. The role of small and medium business in your economic success has lessons for us in our efforts to create new jobs, and we therefore welcome the focus on small business in your development co-operation with us.

Our relations as countries are enhanced by the fact that we are each firmly part of our respective regions and continents.

Our current trade negotiations with the European Union affect our neighbours as well as ourselves and we appreciate that Italy has been supportive of South Africa's positions.

For all these reasons, South Africa is deeply grateful to the Government of Italy for the assistance it is giving us, both directly and through the channels of the European Union.

We also warmly welcome Italy's calls for strengthened relations with Africa. That would assist the continent as it acts to free itself from international marginalisation and poverty. It would help us, as we enter the new century, to transform the legacy of centuries of underdevelopment into an era of peace, stability and sustainable economic development.

Mr President;

We look forward to a future of co-operation so that together we can make this a better world for all our children.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Please rise and raise your glasses in a toast to President Scalfaro, to the people of Italy and to the flourishing of good relations between South Africa and Italy.

Issued by: Office of the President

Source: South African Government Information Website