Address by President Nelson Mandela at the luncheon in his honour hosted by President Dr Carlos Menem, Buenos Aires - Argentina

23 July 1998

President Dr Carlos Menem
Your Excellencies
Ladies and gentlemen

First and foremost, please allow me to express my deep appreciation for your kind invitation to me to visit the Republic of Argentina. We are deeply moved and encouraged by your hospitality and your words of welcome.

We also greatly appreciate the opportunity to share this luncheon with such a distinguished gathering of leaders of Argentinean society.

Unfortunately our visit to Argentina had to be all too brief. Consequently the constraints of time have prevented us from interacting as widely as we would have wished with Argentine society.

But even in the short space of this visit I have had the good fortune to meet with your nation's elected representatives and to engage briefly with the citizens of Buenos Aires. I am confident that with this microcosm of your vibrant people present here today, my few humble words will reach far beyond this place.

I know too that though this is our first State Visit to your country, I have been preceded by many ambassadors of our young democracy. They include business people in search of opportunities that will bring mutual benefit to our peoples; and delegations of government officials and parliamentary representatives learning the lessons of your experience in order to promote the transformation of our own country.

Most recently, and no less important, you played host to our young football team, Bafana Bafana, on their way to their first World Cup tournament. It would not be appropriate on this occasion to mention the outcome of their match with Argentina, but I have no doubt that they benefited from the encounter with one of the world's leading footballing nations.

Mr President;

These rapidly developing relations between our countries are an expression, under new conditions, of the bond between our peoples which led Argentina, when the opportunity came, to take the decision, which was not without cost, to join the international campaign to isolate the apartheid regime in support of our struggle for liberation. We would like on this occasion to repeat our heartfelt gratitude for that support.

Freedom has brought us the chance to address the basic needs of our people, and therefore also the need to put our economy on a path of sustained growth and development. In the circumstances prevailing in this last decade of the twentieth century, such goals require integrating our economy with those of our region. They also require that we become part of a world economic system which, while it provides great opportunities, also imposes powerful constraints to development.

These requirements set us twin objectives. We must expand our relations of trade and investment with other nations, in particular our neighbours including Argentina. And we must join hands with those in similar stages of development to ensure that the world order that is emerging as we enter the twenty-first century, should give proper weight to the needs of the developing world.

We hope that our visit to your country and your continent will advance both these goals, as did your own State Visit to South Africa, Mr President.

Peace, the sustainable use of resources, and an equitable distribution of power and influence within international affairs are all matters in which we have a common interest: as members of our respective regions; as countries on the edge of the Atlantic; and as societies with a history of colonisation and dependency.

As economies undergoing similar kinds of reform and with many common or complementary characteristics, there are numerous opportunities for interchanges in trade and investment.

South Africa's business community is looking to Argentina for openings. We are here to encourage and invite the Argentinean business community to look east. Our far-reaching programme of reconstruction and development, our increasing integration in Southern Africa and our involvement in the rebirth of Africa, all combine to create exciting prospects. Our strategic location between Argentina - and South America - on the one hand and Asia on the other opens up yet wider vistas.

The agreements we signed today, along with others still being negotiated, will facilitate the interaction of our peoples to the benefit of each other.

Your Excellency, President Menem, please accept, once more, our sincere thanks for your kind words and warm hospitality.

Ladies and gentlemen; May I request you now to stand and raise your glasses to President Dr Carlos Menem and the Republic of Argentina.

Issued by: Office of the President

Source: South African Government Information Website