Address by President Nelson Mandela at the celebration of the 50th birthday of His Majesty, King Goodwill Zwelithini Ka Bhekuzulu

1 August 1998

Your Majesties;
Ladies and Gentlemen;

A disturbing thought struck my mind as I was flying here today. It occurred to me that I was already thirty years old when the King was born. Considering that he is now not young at all, I shudder to think what impression I leave in the minds of people.

Your Majesty:

I have come here not only to celebrate your birthday. I have also come to pay my respects to my King, whom I consider to be one of the greatest Kings of our land since the reign of the Kings Shaka ka Senzangakhona, Moshoeshoe, Hintsa, Madikoane and other great monarchs. It is for this reason that I rearranged my very busy schedule in order to attend this important occasion.

The 50th birthday of His Majesty marks the 26th anniversary of his reign. His Majesty's birthday is a special occasion not only because it affords us the opportunity to gather around our beloved King and enjoy his hospitality, but also because His Majesty is the first Zulu King to be blessed with 50 years of active life. We wish him many more years to come.

I am personally deeply honoured to be present at an occasion to celebrate the birthday of the longest-reigning monarch of Zulu royalty.

His Majesty will agree with me that his reign has perhaps been the most turbulent in the history of our country. It had to be so, because it spans the period of the height of the struggle against white domination and apartheid.

On an occasion like this, it is appropriate to pay tribute to the militant anti-colonialist struggles of the Zulu royal house, a legacy dating from the days of the Kings Shaka, Dingane, Cetshwayo and others. Together with the King of the Tembus, Sabata Dalindyebo His Majesty's father, King Cyprian ka Solomon, refused to collaborate with the apartheid authorities when the Bantustan Policy was launched. His Majesty maintained this tradition in his opposition to apartheid.

His Majesty might recall the sometimes turbulent relations that arose among his subjects as a result of the conflict ignited by apartheid. I find it proper that on an occasion like this I should, in my capacity as executive leader of your subjects, undertake once more that never again shall your children be at each other's throats as it happened before. The government and I shall do all in our power to ensure that the violence that gripped the province and the country after 1984 does not rear its ugly head again.

I am aware, Your Majesty, that there are sinister forces fomenting war and mayhem among your people. They are determined to delay progress in the country. They have found in Richmond soulless traitors among your subjects who are prepared to serve as a battering ram in the destruction of their own brothers and sisters. Already, we have deployed additional security personnel in the area and are busy upgrading infrastructure so that policing can be carried out more effectively. There is no doubt in my mind that, as in other parts of the province and the country, the perpetrators of the violence will be defeated.

I am certain that His Majesty approves of and supports the initiative that is lead by two of his outstanding subjects, the President of the African National Congress, Thabo Mbeki, and the President of the Inkatha Freedom Party, Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi, to help unite our people and the country as a whole. I say this because our king has been the most consistent voice and campaigner for peace and unity among his people. It is largely due to his ceaseless commitment to peace that relative stability and peace have come to the province of KwaZulu-Natal. Every day, Deputy President Mbeki and Chief Buthelezi are giving fresh meaning to the new South African patriotism. They bring hope of a stable, secure and bright future to all South Africans and the world.

I am proud of their example and leadership and it is my sincere hope that all the members of the ANC and the IFP will give unflinching support to their efforts.

Aware that nothing troubles His Majesty more than strife among his people, I urge all South Africans, more specially those in the province of KwaZulu-Natal, to give His Majesty the gift he will cherish for the rest of his life - the gift of enduring peace.

Your Majesty, I am honoured to have a King like you. I am certain that this is the feeling of all South Africans. May you enjoy many more years of good life and health.

I thank you.

Source: Nelson Mandela Foundation