Address by President Nelson Mandela at a banquet in honour of President Flavio Cotti of Switzerland, Cape Town

3 August 1998

President Falvio Cotti;
Your Excellencies;
Ladies and Gentlemen

It is indeed a privilege and honour to welcome you and your delegation to South Africa. I have fond memories of the warm reception that I encountered during the official visit to Switzerland in 1997. I have no doubt that you, Mr President, as the representative of a people who identified with our struggle for freedom and who are now partners in our striving for a better world, will be accorded the same hospitality by the people of South Africa.

As a confederation that has just celebrated its 707th anniversary, as well as the 150th anniversary of the adoption of its modern constitution, Switzerland has an abundance of experience to offer the world and a budding democracy like South Africa.

By example, Switzerland had shown what can be achieved when diversity is harnessed to ensure healthy democratic participation and mutual respect.

When South Africa, during its own transition to democracy looked for inspiration and example, Switzerland was not found wanting.

You gave practical support to the broad public consultation process which led to our new Constitution.

Sharing our belief that democracy cannot stand on falsehood or on divided perceptions of the past, you assisted us in establishing our Truth and Reconciliation Commission. As that body heads towards the completion of its task and as we build on the solid foundations set for reconciliation, we remember those who helped us confront our past so that we could begin to heal our nation.

The development co-operation which you have lent us is helping to improve the lives of our previously most vulnerable and neglected sectors of society. When you visit some of the projects in which Switzerland has been involved, you will see for yourself how our people are seizing the opportunities to uplift themselves.

The agreement which we signed this morning as a basis for Swiss support for our student loan fund is of special significance. Our people are our most precious asset, and you are helping to realise the long-neglected potential of our youth. This we see as a sign of confidence in South Africa's development path and a valuable investment in our future.

Apart from our close political ties, the sound economic relationship between our countries is underlined by the fact that Switzerland is South Africa's fifth-largest trading partner.

I am told that you will also visit one of our game reserves which are fast becoming popular tourist destinations - we hope that your experience will encourage other Swiss to follow your example.

Our special relationship brings many shared aspirations within the wider international community. As the world becomes ever more like a village, none of us can stand alone. Our economic, social and political well-being cannot be separated. In line with this understanding, Switzerland's engagement on the African continent in promoting human rights, conflict-prevention and economic development is deeply appreciated.

In particular we welcome your intention to work with South Africa in helping to rid the African continent of the scourge of land-mines. No one can rest easy whilst innocent people are maimed and killed on a daily basis by such horrendous and indiscriminate weapons. Joint Swiss/South African de-mining projects, such as those in Mozambique, which are undertaken in partnership with the host country, are testimony to the good which can come from well-targeted efforts and a pooling of expertise and resources.

Mr President;

South Africa is committed to working with Switzerland for those values which your country has come to symbolise, for world peace and human rights. Your visit will strengthen our joint efforts, and it will help expand relations between our countries to the benefit of both our peoples.

Ladies and gentlemen;

I ask you to join me and raise your glasses in a toast to His Excellency President Cotti and the people of Switzerland. Long may the friendship between Switzerland and South Africa flourish.

Issued by: Office of the President

Source: South African Government Information Website