Address by President Nelson Mandela at banquet in honour of President Fidel Castro of Cuba, Paarl

4 September 1998

President Castro;
Your excellencies;
Ladies and Gentlemen,

You will not need my words, Mr President, to sense the special place that the Cuban people occupy in the hearts of millions of South Africans. That you will know from the warmth of their welcome when you joined us four years ago for the inauguration of our democracy, and from today's rousing reception in our Parliament.

If today all South Africans enjoy the rights of democracy; if they are able at last to address the grinding poverty of a system that denied them even the most basic amenities of life, it is also because of Cuba's selfless support for the struggle to free all of South Africa's people and the countries of our region from the inhumane and destructive system of apartheid.

For that, we thank the Cuban people from the bottom of our heart.

Because your support has also come through teachers, builders and doctors whom you sent to our continent and through the training of many South Africans in your schools and universities, we are still reaping the harvest as we rebuild our country.

Inasmuch as Cuba was a home from home for many South Africans during the dark night of our oppression, we now welcome you home to the sunshine of our freedom.

As the beneficiary of international solidarity that helped make it a member of the community of free nations, democratic South Africa is proud to be amongst the majority of nations who affirm the right of the Cuban people to determine their own destiny, and that sanctions which seek to punish them for having decided to do so are anathema to the international order to which we aspire.

When South Africa and Cuba established diplomatic ties on the very day after democratic government was established in our country, we formalised bonds that run centuries deep, including a common heritage of African dispossession as well as shared struggle and pride in the restoration of human dignity.

South Africa's freedom has opened the door to the strengthening of all-round relations between our two countries.

As we progress, steadily but surely, in reversing the legacy of apartheid, we are drawing deeply on the experience of those who learnt before us. In that regard, Cuba's achievements in delivering social services such as education and health are an inspiration. They convey a message to the developing world that ignorance and disease are not unalterable conditions of human life.

As we find our feet in the world and as reconstruction and development begin to transform our country, so too does our relationship become a partnership of mutual benefit: through expanding trade and co-operation in every sphere.

Mr President,

Much as our two nations may advance each other through co-operation, even together we cannot overcome the constraints on our development and growth rooted in the current global system.

The achievement of our shared goals depends ultimately on our success, in concert with others, in placing the interests and needs of developing countries at the top of the world agenda, and in promoting a reform of international systems and institutions in conformity with democratic principles.

We have come from a very successful Summit of the Non-Aligned Movement, reinvigorated in our conviction that the poorer and weaker nations, who make up the greater part of humanity, should strengthen each other through co-operation for mutual benefit and by speaking with one voice.

In doing so we will also create the basis for co-operation with nations of the North to help reverse the growing disparities that threaten our shared world with prolonged instability, because we believe that there is a coincidence of interest between the majority of the people of the North and the people of the developing countries.

The defeat of apartheid demonstrated what can be achieved when we join hands with purpose and conviction. South Africa is committed to working with Cuba to help build a better life for millions of people across both our continents and beyond.

As we enter the new millennium, South Africa gladly takes your hand in a partnership for peace, prosperity and equity.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Will you join me in a toast to the health of President Castro and to everlasting friendship between the peoples of South Africa and Cuba!

Issued by: Office of the President

Source: South African Government Information Website