Address by President Nelson Mandela to National Assembly of Mauritius, Port Louis

12 September 1998

Mr Speaker,
Honourable Members of the National Assembly of Mauritius,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great honour and a privilege to have the opportunity to address the representatives of the Mauritius nation. Yesterday, when we laid a wreath at Samadhi, it was deeply moving to see the symbols with which the Mauritian people have chosen to represent their nationhood. The bold affirmation of ties with the four main civilisations - African, Chinese, European and Indian) - which form the core of a nation which nonetheless has its own distinct Mauritian identity, is an inspiration to all South Africans.

In a world in which new forms of discrimination and prejudice are emerging and generating violence and insecurity in many parts of the world, this proud celebration of unity in diversity is a beacon of hope. It is consistent with the solidarity of the Mauritian people with our struggle. With your help, and that of the international community as a whole, we have ended a system that used the diversity of South Africans to pit one against the other and deny the majority their basic rights.

As we build a new nation out of the rich tapestry of our cultures, we are committed to realising those principles of tolerance and mutual respect and unity which your nation represents.

For us too, there is also great pride, as Africans, in the fact that with this rich heritage, and situated far from the coast of Africa, you became African not by virtue of geography, but by choice. That this is not some distant intellectual exercise, or a matter of mere convenience, is clear from the role of Mauritius in regional and continental affairs.

We have noted before the role that Prime Minster Ramgoolam played as an African leader when he championed the cause of the continent at the previous ACP/EU successor agreement summit.

Even though Mauritius, like South Africa, is amongst of the newest members of SADC, her active participation in the upliftment of our region is already evident. Mauritius has become a key member in the strategic partnership for regional development and economic integration, and we look forward with pleasure to this first SADC annual summit to be hosted on your island.

In keeping with the broader symbolism of the monument at Samadhi, Mauritius is also playing a critical role in the establishment of the Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Co-operation. Today, with the end of the colonial era, new conditions allow us to reach out to our Indian Ocean neighbours and revive ancient links of trade and interaction for our mutual benefit.

If we lay stress on the multilateral organisations in which we work together, it is because our age has become defined by an increasing interdependence of nations and regions.

None of us on our own can solve the problems that face us. Instability or economic problems in one country can impact on its neighbours or even on distant country's across the world.

This then is the context which led our two countries to join the Southern African Development Community within a year of each other, and to be active members of the international organisations whose reason for existence is to assert the interests of the developing countries in the world agenda. It is the same context which leads us to prize our common membership of associations which embrace both North and South, such as the Commonwealth and the United Nations.

We are led in these directions by our commitment to democracy, peace, stability, security, development and equity; and by the recognition that the achievement of these goals by any of us depends on their being achieved by others. No nation, even the most powerful, can enjoy lasting security while those around it are mired in poverty.

These commitments and this understanding also guide South Africa in its programme of reconstruction and development. Our democracy will remain fragile, and our rights without concrete meaning, if they do not bring real improvements in the lives of the majority of our people who were left in poverty by apartheid.

We can report with pride to you, who helped us achieve our freedom and thereby the opportunity to address that legacy, that we are indeed making steady but sure progress in making a better for all, especially the poor.

It will take many years before all the needs of all our people are met. But we can justly celebrate the fact that for literally millions of South Africans, and most particularly those in rural areas, life is being changed by access to basic amenities which were only a dream in the recent past, such as clean water, electricity, telephones and primary health care.

These gains have been made possible also by the work of our nations elected representatives, who like yourselves are charged with devising the legislative and policy instruments or instruments. The path of transformation which South Africa has chosen is a profoundly legal one, and our legislators are therefore in the forefront of the partnership of all sectors of our society that is building a better life for all. In order to sustain the progress we have made and indeed to speed up implementation of our programmes, we are required above all to achieve sustained growth, so that we can fulfil our central obligation of eradicating poverty.

Due to the spreading turmoil in the world financial system, no country, rich or poor, powerful or small, can today contemplate the imperatives of growth without being aware of how far their success in achieving them can be determined by developments beyond their control. But although none are immune, the burden falls disproportionately on the developing countries, setting back efforts to uplift themselves.

We can escape the worst by strengthening our own economies, as both of our countries have done and are doing, including through expanding co-operative and mutually beneficial relationships with each other. South Africa is keen to expand its economic ties with Mauritius, within the framework of regional co-operation for development,. That is one of the purposes of our visit, and it is the purpose of the business and government delegations that have come here over recent years and will continue to come.

As we build this relationship we will however be obliged to return again and again to the need to reform the international system which sets the social, political and economic limits of what can be done at any given time. South Africa is committed to working with Mauritius and other countries for the democratisation of international relations and for the achievement of a world order in which the interests of the poor are reflected.

Honourable members;

Though current developments highlight the economic challenges of development and the international context in which we must operate, the relations we seek to build are the all-round bonds of nations sharing their deepest aspirations.

That is why we took advantage of this visit to conclude agreements to co-operate not only in the economic sphere, but also in sport, culture and the arts.

It has been an inspiration to visit a country which has distinguished itself not by military victories or the conquest of others, but for the tolerance it embodies, for its internationalism, and for its successful pursuit of economic growth for development.

On my return to South Africa I will be able to report to my people that in Mauritius we have a friend indeed and a partner for peace, prosperity and equity as we enter the new millennium.

I thank you.

Issued by: Office of the President

Source: South African Government Information Website