Address by President Nelson Mandela to Parliament of The Netherlands, The Hague

12 March 1999

Honourable Chairperson of the First Chamber;
Honourable Chairperson of the Second Chamber;
Honourable Members of the First and Second Chambers;
Madam Chair,

It is a great pleasure and honour for me, as the President of a democratic South Africa, to stand before the members of the Parliament of a country whose people were such staunch supporters of our struggle for democracy and non-racialism.

We salute you for that long-standing support. We cannot repeat too often that the freedom of the people of South Africa, is also your victory.

But, Madam Chair, freedom must always be defended and extended. We need those who were our allies in struggle to be our partners in giving material content to our freedom.

It is proper that I use this opportunity to express once more our debt of gratitude as a people to the anti-apartheid organisations who did so much to mobilise the people and the government of the Netherlands against apartheid.

It reminds us that alliances of political parties and groups of committed citizens organised to fight for justice - the churches; NGOs, universities and others - constitute a powerful force for the achievement of a better world.

As we approach the new millennium, the world faces greater challenges than ever before. They include growing poverty, despite the capacity of the world economy to produce the means for solving the problems of poverty. We see our environment being loaded beyond sustainability.

The worst that we can do is to close our eyes to these and problems. Knowing this Parliament's record I do not believe the Netherlands will close its eyes. Nor, we can assure you, will South Africa. So we can rest assured that our countries will stand side by side to face these challenges.

In our increasingly interdependent world, none of the serious problems can be solved by any of us alone. Whatever happens in our part of the world can impact on those in other parts. Though South Africa has weathered the global financial storm better than most developing countries, due to the soundness of our economic fundamentals, and though

the Netherlands has a strong economy, we have each felt the negative effects of financial crises elsewhere in the world.

But such are the historical imbalances of the world's economic and political systems that even what effects everyone has the most devastating consequences where they can be least afforded, on the lives of the peoples of the developing world.

We must therefore ensure that development is high on the world's agenda, and reshape international and multilateral institutions to reflect the needs of developing countries.

When the countries of the South - whether in general or as Southern Africa in particular - act together to achieve this end, it is not in opposition to the industrialised countries. Rather it creates the possibility for a more equitable strategic partnership with the countries of the North.

The Netherlands is such a country. We appreciate the understanding that you have shown for our concerns during the drawn out negotiations for a Free Trade Agreement with the European Union. The anger that Prime Minister Kok expressed that the agreement has not yet been concluded is also appreciated. It is my sincere hope that the Netherlands will continue to try and mobilise support within the European Union for the conclusion now of a fair Free Trade Agreement.

We value the commitment of the Netherlands to continue a development co-operation relationship with South Africa, and are confident that you understand our desire to negotiate an agreement that will make us partners, and not passive recipients of aid.

We hope too that the excellent work of the Foundation for a New South Africa to assist the political parties represented in our Parliament will be able to continue for some further years.

On the eve of our second democratic elections, our challenges are clear. Sustained economic growth is indispensable to the achievement of our goals of reconstruction and development, in particular the eradication of poverty.

Growth in turn depends on increased investment, and given the structure of our economy, that requires stronger economic ties with other countries, including the Netherlands. In particular, the need is for increased investment in productive enterprises, especially in the form of joint ventures with those excluded in the past from the world of business.

I touch these matters of the economy and development, not in contrast to the ideals of democracy and human rights. It is because in the end our democracy will always be fragile and our rights lacking in content unless they bring material improvements in the lives of especially the poor.

Against great odds, South Africans have used the democracy that you helped us achieve, to bring change to millions of our people, through delivery of services; democratisation; and to join hands to deal with the problems of unemployment, crime and corruption.

Meeting all the needs of our people will take many years. But as I prepare to retire from public life I am filled with content, knowing that South Africa has a capable new generation of leaders, in particular Deputy President Thabo Mbeki, and a people that is prepared to work hard to improve their lives.

Together, and with your partnership, we will continue to make a reality of the vision which moved us all, South African and Dutch alike, to achieve one of the great moral victories of the twentieth century.

I thank you!

Issued by: Office of the President

Source: South African Government Information Website