Address by President Nelson Mandela at state banquet in his honour hosted by the King and Queen of Sweden, Stockholm

17 March 1999

Your Majesties;
Ladies and gentlemen,

We thank His Majesty for the warm and gracious remarks, with which he has welcomed us to a country that or a very long time has occupied a special place in the hearts of South Africans.

To be received here on this visit in the manner that we have been, not only serves to drive away any feelings of cold in the weather. It also reaffirms the bonds of friendship between ourselves, our countries and our peoples.

I am fast reaching the day of my retirement from public life and these visits which we are currently undertaking also contain and element of taking leave of old friends.

The successful conclusion of the struggle against apartheid was also a victory for the international forces from across the world that lent support to us in that struggle. Few would deny that Sweden held a special place as a partner in solidarity.

This visit to Sweden is probably my last official visit to Europe. While I trust that Sweden will not totally dismiss the possibility of receiving a poor unemployed old man after his retirement, I must use this official occasion to bring homage this country of friendship from my compatriots.

Sweden's relations with South Africa have been driven by a commitment to a set of human values. The concept of human solidarity unaffected by distance or social and cultural difference gained meaning and concrete expression in the way Sweden supported our struggle. Our victory was indeed your victory too; and through you a victory for those values of human dignity and freedom you hold so high.

We can repay you for your selfless support in no better way than building in our country a society based on those same values. You would have been heartened, I am sure, by the fact that the first pronouncement of our new Constitution is that our democratic state is founded on the values of human dignity, the achievement of equality and the advancement of human rights and freedoms. South Africans are working hard to make that Constitution and all its provisions a living reality, affecting the lives of all our citizens for the better.

We have built into our structures of governance and our organs of jurisprudence, independent mechanisms to protect our democracy. At the same time, we are working equally hard to provide those basic services and amenities without which a decent life is not possible and freedom becomes perversely abstract.

Major strides have been made in providing basic social services to the poor in the form of clean water, affordable primary health care, housing, electricity, decent educational opportunities.

Much still needs to be done and it will certainly take many years before we can claim that all of our citizens are enjoying that better life of which we speak, but we are well underway. It is for that reason too, namely that we are steadily but surely building a democratic society where people can live in dignity, that we are looking to our friends to assist South Africa to develop economically so as to be able to provide for its people and entrench democracy. We are confident that Sweden will continue to be in the forefront of those working with us as partners in development.

Your Majesty, together with the people of South Africa I retain very fond memories of the visit to South Africa by yourself and Her Royal Highness is 1997. We are very honoured to have been invited to once more visit these beautiful shores, as a further sign of those bonds of friendship linking the southern tip of Africa with this northern peninsula of Europe.

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, please join me in a toast to His Majesty King Carl Gustav and the people of Sweden, and to the flourishing of relations between our countries.

Source: South African Government Information Website