Address by President Nelson Mandela to Swedish Parliament, Stockholm

18 March 1999

Mr Speaker;
Honourable Members;
Ladies and Gentlemen,

When I spoke in the Swedish parliament nine years ago, almost to the day, it was as a freedom fighter, only weeks out of jail, and still denied citizenship in the land of his birth.

It was also the first time ever that I had the opportunity to speak in a parliament, as the highest institution of democracy.

You can imagine, therefore, what a moving occasion this is today as I have the privilege once more to address you, but this time as the elected President of a free and democratic South Africa.

We know that we stand before those who used their democratic power so that others should have democracy too. It was here that laws were made and budgets adopted to give effect to the determination of the Swedish people as a whole, to be in the forefront of the world-wide campaign to isolate the apartheid regime and to support our struggle for democracy.

It is fitting that what is probably our last official visit to Europe before retirement, should include Sweden, which made a contribution to our liberation that was out of all proportion to your size.

Today South Africa has powerful friends. There is a danger that we may forget those small countries who, when we were shunned by almost the entire world, stood with us and in time mobilised the international community. It was therefore important that we should pay this visit before the end of our first democratic government.

We have come to once more thank Sweden from the bottom of our hearts for what you did: the labour movement; NGOs; churches and others; and the millions of ordinary Swedish men and women who insisted that the rights they enjoyed should be enjoyed by all people everywhere. Their passionate commitment was reflected in the resolute and remarkable support we had from the Swedish government.

We have also come to report to you that the people of South Africa are using the freedom you helped them win, to transform their country. We have come to tell you that your continuing co-operation is helping to change the lives of millions as they gain access to clean water; electricity; telephones; proper education and housing, things that were only a dream before.

The achievement of our goals depends also on others achieving the same goals. In this modern world, whatever happens in one country has an impact elsewhere, even across the globe. The integrated development of Southern Africa; peace and stability throughout our continent; and the forging of an international order which ensures that world economic growth translates into development are all essential parts of our approach as we establish our place in the international community of nations.

It is because Sweden shares this approach that we have such confidence in the future of a relationship that was forged in the trenches of struggle for our freedom. The seriousness with which our two governments take our partnership is reflected in the agreement, following the visit here of Deputy President Thabo Mbeki, that 1999 is to be a Sweden/South Africa Year dedicated to strengthening our relations in every sphere.

Though the challenges of reconstruction are even greater than those of liberation, and though we have some difficult problems, we face them with confidence, knowing what progress South Africans have made by working together, and knowing that we have the support of countries like Sweden.

Mr Speaker,

Because my retirement from public is fast approaching, today is also almost the last time that I may have the chance to speak in any parliament.

South Africa's democratic parliament is only days from the end of its first term. Our people are busy preparing in their millions for elections which will consolidate the institutions of our young democracy and strengthen our capacity to continue making a reality of the hopes which you share with us. Those they elect shall be your counterparts in the partnership between our peoples for world peace, equity and prosperity.

There is therefore an important symbolism in this second opportunity you have given me to speak, here in Northern Europe, in your parliament which nine years ago greeted the first dawn of our transition to democracy in the southern tip of Africa.

In a few hours I will be leaving your country, at the end of a visit to five countries whose peoples were not content simply to enjoy their freedom, but fought for our freedom as if it was theirs.

Naturally there is an element of sadness in taking leave of such men and women.

But on my return to my country I will be able to tell my people that in Sweden, as in the other Nordic countries and the Netherlands, we have true friends indeed, ready to work with us in partnership for a better world.

I thank you

Issued by the Office of the President

Source: South African Government Information Website