Address by President Nelson Mandela to the National Assembly of Hungary

3 May 1999

Mr Speaker;
Honourable Members of the Hungarian National Assembly,

It is indeed a very great honour to stand before the elected representatives of the Hungarian people.

I am humbled by the fact that you have made this possible by exempting me from the provisions of a law that would prohibit me from addressing this hallowed institution of your democracy.

However, I cannot avoid pointing out that had you waited the few weeks until I am no longer President of South Africa you need not have set this dangerous precedent! You would then also have come to the assistance of an unemployed old man by giving him a small job!

But then I do know that your invitation is not to me personally but to the elected President of a people who achieved liberation with your help.

In our time of need we were inspired by the international community's insistence that our aspirations were the ideals of all humanity.

It is a matter of great pride that the international community has in turn itself drawn renewed hope for a better world from the way South Africans have joined hands across the divisions of centuries to work together for a society that is true to the ideals in which you supported us.

We are resolved to do all we can to work with our friends throughout the world for those principles which we share and from which we have benefited.

Mr Speaker;

South Africans only a few days ago, on our national Freedom Day, celebrated the fifth anniversary of the day on which our people set our nation on the course of democracy. Though the majority of South Africans were denied the training and preparation to govern a complex modern society, remarkable progress has been made. Despite weaknesses that we acknowledge and problems which we share with much of the world, like crime, corruption, unemployment and AIDS, the hopes you shared with us are becoming reality.

Oppressive and discriminatory laws have been swept away. Literally millions of our people, especially the poorest of the poor, have felt the impact of government programmes to deliver basic services like clean water, decent housing and health-care, electricity and telephones.

What has made these changes possible is the unity of our people and the peace which our nation enjoys, as well as co-operation with our neighbours in Southern Africa; the countries of our continent and the whole international community.

Within societies and between nations, the achievement by any of us of our ideals depends on others achieving those same ideals. Whatever happens in one sector of society, or one country, has an impact on the others.

The recent period of international financial turmoil has shown how far the effects of economic difficulties in one country can spread. Even if the impact can be mitigated by sound economic fundamentals such as our two economies enjoy, no economy is immune. And it remains true that the heaviest burden falls upon the weaker and the poorer nations.

Nor can we insulate ourselves from the effects of violent conflicts. Whether it be in Africa or Europe, a conflict in one country can easily destabilise a whole region and threaten peace, stability and prosperity even more widely.

One cannot be in Hungary at this time and not have one's anxiety about developments in the Balkans made deeper still.

All conflicts reach a point at which neither side is absolutely right or wrong.

Even from afar, one can only be deeply disturbed by the images we see on television of innocent victims of ethnic cleansing and the violation of human rights. One can only be deeply concerned at the use of force without regard for the authority of the world body responsible for the collective resolution of conflict.

It is these concerns that have led us to condemn both sides, and to support all the efforts that are being made to secure a return to negotiation to resolve the issues relating to Kosovo.

Our own humble experience has shown that even those problems which seem intractable and rooted in generations of experience can be resolved by talking and discussion. In particular it is our view that this crisis can only be resolved if, amongst other things, the Presidents of the United States and the Russian Federation sit down and talk.

Mr Speaker;

If I raise these issues so far from home, it is because in this interdependent world in which we live, all of us depend on our sustaining and strengthening the bodies which we have, as an international community, created to promote economic equity and the peaceful resolution of conflict.

It is also because our freedom was achieved with the support of those, including yourselves, who cared even though they were far removed from our oppression and suffering.

As a result, today Hungary and South Africa can relate to one another as equal partners, in our different regions, to build economic ties that benefit both our peoples, and to strengthen one another for success in a competitive global economy.

We are able to learn from one anther's experience in securing the democratic rights for which we have fought and building national unity.

We can jointly promote educational and conduct research to advance the frontiers of knowledge that can be used to improve the lives of our people.

We can consult and co-operate with one another to try to halt the proliferation of weapons, so that all people everywhere may live in peace and with security.

In short, as South Africa prepares to continue with a new generation of leaders along the path you helped us open, our two countries are building a solid relationship.

May it serve our peoples and contribute to a better world, far into the future.

Issued by: Office of the President

Source: South African Government Information Website