Address by President Nelson Mandela to joint session of the Parliament of Pakistan, Islamabad

4 May 1999

Mr Prime Minister;
Honourable Members of the Senate and the National Assembly of Pakistan
Ladies and Gentlemen

It is a great honour to have been invited to address this distinguished assembly of Parliamentarians and public leaders.

It is a privilege to stand before the representatives of a people who have known what it is to fight for independence and to face hardship in pursuit of democratic ideals.

And we are grateful to have this opportunity, as our first democratic government comes to the end of its elected term, to thank those who shared our struggle, and who helped make our liberation less costly for our people. I would like to put on record, on behalf of all South Africans, our great appreciation to the Government and people of Pakistan for their enduring and unfaltering support for the ideal of a democratic, non-racial, non-sexist South Africa.

Pakistan's proud history of solidarity with struggles in Africa against colonialism and apartheid makes your country a true partner in the rebirth of our continent.

Mr Prime Minister, Honourable members

Amongst the bonds between Pakistan and South Africa is that of a common Islamic heritage. That heritage is a vital thread in our history.

As we look back on five years of freedom, it would be right to pay tribute to Muslims who participated over generations in the struggle for justice in South Africa. Many made sacrifices so that all South Africans should be free, and we think in particular of those who died in detention: Babla Saloojee; Ahmed Timol; Imam Haroun; and Dr.Hussein Hafferjee.

It is a matter of great pride that our new constitution recognises all the religions of our country, including Islam. It accords them equal constitutional status. Unlike before, Muslim marriages are being recognised in law.

The things that our oppressors used to divide us are today a source of strength. They are becoming pillars of unity in diversity. Those same religious and cultural ties that nourished your solidarity in struggle, are today adding strength to our friendship as free nations .

That relationship has flourished since the defeat of apartheid in South Africa. The recent establishment of a Joint Commission to provide a framework for still closer bilateral co-operation in the future is a sign of our interest in and commitment to building all-round relations to benefit one another.

On the eve of our second democratic elections, the challenges for South Africa are clear. We must continue, with still greater speed, to change the lives of our people, especially the poorest of the poor, by eradicating what remains of apartheid and its legacy.

Indispensable to the achievement of that objective is growth that can be sustained within the current global economic environment and which can translate into the benefits of development for our people.

This challenge is one which we share with all developing countries, including Pakistan. Success will depend not only on our own efforts to uplift ourselves, but also on the achievement of a world order which better reflects and caters for the needs of the poor and developing nations.

Pakistan's close relations with African countries, and her influence in bodies such as the Non-Aligned Movement, the Commonwealth and the United Nations makes her an important partner in this quest for equity and development.

The benefits of our relationship would, we believe, be enhanced by closer co-operation between our regional organisations, the Southern African Development Community and the South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation. Today as we reach out to our Indian Ocean neighbours to revive ancient relations of trade and interaction, for our mutual benefit, we also look forward to closer co-operation with Pakistan within that context.

Amongst other things there is an immense potential for mutually beneficial and profitable economic relations which our business people have barely touched.

Mr Prime Minister;

Already we can detail concrete benefits flowing from this relationship. Pakistan's sharing of her experience in the fields of human resource development and education with countries in Africa is true to the spirit of South-South co-operation. South Africa would like to thank the Government of Pakistan for the technical assistance it has provided to us.

We also would like to pay tribute to Pakistan for its humanitarian assistance to the African continent as exemplified in its peace-keeping contributions in Somalia, and Angola as well as assistance in de-mining in Angola. The importance of promoting peace can never be exaggerated. Peace remains the most powerful weapon for development, and the absence of peace can undermine all the progress that is being made towards the regeneration of our continent.

In this regard, South Africa was encouraged by the latest round of dialogue between the Prime Ministers of Pakistan and India and we welcomed the conclusion of the Lahore Declaration. It is our earnest hope that the spirit which led to the signing of the Lahore Declaration will sustain progress towards peace and security in the South Asian subcontinent.

To democratic South Africa, which unilaterally dismantled the nuclear arsenal established by our apartheid predecessors, the nuclearisation of South Asia is of great concern. We would call on the countries on the subcontinent to promote nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation in the region.

Mr Prime Minister; Honourable delegates;

With my retirement from public office only weeks away, this visit has for me personally an element of taking leave of those who supported us in our struggle for liberation for freedom.

But as South Africa prepares for a future under a new generation of leaders, we know that a solid foundation has been laid for an enduring relationship between our two peoples.

It has been forged in solidarity and strengthened in freedom. Long may it continue to promote prosperity and equity within our countries and amongst nations.

May Allah bless you.

I thank you.

Issued by the Office of the President

Source: South African Government Information Website