Address by Nelson Mandela at inauguration of the Passive Resistance Monument, Durban

27 May 2002

To gather here today with the inauguration of this monument to Passive Resistance is in a very special way a celebration of our new found South African nationhood.

We South Africans have arrived at where we are because we refused to bow to the dictates of our oppressors about who we should be as a nation; about how we should be constituted as a single collective of diverse people; about how we should deal with the question of unity within diversity.

We defined our own discourse about what we preferred to call the national question when our adversaries chose to talk about and tried to indoctrinate our people about separate nationalities.

We must today refer to one of the most resilient and historically consistent founding documents of any organisation anywhere in the world - the Freedom Charter. It was that expression of the will of our people that consolidated the long held belief and democratic instinct of the South African masses that we are one people with one common destiny.

Our struggle has many origins that came together in the one unifying wish of people to be free, to determine their own destinies and to put the equality and well-being of human beings supreme no matter what social differences may distinguish them from each other.

The African National Congress came into being in the first decade of the previous century to unite the African people in a common struggle against a regime and a political order that thrived on the principle of divide and rule.

The African National Congress today governs as the ruling party in democratic South Africa - and rules on a massively majority mandate from all the people of our country - exactly because it never bowed to the baser instincts of trying to divide on the basis of social differences.

The African National Congress never imposed itself upon people. It was the vehicle for South African people of various backgrounds and approaches to liberation to come together as South Africans and to advance the struggle for political liberation, economic emancipation and human dignity.

The manner in which the African people, people of Asian origin, people from the Coloured community and democrats from the White community reached out to one another in a common front for liberation today still reverberates around the world as an inspiration of non-racial intent and will.

The seminal and formative contribution of the South African Indian community to how we understand ourselves as a nation, and to how we have arrived at our current definition of nationhood, is in quality and impact way beyond the proportion of their demographic presence.

The passive resistance tradition is one of the most enduring and noble pieces of heritage that community has contributed to our joint heritage of freedom struggle.

The Mahatma, Mohandas Gandhi, stands at the pinnacle of those symbols of the internationalism of our struggle. Here was a man who left his country to go to another, who took up the issues of his immediate community, and who grew to be an instrument for the struggles of all oppressed people. His methods of opposition and resistance to oppression inspired not only his country of temporary adoption, then his native country, but became a moral code the world over.

Our own struggle was morally in concert with that of the Mahatma, and members of the Indian community were key participants in that struggle. When the circumstances called on us as combatants for freedom and dignity to go the prisons of our oppressors, we were all heeding the call, including as everybody else members of the Indian community.

I remember, and want to remember today, people like the mother of our two current government members Essop and Aziz Pahad. She went to jail three times that I remember. There were university students such as the Meers, J S Singh, the Cachalia's and many others.

Passive resistance and our armed struggle were of course never in a single-minded way morally in contradiction to one another. It was always our view that the methods of the oppressor in the end influenced the resistance methods. And our armed struggle was never simple-minded violence; it was always a politically supervised manner of bringing sanity to those intent upon violently subjecting the people of our country.

In that part of our struggle, too, members from all our communities and national groups played heroic roles, ensuring that our armed struggle remained true to the guiding principles that moved us to seek in the first place a peaceful resolution to our conflicts.

We inaugurate this monument to passive resistance as a symbol of the triumph of the unity of our people. We are one people with one common destiny. The road we have walked have been built by the contribution of all of us; the tools we have used on that road had been fashioned by all of us; the future we face is that of all of us, both in its promises and its demands.

I thank you.

Source: Nelson Mandela Foundation