Address by Nelson Mandela at gathering in the Netherlands

June 2002

Your Royal Highnesses
Your Excellency the Prime Minister
Your Excellencies
Distinguished Guests
Ladies and Gentlemen

We are deeply grateful for your presence at and participation in this event celebrating and publicising South Africa.

We are entering the ninth year of democratic rule in South Africa, but the lapse of time since the conclusion of our liberation struggle cannot dim the memories we hold of the support the government and people of the Netherlands provided to our struggle over all of those decades and years.

Friendship is not something that can be quantified and comparatively measured, but the people of South Africa will always remember the Dutch in a special way when we talk about international solidarity with our struggle.

Your moral and material support for our liberation struggle has now translated into enthusiastic partnership with us as we set about the reconstruction and development of our country. We thank you for your enduring friendship.

And we are pleased to be able to report to you, who contributed so much to the success of our struggle for freedom, that the democracy you helped to bring about is faring well.

Out of the negotiations which led us away from racial conflict and threatening civil war came one of the most progressive democratic constitutions in the world. South Africa must today count amongst the strongest and most stable constitutional states in the world.

Our Constitution with its enshrined Bill of Rights is guarded over by a range of state institutions supporting constitutional democracy, at the pinnacle of which stands the Constitutional Court.

South Africans today express and live out their differences and their diversity within a solid constitutional framework and a robust multi-party democracy.

One should always be humble about achievements knowing how fragile humans are, but it is hard not to feel proud of being South African in a world that seems to be increasingly threatened by ethnic, racial and religious tensions. South Africa has its social and economic problems and challenges and as in all complex societies there are tensions and differences, but it is a model of a non-racial society, united around its diversity.

We would have hoped that our economic growth was higher than the current annual rate of between two to three percent, but we do have one of the best managed economies amongst emerging markets. The fundamentals of our economy are universally recognised to be sound, hence the ability of our national currency to withstand best of all emerging economies the various crises in the international financial markets.

We have the most advanced and modern economy in Africa and in the developing world. We are a modernising society, with a strong and vibrant higher education system and a civil society that plays a vigorous role in ensuring the health of our democracy.

The political normality of our society is, ironically, probably best reflected in the fact that the national attention is most urgently taken up by the social problems of societies throughout the world: the levels of unemployment; the unfortunate growing gap between rich and poor (increasingly without corresponding reference to race as a strong black middle-class develops); the world-wide phenomenon of crime that is increasingly being internationalised through syndicates; the need to be continuously watchful over corruption in public life; and in the case of countries in sub-Saharan Africa - the frightening threat of HIV/AIDS.

We are recognised as a leading country in international affairs, in many instances serving as a bridge and mediator between the developed and developing worlds. It was, for example, South Africa - one of the few if not only country to voluntarily give up and destroy its nuclear capability - that acted as principal mediator between the North and South to achieve the non-proliferation treaty.

We chair or have until recently chaired the Non-Aligned Movement, the Commonwealth and the Organisation of African Unity while we lead in voicing the concerns of the developing world in the World Trade Organisation.

The New Partnership for African Development, a plan for the economic and social recovery of the African continent, is in large part the brainchild of and is being co-driven by the South African President. The person and reputation of our President and of our country play a big role in ensuring the support of the G8 leaders for that plan.

And so we can continue. What we wished to signal to our friends and supporters is that the society you helped to struggle for is doing well. We have major challenges but we are tackling them with resolve and a commitment to creating a better life for all our people. Your support in this regard is deeply appreciated.

I thank you.

Source: Nelson Mandela Foundation