Address by Nelson Mandela at launch of "466/64: A Prisoner Working in the Garden Exhibition", Johannesburg

16 March 2005

Ladies and gentlemen

Those who watch calendars and track dates remind us that the year 2005 marks 15 years since the apartheid regime unbanned the African National Congress and other liberation movements. And it marks, for me personally, 15 years since my release from prison. For our country the anniversary invites us to consider how far we have come since those momentous days. Then we were the pole-cats of the world. Today we are a respected member of the international community of nations. Then we were on the brink of chaos. Today we have a growing democracy with a strong societal fabric.

It is good that we remember these things. May we never forget those generations who challenged the apartheid regime, and who made our freedom possible through many years of struggle. May we never forget the outstanding work of those who are now leaving us. In these 15 years so many dear comrades (and wonderful human beings) have died. Their contributions should never be forgotten.

It is appropriate that today’s event takes place at Constitution Hill. Surrounding us are the remains of apartheid jails. Those generations I speak of knew them as places of incarceration. Places of oppression. Today these remains are being turned into places of commemoration, so that future generations will remember what their freedom has been built on. And it is appropriate that today’s event takes place in the halls of the Constitutional Court. As an institution it embodies the values that we struggled for, and it embodies our dreams of a society which will not tolerate oppression.

It is appropriate that the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory and Commemoration will be located at Constitution Hill. When we launched the project last year I said that in our view the work of archives in the South Africa of today is potentially one of the critical contributions to restoration and reconciliation. All of us have a powerful moral obligation

to the many voices and stories either marginalised or suppressed during the apartheid era. We want this Centre of Memory to dedicate itself to the recovery of memories and stories suppressed by power. That is the call of justice. The call which must be the project’s most important shaping influence. We trust that the partnership being formalised today between our Foundation and Constitution Hill will hold that call as its most fundamental responsibility.

All of us tend to associate archives and museums with a remembering of the past. But that is only part of their work. If justice is their most important shaping influence, then they are also about making the future. We also tend to associate old people with the past. And as we recall that 15 years have passed since 1990, it is natural that we are drawn to consider all that has been accomplished in that period, by both young and old. But let us not forget that much still remains to be done. The shackles of our apartheid past have not been broken entirely. At the same

time, new global realities pose huge obstacles to bringing justice to all.

Our future, and the future of our children, is being made now. This is why, as a very old man, I find it so hard to retire.

May all of us commit ourselves to the future. May the project we are dedicating today become a resource for the future.

I thank you.

Source: Nelson Mandela Foundation