Address by Nelson Mandela at press conference of the Ex-Political Prisoners' Committee, Johannesburg

30 March 2006

Ladies and Gentlemen from the media and from the business community:

I am so happy to be in retirement and to be able to act in new roles when I do appear in public.

I am here today actually as the Master of Ceremonies for this event. So, I will not do the speaking but merely introduce you to those that will be speaking.

And that is a great relief. For the major part of my public life I had to do the speaking while others had the easy job of doing introductions.

The young man here next to me, who is no longer the slim and hungry man I once knew in jail but has become a political heavy-weight as out Minister of Defence, had the idea that I could still raise funds on my own steam. I had to disappoint him and pointed out that all I could do now was to introduce him to those I once knew, and hoped that he can now in his youth do better than I could do in my old age.

Minister Lekota has taken great interest in raising funds for the ex-political prisoners' committee. This is exactly what I would have expected from a man like him. He has not forgotten where he comes from or the experiences that have moulded him into what he is today. It is through men and women of that integrity that our country could become the place that it is today.

The Preamble to our Constitution reminds us to honour those who sacrificed for justice and freedom in our land, and to respect those who built and developed our land. Those two phrases represent a profound call to reconciliation amongst the various strands of our often conflicting history.

We are here today exactly in pursuit of that kind of reconciliation. The former political prisoners were those who sacrificed dearly in the pursuit of justice and freedom in our country. They, and Minister Lekota on their behalf, come here to appeal for assistance to provide a life of some comfort to them now as they grow older without the means that otherwise could have been there.

My job as Master of Ceremonies is not to make that very commendable appeal, but to introduce you and commend to you those that will be doing the speaking. And to assure you that if I still had the fund-raising pull I once thought I had, I would have gone all out to raise funds for this worthy cause.

Instead, I have the honour to hand you over to a man who has made his mark in sacrificing for justice and freedom, and who has subsequently also proved himself to be one of the great reconciliators of our country.

I speak of Minister Lekota and now hand over to him.

Source: Nelson Mandela Foundation