NELSON MANDELA President of South Africa
The progress and promise of transformation following the abolition of apartheid is the message of South Africa's president, the only non-Canadian to have received Canada's highest award, the Order of Canada. It is a promise of better lives built on the achievement of democracy, racial equality, and unity. It is an on-going achievement helped by a pertnership with Canada. Speech to a joint sitting of the House of Commons and Senate, Ottawa, September 24, 1998.
I know that it is a rare privilege for anyone from another country to be invited to address this hallowed institution of Canadian democracy, which includes in its roll of honour leaders of world renown.
That I should be granted that distinction twice in eight years is something that can only be understood as a tribute to the people of South Africa by the Canadian people, to whom we owe so much, and an expression of the partnership between us.
When I stood before you in 1990, it was as a freedom fighter still denied citizenship in my own country, seeking your support to ensure an irreversible transition to democracy.
Today, I stand before you as the elected representative of the South African people, to thank you once again, for helping us end our oppression; for assisting us through our transition; and now for your partnership in the building of a better life for all South Africans. We will forever be indebted to you.
Although we still have a long way to go before we have realized our vision of a better life for all, there has been a great transformation in South Africa since 1990, and solid foundations have been built.
The experience of all peoples has taught that our democracy would remain secure and stable only if we could unite those who were once locked in conflict, and if our new freedoms brought material improvement in the lives of our people.
On this day, 24 September, South Africa marks one of our most important national days. Heritage Day is dedicated to the celebration of the rich diversity of our people. As I speak, representatives of all the language, cultural and linguistic communities are gathered at a conference discussing how to give institutional form to the commitment in our constitution to the promotion and respect of the rights of communities.
In order that the memory of historical injustice and violations of human rights should not remain as continuing obstacles to national unity, our Truth and Reconciliation Commission has helped us confront our terrible past. Painful and imperfect as the process has been, it has taken us further than anyone expected towards a common understanding of our history.
If we lay stress on uniting the different sections of our society, it is because unity and the partnership of all the structures of our society are critical to the reconstruction and development of our society in order to eradicate apartheid's legacy of poverty and inequality.
Though there are differences amongst us, as is natural in any democratic society, in particular one in transition from a past such as our, they play themselves out within an allegiance to our new democracy and within a broad support for the government's policies.
We have therefore been able to make a good start in bringing basic amenities to millions of people for the first time in their lives: electricity, clean water, health care facilities, housing and schooling.
Our economic policies have turned years of stagnation into sustained growth since 1994, along with improved productivity and exports as we gear our economy for success in a competitive global environment.
We do face major challenges and problems. What is important is that we are confronting them and we are confident that we will overcome them.
For example, though our policies are creating new jobs, the number falls short of what we need. …