Nelson Mandela's address to the people of Cape Town, Grand Parade, on the occasion of his inauguration as State President

South African History Online

Nelson Mandela's address to the people of Cape Town, Grand Parade, on the occasion of his inauguration as State President

Cape Town, 9 May 1994

Mr Master of Ceremonies,
Your Excellencies,
Members of the Diplomatic
Corps,
My Fellow South Africans:

Today we are entering a new era for our country and its people. Today we
celebrate not the victory of a party, but a victory for all the people of South
Africa.

Our country has arrived at a decision. Among all the parties that contested
the elections, the overwhelming majority of South Africans have mandated the
African National Congress to lead our country into the future. The South Africa
we have struggled for, in which all our people, be they African, Coloured,
Indian or White, regard themselves as citizens of one nation is at hand.

Perhaps it was history that ordained that it be here, at the Cape of Good
Hope that we should lay the foundation stone of our new nation. For it was here
at this Cape, over three centuries ago, that there began the fateful convergence
of the peoples of Africa, Europe and Asia on these shores.

It was to this peninsula that the patriots, among them many princes and
scholars, of Indonesia were dragged in chains. It was on the sandy plains of
this peninsula that first battles of the epic wars of resistance were fought.

When we look out across Table Bay, the horizon is dominated by Robben Island,
whose infamy as a dungeon built to stifle the spirit of freedom is as old as
colonialism in South Africa. For three centuries that island was seen as a place
to which outcasts can be banished. The names of those who were incarcerated on
Robben Island is a roll call of resistance fighters and democrats spanning over
three centuries. If indeed this is a Cape of Good Hope, that hope owes much to
the spirit of that legion of fighters and others of their calibre.

We have fought for a democratic constitution since the 1880s. Ours has been a
quest for a constitution freely adopted by the people of South Africa,
reflecting their wishes and their aspirations. The struggle for democracy has
never been a matter pursued by one race, class, religious community or gender
among South Africans. In honouring those who fought to see this day arrive, we
honour the best sons and daughters of all our people. We can count amongst them
Africans, Coloureds, Whites, Indians, Muslims, Christians, Hindus, Jews - all of
them united by a common vision of a better life for the people of this country.

It was that vision that inspired us in 1923 when we adopted the first ever
Bill of Rights in this country. That same vision spurred us to put forward the
African Claims in 1946. It is also the founding principle of the Freedom Charter
we adopted as policy in 1955, which in its very first lines, places before South
Africa an inclusive basis for citizenship.

In 1980s the African National Congress was still setting the pace, being the
first major political formation in South Africa to commit itself firmly to a
Bill of Rights, which we published in November 1990. These milestones give
concrete expression to what South Africa can become. They speak of a
constitutional, democratic, political order in which, regardless of colour,
gender, religion, political opinion or sexual orientation, the law will provide
for the equal protection of all citizens.

They project a democracy in which the government, whomever that government
may be, will be bound by a higher set of rules, embodied in a constitution, and
will not be able govern the country as it pleases.

Democracy is based on the majority principle. This is especially true in a
country such as ours where the vast majority have been systematically denied
their rights. At the same time, democracy also requires that the rights of
political and other minorities be safeguarded.

In the political order we have established there will regular, open and free
elections, at all levels of government - central, provincial and municipal.
There shall also be a social order which respects completely the culture,
language and religious rights of all sections of our society and the fundamental
rights of the individual.

The task at hand on will not be easy. But you have mandated us to change
South Africa from a country in which the majority lived with little hope, to one
in which they can live and work with dignity, with a sense of self-esteem and
confidence in the future. The cornerstone of building a better life of
opportunity, freedom and prosperity is the Reconstruction and Development
Programme.

This needs unity of purpose. It needs in action. It requires us all to work
together to bring an end to division, an end to suspicion and build a nation
united in our diversity.

The people of South Africa have spoken in these elections. They want change!
And change is what they will get. Our plan is to create jobs, promote peace and
reconciliation, and to guarantee freedom for all South Africans. We will tackle
the widespread poverty so pervasive among the majority of our people. By
encouraging investors and the democratic state to support job creating projects
in which manufacturing will play a central role we will try to change our
country from a net exporter of raw materials to one that exports finished
products through beneficiation.

The government will devise policies that encourage and reward productive
enterprise among the disadvantaged communities - African, Coloured and Indian.
By easing credit conditions we can assist them to make inroads into the
productive and manufacturing spheres and breakout of the small-scale
distribution to which they are presently confined.

To raise our country and its people from the morass of racism and apartheid
will require determination and effort. As a government, the ANC will create a
legal framework that will assist, rather than impede, the awesome task of
reconstruction and development of our battered society.

While we are and shall remain fully committed to the spirit of a government
of national unity, we are determined to initiate and bring about the change that
our mandate from the people demands.

We place our vision of a new constitutional order for South Africa on the
table not as conquerors, prescribing to the conquered. We speak as fellow
citizens to heal the wounds of the past with the intent of constructing a new
order based on justice for all.

This is the challenge that faces all South Africans today, and it is one to
which I am certain we will all rise.

Issued by:

The Department of Information and Publicity,
P.O. Box
61884,
Marshalltown 2107,
Johannesburg.

Last updated : 31-Mar-2011

This article was produced for South African History Online on 31-Mar-2011