South African History Online

Mandela: Message to India

[On the occasion of an India-South Africa Solidarity Meet to discuss the post-apartheid South African scene, organised by the Indian National Social Action Forum (New Delhi, June 11, 1994), Nelson Mandela sent a message in his capacity as the President of South Africa and another in his capacity as the President of the African National Congress. Here the excerpts from Mandela's messages which bring out the bonds of solidarity that bind our two countries. Editor]

There has been a golden thread that has bound our peoples together for many, many decades - a thread woven during the long, arduous and bitter years of struggle against common enemies: racism, imperialism and colonialism.

South Africa's relations with India date back centuries, starting in the seventeenth century when Indians formed part of the first batch of slaves who were brought from the East. They came in larger numbers from 1860 onwards as indentured labourers and so-called "passenger Indians."

Today, the South African Indian community is a million-strong, and it forms a full part of South African society. Hand-in-hand with other peace-loving South Africans, they have played an outstanding role in the struggle for a non-racial, non-sexist and democratic South Africa.

The noble and epic Indian struggle for freedom served as an inspiration to millions the world over to fight for their own emancipation and human dignity.

Forty-seven years after your great achievement we too have overthrown the yoke of racial oppression and tyranny. We rejoiced with you on that splendid occasion when the British standard was lowered on August 15, 1947, from the ramparts of the Red Fort in Delhi. We held our breath and celebrated the hoisting of the Indian tri-colour to signify the beginning of the new era in Indian history - and the beginning of the end of colonialism and imperialism on a world scale.

We have no doubts too, that you celebrated with millions of our people the moment of our own liberation and the birth of a new South Africa free from the scourge of racial tyranny and oppression.

Today, as we savour the moment of victory and begin the daunting task of building a new life for our people we recall with pride and gratitude the sterling contribution India and its people made towards the attainment of that objective. We cannot, for instance, forget the consistent and principled role India played, before and after independence, to focus world public opinion on the evils of the apartheid system. India's unilateral decision to sever all links - economic, political, diplomatic, etc. - with the apartheid state in the forties as an expression of her abhorrence to racism served as a spur to our freedom movement.

Your championing of our cause at the United Nations and other world fora further helped to galvanise the international community on to the side of the oppressed, exploited, voiceless and voteless South Africans. India thus was, in many respects, a pioneer in the international anti-apartheid struggle.

May we take this opportunity to express our deep appreciation and thanks to the people, government and leaders of India for their contribution made to the cause of freedom and human dignity in South Africa?

We are certain that the bonds of friendship and solidarity forged over the years will continue to grow. And may the golden thread woven in the common struggles against injustice and oppression never be broken.

Source: Mainstream, New Delhi, June 18, 1994

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