The Rt. Hon. Sir John Major KG CH

Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland 1990-1997

1994Prime Minister (1990-1997)

Mr Mandela’s Speech at Banquet for John Major – 20 September 1994

Below is the text of President Nelson Mandela’s speech at the banquet held for John Major, held on Tuesday 20th September 1994.


Prime Minister John Major,

Cabinet members and other members of your delegation,

Madame Speaker,

President of the Senate,

Deputy Presidents,

Dear Guests,

I am deeply honoured to play host to you, Mr Prime Minister and your delegation.

For the reasons that you so eloquently outlined in your address to parliament this morning, the United Kingdom and South Africa do have a special relationship.

It may well be that in the centuries gone by, this was a relationship premised on the dictates of self-interest by the rich and mighty. It may well be that that relationship had its stormy moments over the decades – between our various communities and people.

But that history has bequeathed on both our countries common attributes in more ways than one. Besides the fact that we are now communicating in one language, there are many positive traits, covering a wide range of areas – not least the system of democracy and culture of human rights – that inspired us over the years, and continue to be a source of reference even today.

The Government of National Unity is truly appreciative that you have come to South Africa. Coming hot on the heels of the visit by the President of the Board of Trade, Michael Heseltine and indeed many engagements between our government representatives, business-people, sports personalities, cultural performers and others – your presence in South Africa crowns a partnership that we can now say has truly come of its own.

You made detailed reference earlier today to the agreements that we have signed in many areas of common interest. We, in South Africa, and I refer here both to my Government and the people as a whole, are particularly thankful of the commitment shown by your government to help us deal comprehensively with the legacy of apartheid. We are impressed by your grasp of the difficult problems that we have to grapple with, and your generosity in making a contribution to their solution.

In this way, Sir, Britain is asserting her role in the front ranks of nations that seek to help in consolidating our young democracy.

We are committed to strengthening this relationship, conscious of the fact that both our nations will benefit tremendously from it. To this end, many issues have been broached during our discussions, including the meeting this afternoon with the business representatives in your delegation. On our part we shall ensure that all these matters are followed up and concluded.

Our country has taken her rightful place within the Commonwealth of Nations. We saw it as entirely natural, that immediately after the establishment of the Government of National Unity, we should take this step. For, we are mindful of the many economic, political, cultural, sporting and other mutual benefits that will accrue from this relationship.

We are pleased that Her Majesty, the Queen has accepted our invitation to South Africa and we are eagerly awaiting her historic visit.

Mr Prime Minister,

The attainment of democracy in our country has made it possible for us to forge a new partnership. In the long years of difficult endeavours to this end, we enjoyed the support of British people and various governments. Today, we meet at the beginning of a new dawn in our relations. And we are confident that these will grow from strength to strength.

My Lords, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Please pray be up standing, for a toast to Her Majesty the Queen.