The Rt. Hon. Sir John Major KG CH

Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland 1990-1997

1996Prime Minister (1990-1997)

Mr Mandela’s Speech at Luncheon – 9 July 1996

Below is the text of Nelson Mandela’s speech at a luncheon in London held in his honour on 9th July 1996.


Mr. Prime Minister;

My Lords;

Ladies and Gentlemen.

Thank you for your kind words of welcome and support. My delegation and I have been moved by the warm welcome we have had. We are greatly encouraged by the evident desire on the part of the British public that South Africa should succeed in her endeavours.

When you visited South Africa you said that you had come to re-awaken an old friendship and to signal a new fellowship between our two countries, a fellowship for the future. Your visit, Mr. Prime Minister, and the highly successful visit by Her Majesty did indeed achieve these goals, beyond our wildest expectations. Visits between our two countries are at an all-time high, cooperation is increasing and awareness of each other’s interests is growing.

South Africa today is in a constructive mood. Our new democratic institutions have taken firm root and won the respect of all sectors of our society. The new constitution adopted by our elected representatives widens the frontiers of our freedoms, and gives South Africa democratic government based on the universal norm of majority rule.

In the past two years, despite the absence of legitimate local authorities, we have been able to make a start in improving social services. The lives of millions have been changed through better health care, water supply, electrification and education, amongst others. Constructive and focused development assistance from Britain made a significant contribution to this progress.

The completion of our first democratic local government elections not only puts in place a critical element of democracy, but provides an indispensable instrument of development and opens the way for faster delivery of services.

The peaceful manner in which the elections in KwaZulu/Natal were conducted should give confidence to all those with an interest in South Africa’s future. That was a joint achievement of the province’s people, political parties, and our security forces; and we are confident that the constructive relationship forged in political contest will endure in democratic local governance.

Underpinning all the progress we have so far made is a powerful impetus towards national unity and reconciliation. We have achieved consensus of the broadest kind around the programme being defined by government for the reconstruction and development of our country.
In particular, our recently announced strategies to combat crime and to effect growth, job creation and redistribution, have established a framework within which all major social sectors will be working in partnership. Building on the work of the last two years, it will move us beyond the present constraints.

As we implement our programme and move towards our goals, our partnership with Britain will play a critical role.

We are pleased to note the rate at which economic links with Britain have been growing, and appreciate the British Government’s active promotion of trade with South Africa.

Britain furthermore remains South Africa’s main source of tourism – I am told that the current rate of 37 departures from Heathrow to South Africa every week will increase to more than 40 by the end of the year.

The importance to us of our economic relationship with Britain is reflected in the fact that I am accompanied by one of the largest business delegations that has ever left our shores. This morning’s conference provided them with an invaluable opportunity to engage with Britain’s business community. They will also be keenly using other occasions to promote expanded economic activity between our countries. For, in the final analysis, the success of our macroeconomic framework relies on rapidly increasing investments.

We also appreciate the British Government’s willingness to assist South Africa in obtaining the best possible agreement with the European Union, in order to promote development in South Africa and underpin the durability of the new democratic order.

Investment that boosts our productive capacity, introduces new skills, and increases exports is critical to the reconstruction and development of our country. Conversely, the potential for growth in South Africa creates immense opportunities for profitable British engagement with our country, in a relationship of mutual benefit.

Mr. Prime Minister;

The British Government’s support for democracy and development in South Africa is invaluable. Co-operation and assistance with regard to economic, development and military matters have brought South Africa significant and substantial benefits. The discussions we held today will strengthen these relations, and deepen our co-operation as members of the Commonwealth.

My Lords, Ladies and Gentlemen.

I now kindly request you to raise your glasses to British/South African friendship – a fellowship for the future!