View Header


                    Office of the Press Secretary
                      (Cape Town, South Africa)
For Immediate Release                                     March 27, 1998
                        AND PRESIDENT MANDELA
                        IN EXCHANGE OF TOASTS
                         Vergelegen Estates
                    Somerset West, South Africa

8:08 P.M. (L)

PRESIDENT MANDELA: President Clinton and Mrs. Clinton, Deputy President Mbeki, Your Majesties, Your Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen. It is a proud moment to welcome the first President of the United States to visit South Africa. Our pride is that of a free nation welcoming the representative of the people who identified with our struggle because they, too, have known what it is to fight for independence and for justice. They are keenly aware that the essence of the American Dream is one that South Africans, Africans, and the rest of humanity share.

You will be able to report to your people, Mr. President, that we are using the freedom they helped us win to build a nation that is united in seeking a better life for all its citizens. You will be able to confirm that relations between our two countries are growing by the day. These relations make it possible for us to create more resources to meet our people's basic needs: jobs, skills and schooling, a roof over their heads, health care.

Such was the motivation in setting up the Binational Commission; such is the reason for its existence, and such should be the prize. Your visit, we are convinced, will add impetus to the Commission's work and strengthen the momentum for the expansion of all around relations.

Above all, your historic visit to our continent places the United States in the forefront of supporters in Africa's struggle to bring about her --. Indeed, we should not expect otherwise of the United States, a country in which resides a part of Africa's soul. Although this may be misplaced amongst partners and friends, we still feel obliged to say thank you to the American people for ensuring, as part of humanity, that South Africa is free at last. (Applause.)

Mr. President, you will understand that at my age I can afford to be honest. (Laughter and applause.) I will be so brutally frank as to prejudice your case because I know that you, like myself, are not saddled with the misfortune of having to campaign for another term. (Laughter.)

And this is to say that in addition to my profound thankfulness for the hospitality and empathy of the American people, which I was blessed to experience during my visits there, I have greatly appreciated your own personal deep sense of concern and solidarity with our cause. Often, as heads of state, we are called upon to interact with ordinary people as a duty and as part of the political trade. But in you I have discerned an attachment to the aspirations of the most vulnerable sectors of society that comes from deep within your heart and soul . (Applause.)

We have, therefore, followed with keen interest your program over the past seven years and more to try and turn around old -- and seek a better life for all your people. We in South Africa have been beneficiaries of this, your identification with the weak and the poor. I wish to say, thank you for your contribution, the contribution you made to our difficult march to freedom. May the award we grant you today, the Order of Good Hope, represent a small token -- (applause) -- may this award represent a small token of our warm recognition of your efforts.

It is appreciated, Mr. President, that friends are such not because they agree on everything, and our own partnership is no exception. What is critical, though, is that we should understand why from time to time we might disagree and agree to disagree. (Applause.) What we do treasure, though, is that under the most fundamental question facing humanity we have a partner in you and the American people in general.

As we enter the new millennium, we as a country, as part of a continent in rebirth, and as part of the developing world, we stridently continue to call for the democratization of the United Nations and its agencies -- (applause) -- for a more humane consideration of the poorest and most heavily indebted countries, and for the introduction of some order into what is at times a disorderly and predatory global financial system.

We raise these issues, Mr. President, because we know that in the current U.S. administration we shall have a sympathetic hearing. Indeed, we believe it is in the interest of the most powerful country in the world at the turn of this century to give such leadership as would propel all of humanity forward into a life without hunger, poverty, illiteracy, and ignorance. (Applause.)

Mr. President, democracy without solving poverty, hunger, illiteracy, is an empty shell. (Applause.) And the most devastating challenge to the stability of the world, in all respects, is that of hunger and poverty. It is a challenge which requires all good men and women throughout the world to unite in order to address this problem. And unless we address it, those countries which claim to be democracies are really not democracies. They pay lip service to that idea.

And I have -- I say this quite freely because I know you identified with us in these sentiments. We raise these issues, Mr. President, also because we know that they are engaging your mind and that you will seek solutions that are in the interest of all humanity. Our enthusiasm for the special relations with the USA derives also from our commitment to Southern Africa, which we believe can become one of the powerhouses of the continental relations. That's when courage -- an approach on the part of investors which recognizes the interlinkages in Southern Africa, including trying to make approaches which are a basis for our common effort towards the regional prosperity.

Mr. President, we face still greater challenge than those we have overcome for our country, our continent, and the entire world. The United States is an especially valued partner as we seek to make the world a better place for all who live in it.

Ladies and gentlemen, would you please join me in a toast to President Clinton and the people of the United States of America.

(A toast is offered.) (Applause.)

PRESIDENT CLINTON: Thank you very much. Mr. President, Mr. Deputy President, Ministers, members of Parliament, members of the Judiciary, Your Majesties, Your Excellencies, Archbishop Tutu, ladies and gentlemen.

First let me thank you for your hospitality to Hillary and me and our delegation. We have had a wonderful time in South Africa. And I thank you, Mr. President, for the power of your leadership and the power of your example.

Today, when we toured Robben Island, I was reminded again that though you were locked in prison for a long time, you opened other's minds and hearts. You helped to educate your fellow inmates. (Applause.) You kindled the flame of humanity in your jailers. You planted a garden in the courtyard of Robben Island because of your faith in renewal. I can't imagine anyone I would rather receive an Order of Good Hope from than you. (Applause.)

And when, after 10,000 days of captivity, the gates of prison were opened, you emerged to face your nation unbitter and unbroken. That is the condition I hope the tent will maintain. (Laughter and applause.)

And truly you have built a new South Africa where all its people have a stake in the future. The symbols of that new South Africa are all around us. From your multiracial Parliament where I was honored to speak yesterday, to flourishing businesses where all races work side by side, to the very banquet we attend tonight -- the people who work, the people who are seated, all of us here together, South Africa is a monument to the power of reconciliation. (Applause.)

Tonight, we celebrate all you have accomplished. We pledge the partnership and friendship of the United States for the daunting work ahead, for seizing the challenges and the opportunities that face you today and in the century just around the corner.

I remember when we hosted the Olympic Games in Atlanta in 1996. On the final day, the first black South African every to win a Gold Medal in Olympic competition, Josiah Tungwane -- (applause) -- dedicated his victory to his country and to President Mandela. I think it is worth recalling that his victory came in the marathon.

President Mandela has won a great victory in what is the longest marathon of the 20th century. (Applause.) But now it is important that you not lose the conviction, the energy, the sheer joy of daily living which accompanied your freedom. For the challenges you face also require a marathon.

One of our country's most eloquent political leaders, Mario Cuomo, whose son now serves in my Cabinet, once said that "in democracies we campaign in poetry, but we govern in prose." It is a marathon.

I come to say that the United States admires not only the leader, but the people of South Africa. And we look forward to running that marathon with you. Let us not grow weary, let us never lose heart. Let us have confidence that the people can find the way.

Ladies and gentlemen, please join me in a toast to the President and the people of South Africa.

(A toast is offered.) (Applause.)

END 8:26 P.M. (L)