Esteemed President of the democratic Republic,
Honourable Members of the Constitutional Assembly,
Our distinguished domestic and foreign guests,
an occasion such as this, we should, perhaps, start from
let me begin.
I owe my
being to the hills and the valleys, the mountains and the
glades, the rivers, the deserts, the trees, the flowers,
the seas and the ever-changing seasons that define the face
of our native land.
body has frozen in our frosts and in our latter day snows.
It has thawed in the warmth of our sunshine and melted in
the heat of the midday sun. The crack and the rumble of the
summer thunders, lashed by startling lightening, have been
a cause both of trembling and of hope.
fragrances of nature have been as pleasant to us as the sight
of the wild blooms of the citizens of the veld.
dramatic shapes of the Drakensberg, the soil-coloured waters
of the Lekoa, iGqili noThukela, and the sands of the Kgalagadi,
have all been panels of the set on the natural stage on which
we act out the foolish deeds of the theatre of our day.
times, and in fear, I have wondered whether I should concede
equal citizenship of our country to the leopard and the lion,
the elephant and the springbok, the hyena, the black mamba
and the pestilential mosquito.
presence among all these, a feature on the face of our native
land thus defined, I know that none dare challenge me when
I say - I am an African!
my being to the Khoi and the San whose desolate souls haunt
the great expanses of the beautiful Cape - they who fell
victim to the most merciless genocide our native land has
ever seen, they who were the first to lose their lives in
the struggle to defend our freedom and dependence and they
who, as a people, perished in the result.
as a country, we keep an audible silence about these ancestors
of the generations that live, fearful to admit the horror
of a former deed, seeking to obliterate from our memories
a cruel occurrence which, in its remembering, should teach
us not and never to be inhuman again.
formed of the migrants who left Europe to find a new home
on our native land. Whatever their own actions, they remain
still, part of me.
my veins courses the blood of the Malay slaves who came from
the East. Their proud dignity informs my bearing, their culture
a part of my essence. The stripes they bore on their bodies
from the lash of the slave master are a reminder embossed
on my consciousness of what should not be done.
the grandchild of the warrior men and women that Hintsa and
Sekhukhune led, the patriots that Cetshwayo and Mphephu took
to battle, the soldiers Moshoeshoe and Ngungunyane taught
never to dishonour the cause of freedom.
mind and my knowledge of myself is formed by the victories
that are the jewels in our African crown, the victories we
earned from Isandhlwana to Khartoum, as Ethiopians and as
the Ashanti of Ghana, as the Berbers of the desert.
the grandchild who lays fresh flowers on the Boer graves
at St Helena and the Bahamas, who sees in the mind's eye
and suffers the suffering of a simple peasant folk, death,
concentration camps, destroyed homesteads, a dream in ruins.
the child of Nongqause. I am he who made it possible to trade
in the world markets in diamonds, in gold, in the same food
for which my stomach yearns.
of those who were transported from India and China, whose
being resided in the fact, solely, that they were able to
provide physical labour, who taught me that we could both
be at home and be foreign, who taught me that human existence
itself demanded that freedom was a necessary condition for
that human existence.
part of all these people, and in the knowledge that none
dare contest that assertion, I shall claim that - I am an
seen our country torn asunder as these, all of whom are my
people, engaged one another in a titanic battle, the one
redress a wrong that had been caused by one to another and
the other, to defend the indefensible.
seen what happens when one person has superiority of force
over another, when the stronger appropriate to themselves
the prerogative even to annul the injunction that God created
all men and women in His image.
what if signifies when race and colour are used to determine
who is human and who, sub-human.
seen the destruction of all sense of self-esteem, the consequent
striving to be what one is not, simply to acquire some of
the benefits which those who had improved themselves as masters
had ensured that they enjoy.
experience of the situation in which race and colour is used
to enrich some and impoverish the rest.
seen the corruption of minds and souls in the pursuit
of an ignoble effort to perpetrate a veritable crime against
seen concrete expression of the denial of the dignity of
a human being emanating from the conscious, systemic and
systematic oppressive and repressive activities of other
the victims parade with no mask to hide the brutish reality
- the beggars, the prostitutes, the street children, those
who seek solace in substance abuse, those who have to steal
to assuage hunger, those who have to lose their sanity because
to be sane is to invite pain.
the worst among these, who are my people, are those who have
learnt to kill for a wage. To these the extent of death is
directly proportional to their personal welfare.
so, like pawns in the service of demented souls, they kill
in furtherance of the political violence in KwaZulu-Natal.
They murder the innocent in the taxi wars.
kill slowly or quickly in order to make profits from the
illegal trade in narcotics. They are available for hire when
husband wants to murder wife and wife, husband.
us prowl the products of our immoral and amoral past - killers
who have no sense of the worth of human life, rapists who
have absolute disdain for the women of our country, animals
who would seek to benefit from the vulnerability of the children,
the disabled and the old, the rapacious who brook no obstacle
in their quest for self-enrichment.
this I know and know to be true because I am an African!
of that, I am also able to state this fundamental truth that
I am born of a people who are heroes and heroines.
born of a people who would not tolerate oppression.
of a nation that would not allow that fear of death, torture,
imprisonment, exile or persecution should result in the perpetuation
great masses who are our mother and father will not permit
that the behaviour of the few results in the description
of our country and people as barbaric.
because history is on their side, these masses do not despair
because today the weather is bad. Nor do they turn triumphalist
when, tomorrow, the sun shines.
the circumstances they have lived through and because of
that experience, they are determined to define for themselves
who they are and who they should be.
are assembled here today to mark their victory in acquiring
and exercising their right to formulate their own definition
of what it means to be African.
constitution whose adoption we celebrate constitutes and
unequivocal statement that we refuse to accept that our Africanness
shall be defined by our race, colour, gender of historical
is a firm assertion made by ourselves that South Africa belongs
to all who live in it, black and white.
gives concrete expression to the sentiment we share as Africans,
and will defend to the death, that the people shall govern.
recognises the fact that the dignity of the individual is
both an objective which society must pursue, and is a goal
which cannot be separated from the material well-being of
seeks to create the situation in which all our people shall
be free from fear, including the fear of the oppression of
one national group by another, the fear of the disempowerment
of one social echelon by another, the fear of the use of
state power to deny anybody their fundamental human rights
and the fear of tyranny.
aims to open the doors so that those who were disadvantaged
can assume their place in society as equals with their fellow
human beings without regard to colour, race, gender, age
or geographic dispersal.
provides the opportunity to enable each one and all to state
their views, promote them, strive for their implementation
in the process of governance without fear that a contrary
view will be met with repression.
creates a law-governed society which shall be inimical to
enables the resolution of conflicts by peaceful means rather
than resort to force.
rejoices in the diversity of our people and creates the space
for all of us voluntarily to define ourselves as one people.
an African, this is an achievement of which I am proud, proud
without reservation and proud without any feeling of conceit.
sense of elevation at this moment also derives from the fact
that this magnificent product is the unique creation of African
hands and African minds.
it is also constitutes a tribute to our loss of vanity that
we could, despite the temptation to treat ourselves as an
exceptional fragment of humanity, draw on the accumulated
experience and wisdom of all humankind, to define for ourselves
what we want to be.
with the best in the world, we too are prone to pettiness,
petulance, selfishness and short-sightedness.
it seems to have happened that we looked at ourselves and
said the time had come that we make a super-human effort
to be other than human, to respond to the call to create
for ourselves a glorious future, to remind ourselves of the
Latin saying: Gloria est consequenda - Glory must be sought
it feels good to be an African.
feels good that I can stand here as a South African and as
a foot soldier of a titanic African army, the African National
Congress, to say to all the parties represented here, to
the millions who made an input into the processes we are
concluding, to our outstanding compatriots who have presided
over the birth of our founding document, to the negotiators
who pitted their wits one against the other, to the unseen
stars who shone unseen as the management and administration
of the Constitutional Assembly, the advisers, experts and
publicists, to the mass communication media, to our friends
across the globe - congratulations and well done!
born of the peoples of the continent of Africa.
pain of the violent conflict that the peoples of Liberia,
Somalia, the Sudan, Burundi and Algeria is a pain I also
dismal shame of poverty, suffering and human degradation
of my continent is a blight that we share.
blight on our happiness that derives from this and from our
drift to the periphery of the ordering of human affairs leaves
us in a persistent shadow of despair.
is a savage road to which nobody should be condemned.
thing that we have done today, in this small corner of a
great continent that has contributed so decisively to the
evolution of humanity says that Africa reaffirms that she
is continuing her rise from the ashes.
the setbacks of the moment, nothing can stop us now!
Whatever the difficulties, Africa shall be at peace!
However improbable it may sound to the sceptics, Africa will prosper!
we may be, whatever our immediate interest, however much
we carry baggage from our past, however much we have been
caught by the fashion of cynicism and loss of faith in the
capacity of the people, let us err today and say - nothing
can stop us now!