Speech at his inauguration as President
of South Africa
June 16 1999
Union Buldings, Pretoria
Your Royal Highnesses,
President of the Constitutional Court,
Isithwalandwe Nelson Mandela,
Fellow South Africans,
I am honoured to welcome you all to our seat of government
as we carry out the solemn act of the inauguration of
the President of our Republic.
I feel greatly privileged that so many of you could
travel from all corners of the globe, from everywhere
in Africa and from all parts of our country to lend
importance and dignity to this occasion.
That sense of privilege, which will stay with us for
all time, is intensified by our recognition of the fact
that never before have we, as a people, hosted this
large a number of high level delegations representing
the peoples of the world.
We thank you most sincerely for your presence which
itself constitutes a tribute to the millions of our
people and a profound statement of hope that all of
us will, together, continue to expand the frontiers
of human dignity.
For us, as South Africans, this day is as much a Day
for the Inauguration of the new government as it is
a Day of Salute for a generation that pulled our country
out of the abyss and placed it on the pedestal of hope,
on which it rests today.
I speak of the generation represented pre-eminently
by our outgoing President, Nelson Mandela - the generation
of Oliver Tambo, Walter Sisulu, Govan Mbeki, Albertina
Sisulu, Ray Alexander and others.
Fortunately, some of these titans are present here
today, as they should be. None of us can peer into their
hearts to learn what they feel as this infant democracy
they brought into the world begins its sixth year of
But this I can say, that we who are their offspring
know that we owe to them much of what is humane, noble
and beautiful in the thoughts and actions of our people,
as they strive to build a better world for themselves.
For throughout their lives, they struggled against
everything that was ugly, mean, brutish and degrading
of the dignity of all human beings.
And because they did, being prepared to pay the supreme
price to uphold good over evil, they planted a legacy
among our people which drives all of us constantly to
return to the starting point and say - I am my brother's
keeper! I am my sister's keeper!
And because we are one another's keepers, we surely
must be haunted by the humiliating suffering which continues
to afflict millions of our people.
Our nights cannot but be nights of nightmares while
millions of our people live in conditions of degrading
Sleep cannot come easily when children get permanently
disabled, both physically and mentally, because of lack
No night can be restful when millions have no jobs,
and some are forced to beg, rob and murder to ensure
that they and their own do not perish from hunger.
Our minds will continue the restless inquiry to find
out how it is possible to have a surfeit of productive
wealth in one part of our common globe and intolerable
poverty levels elsewhere on that common globe.
There can be no moment of relaxation while the number
of those affected by HIV-AIDS continue to expand at
an alarming pace.
Our days will remain forever haunted when frightening
numbers of the women and children of our country fall
victim to rape and other crimes of violence.
Nor can there be peace of mind when the citizens of
our country feel they have neither safety nor security
because of the terrible deeds of criminals and their
Our days and our nights will remain forever blemished
as long as our people are torn apart and fractured into
contending factions by reason of the racial and gender
inequalities, which continue to characterise our society.
Neither can peace attend our souls as long as corruption
continues to rob the poor of what is theirs and to corrode
the value system, which sets humanity apart from the
rest of the animal world.
The full meaning of liberation will not be realised
until our people are freed both from oppression and
from the dehumanising legacy of deprivation we inherited
from our past.
What we did in 1994 was to begin the long journey towards
the realisation of this goal. When the millions of our
people went to the polls 12 days ago, they mandated
us to pursue this outcome.
Our country is in that period of time which the seTswana-speaking
people of Southern Africa graphically describe as "mahube
a naka tsa kgomo" - the dawning of the dawn, when
only the tips of the horn of the cattle can be seen
etched against the morning sky.
As the sun continues to rise to banish the darkness
of the long years of colonialism and apartheid, what
the new light over our land must show is a nation diligently
at work to create a better life for itself.
What it must show is a palpable process of the comprehensive
renewal of our country - its rebirth - driven by the
enormous talents of all our people, both black and white,
and made possible by the knowledge and realisation that
we share a common destiny, regardless of the shapes
of our noses.
What we will have to see in the rising light is a government
that is fully conscious of the fact that it has entered
into a contract with the people, to work in partnership
with them to build a winning nation.
In practical and measurable ways, we have to keep pace
with the rising sun, progressing from despair to hope,
away from a brutal past that forever seeks to drag us
backwards towards a new tomorrow that speaks of change
in a forward direction.
History and circumstance have given us the rare possibility
to achieve these objective.
To ensure that we transform the possibility to reality,
we will have to nurture the spirit among our people
which made it possible for many to describe the transition
of 1994 as a miracle - the same spirit which, in many
respects, turned this year's election campaign into
a festival in clebration of democracy.
As Africans, we are the children of the abyss, who
have sustained a backward march for half-a-millennium.
We have been a source for human slaves. Our countries
were turned into the patrimony of colonial powers. We
have been victim to our own African predators.
If this is not merely the wish being father to the
thought, something in the air seems to suggest that
we are emerging out of the dreadful centuries which
in the practice, and in the ideology and consciousness
of some, defined us as sub-human.
As South Africans, whatever the difficulties, we are
moving forward in the effort to combine ourselves into
one nation of many colours, many cultures and divers
No longer capable of being falsely defined as a European
outpost in Africa, we are an African nation in the complex
process simultaneously of formation and renewal.
And in that process, we will seek to educate both the
young and ourselves about everything all our forebears
did to uphold the torch of freedom.
It is in this spirit that we are, this year, observing
the Centenary of the Commencement of the Anglo-Boer
War and the 120th Anniversary of the Battle of Isandhlwana.
We will also work to rediscover and claim the African
heritage, for the benefit especially of our young generations.
From South Africa to Ethiopia lie strewn ancient fossils
which, in their stillness, speak still of the African
origins of all humanity.
Recorded history and the material things that time
left behind also speak of Africa's historic contribution
to the universe of philosophy, the natural sciences,
human settlement and organisation and the creative arts.
Being certain that not always were we the children
of the abyss, we will do what we have to do to achieve
our own Renaissance.
We trust that what we will do will not only better
our own condition as a people, but will also make a
contribution, however small, to the success of Africa's
Renaissance, towards the identification of the century
ahead of us as the African Century.
23 years ago this day, children died in Soweto, Johannesburg
in a youth uprising which democratic South Africa honours
as our National Youth Day.
As we speak, both our own, as well as international
athletes, are competing in our annual Comrades Marathon
which, this year, is dedicated to Nelson Mandela.
Our best wishes go to all these, the long distance
runners of the Marathon.
Those who complete the course will do so only because
they do not, as fatigue sets in, convince themselves
that the road ahead is still too long, the inclines
too steep, the!!! loneliness impossible to bear and
the prize itself of doubtful value.
We too, as the peoples of South Africa and Africa,
must together run our own Comrades Marathon, as comrades
who are ready to take to the road together, refusing
to be discouraged by the recognition that the road is
very long, the inclines very steep and that, at times,
what we see as the end is but a mirage.
When the race is run, all humanity and ourselves will
acknowledge the fact that we only succeeded because
we succeeded to believe in our own dreams!
Every year the rains will fall to bless our efforts!
That too is a dream!
But because it is our dream, we are able still to demand
of our ancestors - pula! nala!