Speech at the State Banquet Windsor
Castle, England, 12 June 2001
Your Royal Highness, the Duke of Edinburgh,
Your Royal Highnesses,
My Lords, Ladies and Gentlemen :
My wife, Zanele, others who have accompanied us from
South Africa, and I, feel very privileged that we are
in the United Kingdom this week, as guests of Her Majesty,
Queen Elizabeth II and HRH the Duke of Edinburgh .
On behalf of all of us and in my own name, I would
like to take this opportunity, humbly to thank Her Majesty,
the Duke of Edinburgh and the Royal Family for inviting
us to embark on this visit of friendship and goodwill.
If I may say this, it is not a complicated visit, because
there is no corrplication in the relations between our
two countries and peoples.
It is not a difficult visit, not because there are
no difficult questions that both of us face. It is not
difficult, because the impulses that drive both of us
as we strive together and severally to find answers
to these (questions) are the same.
Our own view is that what is, for us, a memorable visit,
is not attended by any acrimonious contention on matters
that we must necessarily discuss.
This is not because there are no issues on which we
might have different views.
Rather, we are blessed by the reality that such is
the maturity of our relations, that we can, and do,
consider all elements about which we may hold different
views, frankly and honestly, but without acrimony, without
rancour, without being imprisoned by the sustained applause
or condemnation of the children of paradise. One of
the poems composed by your Poet Laureate, Andrew Motion,
which discusses the experience of war, carries the title
'A Dream of Peace'.
It contains the following lines:
"I wanted a big language for the people who died
1 wanted a big language for fighting. I found one, but
only when peace descended; then I looked back and the
apple-roads, my vanished brothers-in-arms, the ruined
flickering outskirts of the capital, a dead dog in a
pram, the enormous iron station with its roof blown
off, the herded people all were part of my big language.
I filled my lungs and shouted until I had ripped the
leaves from every tree in sight and raised a creamy
wave on even the smallest buried lakes. My language
had conquered the world. I was free to say what I wanted."
You stood with us when we wanted a big language for
the people who died in our country. Then, we wanted
a big language for fighting. But perhaps we too found
the big language when peace descended.
Because the herded people were and are, still, part
of our big language, our shouted messages may have raised
waves on even the smallest buried lakes of human consciousness
Those messages are about the struggle we have to wage
together to end poverty in our country, in Africa and
the world. They are about the indivisibility of human
dignity, which we should not allow to be compromised
by hunger and destitution, by race and gender discrimination.
Our language has not conquered the world. But, at least,
and at last, we are free to say what we wanted.
We have felt free, Your Majesty, to exercise that freedom,
in part because we have sensed that you and your people
asserted that, freedom for yourselves meant that you
had a duty to defend our own right, to be free to say
what we wanted.
The hardly perceptible gestures, the hand extended
easily and with grace, the muted and dignified signals,
the stated and the shouted messages, have all said to
us as South Africans, as Africans and as your friends,
'We too, who were oppressed and despised, have every
right to rip the leaves from every tree in sight, to
raise a creamy wave on even the smallest buried lakes,
to have the freedom to say what we want, to use a big
language spoken by tongues that have become unbound.'
What those tongues speak of, is a country which I know
Her Majesty holds dear, which says to itself that we
will strive constantly, in a principled manner, without
bitterness, avoiding being driven by the animosities
of the past, towards a future of happiness for all the
children of our country , both black and white, even
as, we recognise that nothing in our country and the
wider world is certain, except the imperative of change.
Your Majesty, in good measure, we persist in this sustained
and sustainable flight towards something new, humane
and beautiful for ourselves, because we know it as a
matter of fact that Her Majesty, the rest of the Royal
Family and the people of these Isles, wish us well.
This evening and what has happened since we arrived
this morning, both confirm that conviction, and give
us the strength to persist in what we have to do, despite
the occasional failures we will experience, as we strive
to lift ourselves out of the abyss into which the past
thrust our country.
Your Royal Highnesses.
My Lords, Ladies and Gentlemen:
Please accept the heartfelt message of greetings and
friendship that we bring from the people of South Africa
and the comfort we draw from the knowledge that in you,
we have steadfast friends.