Speech at the State Banquet Windsor Castle, England, 12 June 2001

Your Majesty,
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."

Your Majesty:

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 and conscience.

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, that:

'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 Majesty,
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.

Toast


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