In His Own Words: Quotes from South Africa’s Nelson Mandela
The following is a list of quotations from Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, South Africa’s first post-apartheid leader, drawn from a compilation of speeches posted on his foundation’s Internet site. Mandela died yesterday at the age of 95.
On human solidarity:
“As the years progress one increasingly realizes the importance of friendship and human solidarity. And if a ninety-year-old may offer some unsolicited advice on this occasion, it would be that you, irrespective of your age, should place human solidarity, the concern for the other, at the centre of the values by which you live. ” -- Lecture in Kliptown, Soweto on July 12, 2008.
“Overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is an act of justice. It is the protection of a fundamental human right, the right to dignity and a decent life. While poverty persists, there is no true freedom.” -- Speech delivered in Johannesburg, July 2, 2005.
On South Africa, a decade after the fall of apartheid:
“Today we are a nation at peace with itself, united in our diversity, not only proclaiming but living out the contention that South Africa belongs to all who live in it. We take our place amongst the nations of the world, confident and proud in being an African country.” -- Lecture in Cape Town, Sept. 10, 2004.
On his retirement from public life at the age of 85:
“One of the things that made me long to be back in prison was that I had so little opportunity for reading, thinking and quiet reflection after my release. I intend, amongst other things, to give myself much more opportunity for such reading and reflection.” - Statement in Johannesburg, June 1, 2004
“HIV/AIDS is the greatest danger we have faced for many, many centuries. HIV/AIDS is worse than a war. It is like a world war. Millions of people are dying from it.” -- Statement issued in Johannesburg, Dec. 1, 2000
On his successor Thabo Mbeki’s unorthodox views about AIDS:
“In all disputes a point is arrived at where no party, no matter how right or wrong it might have been at the start of that dispute, will any longer be totally in the right or totally in the wrong. Such a point, I believe, has been reached in this debate. Let us not equivocate: a tragedy of unprecedented proportions is unfolding in Africa.” -- Speech to the 13th International AIDS Conference in Durban, July 14, 2000.
On his government’s achievements during the five years he spent as president:
“We have laid the foundation for a better life. Things that were unimaginable a few years ago have become everyday reality. I belong to the generation of leaders for whom the achievement of democracy was the defining challenge.” -- Speech to Parliament in Cape Town, March 26, 1999
On apartheid rule:
“We are extricating ourselves from a system that insulted our common humanity by dividing us from one another on the basis of race and setting us against each other an oppressed and oppressor. That system committed a crime against humanity.” -- Speech in Pretoria upon receipt of a report from the Truth & Reconciliation Commission, which investigated apartheid-era atrocities. Oct. 29, 1998
“Racism is a blight on the human conscience. The idea that any people can be inferior to another, to the point where those who consider themselves superior define and treat the rest as sub-human, denies the humanity even of those who elevate themselves to the status of gods.” -- Address to the UK’s Joint Houses of Parliament, July 11, 1996.
On South Africa attaining democracy:
“We understand it still that there is no easy road to freedom. We know it well that none of us acting alone can achieve success. We must therefore act together as a united people, for national reconciliation, for nation building, for the birth of a new world. Let there be justice for all. Let there be peace for all. Let there be work, bread, water and salt for all. Never, never and never again shall it be that this beautiful land will again experience the oppression of one by another and suffer the indignity of being the skunk of the world. Let freedom reign.” -- Speech upon his inauguration as South African president in Pretoria, May 10, 1994.
On his decision to take up arms against apartheid:
“I and some colleagues came to the conclusion that as violence in this country was inevitable, it would be wrong and unrealistic for African leaders to continue preaching peace and non-violence at a time when the government met our peaceful demands with force. It was only when all else had failed, when all channels of peaceful protest had been barred to us, that the decision was made to embark on violent forms of political struggle.” -- Statement at the opening of his defense in the Rivonia treason trial, April 20, 1964.
On his opposition to apartheid:
“During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.” -- Statement at the opening of his defense in the Rivonia treason trial, April 20, 1964.
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