23 April 2004
Former President Nelson Mandela has called on all South Africans to ensure that the country’s democracy is consolidated and sustained.
In a statement marking South Africa’s 10 years of freedom, Mandela warned people not to take the country’s freedom and democracy for granted, saying the growth and sustained health of the country’s democracy were the responsibilities “not only of leaders, but also of each and every citizen.
“Too many people in all walks of life and over many years and decades suffered and sacrificed for its achievement”, Mandela said. “The almost miraculous triumph of reason and compassion over prejudice and fear at the time of our peaceful transition is too precious.”
Every political party and organisation, Mandela said, “has a responsibility to keep our democracy alive, our people united and our country progressing towards peace and prosperity”, while every individual has the responsibility “to remain a caring South African, never indifferent to the affairs and well-being of our country and its people”.
Over the past 10 years, Mandela said, South Africans had managed to cement unity.
“Whatever differences we may have and tensions that may exist, our democratic constitutional order is not threatened. We are solidly one nation, united in our diversity, held together by our common commitment to the Constitution.”
The country has faced a number of obstacles since 1994, Mandela said, and the problems ahead – poverty, unemployment, HIV/Aids, homelessness – “remain large and daunting”.
“What we can say, though, is that we now have the weapon and the protection of democracy to face and tackle those problems and challenges. The simplest, but therefore also most fundamental, gain of our democracy is that the people govern.
“There may be shortcomings in delivery; government departments and officials may in some cases be under-performing; certain interest groups may feel that they are not sufficiently catered for; there are certainly many areas of legitimate and valid complaint and dissatisfaction.
“All of this, however, is played out, contested, debated and accounted for within the secure framework of a multi-party pluralist democracy.”
South Africa’s future, Mandela said, lies in the hands its people, and “it has been a particular source of satisfaction to observe, especially over these last five years, a younger generation of leaders guiding the country towards a secure and prosperous future”.
Mandela paid tribute to President Thabo Mbeki, saying that his “firm leadership and clear vision had manifested not only in the remarkable progress South Africa has made, but also in continental and international affairs.
“The steady regeneration of Africa and the regard with which South Africa is held internationally are in no small measure due to his work and efforts.”
South Africa, Mandela said, has often been referred to as a “miracle nation . that should make us humble and inspire us as we start a next decade on the long road of consolidating our freedom and building a better life for all our people”.
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