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Nelson Mandela Foundation
Address on receiving the International Gandhi Peace Prize, 2000
Item type: Address
Acquisition method: From hard drive
Unique ID: NMS1378
A ceremony was held today, 16 March 2001 in New Delhi, India during which former President Nelson Mandela was awarded the Gandhi Peace Prize for 2000. Mr Mandela was the joint recipient of the award with the Grameen Bank of Bangladesh President KR Narayanan of India conferred the two awards on the recipients and praised them for their respective roles in their different fields. Both President Narayanan and Prime Minister Vajpayee congratulated Mr Mandela on the role he played in establishing a free society in South Africa. Mr Mandela in turn accepted the award on behalf of all the people of South Africa who contributed to the liberation of the country. Mr Mandela referred to India as his home away from home in his acceptance address. He said that India shall always hold a place of honour in the ranks of our international solidarity partners. He praised India for being the first to take up the case against apartheid at the United Nations. Mr Mandela futhermore expressed his sincere appreciation and honour being conferred with the Gandhi Peace Prize. He said that he could not find words to adequately express his appreciation and had to rely on the spirit of Gandhi who's deeds and silences spoke stronger and louder than words sometimes could. Mr Mandela received a cheque of U$106 698 as prize money. He has now directed the cheque to the Prime Ministers' National Relief fund to be specifically used for assistance to the community of Gujarat in Kutch, which is still slowly recovering from the devastating effects of the earthquake that struck the region on 26 January 2001. END
Presentation(s)Place: Presidential Palace New Delhi India
Date: 16 March 2001
To be once more in this great country is an honour beyond words. India counts amongst those countries that I have had the honour and privilege of visiting most frequently since my release from prison eleven years ago.
That is no coincidence; this country and my own have long and cherished bonds of friendship. India shall always hold a place of honour in the ranks of our international solidarity partners. For it was India who first took up the case for us against apartheid at the United Nations.
It was India who always stood at the head of the international community's moral, political and material support to our cause to liberate our country from the bondage of racial oppression and racist rule.
Today democratic South Africa has friends and supporters all over the world. We can today count amongst our allies some of the most powerful countries in the world. And we are very grateful for that support and friendship. We can, however, not forget for one moment those that stood by us when it was neither fashionable nor easy to do so. Amongst those, as I have said, India takes pride of place.
My frequent visits here are in the first place because of the generosity and warmth of the Indian government and people in so often extending such invitations and receiving us with such hospitality each time. From our side, we wish these visits to signal our profound appreciation of the friendship you have shown our country and its people. Indeed, India is to us a home away from home.
The support India gave us in our struggle against apartheid has translated into partnership and co-operation with democratic South Africa as it takes the long and arduous road towards the reconstruction and development of a society burdening under the destructive legacy of structured discrimination and deliberate underdevelopment of the majority of the population.
From India we can learn many lessons and have in fact done so in the first six, seven years of democratic rule. This country has always been a model for those seeking appropriate methods and processes for addressing development issues. We continue to learn from your example and experience.
Our democracy is in its infant stages and we have a long way to go to consolidate and entrench the democratic way of living. We are aware of the fragility of our fledgling democracy, particularly given our past in which the rule of law was so flagrantly disregarded and respect for law severely eroded.
Added to this is the legacy of poverty and deprivation; where people do not see the fruits of democratic rule in meaningful improvements of their ordinary lives, democracy comes under long term threat.
However, we once more take inspiration from the example of India, the world's largest democracy. For over half a century since independence you have shown the world how a developing country conducts itself with impeccable democratic credentials. Your capacity to manage elections, with such a vast population living under such a variety of social and economic conditions and circumstances, never fails to astound.
And the tolerance with which Indian society and politics have dealt with difference and diversity has set the benchmark for other emerging democracies against which to measure themselves. We realise that this is not the only way in which a society can organise its political life, but the Indian secular state was an example to us in South Africa when we had to construct our new constitutional order.
South Africa's location at the southern tip of our continent, the size and nature of our economy and other aspects of our history determined that we have a particular role and responsibility to execute in regional, continental and global affairs. We recognise that responsibility without any arrogance or sense of entitlement to leadership.
In this regard, too, we look to the example of our friend India. In your region and in world affairs you too had to assume such responsibility and execute it with vision and national humility.
It is for that reason amongst others that we regard the strategic relationship between India and ourselves as of such key importance in our international relations.
The twenty first century must surely be the one in which we finally break down the wall of indignity that still divides the developed and the developing countries of the world. On the one side of that divide we find large-scale prosperity and economic and political power; on the other, massive deprivation and marginalisation in world affairs.
Globalisation, which is the dominant feature of our contemporary world, is not bringing the universal benefits it can or that were hoped for. National barriers to trade and the flow of goods and capital might have been lifted, but once more the poorer and less powerful nations are the ones most negatively impacted upon by these developments.
We cannot and would not hope to escape globalisation; it is an inescapable fact of modern times. What we can and should do as countries of the developing world is to co-operate and stand together to ensure that our voices are heard in the international forums. Together, with our combined efforts and energy, we should shape the new world order so that democracy and equality become realities also in the relationships amongst nations.
Our two countries, given their respective histories and their historical relationship to one another, have a particular role to play in this regard. Our partnership is not only for the sake and to the benefit of our bilateral relations; it can meaningfully affect the future of the developing world. And in that manner the way world affairs are conducted in this century.
Chairperson, I have referred to many reasons why India is so special to us and why it is such a particular honour to be received here.
There is of course a bond between our countries that surpasses the mundane and the ordinary: Mohandas Gandhi, the Mahatma. In the political and moral history of our country, we claim Mahatma Gandhi as our own, as if he was born of us.
The spiritual legacy he left we reckon as much South African as you in India claim it Indian. And that bond, that common claim upon the heritage of one the greatest men of our times, inseparably ties us together as countries and people.
I cannot find words adequate to describe the honour you do me this morning with the award of the Gandhi Peace Prize. I must rely on the spirit of that man whose deeds, and indeed silences, spoke stronger and louder than words sometimes could. I am humbled to receive an award for peace in the name of the Mahatma.
I have referred to the importance of co-operation between our two countries in international affairs. If there is one thing this world needs above all, then it is a committed move towards universal peace and friendship.
It demeans all of us as human beings that here at the beginning of the third millennium we are still locked in so much strife and conflict all over the globe.
What has become of our rationality, our ability to think? We have used our reason to make great advances in science and technology, though often using those for warfare and plunder. We have placed people on the moon and in space; we have split the atom and transplanted organs; we are cloning life and manipulating nature. Yet we have failed to sit down as rational beings and eliminate conflict, war and consequent suffering of innocent millions, mostly women, children and the aged.
The voice of Mahatma Gandhi, his committed search for peace, is now, more than ever, needed in world affairs.
It is to that spirit and voice that I commit myself as I accept this great honour. I dedicate it also to my compatriots in South Africa: if they did not jointly commit to a peaceful solution our country could have gone up in flames. They made it possible for me to be honoured as I am today.
And I commit it to the people of this great country who bore the Mahatma, and who were such inspirational examples to us in South Africa. May you continue to be true to that legacy, searching amongst yourselves for peace in those ways; and in your region and in the world may you continue to be champions of peace.
I thank you.