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Nelson Mandela Foundation

Address at International Women's Forum Conference

Item type: Address
Acquisition method: From hard drive
Unique ID: NMS994


Occasion: Conference of the International Women's Forum
Date:  30 January 2003
Presentation notes: 
This is the prepared speech. Mandela also ad-libbed as per the the following pess report: Published on Thursday, January 30, 2003 by the Independent (Cape Town, South Africa) All Bush Wants is Iraqi Oil, Says Mandela Former president Nelson Mandela said on Thursday the United States was preparing to go to war because "George Bush wants to get hold of the Iraqi oil". Former South African President Nelson Mandela lashed out at President George Bush's stance on Iraq January 30, 2003, saying the Texan had no foresight and could not think properly. Mandela speaks at an event to announce the partnership between the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund and The Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund in London on November 2, 2002. (Stephen Hird/Reuters) He was speaking in Johannesburg at the three-day International Women's Forum, which is being held in Africa for the first time. Criticism of Bush dominated the former president's address as Mandela encouraged women throughout the world to be "bold with its leadership and condemn the looming war America is preparing for". "The women's forum must make sure that all irregularities in the world are rectified. A war on Iraq is something we must condemn without reservation," the former president said. "We must fight globalisation which is for the high and mighty... This is the task of the forum. "All Bush wants is Iraqi oil, because Iraq produces 64 percent of oil and he wants to get hold of it. "Bush is acting outside the United Nations and both he and (British Prime Minister) Tony Blair are undermining the United Nations, an organisation which was an idea sponsored by their predecessors." Mandela also questioned whether the US was ignoring the UN because its secretary-general is black. "Because they (America) are so arrogant, they killed innocent people in Japan during Hiroshima and Nagasaki," he said referring to the two atom bombs the US dropped on Japanese cities to end the Second World War. 'One power with a president who can't think properly, ... wants to plant the world into holocaust' "If (Iraqi President) Saddam Hussein was not carrying out the UN instructions and resolutions... I will support them (the UN) without resignation, but what I condemn is one power with a president who can't think properly... wants to plant the world into holocaust." The elderly statesman said he was pleased that the people of the world, including Americans, were opposing the US government. "He (Bush) is making the greatest mistake of his life by trying to cause carnage. "Why does the United States behave so arrogantly... Their friend Israel has got weapons of mass destruction but because its their ally they won't ask the UN to get rid of it. They just want the (Iraqi) oil... We must expose this as much as possible." - Sapa Copyright 2003 Independent Online Sandton, South Africa — Former South African President Nelson Mandela strongly criticised U.S. policy toward Iraq in a speech delivered Thursday to the International Women's Forum meeting in Sandton, South Africa. The speech, on the theme of Courageous Leadership for Global Transformation, was recorded by SABC. What follows are excerpts from that speech. http://allafrica.com/stories/200301310728.html It's a tragedy what is happening, what Bush is doing. All Bush wants is Iraqi oil. There is no doubt that the U.S. is behaving badly. Why are they not seeking to confiscate weapons of mass destruction from their ally Israel? This is just an excuse to get Iraq’s oil. We have not had world wars in 57 years, and it is because of the United Nations. We should condemn both [British Prime Minister Tony] Blair and Bush and let them know in no uncertain terms that what they are doing is wrong. Other international countries like France and Russia must influence the United Nations to condemn what he [Bush] is doing. Bush is now undermining the United Nations. He is acting outside it, not withstanding the fact that the United Nations was the idea of President Roosevelt and Winston Churchill. Both Bush, as well as Tony Blair, are undermining an idea which was sponsored by their predecessors. They do not care. Is it because the secretary-general of the United Nations [Ghanaian Kofi Annan] is now a black man? [APPLAUSE] They never did that when secretary-generals were white. What is the lesson of them acting outside the United Nations? Are they saying any country which believes that they will not be able to get the support of the countries with a veto [in the United Nations] are entitled to go outside the United Nations and to ignore it? Or are they saying we, the United States, are the only superpower in the world now, [so] we can act as we like? Are they saying this is a lesson we should follow or are they saying 'we are special, what we do should not be done by anybody [else]?' If there is a country that has committed unspeakable atrocities in the world, it is the United States of America. [APPLAUSE] They don't care for human beings. Fifty-seven years ago, when Japan was retreating on all fronts, they decided to drop the atom bomb in Hiroshima and Nagasaki; killed a lot of innocent people, who are still suffering the effects of those bombs. Those bombs were not aimed against the Japanese, they were aimed against the Soviet Union to say, 'look, this is the power that we have. If you dare oppose what we do, this is what is going to happen to you'. Because they are so arrogant, they decided to kill innocent people in Japan, who are still suffering from that. Who are they, now, to pretend that they are the policemen of the world? [APPLAUSE] To want to decide for the people in Iraq what they should do with their government and with their leadership? If this is done by the United Nations, if the United Nations says that 'Saddam Hussein is not carrying out the resolutions of the United Nations, therefore we the United Nations are going to take action,' I will support that without reservation. [APPLAUSE] What I am condemning is that one power, with a president who has no foresight, who cannot think properly, [LAUGHTER] is now wanting to plunge the world into a holocaust. I am happy that the people of the world - especially those of the United States of America - are standing up and opposing their own president. I hope that that opposition will one day make him understand that he has made the greatest mistake of his life in trying to bring about carnage and to police the world, without any authority of the international body. It is something we have to condemn without reservation. I only hope that the people of the United States will make Bush aware that he has made a big mistake to want to surpass the global body, the United Nations, whose ideals are to bring peace and eradicate wars. The people of the U.S. should use their democracy to get rid of him. It is best for the U.S. to use the ballot box and demonstrations to draw attention to the issue. [LOUD AND SUSTAINED APPLAUSE] And the women at this forum are there to look into these things, to be bold with their leadership and to condemn what is wrong. And finally, we have of course the question of globalisation in this country. As [the former South African High Commissioner to the United Kingdom and current CEO of South African Tourism (SATOUR)] Cheryl Carolus has said, somebody who is saying he or she is not going to accept globalisation, is like saying I do not recognise winter, I am not going to put on clothing for winter! She has put it very well, because what happens today in northern Europe has got an effect on our region the same day. Globalisation is already there, whether we like it or not. And of course globalisation at the present moment favours the rich and the mighty. We have to fight that. It must favour all human beings, whether in Europe or in Africa. And I'm sure this is the task of this forum to make sure that such irregularities are rectified. Thank you very much.


Ms Radebe, President of the Forum

Madame Speaker

Members of the Women's Forum


Distinguished Guests

Ladies and Gentlemen

One of the distinguishing characteristics of a progressive nation and people is the ability to learn, to modify positions and to advance to newer and more progressive points of departure.

South Africans, and particularly those that come from the liberation movements, have demonstrated this progressive trait by the manner in which they acknowledged the need to deepen their understanding of certain key social issues and at times significantly alter their position on those issues.

Our understanding of gender relations and the position of women in society is one such case in point. The position we hold and the approach we adopt towards this very central social issue today, is almost radically different from that held even as recently as a decade ago. And we continue to learn and to be educated and to advance to more progressive understanding.

For this we have to thank and pay homage to the assertive presence of brave women in our society. Men on their own would not have come to that understanding and could not have led society to the relatively progressive stance taken by South Africa in these matters.

It is for that reason, amongst others, that I am so delighted and honoured to have been invited to be a speaker at this conference of the International Women's Forum of South Africa. It provides me the opportunity to publicly express my personal indebtedness to the many women who have contributed to my education out of the gender backwardness of my background to a somewhat more progressive understanding of gender relationships.

And I am confident that I can speak on behalf men in South Africa generally when paying this tribute to the women of our society. At the recently held 51rst conference of the African National Congress under the leadership of President Thabo Mbeki some significant decisions were taken with regards to our understanding of male backwardness and towards liberating us all from the consequences of that backwardness.

I often hear white South Africans expressing their thanks for being liberated from the class role of oppressors by the attainment of non-racial democracy. I think that progressive thinking males in our society have a similar attitude about steadily being emancipated by the emancipation of women in society.

Not that we have nearly reached the end of the road or that the structural oppression of women has been eliminated. But you, the women of our society, have firmly set us on the road to mutual emancipation.

The topic for this session, I have been told, is "Courageous leadership for reconciliation and peace". The example of women in the way that I have alluded to, is the best illustration of such leadership that one can think of.

Those that suffer discrimination, oppression and exploitation are invariably the ones that give the firmest and most decisive leadership towards fundamental change, towards reconciliation and towards ultimate peace.

I can tell you about the examples of my comrades and fellow prisoners on Robben Island in those long years that we were prisoners of the racist apartheid regime. It would have been the easy way out, and the natural response, to resort to a generalised hatred of the oppressor and to have closed ourselves off from their representatives - the wardens and prison officials.

We did not do that. Instead we soon discovered that there were amongst those warders persons who were prepared to listen to our side of the story; who were less secure in the arrogant belief that they were right, superior and destined to rule for all time.

We, the prisoners on Robben Island, and the members of the liberation struggle generally, always said and knew that our struggle was against racial oppression, exploitation and white minority rule. It was never intended or targeted against white people. Our struggle was against the structures of oppression, domination and exploitation; not against individuals or groups of people.

In liberating the oppressed we could therefore be confident that we had liberated all of our countrymen and women. Reconciliation was not an afterthought or an add-on of our struggle and our eventual triumph. It was always imbedded in our struggle. Reconciliation was a means of struggle as much as it was the end goal of our struggle.

We know that too about the struggle of those searching for the emancipation of women in society. It is a struggle for the emancipation of all of us, women and men. It is a struggle for a world in which the potential of all can be realised for the common good.

In all parts of the world where strife and conflict occur women are amongst those sectors - together with children and the aged - who bear the brunt of the suffering caused by such conflicts. And in many cases we have seen how the efforts of women as members of civil society organisations had taken a lead in putting pressure on the warring and war-mongering leadership.

We are again today facing the threat of a war that can disastrously affect the lives of all people across the globe. The apparent determination of the United States, with Britain in tow, to wage war against Iraq poses the most serious threat to world peace that we have experienced in a long while.

I have spoken publicly and I have spoken privately to the American and British leadership, warning against the disastrous effects of such military action outside the framework of the United Nations.

It is encouraging at least to see the increasing tide of public opinion against the war. That these demonstrations of opposition to war occur within the United States as well is further cause for giving one hope that the world can still unite in seeking for peaceful means of co-existence.

Once more, the compassionate and wise leadership and participation of women will be critical. And I am proud to be at this gathering of women, reflecting upon such important matters as leadership towards peace and reconciliation.

I wish you well in your deliberations and in the work of your organisation.

I thank you

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