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of this speech.
It follows the full text transcript of
Nelson Mandela's Address on the Release From
Prison, delivered at Cape Town, South Africa - February 11,
and Fellow South Africans:
I greet you all in
the name of peace, democracy and freedom for
I stand here before you not as a prophet but as
a humble servant of you, the people. Your
tireless and heroic sacrifices have made it
possible for me to be here today. I therefore
place the remaining years of my life in your
On this day of my release, I extend my sincere
and warmest gratitude to the millions of my
compatriots and those in every corner of the
globe who have campaigned tirelessly for my
I send special greetings to the people of Cape
Town, this city which has been my home for three
decades. Your mass marches and other forms of
struggle have served as a constant source of
strength to all political prisoners.
I salute the African National Congress. It has
fulfilled our every expectation in its role as
leader of the great march to freedom.
I salute our President, Comrade Oliver Tambo,
for leading the ANC even under the most
I salute the rank and file members of the ANC.
You have sacrificed life and limb in the pursuit
of the noble cause of our struggle.
I salute combatants of Umkhonto we Sizwe, like
Solomon Mahlangu and Ashley Kriel who have paid
the ultimate price for the freedom of all South
I salute the South African Communist Party for
its sterling contribution to the struggle for
democracy. You have survived 40 years of
unrelenting persecution. The memory of great
communists like Moses Kotane, Yusuf Dadoo, Bram
Fischer and Moses Mabhida will be cherished for
generations to come.
I salute General Secretary Joe Slovo, one of our
finest patriots. We are heartened by the fact
that the alliance between ourselves and the
Party remains as strong as it always was.
I salute the United Democratic Front, the
National Education Crisis Committee, the South
African Youth Congress, the Transvaal and Natal
Indian Congresses and COSATU and the many other
formations of the Mass Democratic Movement.
I also salute the Black Sash and the National
Union of South African Students. We note with
pride that you have acted as the conscience of
white South Africa. Even during the darkest days
in the history of our struggle you held the flag
of liberty high. The large-scale mass
mobilization of the past few years is one of the
key factors which led to the opening of the
final chapter of our struggle.
I extend my greetings to the working class of
our country. Your organized strength is the
pride of our movement. You remain the most
dependable force in the struggle to end
exploitation and oppression.
I pay tribute to the many religious communities
who carried the campaign for justice forward
when the organizations for our people were
I greet the traditional leaders of our country -
many of you continue to walk in the footsteps of
great heroes like Hintsa and Sekhukune.
I pay tribute to the endless heroism of youth,
you, the young lions. You, the young lions, have
energized our entire struggle.
I pay tribute to the mothers and wives and
sisters of our nation. You are the rock-hard
foundation of our struggle. Apartheid has
inflicted more pain on you than on anyone else.
On this occasion, we thank the world community
for their great contribution to the
anti-apartheid struggle. Without your support
our struggle would not have reached this
advanced stage. The sacrifice of the frontline
states will be remembered by South Africans
My salutations would be incomplete without
expressing my deep appreciation for the strength
given to me during my long and lonely years in
prison by my beloved wife and family. I am
convinced that your pain and suffering was far
greater than my own.
Before I go any further I wish to make the point
that I intend making only a few preliminary
comments at this stage. I will make a more
complete statement only after I have had the
opportunity to consult with my comrades.
Today the majority of South Africans, black and
white, recognize that apartheid has no future.
It has to be ended by our own decisive mass
action in order to build peace and security. The
mass campaign of defiance and other actions of
our organization and people can only culminate
in the establishment of democracy. The
destruction caused by apartheid on our
sub-continent is in- calculable. The fabric of
family life of millions of my people has been
shattered. Millions are homeless and unemployed.
Our economy lies in ruins and our people are
embroiled in political strife. Our resort to the
armed struggle in 1960 with the formation of the
military wing of the ANC, Umkhonto we Sizwe, was
a purely defensive action against the violence
of apartheid. The factors which necessitated the
armed struggle still exist today. We have no
option but to continue. We express the hope that
a climate conducive to a negotiated settlement
will be created soon so that there may no longer
be the need for the armed struggle.
I am a loyal and disciplined member of the
African National Congress. I am therefore in
full agreement with all of its objectives,
strategies and tactics.
The need to unite the people of our country is
as important a task now as it always has been.
No individual leader is able to take on this
enormous task on his own. It is our task as
leaders to place our views before our
organization and to allow the democratic
structures to decide. On the question of
democratic practice, I feel duty bound to make
the point that a leader of the movement is a
person who has been democratically elected at a
national conference. This is a principle which
must be upheld without any exceptions.
Today, I wish to report to you that my talks
with the government have been aimed at
normalizing the political situation in the
country. We have not as yet begun discussing the
basic demands of the struggle. I wish to stress
that I myself have at no time entered into
negotiations about the future of our country
except to insist on a meeting between the ANC
and the government.
Mr. De Klerk has gone further than any other
Nationalist president in taking real steps to
normalize the situation. However, there are
further steps as outlined in the Harare
Declaration that have to be met before
negotiations on the basic demands of our people
can begin. I reiterate our call for, inter alia,
the immediate ending of the State of Emergency
and the freeing of all, and not only some,
political prisoners. Only such a normalized
situation, which allows for free political
activity, can allow us to consult our people in
order to obtain a mandate.
The people need to be consulted on who will
negotiate and on the content of such
negotiations. Negotiations cannot take place
above the heads or behind the backs of our
people. It is our belief that the future of our
country can only be determined by a body which
is democratically elected on a non-racial basis.
Negotiations on the dismantling of apartheid
will have to address the over- whelming demand
of our people for a democratic, non-racial and
unitary South Africa. There must be an end to
white monopoly on political power and a
fundamental restructuring of our political and
economic systems to ensure that the inequalities
of apartheid are addressed and our society
It must be added that Mr. De Klerk himself is a
man of integrity who is acutely aware of the
dangers of a public figure not honoring his
undertakings. But as an organization we base our
policy and strategy on the harsh reality we are
faced with. And this reality is that we are
still suffering under the policy of the
Our struggle has reached a decisive moment. We
call on our people to seize this moment so that
the process towards democracy is rapid and
uninterrupted. We have waited too long for our
freedom. We can no longer wait. Now is the time
to intensify the struggle on all fronts. To
relax our efforts now would be a mistake which
generations to come will not be able to forgive.
The sight of freedom looming on the horizon
should encourage us to redouble our efforts.
It is only through disciplined mass action that
our victory can be assured. We call on our white
compatriots to join us in the shaping of a new
South Africa. The freedom movement is a
political home for you too. We call on the
international community to continue the campaign
to isolate the apartheid regime. To lift
sanctions now would be to run the risk of
aborting the process towards the complete
eradication of apartheid.
Our march to freedom is irreversible. We must
not allow fear to stand in our way. Universal
suffrage on a common voters' role in a united
democratic and non-racial South Africa is the
only way to peace and racial harmony.
In conclusion, I wish to quote my own words
during my trial in 1964. They are true today as
they were then:
"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."