by President Nelson Mandela on Mahatma Gandhi
at the conferral of the freedom of Pietermaritzburg
Pietermaritzburg, 25 April 1997
Your Worship the Mayor of Pietermaritzburg;
Your Excellency the High Commissioner for India,
Ladies and gentlemen;
Citizens of Maritzburg,
Today we are righting a century-old wrong. This station, once one of the
world's most notorious symbols of discrimination, intolerance and oppression,
today proclaims a message of dignity restored.
In contrast to that shameful day, Pietermaritzburg, and indeed South Africa,
is sending a message of hope, affirming the noble values espoused by Gandhi.
Your action adds force to the national drive to reconciliation, redress
It is a great privilege for me personally to share in this tribute. Gandhi's
magnificent example of personal sacrifice and dedication in the face of
oppression was one of his many legacies to our country and to the world.
He showed us that it was necessary to brave imprisonment if truth and justice
were to triumph over evil. The values of tolerance, mutual respect and unity
for which he stood and acted had a profound influence on our liberation
movement, and on my own thinking. They inspire us today in our efforts of
reconciliation and nation-building.
That legacy extends to methods of struggle and mobilisation for social change.
As our people were the agents of their own liberation, defying oppression
and deprivation, they are now critical to the programme of reconstruction
and development, both as beneficiary and driving force.
Together, government and people can together build a better life on the
foundations that the nation has laid in its first two-and-a-half years of
When municipalities and communities form a partnership in the spirit of
Masakhane; when each sector of society joins hands with the police to fight
crime and violence; when the private sector and organised labour work together
to promote growth and job-opportunities, we all reap the benefits of the
unity espoused by Gandhi.
Just as the incident we are commemorating fired Gandhi's resistance to oppression,
may today's award inspire us all to join hands to realise our shared vision
of a better life for all.
How wonderful it is that Gandhi's grandson is the High Commissioner for
India in South Africa; and that he can be here to day to share this occasion.
Your Council's decision to confer the Freedom on the platform of this station
- and to transport us along the route that Gandhi traveled in 1893 - is
a fine example of how communities across the land are helping to recover
and celebrate our history. I congratulate the Natal Railway Museum, Spoornet
and Portnet for making today's historic and significant train ride possible.
I now have the privilege to call upon High Commissioner Gopal-Krishna Gandhi
to come forward and receive the Freedom of Pietermaritzburg on behalf of
It is a token of our appreciation of Mahatma Gandhi's enormous contribution
to the birth of a New Pietermaritzburg and the New South Africa. It is a
token of our gratitude to the people of India who stood by us during the
darkest moments in or history.
Issued by: Office of the President
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