With the pomp of a departing monarch, President Nelson Mandela delivered his last major address to Parliament on Friday, February 5, 1999. He called on South Africans ‘to build the country of our dreams.’
The man who emerged as South Africa’s President, after spending 27 years in prison, preached peace to a nation that had centuries of white domination over the black majority. Mandela urged his compatriots to build on the country’s peaceful transition from white minority rule to democracy.
Mandela stepped down after the nation’s second all-race elections. Mandela’s deputy, Thabo Mbeki, succeeded him.
‘The long walk id not yet over. The prize of a better life has yet to be won,’ he said.
After his address, members of Parliament stood and clapped rhythmically. A choruses sang ‘Nelson Mandela, there’s nobody like you.’
In this speech, he acknowledged that the jubilation that greeted the 1994 vote that ended apartheid, weakened in the face of continuing racial divisions, high crime and poverty. He also warned that racial tensions were destroying South Africa and souring its image abroad.
‘This must come to an end. For, indeed, those who thrive on hatred destroy their own capacity to make a positive contribution,’ he said.
The wealthier live with high walls, electricity gates and armed response services. The poor live with fear.
Mandela stated that even though some progress was made, more could be accomplished. ‘We can and shall break out of this bog. There is hope,’ he said. The country’s small, mainly white opposition parties immediately criticized Mandela’s address. .