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State of the Nation Address of the President of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki: Joint Sitting of Parliament

9 February 2007

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Madam Speaker of the National Assembly;
Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces;
Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly and Deputy Chairperson of the NCOP;
Deputy President of the Republic;
Honourable leaders of our political parties and Honourable Members of Parliament;
Ministers and Deputy Ministers;
Our esteemed Chief Justice and members of the Judiciary;
Heads of our Security Services;
Governor of the Reserve Bank;
President Nelson Mandela and Madame Graca Machel;
President F.W. de Klerk and Madame Elita de Klerk;
Distinguished Premiers and Speakers of our Provinces;
Mayors and leaders in our system of local government;
Our honoured traditional leaders;
Heads of the state organs supporting our constitutional democracy;
Directors-General and other leaders of the public service;
Your Excellencies, Ambassadors and High Commissioners;
Distinguished guests, friends and comrades;
People of South Africa:

When she died, we knew that Mama Adelaide Tambo had been recently discharged from hospital. But because we also knew that she had the tenacity of spirit and strength of will to soldier on among the living, we had intended to welcome her and other members of her family as our guests on this august occasion. But that was not to be.

Tomorrow we will pay her our last respects as we inter her remains. Thus she will only be with us in spirit when in October this year, we celebrate the 90th anniversary of the birth of her husband, the father of her children, her companion, her comrade, and an eminent son of our people, Oliver Reginald Tambo. Once more, we convey our condolences to the Tambo family.

However, I am indeed very pleased to acknowledge in our midst this morning the Hon Albertina Luthuli, daughter of our first Nobel Peace Laureate, Inkosi Albert Luthuli, whose tragic death 40 years ago we commemorate this year, remembering the tragic day when it was reported that he had been crushed by a speeding train in the cane-fields of KwaDukuza. His death was as shocking and mysterious as his life was a lodestar pointing us to the freedom we enjoy today.

I feel immensely proud that democratic South Africa has had the sense and sensitivity to acknowledge what Albert Luthuli and Oliver Tambo mean to our nation by naming two of our National Orders after them - the Order of Luthuli, and the Order of the Companions of O.R. Tambo. I also know of the great pride felt by those who have been admitted into the ranks of the eminent National Orders.

I am also pleased to welcome to the House the activists of the 1956 Women's March and the 1976 Soweto Uprising who are sitting in the President's box, as well as the eminent patriots from all our provinces, proposed by our Provincial Speakers to join the group of important guests who have joined us today.

The government of the people of South Africa on whose behalf I speak here today, as I have been privileged to do in previous years, was formed in 2004, after the General Elections of that year.

At its annual January Lekgotla or Bosberaad last month, the National Cabinet that stands at the pinnacle of the system of governance over which we are privileged to preside, reflected on the fact that its meeting marked the mid-term of the life of the government born of our last, 2004, elections.

Having understood this, it was natural that we should put the question to ourselves - what progress have we made in the quest to achieve the objectives to which we honestly told the nation we were committed, as a result of which our people gave us the overwhelming authority to govern our country from 2004 until the next elections in 2009!

With your indulgence, I would like to step further back, and recall what we said, in 2004, as representatives of our people, in the presence of our friends from the rest of the world, convened at our seat of government the Union Buildings in Tshwane on Freedom Day, the 10th anniversary of our liberation, and participated in the Inauguration of the President of the Republic, whom our Parliament had chosen, respecting the will of the people democratically demonstrated during the 2004 elections.

On that occasion we said in part:

"For too long our country contained within it and represented much that is ugly and repulsive in human society…

"It was a place in which to be born black was to inherit a lifelong curse. It was a place in which to be born white was to carry a permanent burden of fear and hidden rage…

"It was a place in which squalor, the stench of poverty, the open sewers, the decaying rot, the milling crowds of wretchedness, the unending images of a landscape strewn with carelessly abandoned refuse, assumed an aspect that seemed necessary to enhance the beauty of another world of tidy streets, and wooded lanes, and flowers' blossoms offsetting the green and singing grass, and birds and houses fit for kings and queens, and lyrical music, and love.

"It was a place in which to live in some places was to invite others to prey on you or to condemn oneself to prey on others, guaranteed neighbours who could not but fall victim to alcohol and drug stupors that would dull the pain of living, who knew that their lives would not be normal without murder in their midst, and rape and brutal personal wars without a cause.

"It was a place in which to live in other neighbourhoods was to enjoy safety and security because to be safe was to be protected by high walls, electrified fences, guard dogs, police patrols and military regiments ready to defend those who were our masters, with guns and tanks and aircraft that would rain death on those who would disturb the peace of the masters…

"We have gathered here today, on Freedom Day, because in time, our people, together with the billions of human beings across the globe, who are our comrades-in-arms and whom our distinguished guests represent, decided to say - an end to all that! …

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