1999-03-17

H.M. Konungens tal vid galamiddagen för Sydafrikas President Nelson Mandela och fru Graça Machel

Mr President,

I have had the great pleasure to meet you before and to receive you here at the Royal Palace in Stockholm. But it is indeed a great honour for the Queen and myself to welcome you and Mrs Machel to Sweden on the first South African State Visit ever to this country.

Mr President,

You represent a country with extraordinary qualities. I have learnt and experienced many things during my two visits to South Africa - once in 1996 as the Patron of the Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences on a Royal Technology Mission as we call it, and a second time, with the Queen, on our State Visit two years ago. We wish to thank you once again for the generous hospitality extended to us on these different occasions. Both of us are impressed by your country - its breathtaking beauty, its rich resources and, above all, the warmth of its people.

Today South Africa is different from what it was just a few years ago. Profound changes have taken place during the first period of its transformation. Mr President, in your opening speech to Parliament last month you pointed to the many good things that have happened. For millions of people in townships and many remote villages there is now clean water, electricity, medical clinics and telecommunications.

But in your speech you also expressed your great concern about crime, unemployment, diseases and remaining traces of intolerance between races. Obviously, problems of this kind do not disappear overnight or even in a few years time. They have to be tackled continuously. The citizens have to respond to such efforts in a responsible way, so that victory will be possible in the end.

Economic and social problems of different kinds are to be found in most countries in the world and Sweden has not been spared. In the world community we all have the responsibility to join in efforts to diminish the difficulties and the suffering caused by them. The deep relations between our two countries give us excellent opportunities to work together and to continue to develop our cooperation. With knowledge, experience and creativity the boundaries can be stretched as far as you would like.

Mr President,

You have now come to the end of your Nordic journey. It coincides in time with the final months of your Presidency. Although I have heard that you plan to retire to your home village Qunu, I find it difficult to believe that you will disappear completely from the international arena, which has been your home for so many years. The need of the wisdom and experience of elderly statesmen will not be less in the future. Therefore I was pleased to hear that you have already taken upon you the important task of informing about and fighting against AIDS, a severe threat to modern society.

Still I am sure that all of us here tonight hope that you will find some time to sit in your rocking-chair in Qunu, surrounded by family and friends, enjoying the serene beauty of the landscape around you. You will be able to think of the many days of your life, of which too many have been difficult and dark.

But you may also remember the first days of glimmering hope for a better future. Mr President, you are yourself the best proof of the fact that, even in dark and difficult times, a firm belief in human dignity and decency will finally conquer the evils of racism and severe oppression. In a world, which is not perfect and often cruel, you represent those noble ideals that should guide us all.

Generations will come and go, as centuries go by in a new millennium. Leaders will change. But the name of Nelson Mandela will forever be the symbol of the struggle, in tolerance and fairness, against the lack of justice. Bitterness and animosity was turned into reconciliation and understanding.

Mr President,

The day you walked out of your prison, a whole world greeted you with relief and happiness. The day you leave your office a whole world will think of you with respect, warmth and admiration. You have many friends in Sweden, some of them invited here tonight. I hope that you feel the very special atmosphere of warmth and friendship. Now we all wish you and Mrs Machel happiness and prosperity for the years to come.

To President Mandela and Mrs Machel, to South Africa and to the excellent relations between our two countries I now ask you all to join me in a toast.