Mandela’s 1999 speech in Sweden’s Riksdag

Read what Nelson Mandela said in his speech to Sweden's parliament, the Riksdag, when he visited Sweden in the final days of his tenure as president of South Africa in March 1999.

Mandela's 1999 speech in Sweden's Riksdag
Nelson Mandela on the floor of the Riksdag in 1999. File photo: AP

Mr. Speaker

Honourable Members
Ladies and Gentlemen,

When I spoke in the Swedish parliament nine years ago, almost to the day, it was as a freedom fighter, only weeks out of jail, and still denied citizenship in the land of his birth.

It was also the first time ever that I had the opportunity to speak in a parliament, as the highest institution of democracy.

You can imagine, therefore, what a moving occasion this is today as I have the privilege once more to address you, but this time as the elected president of a free and democratic South Africa.

We know that we stand before those who used their democratic power so that others should have democracy too. It was here that laws were made and budgets adopted to give effect to the determination of the Swedish people as a whole, to be in the forefront of the world-wide campaign to isolate the apartheid regime and to support our struggle for democracy.

It is fitting that what is probably our last official visit to Europe before retirement, should include Sweden, which made a contribution to our liberation that was out of all proportion to your size.

Today South Africa has powerful friends. There is a danger that we may forget those small countries who, when we were shunned by almost the entire world, stood with us and in time mobilized the international community. It was therefore important that we should pay this visit before the end of our first democratic government.

SEE ALSO: Sweden hails Mandela: 'He changed the world'

We have come to once more thank Sweden from the bottom of our hearts for what you did: the labour movement; NGOs; churches and others; and the millions of ordinary Swedish men and women who insisted that the rights they enjoyed should be enjoyed by all people everywhere. Their passionate commitment was reflected in the resolute and remarkable support we had from the Swedish government.

We have also come to report to you that the people of South Africa are using the freedom you helped them win, to transform their country. We have come to tell you that your continuing co-operation is helping to change the lives of millions as they gain access to clean water; electricity; telephones; proper education and housing, things that were only a dream before.

The achievement of our goals depends also on others achieving the same goals. In this modern world, whatever happens in one country has an impact elsewhere, even across the globe. The integrated development of Southern Africa; peace and stability throughout our continent; and the forging of an international order which ensures that world economic growth translates into development are all essential parts of our approach as we establish our place in the international community of nations.

IN PICTURES: Nelson Mandela and Sweden

It is because Sweden shares this approach that we have such confidence in the future of a relationship that was forged in the trenches of struggle for our freedom. The seriousness with which our two governments take our partnership is reflected in the agreement, following the visit here of Deputy President Thabo Mbeki, that 1999 is to be a Sweden/South Africa Year dedicated to strengthening our relations in every sphere.

Though the challenges of reconstruction are even greater than those of liberation, and though we have some difficult problems, we face them with confidence, knowing what progress South Africans have made by working together, and knowing that we have the support of countries like Sweden.

Mr. Speaker,

Because my retirement from public is fast approaching, today is also almost the last time that I may have the chance to speak in any parliament.

South Africa`s democratic parliament is only days from the end of its first term. Our people are busy preparing in their millions for elections which will consolidate the institutions of our young democracy and strengthen our capacity to continue making a reality of the hopes which you share with us. Those they elect shall be your counterparts in the partnership between our peoples for world peace, equity and prosperity.

There is therefore an important symbolism in this second opportunity you have given me to speak, here in Northern Europe, in your parliament which nine years ago greeted the first dawn of our transition to democracy in the southern tip of Africa.

In a few hours I will be leaving your country, at the end of a visit to five countries whose peoples were not content simply to enjoy their freedom, but fought for our freedom as if it was theirs.

Naturally there is an element of sadness in taking leave of such men and women.

But on my return to my country I will be able to tell my people that in Sweden, as in the other Nordic countries and the Netherlands, we have true friends indeed, ready to work with us in partnership for a better world.

I thank you.

Editor's Note: The above text is Mandela's speech is also published on the website of the ANC.

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Ten historic pictures that show what life was like in Stockholm decades ago

These historic images shed some light on the lives of Stockholmers decades ago.

Ten historic pictures that show what life was like in Stockholm decades ago
Swedes enjoying Midsummer's Eve at Slussen in 1940. Photo: Bertil Norberg/TT

1. Facing the winter

This picture captures two men clearing the snow off Strandvägen in central Stockholm during the war winter of 1939. Snow then, snow now; it's just as annoying.

Photo: Reportagefoto/TT

2. Children of the old school

A physical education class in the Stockholm suburb of Djursholm back in 1907.

Photo: Scanpix

3. Subway breakdown

Underground passengers make their way through the dark tunnels in Stockholm to get out at Hötorget metro station after a power failure on the 27th of December 1983.

Photo: Leif R Jansson/TT

4. Going to the cinema

Fortunately the cinema chairs are a bit more comfortable than in 1938. This is the cinema Draken at Fridhemsplan on the Kungsholmen island of Stockholm.

Photo: Pressen bild/TT

5. Preparing the dinner

The kitchen in a newly built apartment in the Holmia area of Kungsholmen (Lindhagensgatan today). These apartments were built for the working classes in the early 1900s and were torn down in the 60s and 70s.

Photo: Pressens bild/TT

6. Alcohol shopping

Here you see a cashier filling in the ration book (motboken) when a customer buys alcoholic drinks at Systembolaget in Stockholm in 1939. Swedes were only allowed to purchase a limited amount of alcoholic beverages per person from 1917 to 1955, a measure to reduce the high alcohol consumption in the country.

Photo: PrB/TT

7. The famous Stockholm mushroom

Posh clubbing district Stureplan has always been a popular meeting place. In this picture taken in 1951 people were just dancing in the street under the Svampen (mushroom) statue at Stureplan.

Photo: TT

8. Going to the open-air market 

This picture of a crowded open-air market at Riddarhuset along the Riddarholm Canal in Stockholm is more than a century old (1900). 

Photo: TT

9. Waiting patiently sitting on dad's back

This picture was taken in the central train station of Stockholm in 1968 and shows a dad and his baby waiting for the mother. Apart from the old-style baby carrier and the clothes this scene hasn't changed much.

Photo: SVD/TT

10. The beginning of camping

Here is a family enjoying a meal together at Lake Flaten, south of Stockholm, in 1929. 

Photo: TT