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Speech by President Nelson Mandela at the launch of the Bram Fischer Memorial Trust


SPEECH BY PRESIDENT NELSON MANDELA AT THE LAUNCH OF THE BRAM FISCHER MEMORIAL TRUST (GREY COLLEGE), Bloemfontein, 28 November 1997

Master of ceremonies;
Principal of Grey College; members of the staff and pupils
Distinguished guests,

It is a great honour to be with you today and share in the commemoration of Bram Fischer.

The names of only very few people are remembered beyond their lives. And some of those are remembered with revulsion for the harm they have done. But there are those who are remembered for their good deeds and the contribution they have made to the society in which they live.

Bram Fisher tel ongetwyfeld onder daardie klas van goeie mans en vroue wat op die wyse deur alle Suid-Afrikaners in verering gehou sal word.

Ons weet egter dat dit nie altyd die geval was nie. In sy lewe het hy voor die moeilikste keuses te staan gekom. En sy uiteindelike keuses, het hom 'n uitgeworpene gelaat in sy eie gemeenskap en in die geledere van sy beroepslui.

'n Man so hartstogtelik verbind tot die wet en die gereg het gesterwe as 'n gevonnisde prisonier. 'n Afrikaner in murg en been, sonder verskoning of voorbehoud, was soos 'n melaatse behandel deur sy eie mense.

Aan die ander kant: die seun van een van die mees vooraanstaande en bevoorregte gesinne in die samelewing van daardie tyd, het sy lot inGewerp met die van die armstes onder die armes.

Dit mag klink na 'n verhaal van teenstrydighede. Daardie teenstrydighede was egter nie soseer in die man Bram Fisher nie; dit was die teenstrydighede van die samelewing waarin hy, en talle Suid-Afrikaners, moes leef.

Ons regstelsel het in botsing gekom met die ideale van geregtigheid vanwee die onderdrukking van die meerderheid, en die verwording van die wet om die geregverdigde weerstand van daardie meerderheid te onderdruk.

Dit was die gedwonge skeiding van mense en die ontsegging van basiese politieke regte op grond van ras en kleur, wat daartoe gelei het dat 'n mens se respek vir sy medemens in stryd kon kom met sy sy trou aan eie gemeenskap.

Bram Fisher se durf en moed in die wyse waarop hy hierdie moeilike keuses aangepak het, het dit makliker gemaak vir andere om op daardie pad te volg. Sy beeld, toegewydheid tot die stryd vir vryheid en menswaardigheid, aktiewe bevordering van nie-rassigheid - daarin le die fondamente van ons huidige pogings tot versoening.

Now that we have won the freedom and the democracy for which Bram Fischer gave so much, South Africans are no longer confronted by such deeply painful and costly decisions.

We have a constitution, as the fundamental law of our land, which entrenches our people's democratic ideals, and we have institutions to ensure that our legal system does not deviate from the principles of justice.

All of us are now free to think of ourselves as South Africans and members of a particular community without any tension or conflict; part of a nation that is strong and united in its diversity.

All of us are now free to think of ourselves as South Africans and members of a particular community without any tension or conflict; part of a nation that is strong and united in its diversity.

And yet it would be wrong to think that there will no longer be difficult choices to make, though thankfully they will not be painful or dangerous.

The road to a just, prosperous and equitable society will take many years to travel.

Democracy has brought us the chance to address the legacy of our unjust and divided past. Great progress has been made in reconciling those who were once in conflict, and the Free State has set a shining example in this regard. The basic amenities of life are beginning to become accessible to the majority to whom they were denied.

But we have only made a start. Our hard-won rights will remain empty shells, and our democracy fragile, if they do not bring real improvements in the daily lives of all our people.

Oor die afgelope drie jaar het ons die grondslae gele vir daardie verbetering in lewensgehalte; om nou suksesvol daarop voort te bou, sal 'n volgehoue poging van - en vennootskap tussen - die sektore van ons samelewing vereis. En dit sal oor baie jare volgehou moet word.

In daardie gesamentlike nasionale poging, sal die jeug van vandag, en die wat nog op skool is, 'n kritieke rol moet speel. In teenstelling met vorige geslagte, het alle Suid-Afrikaanse kinders vandag die geleentheid tot ordentlike en behoorlike onderwys. Dit is nou julle plig en verantwoordelikheid om daardie geleenthede aan te gryp en die vaardighede te bekom wat ons land so dringend benodig.

Die vaardighede wat ons deur onderwys bekom, stel ons tot vele dinge in staat. Dit geld veral vir diegene wat bevoorreg is om skole en inrigtings wat goed toegerus is by te woon. Soos, byvoorbeeld hierdie skool, Grey Kollege.

I had the privilege earlier this morning to visit Tsoseletso High School in Mangaung, not far from here. There too I found an institution committed to excellence, pupils and teachers whose discipline and commitment have brought outstanding and inspiring academic achievement.

They, like you and all other young South Africans, will face choices as to how you will use what you gain through your education.

By associating the name of Bram Fischer with education, as we do in launching the memorial trust, we are not only opening up access to this particular educational institution and boosting its resources still further.

We are saying that the challenges of reconstruction and development which we face today are even greater than those of the liberation struggle; that we need as much as ever the courage, patriotism and commitment to justice above narrow self-interest which shone so strongly in Bram Fischer; and that education brings an opportunity, and a duty, to contribute to the realisation of the ideals which his the name represents.

And we are affirming that education has an important part to play in nurturing the leaders of tomorrow.

We count on the pupils of this school, present and future, to live up to these Ideals. Together we can build the country of our dreams.

Issued by: Office of the President

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