It is certainly difficult to make a farewell speech. There is a great temptation for the person who is retiring to try to deliver a last magnum opus. And that can be quite painful for the listeners. I am going to try to spare you that pain by being brief and to the point. For me this is a poignant moment, standing here for the last time. Memories come flooding back.
It was from this podium that I announced the release of President Nelson Mandela and the unbanning of the ANC and all other organisations.
It was from this podium that I and other members of my party cleaned the slate by the repeal of all forms of discriminatory legislation.
Today I look back and I say with great humility: It was a privilege to lead our country and my party in that period. God Almighty create windows of opportunity for us. We are thankful that He also gave us the strength and courage to use them. And we are humbly proud of the role we played in bringing about the new free and democratic South Africa. In the same breath I give credit to President Mandela and those who supported him, to Minister Buthelezi and to all other leaders for their contribution to the peaceful transition – to what the whole world looked upon as almost a miracle.
I look back and remember many outstanding individuals – friends and foes – who enriched my life and made Parliament an interesting and challenging forum. I miss the cut and thrust of the incisive debates which we used to have – pitting policy against policy and argument against argument. And I hope, for the sake of South Africa, that the young parliamentarians will find ways and means to restore a culture of constructive, lively debate to which this chamber unfortunately does not fully lend itself.
Naturally, I also look back on mistakes and lost opportunities and statements that hurt others and on executive decisions – as Minister and President – that later appeared not to have been for the best. For this I say: Sorry! And to everyone whom I might have offended in my political career I offer my apologies.
In looking back I am also thankful that I can truthfully state that I bear no grudges – not even against those who called me a traitor. I am pleased to see that those who opposed our reforms so vehemently, are beginning to show signs of realistic acceptance.
The past cannot be undone. The future presents tremendous challenges. It is time to end sterile debates and degrading and divisive reproaches about the past.
It is time to focus all our energy and resources on the solution of the problems of today and tomorrow.
I am not going to keep you with a long and comprehensive analysis of those challenges and problems. My successor will do that in the weeks and months to come. However, there are three musts if we want long term peace, stability and prosperity – if we are to succeed as a winning nation.
The first challenge is to create opportunities for all our children to develop their full potential. Education and training – the key to the future.
The second is that we must overcome the problem of growing unemployment.
The third is that we must build the new South Africa into a country in which all its diverse peoples have room and space, in which they feel accepted and safe.
In the new era which my life now enters, I shall try to bring my full part to achieve these goals.
And now it is time for me to step down and hand over. This morning the National Party elected a new leader.