It is right and proper that we South Africans should commemorate the peaceful transition of our country to constitutional multiracial democracy. Our collective achievement in doing so is the shining moment of our history and serves as an inspiration to all mankind and as an example to other divided societies throughout the world.

We showed that communities which had been divided for centuries could rise above the injustice, hurt, fear and anger of the past and join one another on a much, much better road to the future. Despite all the problems that we now experience, despite the crime, corruption, electricity blackouts, and resurgence of racial politics that now confront us, the road that we chose then is infinitely preferable to the destinations in which we would have landed, had we then done the right and courageous thing.

The challenges that we are now encountering should not fill us with despondency – they should instead serve to spur us on to redoubling our commitment to non-racial constitutional democracy. They have not arisen because of the road we chose – but because we have strayed from that road. Our challenge is to hold our leaders and one another accountable for any deviation from the course of genuine non-racial constitutional democracy.

It is also appropriate that we should commemorate the establishment of our new society in a balanced manner. The tendency increasingly is to airbrush out of the picture the contribution that non-ANC parties made to the establishment of our new society. So now, for example, a school pledge is being proposed that would consign those children whose parents and grand-parents were not part of the revolutionary movements, to perpetual moral inferiority – because no mention is made of the essential contribution that they made to the creation of the new society.

The reality is that their parents and grandparents had very real concerns and apprehensions – over the continuation of their right to be educated in their own languages and to practise their cultures; over the possibility that – should they agree to one-man, one-vote elections – South Africa would slide into the chaos and mayhem that had so sadly characterised the independence process in many other African countries; that any such concession would not result in genuine freedom and constitutional democracy – but would sooner or later decline into the one party rule and tyranny that had tragically befallen so much of the rest of the continent.

Instead, they chose to put their faith in their fellow South Africans of all races and in the excellent constitution that we wrote with them. We should all renew that faith and redouble our commitment to the vision of justice, equality, non-discrimination and prosperity that then inspired us.

It is in this spirit that I would like to congratulate Investgold on their initiative to launch a new series of gold and platinum medallions commemorating the initiation of the peaceful transition in South Africa. I am honoured that they bear my image – but I believe in all sincerity that my image is really a symbol of the courage and determination of all those who supported the constitutional transformation of our coun try.