I added that:

At the very moment that Mr Mandela and I were receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, negotiators from all our political parties were putting the finishing touches to an Interim Constitution that would provide the basis for our non-racial constitutional democracy.  The Interim Constitution included immutable principles that were in 1996 distilled into the foundational values in section 1 of our final Constitution.

Those principles include:

Human dignity, the achievement of equality, the advancement of human rights and freedoms; non-racialism, non-sexism, the supremacy of the Constitution and the Rule of Law and a system of multi-party democratic government that is accountable, responsive and open.

How have we done since then?

So, it very much a mixed bag. We have come a long way since 1994 – but we still have a very long way to go to achieve our constitutional vision.

Twenty-five years ago, nobody imagined that the future would be easy.  Peace requires a never-ending struggle. We have the framework for peace, of which I spoke, in our Constitution.  We need to find once again the frame of mind that enabled us to reach agreement after so many years of division and bitterness.

Despite all this – despite all the challenges that we continue to face; despite all our disappointments and failures – despite the fact that we have fallen far short of the vision that we set for ourselves in our constitution, South Africa is nevertheless a much better place than it was before we embarked on this great journey.  And it is an infinitely better place than it would have been had we not succeeded in resolving our differences peacefully through negotiations.

What we achieved was, in the worlds of NP van Wyk Louw, a deed “that o’er the earth resounds and mocks the ages in their impotence”.

That deed is still a source of hope for all South Africans and still has the capacity to unlock the tremendous potential of our country.  However, to achieve this potential we will need to find once again the frame of mind that made our historic agreement possible – and we must all renew our commitment to achieving the vision that is enshrined in the values on which our Constitution and our new society has been founded.

Issued by the FW de Klerk Foundation
10 December 2018