Mandela: Speeches in Japan (2)

Two days after Nelson Mandela’s memorable welcoming rally in the Japanese city of Osaka, Mandela stood before a joint session of Japan’s Diet (parliament) in downtown Tokyo on Tuesday, 30 October 1990 to make his appeal for support directly to the government and people on the national stage of Japan.

It was indeed a rare honor for a private citizen to be invited to address the Diet, reportedly only the second time in Japanese history that such an event had happened. It was a measure of the high esteem in which Mandela was held in Japan and in the other countries around the world that he had been visiting in the eight months since he was released from 27 years of imprisonment in South Africa.

Following are excerpts of Mandela’s 30-minute address to Japan's Diet, tape-recorded from a Japanese public television broadcast of the event. The ellipses (...) indicate parts where the Japanese interpreter’s simultaneous voiceover cuts into Mandela’s voice, making the words hard to hear. Most of the speech excerpts, however, are transcribed here just as Mandela delivered them.

• Nelson Mandela, deputy president, African National Congress:

“Speaker of the House of Representatives, president of the House of Councilors, prime minister, honorable representatives and councilors, distinguished guests:

“We are greatly honored by the invitation extended to us by the government of Japan to address this august body. This occasion provides us with the valuable opportunity to share with you our views and perspectives on the political developments in South Africa, as well as our direct involvement in these processes.

“We appreciate that the Japanese government has advocated the abolition of apartheid and supports the peaceful process for solving apartheid problems through negotiation. Your acknowledgement of the importance of our goal to this end is a source of encouragement for us at this time.

“We note the Japanese government’s past and present relationship with the South African government. We also note the necessity for broadened extension of your government’s cooperation to the people of South Africa. At this time, when we are embarking on the transformation of our country into a democratic, non-racial, united state, this will act as a form of encouragement to all our struggling.

“The foundation of democratic practice in South Africa is an essential ingredient in the ... of processes now underway. In this context, we appeal to the government of the people of Japan and the rest of the international community for the concrete support of ... and non-governmental workers, educational and social agencies, for example, with self-reliance in South Africa. The infrastructure of reconstruction has to be determined and implemented urgently so that the new order in South Africa is ensured with a healthy start and success.

“The process towards the peaceful resolution of the South African conflict is an explicit policy objective of the African National Congress. As such, we have taken the initiative that resulted in the Groote Schuur and Pretoria Minutes. These talks were followed by the October 8 meeting held in Cape Town, which our organization called for, to address the problem of violence which threatens to abort the entire the peace initiative.

“Despite the wave of violence, increasing numbers of political prisoners are being released. Political exiles are returning home, some after decades of exile. And the state of emergency has been lifted. In addition, the Separate Amenities Act has been repealed. These developments are cause for optimism and encouragement that our fundamental goal of one person/one vote on a common voters’ roll will be realized.

“We believe that social stability is essential for forward movement towards negotiation, to which we reiterate our full commitment. Our organization, the African National Congress, after 30 years of banning, is considerably handicapped by the lack of resources so essential for fulfilling this task. We are urgently faced with the repatriation and resettlement of exiles. They, together with released political prisoners, need housing, employment and education in a society with severe shortages and inadequacies in this regard.

“History has placed our organization in the role it is now playing: the shaper of destiny of all our people and our country. We need to discharge the best resourcability but can only do so if we have the appropriate resources. We hope that the Japanese government and people will be able to help us achieve ... .

“We are tremendously encouraged by the generous responses we have received from nations big and small. The countries we have visited in Asia during this trip have also made significant contributions and thus directly strengthen our ability to start dealing with the process of the urgent problems at hand.

“Today in South Africa, the overwhelming majority of the population are victims of illiteracy, unemployment, homelessness, disease, lack of proper education and numerous other social ills. Perhaps the hardest hit are the children and youth of South Africa, who have been raised during the height of the years of resistance against apartheid. They, who represent the future of our country, more than any section of our population, require to have the funds to participate in programs for use ... preparations for their future.

“A deliberate and urgent program of reconstruction is needed in South Africa. The political processes now underway can only be enhanced by concrete evidence of commitment to the eradication of poverty and deprivation. In this regard, to help accelerate those, radical educational policies and processes must be instituted urgently.

“The enormous achievements of Japan, we learned, occurred as a result of effective political, social and economic strategies undertaken simultaneously. Any government at the helm of a new South Africa will be still be faced with formidable problems inherited from the past. Your advances and experience in technology, education, economics and other spheres can be of tremendous benefit to us — indeed, to southern Africa as a whole — now and in the years ahead.

“We are certain that there is a strong basis for us to [have] confidence that Japan will strengthen the call for the abolition of apartheid through a concrete process of further assistance to our struggling people. This will shore up the pillars of democratic participation in our country. This can be done through your overseas development assistance programs, as is the case with the European countries, Canada and the United States of America, which are making significant contributions to change in South Africa. We request you also to rally with others in the region to intervene emphatically on the side of positive change in our country.

“We congratulate you on the occasion of the [100th] anniversary of Japanese parliamentary democracy. I am privileged to address this summoning during the observance of your centennial. Our visit coincides with the preparations for the ceremony of accession to the imperial throne. On this occasion, we extend our people’s felicitations to the government and the people of Japan, and their commitment to the cause of peace.

"We thank you.”

(Postscript: As this Chicago Tribune article on Mandela’s address to the Japanese Diet reported at the time, Mandela had requested $25 million in financial support from the government of Japan but did not get it. Despite the royal VIP treatment he received from the Japanese government during his visit, Mandela left Japan literally empty-handed, with not one single Japanese yen promised or given to his party, the African National Congress — despite the fact that Japan, under its official “honorary white” status in apartheid South Africa, was making lots of money at that time as one of South Africa’s top trading partners.)

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