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BBC BREAKFAST WITH FROST INTERVIEW WITH FORMER PRESIDENT OF SOUTH AFRICA NELSON MANDELA, APRIL 29TH, 2001
Please note "BBC Breakfast with Frost" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used
DAVID FROST: And now a very special moment, there's a lot of excitement all round the building this morning because with us now is the man who is undoubtedly, I think, the most admired man in the world, Nelson Mandela. Nelson, good morning.
NELSON MANDELA: Good morning David.
DAVID FROST: Tell me today is a really exciting day, it must be for you, because it's celebrating there, there in Trafalgar Square what people said was impossible, it's celebrating seven years of democracy in South Africa, that must be a thrilling thought for you?
NELSON MANDELA: Well absolutely because to have the chance to vote for the first time in your life was an unforgettable experience and to be able to taste the victory was also a very enjoyable experience and therefore to celebrate this day is something that appeals very strongly to our hearts.
DAVID FROST: It must do, it must do because people said it was impossible and would you say now democracy is firmly embedded in South Africa?
NELSON MANDELA: There is no doubt about that. I have been a member of the African National Congress for 57 years and the African National Congress has never been as strong as it is today in its history. We won the first democratic election with 62 per cent then shortly thereafter we had a local government elections which we won with 66 per cent. Then in June 1999 we had the second general election which we won by 66 per cent again and in December last year we had the last local government elections which we won by 72 per cent. That is an indication of the extent to which we have entrenched democracy in our country, the organisation whose basic policy has been a democratic South Africa, a united, non-racial and non-sexist society has, is increasing its appeal to the masses of the people.
DAVID FROST: Well there was a, there was a quote, you mentioned 40, more than 40 years ago, this is 46 years ago, when you made your, that famous speech at your trial and you said that you dedicated your life to this struggle, the struggle of the African people and then you went on with the memorable thing, "I have fought against white domination and I have fought against black domination" but what you were was searching for a multi-racial society and not just a nationalist society and that is a message you have to keep reminding people of, isn't it?
NELSON MANDELA: No that is true, while the principle of non-racialism has been accepted right across the different population groups and we have pockets of racism but all that is needed is mopping up operations, we have to be firm to ensure that no element in South Africa can stand against the majority decision of having a multi-racial society. We of course call it a non-racial society and that is the message we Africans, coloureds, Indians, whites, Afrikaans and English-speaking are embracing today.
DAVID FROST: It is a message, that message that in Zimbabwe they seem to have forgotten?
NELSON MANDELA: Well I wouldn't like to express an opinion on a sovereign state and neighbour, a neighbour of ours, all that I would appeal for is that both the government and the opposition will find the leaders who are going to think first and foremost about the masses of the people and the image of a country and I hope that leaders will be found in that country who will unite to try and promote a new image of Zimbabwe.
DAVID FROST: And in terms of, in terms of the next moves and so on, we were rejoicing just now about the coming of democracy to South Africa, in actual practical terms of things like housing and unemployment and crime and things like that, has it been slower than you expected or what?
NELSON MANDELA: Well before the general election in 1994 we issued what is known as the Reconstruction and Development Programme in which we set out in full what we were going to do if we win the election. We circulated that document widely to academics, to workers, to peasants, to business and we had five editions of that document so that it embodied views of wide-range of South African opinion cutting right across ethnic differences. Now we said for example in five years we will build one million houses, when we said that we didn't know the problems that we were going to face when we became the government, when we became the government we discovered that we had a public debt of 254 billion Rand and there are ten Rand to a Pound, 254 billion, which we were paying at a rate of 30 billion a year, 30 billion which we did not have to build houses as we had planned and now that amount increased as a result of the depreciation of our currency. We, when I stepped down, were paying at a rate of 50 billion servicing that debt and now that imposed constraints on our plans. But fortunately we had said it will not be, it will, round about 25 years that will be able now to deliver services which will change the lives of our people because we are dealing with a system of government which has been there for three and a half centuries and very cruel and brutal policy where a white minority whose policy was condemned as the crime against humanity. But in the history of that country no government has ever delivered the services that was delivered to our people, we have changed the lives of our people and that is why our support is growing.
DAVID FROST: Do you, do you expect, will you support President Thabo Mbeki for a second term?
NELSON MANDELA: President Thabo Mbeki is a remarkable man, he is intelligent, very bright, alert, hard-working, he is the driving force between the present government, I will gladly support him for the second term.
DAVID FROST: It was a surprise that his man Steve Tshwete accused Cyril Ramaphosa and someone who was in Robin Island with you, Tokyo Sexwale accused them of plotting to oust the President, that sounds almost incredible?
NELSON MANDELA: Well Steve Tshwete is one of the pillars of the African National Congress, I was with him in Robin Island for 15 years and he is a man for whom I have the highest respect but as I have said before until there is concrete and credible evidence to the contrary I will continue to hold Cyril Ramaphosa, Tokyo Sexwale, and Matthews Phosa in high esteem. Cyril Ramaphosa has been the architect of the modern South Africa, he led our negotiation team to the negotiations that were going on with┐ and he made such an impact on friend and foe that he is still, even today, regarded as the man who help to bring about a peaceful transformation in our country.
DAVID FROST: And after President Mbeki stands down, whenever that is, after another term or whatever, I mean Cyril Ramaphosa could well be the next President of South Africa?
NELSON MANDELA: Well if he wants to, he is now very much involved in big business, he is one of the few black entrepreneurs who has made a great success of business. I do not know if he would like to come back but if he want to come back he has got the ability and he would be one of the right people to lead South Africa.
DAVID FROST: You, you must be thrilled by the outcome of the pharmaceuticals case in South Africa enabling cheaper drugs to fight aids and so on, is it, is it the greatest problem facing South Africa today and Africa today?
NELSON MANDELA: Well aids of course, is a serious problem in our country. Quite a large number of people are dying, young people between 20, 24 and something which is going to affect our economy because aids affected the economically active section of the population, so it's a problem that we are facing and one of the difficulties has been that the price of medicine has been so high that our people could not afford it, not even the government and now that there has been this settlement I do hope that the pharmaceuticals will bring down the price of drugs. Already some of these pharmaceuticals like Glaxo-Welcome and others are participating in the programme of building schools and community halls in the countryside where people have never had these facilities and I'm sure if there is more discussion between the government and the pharmaceuticals they are going to do a lot of good work.
DAVID FROST: Well today, let's come back to today, this day of celebration, is the, Nelson Mandela Children's Fund will be benefiting from today, won't it?
NELSON MANDELA: Oh there is no doubt about that. The Children's Fund has received a lot of support inside and outside South Africa and it has received a lot of support from this country and there is no doubt that it will benefit because people in this country have been very, very supportive indeed.
DAVID FROST: And today, I mean you'll be there, I notice your High Commissioner said you won't be compering the proceedings because you might do too much dancing, but the, it's going to be a great day of concert, a great day of celebration and as you, there in Trafalgar Square with South Africa House where Anti-Apartheid protestors were outside there 20 years ago, now it's all part of these proceedings. When you, when you think back today to 20 and 30 years ago when you were in prison does it seem almost an impossible dream come true, did you, did you truly believe through all those years that one day what's happened would happen?
NELSON MANDELA: Well our general view was that in the end we would win but there were moments when we doubted, when the government appeared to have crushed resistance but those moments were few and far between, the general picture was one of confidence because although inside jail our people were combing the globe, briefing heads of state's opinion makers about the policy of apartheid it was as a result of the activities or our men like Oliver Tambo, young Mbeki himself who were in the forefront of this campaign and that they were able therefore to isolate white South Africa and made world parties to condemn South Africa as pole cat of the world and therefore to have today where we have won and where we've been six years, we have changed the life of our people, where our support from, from the voters is increasing every year, today therefore is a landmark in all our dreams about a new South Africa.
DAVID FROST: Nelson Mandela thank you very much indeed.
NELSON MANDELA: Well you're welcome David.
DAVID FROST: Bless you.
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