The African City Of Carthage — Nelson Mandela
In the distant days of antiquity, a Roman sentenced this African city to death: “Carthage must be destroyed (Carthago delenda est)”.
And Carthage was destroyed. Today we wander among its ruins, only our imagination and historical records enable us to experience its magnificence. Only our African being makes it possible for us to hear the piteous cries of the victims of the vengeance of the Roman Empire.
And yet we can say this, that all human civilisation rests on foundations such as the ruins of the African city of Carthage. These architectural remains, like the pyramids of Egypt, the sculptures of the ancients kingdoms of Ghana and Mali and Benin, like the temples of Ethiopia, the Zimbabwe ruins and the rock paintings of the Kgalagadi and Namib deserts, all speak of Africa’s contribution to the formation of the condition of civilisation.
But in the end, Carthage was destroyed. During the long interregnum, the children of Africa were carted away as slaves. Our lands became the property of other nations, our resources a source of enrichment for other peoples and our kings and queens mere servants of foreign powers.
In the end, we were held out as the outstanding example of the beneficiaries of charity, because we became the permanent victims of famine, of destructive conflicts and of the pestilence of the natural world. On our knees because history, society and nature had defeated us, we could be nothing but beggars. What the Romans had sought with the destruction of Carthage, had been achieved.
But the ancient pride of the peoples of our continent asserted itself and gave us hope in the form of giants such as Queen Regent Labotsibeni of Swaziland, Mohammed V of Morocco, Abdul Gamal Nasser of Egypt, Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Murtala Mohammed of Nigeria, Patrice Lumumba of Zaire, Amilcar Cabral of Guinea Bissau, Aghostino Neto of Angola, Eduardo Mondlane and Samora Machel of Mozambique, Seretse Khama of Botswana, WEB Du Bois and Martin Luther king of America, Marcus Garvey of Jamaica, Albert Luthuli and Oliver Thambo of South Africa.
By their deeds, by the struggles they led, these and many other patriots said to us that neither Carthage nor Africa had been destroyed. They conveyed the message that the long interregnum of humiliation was over. It is in their honour that we stand here today. It is a tribute to their heroism that, today, we are able to address this august gathering.
The titanic effort that has brought liberation to South Africa, and ensured the total liberation of Africa, constitutes an act of redemption for the black people of the world. It is a gift of emancipation also to those who, because they were white, imposed on themselves the heavy burden of assuming the mantle of rulers of all humanity. It says to all who will listen and understand that, by ending the apartheid barbarity that was the offspring of European colonisation, Africa has, once more, contributed to the advance of human civilisation and further expanded the frontiers of liberty everywhere.
We are here today not to thank you, dear brothers and sisters, because such thanks would be misplaced among fellow-combatants – we are here to salute and congratulate you for a most magnificent and historical victory over an inhuman system whose very name was tyranny, injustice and bigotry.
When the history of our struggle is written, it will tell a glorious tale of African solidarity, of African’s adherence to principles. It will tell a moving story of the sacrifices that the peoples of our continent made, to ensure that that intolerable insult to human dignity, the apartheid crime against humanity, became a thing of the past. It will speak of the contributions of freedom – whose value is as measureless as the gold beneath the soil of our country – the contribution which all of Africa made, from the shores of the Mediterranean Sea in the north, to the confluence of the Indian and Atlantic Oceans in the north.
Africa shed her blood and surrendered the lives of her children so that all her children could be free. She gave of her limited wealth and resources so that all of Africa should be liberated. She opened heart of hospitality and her head so full of wise counsel, so that we should emerge victorious. A million times, she put her hand to the plough that has now dug up the encrusted burden of oppression accumulated for centuries.
The total liberation of Africa from foreign and white minority rule has now been achieved. Our colleagues who have served with distinction on the OAU liberation committee have already carried out the historical task of winding up this institution, which we shall always remember as a frontline fighter for the emancipation of the people of our continent.
Finally, at this summit meeting in Tunis, we shall remove from our agenda the consideration of the question of Apartheid South Africa.
Where South Africa appears on the agenda again, let it be because we want to discuss what its contribution shall be to the making of the new African renaissance. Let it be because we want to discuss what materials it will supply for the rebuilding of the African city of Carthage.
One epoch with its historic tasks has come to an end. Surely, another must commence with its own challenges. Africa cries out for a new birth, Carthage awaits the restoration of its glory.
Tunis, 13-15 June 1994