27 July 2004
South Africa's first democratic president has become the third recipient of the Freedom of the City of Johannesburg.
Former State President Nelson Mandela on Friday joined liberation struggle heavyweights in Beyers Naude and Walter Sisulu to be bestowed with the city's highest and greatest honour since the advent of democracy in 1994.
The freedom of the city is the highest recognition of a person's contribution to the welfare of the city and its inhabitants.
Struggle icon and the late, Sisulu received the award in 1997, while Naude received the award in 2001.
Accepting the honour at the Orlando East hall in Soweto, Madiba was quick to pay tribute to the two, saying both made such enormous contributions to shaping the country's future "towards what we presently enjoy and look forward to in coming years - decades and centuries".
"None of them ever sought personal glory out of their contribution, they were the inspirers of those of us that eventually received recognition, glory and awards," Mandela said. "May there ever be ones like Sisulu and Naude - men and women who forsake everything else for the common good."
Speaking about Johannesburg, Mandela said he was positive the city will transcend the country's history of racial division.
"We know that it is the centre of prosperity in our country, providing the opportunity to create that better life for all our people. Long live this town of vibrancy and activity," added one of the world's most famous former statesmen.
Mandela was conferred the honour for his outstanding contribution to the struggle for freedom and democracy, and for his promotion of equality. The award also coincides with the country's celebration of the first decade of freedom and democracy.
It was also hosted at the hall that played a central role in the affairs of the local residents for more than 60 years, but over the years has become less and less important in the lives of Sowetans.
City of Johannesburg Mayor Amos Masondo praised Madiba for helping to forge profound values and principles "that today underpin the constitution of South Africa".
He said Mandela had together with others - through the Freedom Charter (adopted in Kliptown in 1955),- "taught us that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white. You taught us that no government can justly claim authority unless it is based on the will of the people, and that our country will never be prosperous and free until all our people live in brotherhood, enjoying equal rights and opportunities".
Masondo pointed to the City's challenge to deliver quality service to all its citizens. Included in these are housing, roads, and greater access to health care facilities, sanitation, water and electricity.
According to the 2001 Census, the population in Johannesburg alone has increased from 2.8 to 3.2 million people. Studies indicate that the population in the city continues to grow by at least four percent every year.