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Nelson Mandela: My common cause with Cecil Rhodes

Taken from a speech to the Rhodes Trust by the former President of South Africa

We celebrate the centenary of the Rhodes Trust, and join in extending our congratulations on a century of sterling work in fostering and developing intellectual leadership in many countries throughout the world. And we celebrate that century of achievement also through the founding of a new initiative based on a partnership between the Rhodes Trust and the Nelson Mandela Foundation.

It was in South Africa that Cecil John Rhodes, that great entrepreneur, made most of the money that he left in legacy for scholars from across the world to benefit from for the past hundred years. It speaks of a growing sense of global responsibility that, in this second century of its operations, the Rhodes Trust finds it appropriate to redirect some of its attention and resources back to the origin of that wealth.

We can only imagine how Rhodes himself would have identified with this decision to develop human capacity in modern day South Africa, enabling that country to continue being a competitive presence in the world as it was in those fields within which he operated during his times.

We shall be truly honoured if all who use our name in praise do so in full recognition that what is accorded Mandela should stand for every single South African and African. We would feel demeaned if adulation paid to us is to set us apart from the masses from which we come and in whose name we achieved whatever it is we are deemed to have achieved.

Ours is the name for the labourer who toils on the African farm, fighting for a life of dignity; the girl child battling against great odds for an opportunity to realise her potential; the poor Aids orphan bereft of family or care; the rural poor eking out a subsistence, deprived of the most basic services and facilities. It is in their names and those of others like them, and in the name of all South Africans, that we lend ours to this initiative, seeking that a better future be built for all of them.

In this, I am certain, Cecil John Rhodes and I would have made common cause