On behalf of the Government and People of South Africa, I have a singular honour to welcome you to this distinct ceremony to induct you into the citizenship of the Republic of South Africa.
I feel a sense of a special privilege on behalf of our People and Government to welcome and refer to you as fellow South Africans.
From today onwards, and upon the swearing of the oath of allegiance and the pledging of loyalty to the Constitution and the symbols of the Republic, you shall become full and proud members of the family of South Africans, fellow citizens of this country who enjoy not only the full rights of citizenship but also the enormous responsibilities that accompany such rights, determined that you shall also do whatever it takes and everything within your capabilities to uplift this nation and its people, both within its territory and everywhere across the borders wherever you may and will be travelling abroad on private or official business.
This is no small undertaking on your part, coming as it does with a conscious decision to identify with the history of this country and its symbols, dreams and all that it represents.
From today onwards, you too are part of the rich tapestry of what constitutes our nation.
You see fellow South Africans, our citizenship matters dearly to us.
For most of the past four centuries, black people in this country had been denied full citizenship, ownership and dignity.
Even today, our society still carried within it the imprint of that painful legacy, struggling every day to shake it off as we continue to make strides to forge along a new path of a united, non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and prosperous society and future that belongs to all.
The fundamental recognition, dignity, rights and responsibilities of full South African citizenship denied to too many of our people for far too long serves today as an inspiration for what we do every day as we strive to redefine the concept of nationhood, citizenship and inclusion both within the South African nation-state and global contexts.
In inducting you as fellow South Africans, and having followed due, open and above-board process, we accept you as full members of our nation and do as in broad daylight so that none among our people should dare in future question your exercise of your rights and responsibilities or treat you as second-class citizens who do not belong or have less rights than others because you happened to have been born elsewhere.
Through you, we affirm the very notion that the concept of South African citizenship and nationhood is not static, cast-in-stone or frozen in time, but is ever evolving and developing, and can never be confined to a single time period or concept.
The great freedom fighter and former ANC President Oliver Reginald Tambo – after whom our nearby flagship international airport is named – died almost a year to the day before our first democratic election, like so many of our forebears, never having experienced the full citizenship he and others won for us, and for yourselves.
Our citizenship is therefore very precious to us, conscious as we are of the price that was paid for it.
And yet, in their wisdom, having achieved freedom and political rights, our founding fathers and mothers did not use our hard-won political power to establish a narrow nationalism, a narrow conception of who belongs which would exclude current or future South Africans.
Rather, we chose an inclusive notion of South Africanness as capable of encompassing all those who live in this great land, and people of goodwill who would come from Africa and beyond, with a willingness to contribute to our society.
Indeed, none other than former President Thabo Mbeki – then Deputy President of the Republic – at the occasion of the adoption of our new constitution on 08 May 1996, profoundly and evocatively articulated a South African nationhood big enough for us all.
It would be well that you all have a moment to read his seminal speech and reflect on its historic meaning for this occasion, for to quote any part of it today without quoting the entire speech would for me be to do injustice to what was a speech too great to quote only in parts.
Over the many years of its existence, our country has continued to evolve to accommodate in its rich fabric ever newer elements of people all whom, individually and collectively, enrich our understanding of who we are as well as our standing in the world.
We welcome you in our bosom because you enrich the diversity of our country and people and ensure that South Africa becomes integrated into Africa and the world as a diverse and tolerant culture and nation.
You bring into our society not only the learned experiences of your countries of origin, but also the rich diversity that helps enrich who we are and makes us a better people ready for future challenges in a highly complex and diverse, but very integrated and globalised world.
We therefore do not treat the issue of South African citizenship as a routine administrative matter and that is why we view it as an occasion to undertake a formal, mandatory induction process in an appropriate ceremony overseen by a Judge representing the Chief Justice.
It is, at the same time, a ceremony to celebrate the successful conclusion of an honest process of naturalisation that would have lasted over many years, often up to a decade, and thus we use it also to encourage others who are still undergoing the process not to despair and seek short-cuts by trying to corrupt the system, but to persevere knowing that ultimately the outcome and celebration make the long journey traversed worth the while.
This ceremony comes at an important time in the history of our nation, and the world.
International migration has become a prominent moral, political, economic and social issue.
It has become an issue of controversy, rancour and potential division.
In South Africa, we have articulated the view that international migration is a natural, human phenomenon, which can benefit our development, nation building and social cohesion if managed well.
When other countries are closing up and becoming resentful of immigrants, South Africa, on the other hand, appreciates the importance of human connections and diversity.
The very origins of our country and the journey we have traversed to this very moment at which we now are makes us appreciate the diversity of our nationhood and hence the motto of our logo, !KE E: /XARRA //KE – which means, a divided people unite!
In this country, given how we all came together and the difficult history from which we have emerged, we cherish the concept of unity in diversity and believe that the concept of South Africanness can never be completed or closed so long as human society itself continues also to evolve.
We are a country which values and practices the concept of Ubuntu, an understanding of the essential interconnectedness and interdependence of humanity, which recognizes that ‘I am, because you are’.
Because of where we have come from, because we have been to the very depths of inhumanity and human-made afflictions, we have chosen to build a democracy of inclusion, tolerance and diversity, not narrow nationalism.
In their wisdom, at the Congress of the People in 1955, a gathering of freedom-loving South Africans of all races and backgrounds declared in the opening words of the Freedom Charter, that, “South Africa belongs to all who live in it.”
It is in that spirit, that we welcome you as new South Africans, having fulfilled the requirements of naturalisation as prescribed by our laws.
You have attended the induction programme where you learned of the history of, as well as your rights and responsibilities as citizens of, the Republic of South Africa.
We encourage you to continue to deepen your understanding of all of this and make your contribution to the arts and culture, the science and technology, education and training, and economy of our country.
We are a young and diverse democracy, with many challenges and opportunities.
Out of a history of division and oppression, we are building a nation where all people matter, regardless of their race, gender, class, sexual orientation, physical ability or any other difference.
We are an African nation, inextricably linked to Southern Africa, Africa and the world.
From this day forward, you are part of this project; you are full South African citizens, and we encourage you to bear this status with pride.
I encourage you to take full part in society.
Learn our history, our customs, our languages, and make them your own.
Share our aspirations for South Africa, Africa and humanity as a whole.
Help us realise these aspirations, for your sake, for our sake, for the sake of all our children.
Value your rights, and value the rights of others.
Exercise your responsibilities, and lead by example.
Be productive and prosperous, and find ways to help the less fortunate do so as well.
When you travel and communicate abroad, help us spread the word about the great many positive aspects of South Africa.
It is my honour to welcome you as new citizens of our beloved country.
I thank you.