Message from the Honourable Thabo Mvuyelwa Mbeki, President of the Republic of South Africa
Few people in the world are unaware of the devastation and tragic loss of life that took place when Hiroshima and Nagasaki were destroyed by atomic bombs during 1945. Yet today, more than fifty years later, the world continues to live under nuclear threat, and while other types of weapons of mass destruction, such as chemical and biological weapons, have been banned, nuclear weapons have not. A real challenge for the international community therefore lies in finding security in nuclear disarmament, rather than in the position and use of nuclear weapons and to strive for the ultimate objective of a world free of weapons of mass destruction.
The vast majority of South African was shocked at the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 and has ever since been committed to the total eradication of nuclear weapons. Thus during the anti-apartheid struggle a number of our representatives have been privileged to participate in the annual proceedings of various World Conference in observance of the tragic events in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
During South Africafs democratic transformation process in the 1990s, we turned away from the edge of the nuclear weapons abyss by destroying our nuclear weapons and becoming a Party to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). South Africa therefore finds itself in a unique position as being the first country in history to have destroyed its nuclear weapon capability. Our experience has demonstrated that nuclear weapons are not the source of security that those who possess or aspire to possess them seem to believe they are. Nuclear weapons are in fact sources of greater insecurity, and the threat of indiscriminate and large scale annihilation that these weapons pose to the interests and survival of humanity as a whole, is very real.
Since its inauguration in May 1994, the new democratic government of South Africa has committed itself to a policy of disarmament, non-proliferation and arms control, which covers all weapons of mass destruction. This policy forms an integral part of our commitment to democracy, human rights, sustainable development, social justice and environmental protection.
Democratic South Africa will continue to play an active role in international fora together with other like-minded members of the international community - to rid the world of weapons of mass destruction. This is a reflection of the desire and intention of our people to strive towards a world of greater peace and security and to ensure that we have a legacy of peace to pass on to our children. The danger of a nuclear holocaust remains very real and serious. It is therefore fitting that we should at this Conference rededicate ourselves to the total eradication of nuclear weapons and all other weapons of mass destruction.
I wish the participants in the 2001 World Conference against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs every success with their endeavors.