Below follows an extract from his speech:
“We are told that we are in a new South Africa and yet the ugly institutions of the old South Africa still remain in place. We are told that we must build a new future for this land, but how can we build that future if some of our best minds are locked up in prison like animals? We are told that we must assist prisoners to be rehabilitated, to lead new lives, to face a new tomorrow, and to be observant to their nation and to their people. But, I would like to know how you can help to rehabilitate a young person whose true identity you do not know.
Our children become criminals not so much because of poverty but because they have never been given a chance to know themselves, and who they are, because self-knowledge is the key to reform and the key to all civilisations. It was written upon the temples in ancient Greece ‘nota selfon’ (know yourself). If you do not know yourself, how can you discover the hidden talents lying dormant within you? How can you discover yourself? The cry of your soul?
It is high time we people of South Africa put our actions where our mouths are. Today we must try to help, not to teach, not to instruct, but to help. For example, here are these young men, these are children compared to me, but I can never say to them, “I am going to teach you this,” because that boy there knows things that I do not know. That boy has undergone experiences that I never will undergo, therefore I cannot teach him anything. Because, child as he is, he has seen things that I have never seen.
Our society is failing our children. We the parents are letting our children down, we the parents are failing in our most sacred duty, to see to it that our children grow up into men and women of worth, creative and far-sighted people, and not monsters that will afterwards kill us, their parents.
Today we do not reward our children, today we do not praise our children, but today I hope we shall remedy this in an empathetic way.
Let me say to those from our government who have spent their time and energy in coming here, please do not come just like spectators, come like participants. This is what you and not us alone should be doing, this is what you and not us alone should be initiating. You are the fathers and the mothers of this land. Do it. I say let us change our approach to our children who have fallen foul to the law, let us change our approach, let us heal more and punish less.
I say to all of us, let us pray together. I say to all of us, let us weep together. I say to all of us, let us work together.”