Welcome by Jan van Zanen to the Mandela lecture by Professor Verne Harris at The Hague Central Library, 17 May 2022


Your Excellency Ambassador Madonsela,

Professor Verne Harris,

Thank you, Municipal Archivist Ellen van der Waerden, for your introduction.


A very warm welcome to all of you here in Studio B who have come to hear the talk this evening. As Mayor of the international city of peace and justice, I consider it a great honour that Professor Harris has come to The Hague. Professor Harris was the personal archivist of Nelson Mandela, he was part of the investigation team of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and is still part of the leadership of the Nelson Mandela Foundation in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Professor Harris, you are taking part in the ‘Met andere ogen’ conference organised by the Municipal Archive of The Hague, and we are delighted that you were also willing to give a lecture. The theme of the conference and your talk are closely linked to each other. You will be talking about the importance of archives. Their importance for research and in providing support to victims and groups that have been neglected or might otherwise soon be forgotten. And the role that archives can play in dealing with an ‘unjust’ past. But you will mostly talk about the legacy of Nelson Mandela, the man and the legend that you witnessed first hand.

To the audience gathered here I should say, don’t expect a hagiography. Professor Harris is known to be an honest and critical observer. He will talk about Mandela’s ambitions and the world’s resistance to change in practice. About his vision and its meaning for South Africa and today’s world.

In our part of the world we are currently experiencing a war that no one would have thought possible. Unprecedented aggression towards a neighbouring country and its people. A conflict in which we can see little to be hopeful about for the moment, but which will one day come to an end. That is when establishing the truth and the search for reconciliation can begin. I hope the lessons from South Africa can play a part in that. That the wisdom of a man like Nelson Mandela can be found.