Opening remarks by Deputy Minister Sue van der Merwe on the occasion of Africa Day debate at the NCOP, Cape Town
25 May 2010
Honourable Chairperson of the House
Minister, Deputy Minister
Honourable Members of Parliament
It is an honour for me to be afforded an opportunity to open the debate on the occasion of the celebration of the 47th Africa Day celebration. It was on 25 May 1963 when the leaders of 32 African independent states signed the Charter for the establishment of the Organisation for African Unity. Now all these years later Africa Day celebrations presents us with an opportunity to take stock of the continent’s pursuit towards the realisation of a united, peaceful and prosperous Africa, captured in the theme of today’s debate.
As you would all know, the vision of African unity was championed from as early as the 19th century, and many great African leaders expanded on this vision in the ensuing years. It is important to remember this history and its importance and for the importance of what is now Africa Day within the context of African unity and its contribution to the liberation struggle of countries on the continent, particularly our own country, South Africa.
Chairperson, honourable members,
It is well documented how the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), the precursor of the African Union (AU), prioritised the decolonisation of Africa as its main objective. The OAU had, all those years ago decided to establish the African Liberation Committee. The people of Africa, within the framework of the OAU Charter, took a conscious and deliberate decision to wage a united struggle against colonialism and apartheid.
Our fellow Africans, in collaboration with progressive forces in the world, steadfastly supported our liberation movements as we fought to end the abhorrent system of apartheid in our country. It was in the pursuit of African Unity that apartheid South Africa became internationally isolation - from the 1960s until its demise in the 1990s. We recall with pride and gratitude, the role of the Frontline States whose leaders and people were at the forefront of this campaign and which subsequently went on to form the Southern African Development Coordination Conference (SADCC), which then transformed into Southern African Development Community (SADC), the regional organisation we know it today.
It was against this background that the ANC was granted observer status in the OAU. President Zuma reminded us, during his closing remarks at the 13th Ordinary Session of the African Union Assembly in Libya in July 2009, when he said “South Africa, guided by the oldest liberation movement in Africa, the African National Congress (ANC), has a long and a proud tradition of working for African Unity”. He went on to remind us of the role that President Mandela and the late OR Tambo played in the process of the establishment of the OAU, the launch of which was attended by ANC President, Comrade Tambo. It will further be recalled that it was OR Tambo who was instrumental in crafting the well known Harare declaration which laid down a statement of principles and modalities for negotiations in South Africa which was adopted by the OAU Assembly in August 1989. This declaration thus paved way for our negotiated political settlement.
The 26th Ordinary Session of the OAU Heads of State and Government held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in July 1990, carried out a critical review of Africa’s political, social and economic situation informed by the rapidly changing international environment and further committed itself to enhance the promotion of democracy on the continent. This was the period during which we in South Africa were undergoing our own transition through the multiparty negotiations at Convention for a Democratic South Africa (CODESA), which resulted ultimately in the establishment of our own constitutional democracy.
This brief historic account emphasises the place of global changes in the decisions taken by African leaders that the OAU be transformed to our current day AU in order for the continent to meet the present challenges.
In the process of the transformation from OAU to AU, the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) was conceived. South Africa, as you all know, was one of the initial architects of NEPAD with the primary objective to eradicate poverty; to place African countries, both individually and collectively, on a path of peace, stability, democracy and sustainable growth and development.
Since we achieved our democracy, we have committed ourselves to continue to work towards the realisation of a vision of a united, peaceful and prosperous Africa. We have done so mindful of the high expectations that the Southern African Development Community (SADC), Africa and the world has on our emerging democratic country. South Africa has had to transform from a pariah state to a responsible global citizen. We have also had to play our role in the transformation from the OAU to AU, which was launched in Durban in July 2002, and South Africa thus had the historic opportunity to become the first chair of the AU. The Constitutive Act of the Union provides for the acceleration of the African integration Agenda. This Agenda is predicated on the same vision of a united, peaceful and prosperous Africa.
You will recall also our contribution through our people and our and leadership, with other like-minded countries, to the establishment of NEPAD, the continent’s programme for socio-economic development in Africa. Through NEPAD, Africa has managed to expand development priorities and allow for Africa to take ownership of its own development and success. Development and funding in critical sectors such as agriculture, ICT, science and technology, infrastructure and education has revitalised the continent and allowed for significant improvements in the quality of life for millions of Africans. It has, we believe, unleashed a progressive renewal agenda which needs to be sustained to bring the vision of NEPAD to fruition.
Linked to NEPAD was the establishment of the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) in order to improve economic, corporate and political governance on the continent. This was informed by our understanding that good economic, corporate and political governance is central to the implementation of NEPAD to improve the living conditions of our people. It not only sets the standard for mutual accountability but plays a major role in accelerating political, economic and social reform on the continent.
Our country has been active in efforts to bring about peace and stability on the continent. We have engaged in peace-keeping operations, together with peace-building measures in support of the African Agenda, as well as playing an important mediation and facilitation role in Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Sudan, Ethiopia-Eritrea, Cote d’Ivoire, and Zimbabwe, to name a few. We have used our own experience of reaching a negotiated settlement and creating a progressive constitutional democratic state, to work with other states currently in conflict situations and share our experiences. South Africa, with its limited resources, has invested in assisting countries on the continent to set up institutions which entrench the culture and practice of democracy, such as our own Independent Electoral Commission’s participation in election observation missions; building governance capacity by assisting in the establishment of functioning civil services; and utilising South Africa’s experience and expertise in Post Conflict and Reconstruction Programmes (PCRD) on the continent. We can be proud of these achievements.
This we do in concert with our civil society, think-tanks and the private sector. You will recall that the statute of the Economic, Social and Cultural Council (ECOSOCC) which was adopted by the African Union (AU) provides for the establishment of Country Chapters. In this regard, we continue to enhance the civil society participation in the processes of the Union in partnership with the ECOSOCC-SA Chapter.
There have been successes and challenges which accompanied this endeavour. However, we continue to support peaceful resolution of conflicts, knowing very well that there will be no development without peace and stability on the continent. We realise we need to maximise our collective efforts in realising Africa’s vision of a peaceful continent. Thus the Tripoli Plan of Action was adopted by the African Heads of State and Government and outlines specific commitments aimed at accelerating the resolution of conflict and crisis situations, as well as consolidating peace where it has been achieved.
Further to this, the African Union has declared 2010 as the Year of Peace and Security in Africa at the Special Summit held in Libya last year, to strengthen peace-making efforts across the continent. The Year of Peace and Security initiative will culminate on the 21st September 2010, which is the International Day of Peace and Security and provides an opportunity for all of Africa to come together and prove to the world that peace is indeed possible!
I raise all these issues to challenge you, in this debate today, to reflect on the continent’s past, present and map out a way forward towards African unity and prosperity. We must do a critical assessment of our role on the continent and the current status of Africa. The question we should be able to answer is how we intend to move forward from this current situation, considering lessons we draw from our past.
We acknowledge that much still needs to be done towards realisation of this important vision. Having registered considerable gains in the consolidation of democracy in Africa, it is disheartening to experience the re-emergence of unconstitutional change of governments. The question is how we start to work towards the prevention of this contradiction to our vision. It is my belief that we can bring lasting peace and stability by intensifying continental conflict prevention mechanisms. At times there are warning signs which alert us of a potential conflict but in some cases, we have not responded appropriately. This is a serious weakness in the overall African Peace and Security Architecture. We may also need to further strengthen the AU’s sanction regime and revisit certain mechanisms such as the Lom? Declaration of 2000.
Let me conclude and remind us all about the theme of this year’s Africa Day celebration which is “Building and maintaining peace through sport in Africa”. This is as South Africa and the rest of Africa prepare to host the 2010 FIFA World Cup in just two weeks time.
This sporting event presents Africa with a unique opportunity to harness the power of sport for the promotion of peace and security in diverse communities, in environments where personal security is a challenge and in countries with conflict and post conflict situations.
Let us ensure that Africa takes advantage of the opportunity to encourage a developmental legacy across the continent, speed up economic growth and halve poverty and unemployment by 2014.
“Ke nako: Celebrating Africa’s humanity”
Issued by: Department of International Relations and Cooperation
25 May 2010
Source: Department of International Relations and Cooperation (http://www.dirco.gov.za/)
Issued by: Department of International Relations and Cooperation
25 May 2010
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