Address by the Deputy President, Kgalema Motlanthe, at the African Progress Conference in Madrid, Spain
19 Jul 2010
The Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, Mr Miguel Angel Moratinos;
President of Tanzania, Mr Jakaya Kikwete;
South Africa’s Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Mr Ebrahim Ebrahim;
Vice-President of IDEAS Foundation, Mr Jesus Caldera;
Secretary for International Policy and Cooperation, Ms Elena Valenciano;
Comrades and friends from the African continent;
Ladies and gentlemen:
It is an honour to be part of this seminal conference which examines ‘The Role of Progressive Politics in Sub-Saharan Africa’.
I use this platform to thank the organisers that include our comrades in the Spanish Socialist Party and the IDEAS Foundation for co-hosting this historic gathering.
The South African delegation attending this conference was initially meant to be led by the South African President, Mr Jacob Zuma, however pressing domestic considerations made it impossible for him to join us today.
He sends his apologies and extends his goodwill to the delegates and participants in this international conference. In particular, he asked me to send a congratulatory message to the people of Spain for lifting the 2010 FIFA World Cup which was hosted on the African continent for the first time in history.
Well done to the Spanish football team for displaying rare skill and passion for the game throughout the tournament. I am sure the fiesta crowning this achievement is still being celebrated by all the citizens of Spain today!
Furthermore, on behalf of the people and the government of South Africa, I also wish to thank the people and the government of Spain and the Spanish Socialist Party, for cordially hosting the international celebration of Mandela Day.
As you are all aware, yesterday, on July 18, the whole world celebrated Nelson Mandela International Day.
On this special day, all of us are granted an opportunity to remember Madiba’s contribution to South Africa’s struggle for freedom and his longstanding promotion of values of human rights and reconciliation.
Specifically, Mandela Day is a day in which all of us, across the world and from all walks of life, are encouraged to participate in positive acts of human service. The 67 years of unbroken public service that Mandela dedicated to the people of South Africa symbolise a clarion call to all in the world to contribute to a good cause.
International solidarity is important to us. The ANC-led government continues to draw lessons from the history of struggle of the Spanish people. It is from this shared history of struggle that South Africa and Spain can jointly champion social justice using instruments such as the multilateral system.
More specifically, for us in sub-Saharan Africa, progressive politics is a multi-layered but clear concept, rooted in our concrete history of struggle to reclaim African humanity.
We believe progressive politics is not only about restoring the humanity of Africans by freeing them from colonialism and neo-colonialism, but is also about empowering them as a people, through consciously creating conditions that enable them to define their destiny.
Hence we commend the understanding of this august conference, stating that: "Today there is agreement within the progressive community that the policy agenda is to be set from an African perspective, while international partners’ engagement must focus on potential coordinated responses and the role of the international community in pursuing the objectives defined by Africans themselves˝.
Progressive politics speaks to empowering programmes targeted at ending conflict in Africa.
We do well to remember the optimism and expectation of our people when they unshackled themselves in the 1950s and 60s from the clutches of colonialism and imperialism.
The collapse of the colonial system on our continent generated hope among the African masses to exercise their right to self- determination so that they build a new Africa based on principles of liberty, peace and prosperity.
Unfortunately, in many cases, the few decades following the liberation of the majority of the African countries painfully betrayed this vision of hope and progress.
Precisely because the mechanisms for ensuring good governance and respect for human rights were compromised by considerations of national sovereignty and by the sins of incumbency, the dream of a prosperous and stable Africa was sacrificed by inter-state conflicts, civil wars and so-called ethnic conflicts.
Instead of liberty, peace and prosperity, many postcolonial countries experienced the precise opposite. Military dictatorships, wars, repression and growing poverty took their toll on the majority of African countries.
It is for this reason that the Constitutive Act of the African Union emphasises that in situations where there are "grave circumstances, namely; war crimes... and crime against humanity", "the right of Member States to request intervention from the Union in order to ensure peace and security" should be heeded.
Interventions referred to above are ultimately geared towards providing early-warning-systems, post-conflict reconstruction and peacekeeping operations. In this sense, greater cooperation for humanitarian action is encouraged between the AU and the United Nations.
Comrades, we are frank to admit that the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) had its own shortcomings which subsequently disabled its ability to address matters such as military coups in its member states, most of which were, in any case, directly or indirectly engineered from outside Africa itself to serve the interests of the former colonialists.
However, the formation of the African Union (AU), whose core mandate is to see to the political stability and sustainable economic development of the African continent, ushered in a paradigm shift in the nature of progressive politics in Africa.
Going further than the vision of the OAU, the AU’s Constitutive Act set forth new and progressive measures designed to underpin the new vision of a thriving African continent which timeously addresses challenges of poverty, unemployment, malaria, arms proliferation and threats of terrorism such as witnessed in Uganda recently.
Among others, the AU decided at its Assembly in 2001 to come up with the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), an economic programme which would address the area of socio-economic development.
Moreover, there is now a widespread appreciation of the role of regional communities such as the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and Economic Community of West African States(ECOWAS) in addressing bottlenecks that retard development.
Importantly, the Constitutive Act of the AU also clearly calls for "respect for the sanctity of human life, condemnation and rejection of impunity and political assassination, acts of terrorism and subversive activities".
The vision of the AU is clear in creating mechanisms and establishing institutions which privilege human rights, the rule of law, and intolerance of corruption.
As a result, the AU prohibits ascension to political office through undemocratic means of political and social violence precisely because these undemocratic forms have stifled the progress of many African countries since independence.
In short comrades, the AU has adopted policy positions which see a nexus between political stability and economic development.
To achieve this realisation of shared economic growth and bettering the basic conditions of all our people, as in the past during our dark days of oppression, we need to strengthen partnerships forged in struggle. Our international friends and partners such as the Spanish Socialist Party are very important to us.
As the Republican leader of the Spanish Civil War, Dolores Ibarruri said, allow me to quote her words: "I have always defended a policy of unity…Everything moves, everything changes; we must know how to adapt our theory, our politics and our struggle to the specific circumstances in which we live…advancing toward our goal…(of) peace".
South African can testify to the inherent benefits that flow from human solidarity as expressed by the practice of progressive politics.
The sacrifices the peoples of our continent made to end apartheid, which denied the very humanity of everybody who was African, were indeed immense.
Consequently, the countries of Southern Africa also paid a very high price in human lives lost, as well as property and infrastructure destroyed, as they withstood the campaign of aggression and destabilisation conducted by the apartheid regime. Undoubtedly, Angola and Mozambique paid the highest price in this regard.
This immeasurable level of solidarity for which many Southern African nations paid the price further cemented this vision of African unity, founded on a common vision that is not uncritical of one another.
As you are aware, the South African liberation struggle brought about the development of perhaps the largest and most determined Pan-African movement of solidarity our continent has ever seen, involving both governments and all sections of the population, in most country.
The vision of the AU is largely based on this realisation that without unity and working towards a common destiny, our efforts will flounder.
It is for this reason significance is placed on the role of NEPAD’s African Peer Review Mechanism to assess member countries against a set of specific universal principles of good governance, respect for human rights and involving as much as possible, ordinary people in shaping their lives.
Accordingly, progressive politics in African is conscious of the significance of the African masses in this historic march to the future.
I am certain that working with our domestic and international partners, such as the Spanish Socialist Party and the IDEAS Foundation, we will be able to see realisation of the AU Vision of "promotion of accelerated socio-economic integration of the continent, which will lead to greater unity and solidarity between African countries and people".
Thus continued efforts should be made to draw into this grand vision of African development the civil society formations like the intelligentsia, professionals, trade unions, business people, women and youth, traditional leaders, cultural workers, and the media.
As members of progressive organisations, we have to continue to work together to ensure that the present effects of the economic crisis do not dampen our resolve to build a strong partnership between Europe and Africa within the framework of the Strategic Partnership that has evolved since the EU-Africa Summit held in Cairo, Egypt, in 2000.
The United Nations (UN) Review Summit of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) envisaged for September this year will be an opportunity for progressives in government and in civil society to join hands and do our part to remain focused on the plight of the poor and marginalised.
Without a doubt and as you would know, Africa has more to gain if we succeed in achieving the goals set out in the MDGs.
For African progressives, the better future for our continent remains our principal focus. We were at the forefront in the struggle against colonialism and for creation of societies founded on freedom, development and justice for all.
We were also in the forefront of the struggle for democratisation in many of our countries. We were among those in trenches to oppose economic policies that are aimed at weakening the state and handing over our countries to the invisible hand of the market.
We have this rich tradition of struggle to build the future of our continent from and in this we need the support of friends like the Spanish Socialist Party.
Progressive formations in Spain and Africa share a common belief that the instruments of global governance should be restructured to ensure a system that is not only more just and equitable, but at the same time more biased towards the marginalised in world systems of governance.
I believe that these shared values within the domestic as well as the international context provide a firm foundation for the construction of close and warm relations that would ultimately lead to the mutual benefit of all our peoples.
Working together for the future of our continent, we have to bear in mind that our vision as progressives is anchored on the Triple Ps – that is the People, Prosperity, and the Planet.
I have no doubt that our deliberations will therefore place Africans at the centre – as agents of their own history. We will take into account achievements in Africa of the last decade which brought into being, amongst others, the African Union and its NEPAD programme.
I believe that we will also be frank in our assessment of our setbacks and failures to help us avoid repeating mistakes of the past.
At the same time, the plight of our people and the prosperity we want cannot be at the expense of our planet.
Progressives all over the world have swelled the ranks of advocates for a sustainable development model that is informed by the imperatives of protecting our planet.
You will be aware that sub-Saharan Africa has and will continue to suffer the most from the climate change effects if nothing drastic is done in this regard.
Africa’s current economic and developmental challenges render it most vulnerable to the changing climate. Our developmental perspective as Africans therefore centres around this progressive consciousness.
We should continue to work together for a successful conclusion of the 16th Conference of Parties (COP16) to be held in December in Cancun, Mexico.
However, the realisation of our vision that is built on the People, Prosperity and the Planet, will in many ways depend on an enabling global system that promotes equality and social and economic justice.
This triangular linkage between development, democratic governance, and peace is the main theme that this conference will be interrogating in its deliberations.
To this extent, the United Nations is one of the strategic multilateral institutions for advancing Africa’s interests, including political, peace and developmental aspects.
In conclusion, as partners in struggle and prosperity, we are all responsible for each others’ peace and security. Challenges we experience of lack of education and skills, political turmoil and social violence affect us all and it is through cooperation and frank dialogue we can overcome these challenges.
To build a better world of shared economic growth for all of our people, political stability is crucial.
It is when we place systems of good governance that a culture of human rights can be realised across class, race, nationality, ideology and gender.
The words of Nelson Mandela ring true when he said in 1995 upon receiving the Africa Peace Award, I quote:
"Africa has long traversed past a mindset that seeks to heap all blame on the past and on others...(and therefore) The era of renaissance we are entering is, and should be, based on our own efforts as Africans to change Africa’s condition for the better".
Programme director allow me once more the opportunity to wish this conference on ‘Progressive Politics in Africa’ success in all its deliberations.
Once again, congratulations to the Spanish soccer team for becoming the 2010 FIFA World Cup champions.
I thank you.
Issued by: The Presidency
19 Jul 2010
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