Address by President Jacob Zuma, on the occasion of the Joint Sitting of Parliament, to pay tribute and bid farewell to Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, the African Union Commission Chairperson
19 Sep 2012
Deputy President of the Republic, Honourable Kgalema Motlanthe,
Honourable Speaker of the National Assembly,
Honourable Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces,
Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly and Deputy Chairperson of the NCOP, Honourable Ministers and Deputy Ministers,
Distinguished Premiers and Speakers of our provinces,
Chairperson of SALGA, and all local government leadership,
The Heads of Chapter 9 Institutions,
Members of the diplomatic corps,
Fellow South Africans.
It is my honour to address this Joint Sitting of our National Assembly, on the occasion of bidding farewell to Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma. As we know, Dr Dlamini Zuma is relinquishing her current portfolio as Minister of Home Affairs to assume her new position as African Union Commission Chairperson in Addis Ababa next month. I must admit that it was not easy for us to let go of one of our senior and dedicated Ministers. But I am confident that we are all in agreement that it is for the greater good of the African continent.
Minister Dlamini Zuma is one of the longest serving members of parliament and of cabinet of the free and democratic South Africa She was sworn in as a member of the National Assembly in 1994, soon after our non-racial, non-sexist, free and democratic elections. She joined the National Assembly and government after a long and dedicated period of selfless struggle and sacrifices inside the country and in exile.
We are therefore honouring a patriot who has dedicated almost her entire adult life to serving humanity and the South African people in particular. She started her political activism at the age of 16 when she was a student at Adams College. She was one of the founding members of the South African Students Organisation (SASO) at the University of Zululand. She later became Vice-President of SASO in 1976.
She joined the ANC underground structures in 1975 before going into exile. The Minister has served under four presidents as Minister of Health Foreign Affairs and Home Affairs. She goes to Addis with the stripes that she earned in these portfolios.
In his first State of the Nation Address in 1994, President Mandela announced a number of measures including free health care for pregnant women and children under the age of 6.
Minister Dlamini Zuma had to implement those landmark measures that extended health care to the poor for the first time.
She incurred the wrath of smokers and tobacco companies when with great determination, she successfully introduced the anti-tobacco legislation. We have clinics even in the most rural areas of our country, due to Minister Dlamini-Zuma’s drive to improve primary health care, working with other colleagues in the national executive.
In the administration led by President Thabo Mbeki, Minister Dlamini Zuma led us in cementing the African agenda, enabling South Africa to humbly lead the African renaissance and the renewal of the continent. For many years, Minister Dlamini Zuma was a lone woman in meetings dominated by men in institutions of African governance, and among a few in United Nations circles.
Assuming this responsibility of leading the AU Commission is a continuation of that tradition of breaking barriers, opening doors and proving the capability of women in any responsibility or portfolio. She reminds us of many successful and inspirational women in African history and in our country.
From 2009, she was given the mammoth task of turning the Department of Home Affairs around. She has turned it into one that is now succeeding in serving the people with efficiency, courtesy and diligence. She has demonstrated that indeed, government services can be delivered better.
We have many exceptional leaders in our country. When the continent was in need, we had to choose from that team and send one of our best, because we have to think Africa above all else. This is in line with one of the values of the AU Commission, which is; “Think Africa Above All”.We are humbled at this kind and considered gesture from our sister nations in the continent in electing her to serve at the headquarters of the African Union.
We pursued the issue of her election because Africa needs someone who would take the African Union and its operations to another level. The continent needs someone of her character, calibre and skills to steer this institution of African governance to greater heights.
Africa needs to strengthen the democratic culture and ethos in African institutions. We need someone who would be able to help Africa unlock her economic potential. We need someone who would prioritise solving Africa’s peculiar problems using African solutions.
We need someone who would passionately and energetically champion the African development agenda. We need someone who must work hard for African unity and its prosperity.
We need someone who will strengthen institutions such as the Pan-African Parliament, and provide a meaningful role for African parliamentarians to contribute to the goals of African unity and prosperity. And more importantly, we need someone who will promote African freedom, sovereignty, independence and self-reliance. In the face of ongoing interference in the affairs of the continent, Africa needs a proud African who shares the sentiments of the Mexican revolutionary Emilio Zapata, that it is better to die on your feet, than live on your knees.
Dr Dlamini Zuma is such an African. I must hasten to add that Dr Dlamini Zuma is not going to Addis Ababa, as a South African AU Commission Chairperson. We are one of more than 50 AU member states. We will have to compete for her ear and attention like every other nation. But we know that her vision for the African continent is one we all share.
Our foreign policy is informed by the fundamental values and principles enshrined in our Constitution. Those are principles of human dignity, the respect for life, the achievement of equity, the advancement of human rights and freedoms, non-racialism, non-sexism, democracy and a respect for the rule of law. Most importantly, our foreign policy is informed by a deep understanding of where this continent comes from and where we are going.
Africans had been subjected to decades of colonialism and at some point, were the victims of slavery. When African countries obtained their independence from colonial rule, and established the Organisation for African Unity, precursor to the 10 year old AU, they were hoping to achieve unity and prosperity. But the OAU was born into a hostile neo-colonial environment of colonial masters who were reluctant to let go of this continent and its treasures. It was born in the environment of the cold war, where Africa became an unwitting proxy site for its destructive wars.
During that period, the leading countries of the West created and supported many corrupt dictators all over the developing world. Many of these countries engineered coups and civil strife even after the Cold War, in order to undermine political and economic stability in this continent. Yes the scars still show.
Though now boasting an impressive economic growth rate of more than 10%, Angola still bears these scars of the blistering side of the Cold War. So does Mozambique and other countries, including South Africa.
We have seen how our resources have caused both hope and pain, as many countries took turns to exploit this continent for their own despicable ends, taking our oil, gold and diamonds to name a few. These neo-colonial activities undermined our political and economic independence and constituted what became known as the black man’s burden.
As Kwame Nkrumah said in May 1963 at the founding of the OAU; “It is said, of course, that we have no capital, no industrial skill, no communications, and no internal markets, and that we cannot even agree among ourselves how best to utilise our resources for our own social needs. “Yet all stock exchanges in the world are preoccupied with Africa’s gold, diamonds, uranium, platinum, copper and iron ore’’.
Granted, the OAU fell short in many respects, such as lack of actual intervention in conflict situations in the continent, and promoting democracy and good governance. But one cannot discount the invisible hand of the western adversaries behind almost every false start that we have made as a continent.
We know for example, how even the most struggling of the African countries were not spared the brute determination of the IMF and World Bank and their structural adjustment programmes. These programmes led to what was called food riots which destabilised many African governments.
Those were hard times for the post-colonial Africa. The OAU, now the AU, has moved on from the successful mission of supporting liberation movements in the continent to helping Africa to find her economic freedom through spearheading Africa’s unity, development and integration. The environment is being created for meaningful economic development. We can proudly say that over the past decade, Africa has come from being the so-called ‘hopeless Continent’ to being a rising star.
Profound changes have brought about this turnaround and these changes are continuing to take place. We can count the fact that Africa has come from being the notorious continent with 1raging wars in 2002, to a continent which is fast achieving peace and stability. Around two thirds of governments in Africa are democratically elected, compared with just eight in 1991.
It is remarkable that six of the world’s fastest ten growing economies were African. In eight of the past ten years, Africa has grown faster than East Asia. Naturally, we all want to see Africa's growth acceleration being widespread and also fairly inclusive, with the poorest seeing significant improvements in their lives.
Steady progress is being made in education, health, sanitation, and in empowering women. However, as the progress with the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals shows, the continent has a long way to go. But it is good that progress is being made economically, as this will produce the resources we need to achieve economic growth and improve the quality of life. The priorities have been identified, and Dr Dlamini Zuma has her work cut out for her.
Firstly, the African Union has taken a conscious decision about integration and to promote intra-African trade. Because of costly barriers, intra-African trade is unusually low. It averages 10%, which is less than half the level in other emerging market regions. A continental free trade area is being established.
And at a regional level, the Tripartite Free Trade area, bringing together COMESA, SADC and the East African Community will create a market of 26 countries, with a population of about 600 million people and a combined GDP of one trillion US dollars. This augurs well for the economic future of these regions. Secondly, the infrastructure developments that have been undertaken in Africa will eliminate most of the hindrances to growth.
Africa’s inadequate infrastructure is one of the main factors inhibiting trade, integration and economic development. In view of this, the AU has set up the Presidential Infrastructure Championship Initiative, a continental committee of eight NEPAD Heads of State and Government, to champion infrastructure projects at the highest level.
South Africa is also chair and champion of the North-South Road and Rail Corridor project and the Cape to Cairo corridor. The North-South corridor cuts across eight countries in eastern and southern Africa and aims to facilitate trade by upgrading road, rail, power and port facilities, as well as simplifying cross-border regulatory procedures. This will enable producers and traders to access regional and international markets more easily.
If we achieve our goals, which we must, we will achieve the economic development vision spelled out by Kwame Nkrumah, who said way back in 1963. “We shall link the various states of our continent with communications by land, sea, and air. We shall cable from one place to another, phone from one place to the other and astound the world with our hydro-electric power. We shall drain marshes and swamps, clear infested areas, feed the undernourished, and rid our people of parasites and disease. “..We shall harness the radio, television, giant printing presses to lift our people from the dark recesses of illiteracy’’.
Achieving peace and stability is another apex priority for the AU.
The Chairperson of the AU Commission is fully aware of the instability troubling some parts of the continent such as in the DRC, Sudan and the lingering grim aftermath of the Arab Spring. Peace and Stability organs of the AU will need to be strengthened to be able to provide African solutions to peace and stability problems on the continent.
If we do not do so, we will find those from outside the continent with resources coming in under the guise of helping, and divide the continent, taking us backwards. President Julius Nyerere of Tanzania warned the continent of this new scramble for Africa as early as 1961 when he said in Dar es Salaam; “We are now entering a new phase - the phase of the Second Scramble for Africa. And just as, in the First Scramble for Africa, one tribe was divided against another tribe to make the division of Africa easier..
“In the Second Scramble for Africa one nation is going to be divided against another nation to make it easier to control Africa by making her weak and divided against herself’’. We will continue playing our supportive role in the promotion of peace and stability, within the ambit of the AU.
As Minister Dlamini Zuma prepares to move to the continent, we should all begin to change our mindsets. We must think Africa Above All. That means we must start thinking positively about Africa.
The continent needs to have Africans believing in their own potential. Africa needs to have her own people spreading the powerful message that Africa is rising. And they must believe this message. If we do not believe what we see and experience, why should the rest of the world! As an AU member state, and with renewed determination, we will continue to actively support all AU programmes and play our role. We will step up our efforts, working with sister nations within the AU to prevent wars, genocides and crimes against humanity in this continent. We will ensure the effectiveness of the NEPAD and the African Peer Review Mechanism to improve governance and promote prosperity in this continent.
We will work with all to further promote democracy and good governance in the continent. This is our continent, and we must work to make it succeed.
The late President Jomo Kenyatta of Kenya reminded Africans as such in 1985 in Nairobi when he said; “Many people may think that, now there is Uhuru, now I can see the sun of freedom shining, richness will pour down like manna from Heaven. I tell you there will be nothing from Heaven. We must all work hard, with our hands, to save ourselves from poverty, ignorance, and disease."
Before concluding, let me remind you that we meet under a sad cloud. Eight South Africans died tragically in a suicide bomb attack in Kabul, Afghanistan.
We extend our deepest condolences to the families and government will provide very possible assistance to their next of kin. This morning, we woke up to the sad news that Mrs Betty Kaunda, wife to the first President of Zambia, our father President Kenneth Kaunda had passed away. Our hearts go out to the Kaunda family and the people of Zambia at this time. She was our mother and looked after so many South Africans in exile. This is our loss as well as South Africans, it is the end of an era.
And in the past two weeks, we have lost 28 school children in separate road crashes in KwaZulu-Natal. We extend our condolences to the families and the KZN provincial government.
We welcome the resolution of the Lonmin strike. It is good that the workers and the employers could find each other and have resolved the dispute. It is regrettable that so many lives were lost in a dispute that should have been handled within the constitutional and legal framework governing labour relations in our country.
On a lighter note, we have here seated amongst us in the gallery a very special girl, Siddiqah Stewart from Bloemfontein. She decided to celebrate her 12th birthday with us today to bid farewell to Minister Dlamini Zuma We wish you a very happy and memorable birthday Siddiqah, may you have many more!
On behalf of government, we extend our hearty congratulations to Dr Dlamini Zuma on her ascension to office. We also bid farewell to the outgoing chairperson, Dr Jean Ping and thank him for his service to the AU and the continent.
Minister Dlamini Zuma will be sorely missed in this House. She will be sorely missed in the country. But we know that we shall feel and hear her footsteps in Addis Ababa.
I thank you.
Issued by: The Presidency
19 Sep 2012
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