31 December 1999

In 1900, a group of distinguished Africans from the continent and the diaspora, led by Dr W.E. B. Du Bois, met for the first Pan African conference in Paris. That conference spelt out a challenge to the world community regarding the aspirations of the African peoples and people of African descent. Consequently, twentieth century history has witnessed the struggle of the African people and those of the African diaspora for their most basic human rights, recognition of our dignity as human beings and the restoration of our sovereignty.

The history of the passing century also embodies the striving by millions of South Africans to build a non-racial democracy from a society dominated by a White racist autocracy. South Africa bears the singular distinction of being amongst the first countries of our continent to give birth to a national liberation movement. Though ours was the pioneer movement in Sub-Saharan Africa, from which a host of sister movements in Southern and East Africa drew direct inspiration, ironically, ours was the last country in Africa to attain its freedom. South Africa was destined to be the site of the hardest fought and longest struggle for African freedom.

As the twentieth century draws to a close, the liberation of South Africa is rightly regarded by all Africans and peoples of African descent as our collective achievement. Though ours is among the youngest democracies in the world, the African peoples and the world, have high expectations of our country.

Our people, our continent and the world will enter the third millennium A.D. a mere six years after the arrival of democracy in South Africa. South Africa today stands at the threshold of a new epoch. The end of this century marks with the end of an era, but with every ending, comes a new beginning.

The challenges that face our nation and our country at this moment when, for the first time in over three centuries, all the peoples of Africa have achieved their political sovereignty, arise from the two mutually exclusive and rival nationalism's that dominate the history of twentieth century South Africa. These two - African and Afrikaner Nationalism -embody fundamentally differing perspectives on the character and future of our country. Both nationalism's however laid claim to the same piece of earth, our common home, South Africa.

At the turn of the century, the main line of fissure in South African society was race. Colonial conquest had ensured that power, status, wealth and opportunity would be assigned in racial terms. While Afrikaner nationalism sought to entrench and permanently institutionalise that division, African nationalism fought to overturn it. The divergent approaches these two movements adopted were however not incidental. They reflected obligations assumed and options chosen by the respective parties.

At its birth African Nationalism embraced a number of values, principles and ideals as the key pillars of its political ideology. These core values derive from a specific tradition - a culture of Human Rights, rooted in the political revolutions of the late 18th century and those of the mid-nineteenth century. This human rights culture was embraced by the world community as its common heritage with the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights after the Second World War. Thus all of humanity - black, white, brown, yellow, red - became part of a single moral universe The generation of political leaders who came into their own after the Second World War include the founders of the ANC Youth League, Walter Sisulu, Oliver Tambo, Nelson Mandela, Anton Lembede, William Nkomo. It was they who devised the strategies and the alliances that proved capable of defeating racism and inaugurating democracy in South Africa. They piloted the 1949 Programme of Action through the ANC's structures and ensured its adoption by the 1949 Annual conference.

They sought, while maximising the unity of the African people in the first instance, to create wider alliances with the other oppressed, as well as to stimulate opposition to racism among Whites.

The first crucial test of this strategy was the Defiance Campaign of 1952 during which 8000 volunteers courted imprisonment by defying apartheid laws.

That campaign catalysed the formation of the Liberal Party among the more clear sighted members of the opposition United Party and the birth of the South African Congress of Democrats among radical Whites in 1953. This culminated in the crystallisation of the liberal wing of the United Party into the Progressive Party in 1959. The Progressive Party in time grew into the Democratic Party of today.

They also successfully linked the South African struggle to the anti-colonialist struggles in the rest of the world, especially Africa. Through their inspiration democratic, liberal, labour and workers' parties throughout the world were also drawn into an international solidarity movement in support of the struggle of the South African people. The British Anti-Apartheid Movement, formed in 1959, was the first among many solidarity movements that grew in the decades that followed.

When all other options were closed off, they did not shrink from the agonising decision to take up arms to liberate our country from the oppressive yoke of racism and apartheid.

It was the marshalling of all these forces, working in closer and more effective co-ordination, that finally caused the demise of the apartheid regime, compelling it to seek a negotiated settlement with the forces of national liberation and democracy.

Their crowning moment came with Nelson Mandela's inauguration as the first president of a democratic South Africa in April 1994. The century ends with the emergence of a new generation of leaders, steeled in the harsh school of underground resistance, imprisonment, exile, armed struggle and mass struggles. History has decreed that it will be this generation who lead South Africa into the 21st century. Of highest priority is consolidation of the democracy won in 1994 and driving the consistent transformation of South Africa into a non-racial, non-sexist society. In short, the moulding a united nation.

Democracy could however, only be realised by defeating and overturning the old regime. Democracy must grow into a mighty tree in whose shade all South Africans can find safety and shelter. The principles that undergird the basic law of the land are enduring, universal values.

The imperatives of empowering the individual citizen mean that limits have to be placed on government power. And that every citizen should be given the capacity to cope with the complexities of life in the modern era.

The formation of a single, united nation requires that we bridge the huge gulf presently differentiating the rich from the poor; separating white from black.

This necessarily requires radical transformation of the quality of life of the majority of our people - focusing especially on ending poverty, hunger, insecurity and illiteracy. The national agenda for the immediate future must be harnessing the energies of the nation for this transformative process so as to create an ever expanding floor of opportunities for all South Africans.

Quite correctly, our national agenda was named the Reconstruction and Development, Programme , identifying as its key features the reconstruction of the country and our society which had been ravaged by racism and apartheid, and a developmental programme that will bring about the economic and social upliftment of the formerly oppressed majority.

Putting the RDP into effect also entails struggle, demanding the same degree of dedication, skill and courage as the struggle for democracy.

South Africa has the potential of becoming the economic engine room of the African continent, with a capacity to foster the economic revival of the continent as a whole through judicious co-operation and mutually beneficial economic relations. The economies of the SADC countries, historically linked to that of South Africa, are the immediate market for South African manufactures. They too should find markets for their minerals and agricultural products in South Africa. Many of these countries continue to export workers who find work in South Africa's mining industry.

Since 1994, South Africa has taken the lead in improving intra-African communications through African-owned and controlled initiatives such as the South African - Far Eastern Communications Network (SAFE) - which has off-ramps to the east African coast and Madagascar. South African assistance in the refurbishment of Tanzania's telecommunications network, the Tazara railroad system and a number of trans-frontier development initiatives, are examples on which we are building to attain greater integration among the economies of the region and to enhance African self-reliance.

There is a recognised need among a number of African countries for Africa to exert far greater control over all its resources through multi-lateral co-operation agreements within the continent. The promotion of political stability and peace are indispensable ingredients for the regeneration of Africa. The renewal of a shared sense of purpose among Africans, centred on the as yet untapped potential of African humanity, is equally essential. The continent must recapture the numerous opportunities Africa has lost because of misguided policies. This will have to be accompanied by a great continent-wide cultural revival - based on the spreading of literacy, numeracy, the natural sciences, and the mastery of modern technology. Africa's schools, adult education projects, technikons, the universities and other tertiary institutions have to assume a leading role in such a revival.

A meaningful cultural revival would necessarily entail a critical revisiting of indigenous African cultural institutions, customary practices and mores, in order to review, re-assess and where necessary, reform, restructure and modernise these so as to harmonise them with the larger cultural project.

The profile that South Africa has attained in international affairs is to be welcomed. South Africa's increasing obligations in the region and on the continent have won us much praise. We played a positive role in resolving the Lesotho crisis, we continue to play one in the Great Lakes region. The role we played in Zaire-Congo, and in relation to Nigeria suggest that we can provide regional leadership on a number of issues and to exert our influence to maintain stability.

The emergence of China as growing economic power house of Asia and the Pacific, is the single most important fact of the second half of the twentieth century. India and Indonesia appear poised to become powerful economies in the 21st century as well. Across the Atlantic, Brazil, Argentina and Mexico could also follow along the same path.

These developments have significant implications for the African continent as a whole and for South Africa in particular. We are actively exploring how these changes can create new opportunities for Africa in world affairs. In our dealings with the rest of the world, South Africa will continue to insist that respect for democratic institutions and cultivation of a culture of human rights are the best guarantors of stability.

Tolerance remains one of the core principles of this human rights culture. Coercion should therefore not be employed to gain leverage over the political process. This includes the use of such devices as censorship, repressive laws, emergency powers and other legal instruments that have the effect of forcibly compelling those who hold an unpopular or unconventional viewpoint to remain silent. As we mark the festive season, let the message of peace and goodwill towards our fellow human beings ring out throughout the land. Let every South African recognise that our fellow citizens, like ourselves, are at a root, simple, uncomplicated human beings. Let that recognition bind us as we stride together, confidently, into the new millennium.

Jacob Zuma Deputy President

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