Address by Minister Dlamini Zuma to the African Regional Preparatory Meeting for the World Conference Against Racism and Related Intolerance, Dakar, Senegal 22 January 2001


The High commissioner for Human Rights, Ms Mary Robinson

Representatives of the Organisation of African Unity

Honourable Ministers

Distinguished Delegates

Ladies and Gentlemen

On behalf of the President, government and peoples of South Africa, I would like to convey my heartfelt gratitude to the Government and people of Senegal for hosting this historic regional conference. We also wish to register our sincere appreciation for the warm hospitality extended to our delegation since our arrival.

As we gather here for the next three days, as a collective expression of the wishes and dreams of the African people, we must pay homage to those martyrs who have sacrificed their lives in the cause of our struggle against racism. We also draw inspiration from the tireless efforts of those who continue to campaign actively against the scourge of racism.

Chairperson, the road leading to today's important gathering has been very long and arduous, and indeed many more challenges lie ahead as we prepare for the Durban conference. At this point, may I take this opportunity, on behalf of my government, to congratulate His Excellency President of the Republic of Senegal, Mr Abdoulaye Wade for his inspiring and frank input, and also Ms Robinson for her leadership and commitment to the fight against racism.

It is indeed appropriate that the 3rd World Conference against Racism be held on the African continent. As South Africans, we are very honoured to have been chosen, among many other deserving nations, to host this world conference. The South African people appreciate the collective support and efforts by all Africans and progressive people the world over in our struggle against apartheid and its eventual defeat.

As we meet here in Dakar, we have to take cognisance of the cumulative impact imperialism, slavery and colonialism have had on our continent and its peoples, which continue to perpetuate inequality, underdevelopment, poverty and exploitation. This historical experience continues to determine our reality today.

Slavery in my view is unpinned by racism. People who take and treat others as slaves do so because they think that slaves are inferior to them. Slavery and racism were inter-linked.

In my country racism still exists. It will take strong mobilisation and a programme of deracialisation of society to eradicate racism. Unfortunately, in the rest of the world, racism is on the increase.

Collective vigilance against racism is necessary, otherwise it will always rear its ugly head as it is doing. It is of great concern that some political parties are even able to mobilise on a racist platform.

Unfortunately, xenophobia and ethnic discrimination has become a very serious matter into our continent. Ethnic conflicts and xenophobia has led to some of the most gruesome killings on our continent including genocide.

Women, the world-over suffer different forms of discrimination. We cannot eradicate racism without dealing with sexism at the same time.

We in South Africa successfully convened our National Conference Against Racism in September last year, as part of the many preparatory processes for the World Conference. Over one thousand people, representing all sectors of our society, emerged united around an unprecedented Millennium Statement which, among others, declared the period 2001 - 2010 a Decade for National Mobilisation Against Racism. We hope to mobilise the youth, women, religious organisations and other sectors of society against racism, xenophobia and other forms of intolerance.

I am confident that we will emerge from this conference with a common understanding of our history that will enable to identify, analyse and combat contemporary forms of racism and related intolerance as well as planning for the future.

The General Assembly, in its resolution 52/111 of December 1997, which called for the convening of the World Conference against Racism, set seven objectives for us to address. To this end, this African Conference should adopt a Programme of Action, which is forward looking, with concrete measurable objectives, which are implementable at the national level. The international community should therefore strive for effective, corrective measures, which will give hope to the millions of victims of racism in the world.

We are mindful of the fact that despite the combined efforts of governments, civil society and the international community in responding to the challenges contained in many General Assembly Resolutions, as well as to the outcome of the two previous conference against racism held in 1978 and 1983, millions of our people continue to suffer from racism, xenophobia and other related forms of intolerance.

It therefore becomes imperative that the outcome of this gathering should seek to map out the road from Dakar to Durban and beyond, that will bring hope and relief to the millions of victims of racism world-wide. Our responsibility should be to put in place necessary mechanisms and enforceable measures, as well as the requisite resources to ensure success.

Chairperson, globalisation has created new opportunities and challenges for humanity today. However, we are concerned that the benefits of globalisation have not accrued to the peoples of Africa. On the contrary, it continues to marginalise our continent further, the effects of which are most profound amongst the victims of racism and ethnicity.

We need to act collectively and in strong partnerships to eradicate the threat which racism and related intolerance post to humanity as a whole. We are hopeful in this African Century, that our dignity as Africans will be restored, and never again in the future will we be subjected to the suffering and humiliation of the past.

As Africans we have a responsibility to eradicate xenophobia and ethnic conflict in order to strengthen democracy, transparency and development.

Finally, let me use this opportunity to state that the South African people are looking forward to warmly receiving you in our city of Durban. I must assure you that our Government will play its part to facilitate conditions that are conducive to the success of the World Conference, but we also rely on our African brothers and sisters to make sure that this World Conference on our continent will be a success.

I thank you.

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