Address by Minister Dlamini Zuma to the South African Institute of International Affairs, Johannesburg 30 January 2001


Dr Greg Mills


Members of the Diplomatic Corps

Distinguished Guests

Ladies and Gentlemen

It is indeed my singular honour and privilege to deliver the 7th Foreign Minister’s Annual address here at the South African Institute of International Affairs.

Since its inception in 1994, following the democratic changes in our country, this address provides us with an opportunity to highlight past and ongoing achievements and developments over the previous year, on the one hand, and to discuss first hand the plans and vision of the Department of Foreign Affairs for the year ahead, on the other.

I would like to depart slightly from that tradition this evening since it is the first address in this new century and new millennium, and speak more generally.

In his New Year message to the nation, President Thabo Mbeki said that "the year 2001 should, for us, mark the commencement of the African century". He maintained "… for us as South Africans the determination to make this an African Century means many things in terms of what we ourselves must do".

For us to be able to deal with the challenges of African Renaissance and the African Century it is necessary to pause and look back into the history, both the bright and positive and the dark and melancholy periods, that have shaped and defined us as Africans.

Genetic, palaeontological and linguistic evidence indicates that anatomically modern humans existed only in Africa until about 100,000 years ago, when some migrated from the continent and progressively populated the entire globe. It is therefore clear that Africa is the cradle of humanity and advanced civilisation.

We need only to look at the architectural heritage as presented by Egyptian sphinxes and pyramids, Tunisian city of Carthage, Zimbabwe ruins as well as the old city of Timbuktu in Mali to mention a few.

The intricate sculptures of Makonde of Tanzania, the Benin Bronzes of Nigeria the beautiful paintings of the Drakensburg, various artistic creations of the Egyptians demonstrate to us a continent with a great past. Africa is a continent that boasts of old highly organised kingdoms from the Ashanti to Monomotapa to that of Timbuktu.

This is part of our heritage, of our history which we should be proud of, a history which should inspire us and generations to come, a history which should assure us that we indeed have capacity to overcome the present obstacles to the restoration of Africa as a great, prosperous continent.

The dark side of our history cannot be forgotten because it is part of what defines and shapes our present position as Africans.

Slavery robbed the continent of its finest and fittest sons and daughters. It was the most barbaric and cruel manifestation of racism. It is my belief that it is only if you define a people as of an inferior race that you can trade them as slaves.

Colonialism and imperialism not only lead to carving up of the continent amongst certain European countries but it also meant Africans, through violent oppression and divide and rule were denied freedom, self determination and access to education. Their culture was despised and destroyed, their languages were suppressed, their ethics and values were replaced by European values, languages and religion. We were thus denied of our identity.

However all was not lost, the great African armies in Isandlwana in South Africa and Sudan defeated the mighty armies of the British Empire. There were also heroic struggles of the peoples of the continent, which saw progressive decolonialisation of the African countries and defeat of Apartheid in South Africa and Ian Smith in Zimbabwe.

The Cold War meant that democracy was not given a chance. Progressive independent minded leaders were assassinated and replaced with dictators and authoritarian regimes that served nothing but the interest of the former colonial powers.

At the close of the 19th Century we were reduced to a continent lacking dignity, although we still had pride.

There is no dignity in homelessness, there is no dignity in hunger, no dignity in poverty. No dignity in a continent that is devastated by preventable diseases, a continent which has the majority of the poor. There is no dignity in turning children into killing machines, child soldiers, no dignity in a continent where women are turned into beasts of burden. There is no dignity in ignorance. There is no dignity in genocide and ethnic strife. There is no dignity in under development.

Then came the dawn of the new Century we began to see signs of the rebirth of our continent. We clearly saw the beginnings of the African Century.

The democratic changes that have swept across the length and breadth of our continent; the creation and strengthening of democratic institutions; the resolve of the African leaders to isolate and banish any leader who takes power through a coup; is a revolutionary step which none of the other organisations have taken not even the UN. The challenge is to defend democratic gains and remain vigilant against the enemies of democracy if not reversals may occur as we have seen in countries, which we thought were stable democracies.

The greatest challenge is how to create and maintain inclusive democracies, how to avoid distribution of power and resources along ethnic and religious lines because we have seen that this invariably leads to instability since those who are excluded will naturally fight tooth and nail to achieve what they believe is rightly theirs.

The DRC, Angola, Sierra Leone, Sudan are challenges that we are grappling with and we are encouraged by the fact that African leaders are trying to solve these problems themselves. The silence of the guns between Ethiopia and Eritrea and the rebirth of the State of Somalia, though hesitant, are indeed indications that the African Century is in the making.

Unity in diversity in South Africa after such a bitter struggle, the reconciliation efforts after the most tragic genocide in Rwanda, the efforts of Former President Mandela in Burundi all speak of a continent that cannot fail to achieve its rebirth.

The restructuring of SADC and the Free Trade Protocol herald our onward march towards deeper regional integration. Coupled with the launch of the COMESA Free Trade Area and the launch of the ECOWAS Passport and ECOWAS Travellers Cheque, clearly demonstrate progress towards the African Economic Community envisaged in the Abuja Treaty.

The signing of the Constitutive Act of the African Union is one more step towards the realisation of the vision of the founder fathers of the OAU for a United States of Africa. How is the African Union going to be different from the OAU?

The OAU is essence has been concentrating on political issues and issues of stability. The leadership of the continent therefore has not been seized with the economic and developmental issues.

The African Union is going to deal with all issues. There will be Technical Committees, which will deal with:

Rural Economy and Agriculture;
Monetary and Financial Affairs;
Trade, Customs and Immigration;
Industry, Science and Technology, Energy, Natural Resources and Environment;
Transport, Communication and Tourism;
Health, Labour and Social Affairs.
The development of the Millenium Action Plan by Presidents Obasanjo, Bouteflika and Mbeki on behalf of the OAU is an indication that the African leaders have decided to take the destiny of the continent in their hands. Their efforts in Davos at the World Economic Forum to sensitive the corporate leaders to the African challenges are commendable. This plan will enable the continent to put its own road signs on the long journey towards realizing the African Century.

The hosting of Rio + 10 on the African Continent bears testimony to the contribution that Africa wishes to make on environmental issues. It is indeed a difficult but essential challenge to preserve the environment for future generations.

The World Conference Against Racism and Xenophobia and other Forms of Intolerance later this year in South Africa will firstly be a catharsis for injustices of the past, and will look at the contemporary forms of discrimination and work out how whilst acknowledging injustices of the past, we can come out with a forward looking achievable programme.

It is befitting that it is to be held in South Africa and on the African continent because it is in this very South Africa and in Africa that the worse forms of racism were experienced. This is where the struggles were fought and won but Africa has shown an enormous capacity to forgive. Not other continent has been able to reconcile and live with the perpetrators of racism, killings etc. without hunting them down and bringing them to justice. In fact we see Nazi war criminals more than fifty years later still being hunted and tried. Maybe because Africa is the cradle of humanity it finds it in its heart easy to forgive. I do believe that indeed we should forgive but not forget. This is our contribution to the building of a better world for the sake of humanity.

Africa is going to continue to struggle for democracy not only in our country but also in the international multilateral organisations like the World Trade Organisation, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the United Nations particularly the Security Council.

South Africa and the Continent shall continue to fight for solidarity amongst nations and amongst people. It should surely be demeaning to any of us to know that a child somewhere is dying of hunger. Or of a preventable disease. We shall strive for a more caring society.

We shall continue to struggle against sexism. One of the hallmarks of the African century should surely be the emancipation of women. The struggle for a non-sexist society should be as important as the struggle against racism.

Can South Africa and Africa achieve the African Century on its own? It is clear that we have to build partnerships at various levels:

Level of National Government , Business, and Civil Society;
Level of bi-lateral co-operation between nations;
Level of multilateral organisations.
Africa has to build partnership with multilateral organisations. To this end we all descended on the eternal shores of the Nile to build partnerships with the European Union. The success of the Cairo meeting will only be judged by the strength and usefulness of the partnership.

The aim of the South South Summit was to strengthen partnerships amongst developed countries.

The China Africa Summit held in Beijing was the beginning of a partnership between Africa and China as opposed to individual countries having bilateral relations.

The Franco African Summit is an example of ongoing partnership with France. Africa and Japan have also been building a partnership which as witnessed the first visit of a Japanese Prime Minister to be hosted under the beautiful African skies.

The G8-Summit and the meeting of Presidents Bouteflika, Obasanjo and Mbeki in Tokyo illustrate the form of partnership that needs to be nurtured. America and Africa need to have a strong partnership. These are a few examples of the partnerships, which of course have to be evaluated from time to time. We are for instance beginning to see some movement on the debt relief even though its not enough but is a good start.

At the Millenium Summit, there was a consensus that the development challenge of Africa is the biggest challenge facing the world, in the 21st Century.

The biggest guarantors of success and defenders of our gains should be the masses of our people. (For our initial partnership is with them). They should be mobilized around all these challenges:

Democracy and Human Rights;
Good Governance;
Fair Distribution of Resources;
People Centered Development;
Non Racialism;
Eradication of Poverty.
They should not be seen as passive recipients but active agents for change.

The path to the African Century is not smooth, it is full of obstacles and stones, subjective and objective. However, many of the problems are neither inevitable nor insurmountable.

I would like to conclude by quoting from President Mbeki’s speech to the Ghana, South Africa Friendship Association.

"All of us gathered here today, as well as many others in every part of the continent and in the Diaspora, are therefore faced with this challenge of transforming our continent, so that the assertion that the 21 st century will be an African Century, does not turn into a beautiful but false prophesy.

The 21 st century must be a hundred years in which when we define the continent as rich, developed and prosperous, it would not be wish for some distant prospect, but a reality and existence that in the past have only appeared in dreams".

This is the challenge of our time! I am convinced that we will rise to this challenge.

I thank you.

Quick Links

Disclaimer | Contact Us | HomeLast Updated: 7 September, 2004 3:52 PM
This site is best viewed using 800 x 600 resolution with Internet Explorer 5.0, Netscape Communicator 4.5 or higher.
2003 Department of Foreign Affairs, Republic of South Africa