Address by Minister Dlamini Zuma on
the WCAR Debate, 7 November 2001
Deputy President of South Africa
We wish to take this opportunity to express our sincere
thanks to all South Africans who made the World Conference
against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and
Related Intolerance the success that it truly was. From
the ordinary South African, to parliamentarians, to
academics, to artists, to sportsmen and women and especially
to the South African Non-Governmental organisations
for steering the NGO Forum to the successful outcome.
My deep appreciation and gratitude go to my colleagues
who spent long hours-hammering consensus in the different
We met in Durban to discuss what we can collectively
do to change the life conditions of those that are affected
by racism, racial discrimination, and xenophobia and
It was a fitting tribute to the sacrifice of millions
inside and outside the country that the World Conference
against Racism was held in South Africa. It was correct
that the conference was held in the country, which had
witnessed the most egregious and the repugnant form
of institutionalised racism. South Africa, which was
not so long ago the fountainhead of racism, was the
right venue to demonstrate to the world that the demon
and ghost of racism can be exorcised.
To us as South Africans the hosting of this conference
presented the opportunity to express our deep-felt gratitude
to the international community for waging together with
us the relentless struggle against apartheid racism.
For it could not be that the international community
could have been indifferent to the suffering of fellow
human beings in South Africa. They could see that, as
long as the apartheid crime against humanity was allowed
to exist, as a result of their inactivity, so long would
their own humanity be denied and their dignity violated.
The peoples of the world entertained the hope that
out of terrible human disaster that apartheid was, would
be born a democratic South Africa anchored on non-racialism,
with equality of all national groups guaranteed, and
a South Africa that respects human rights, at peace
with the world and working tirelessly for the human
up-liftment. To the international community, there could
be no better venue, than South Africa that occupied
the pre-eminent place in the latter half of the twentieth
To the indigenous people who are daily subjected to
humiliation through the staggering arrogance of those
who have deigned themselves their superiors, the Conference
against racism offered hope that their lot would change
for the better.
To the Romas, the Gypsies, the Travellers, the Sinti,
the indigenous people, whose very life is characterized
by conditions of wretchedness, degrading hunger and
denigrating racism, the Conference renewed their confidence
in themselves and their dignity accorded the necessary
respect. We had the opportunity to listen to the Romas
and the indigenous people tell their stories of how
in their everyday life they are treated as sub-humans.
We knew then, that the Conference was a success.
To the immigrants, to women and children who are trafficked
as mere chattels, the Conference stood before the cruel
and shameful life they endure and emphasize the enjoyment
of human rights that is inherently, inalienably and
rightfully theirs too.
It could be that many across our common universe expected
us, with good reason, because of our specific history,
to have the possibility and responsibility to make an
important contribution to the universal struggle to
defeat the scourge of racism.
It cannot be gainsaid that racism, racial discrimination,
xenophobia and related intolerance is on the rise especially
in the countries of the developed north. No country
is immune from racism. The scourge of racism afflicts
us all, in one way or another. The barbaric acts of
terrorism in the United States on 11 September are an
ample proof that intolerance, bigotry and fanaticism
is on the ascendancy. Equally appalling though, has
been the tendency in some developed countries and even
here in South Africa to vent out anger at a particular
group of people because of their religion.
The last few weeks have witnessed, hitherto, the rise
of Islamophobia and Anti-Arab feeling and related intolerance
in the developed countries. This form of aberration
masquerades itself as the work of specialists on the
Middle East and on Islam. The view expressed by these
pseudo-specialists reinforces the stereotyping of the
people of the Middle Eastern origin as inherently violent
and prone to act savagely and being pagans at heart.
It was for this and many other reasons that it was
propitious and timely that the World Conference Against
Racism, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance was held
and set out an agenda to roll back the frontiers of
racism. Those of us who stayed because we cared deeply
about the social ills that afflict human beings all
over the world, also stayed because we understood the
urgency of launching a global movement against racism,
xenophobia, disempowerment and social exclusion which
has become the daily companion of the majority of the
peoples of the world.
Despite the absence of others, the World Conference
Against Racism met and successfully concluded its work.
The conference spoke so eloquently of the New World
Order, which is people- centered. This new order will
work hard to deal comprehensively with poverty eradication,
and further, harness the process of globalization to
address the growing gap of wealth between and among
countries. Necessarily, this would entail the formation
of the mass global movement against racism and xenophobia
to take this struggle forward. The conference continued
and succeeded inspite and despite attempts by others
who embarked on misguided actions if only to inflict
maximum embarrassment on us before the worlds
The defeat of apartheid and the peaceful transfer of
power from the white racist minority government to the
majority predominantly black government offered hope
to many millions around the world that at last; a rear
base to launch a global offensive against racism was
secured. The despised of the world acknowledged with
admiration that for the first in the history of the
world, the victims of the worst form of racism were
in power. This epoch-making victory renewed hope to
millions around the world who are despised because of
their colour, culture and traditions, to millions who
face the degrading and denigrating conditions of poverty
and, to millions who die of curable diseases.
South Africa is a home to the former oppressor and
the oppressed. We are the embodiment of the United Nations.
A country endowed with a different tapestry of cultures
and mosaic religions. We are the country that is varied
in many respects like the colors of the rainbow. We
are the microcosm of the world. We are referred to as
a miracle, precisely because, we demonstrated that no
matter how intractable our situation at times had seemed
to be, that we had the ability and ingenuity to reach
a comprise. What had been expected to be an unimaginable
conflagration made way for cooperation among various
groups. It seems to us that we must have said to ourselves
the oppression of one by another diminishes the victim
and the perpetrator as well.
As it was once said "consider the flowers of a
garden, it would be said that though differing in kind,
colour, form and shape, yet, in as much as they are
refreshed by the waters of one spring, revived by the
breath of one wind, invigorated by the rays of one sun,
this diversity increaseth their charm and addeth unto
their beauty. How unpleasing to the eye if all flowers
and plants, the leaves and blossoms, the fruits, the
branches and the tress of that garden were all the same
shape and colour! Diversity of hues, form and shape
enricheth and adorneth the garden, and heightened the
effect thereof". This could not be more correct
reflection of our situation.
What was said in this House last week of the "unfinished
business between the Afrikaner and blacks" beautifully
captures our commitment to work together for the good
of our people. Our Armed Forces who are doing a sterling
work inside and outside the country, black and white,
amply demonstrate the spirit of togetherness of which
we spoke. What was not so long, an army of destruction
and mayhem, has become an army of healing and peacekeeping.
This is what makes South Africa unique and this is what
we can share with the world.
The WCAR was a landmark and historic United Nations
conference arranged in close co-operation with the Office
of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva.
The process has been a truly inclusive and broadly consultative
one. Many member states attended and with serious commitment
ensured a successful outcome.
Despite the contentious issues before it, the Conference
dug deep in a supreme effort to make it a success in
order to lay a firm foundation for the future of tolerance
and harmonious co-existence. Those who cared sincerely
about the critically important matters of human rights
for all and human dignity for all, stayed, grappled
with sensitive issues and responded creatively to all
the challenges posed as a result. The Conference, inter
alia, agreed that the process should be directed at
the most pressing challenge of our time, namely poverty
Through the Declaration and Programme of Action it was
agreed to launch the Global Army Against Racism in all
countries in order to uproot the scourge of racism.
From the inter-governmental, to non-governmental and
civil society, everybody agreed, in various fora, to
work jointly in partnerships to take WCAR work forward.
In South Africa various government departments and national
institutions will now take the process forward in an
action-oriented, but well co-ordinated way.
There are three major contentious issues, Madam Speaker,
that the conference grappled with i.e. Past Injustices,
Palestine/ Middle East and Grounds for Discrimination
and the list of victims continuously bogged down the
With respect to slavery, it has always been the contention
of South Africa that unless and until the question of
slavery was dealt with adequately, the centurys
old problem of racism could never be addressed. Slavery,
which has seen African men, women and children shipped
across the oceans in the dark and pungent dungeons has
given rise to the centurys old racism which describe
us as anything but human.
There never was a doubt in my mind that those who visited
this untold harm and humiliation to Africans would not
accept the responsibility of their ghastly actions.
What was even more galling was an attempt to reduce
this pain to which the African people were subjected
to into money game. This was founded on the erroneous
thinking that Africans wanted an apology in order to
open a legal way for compensation and reparations.
To us as Africans our dignity is, has always been and
will forever be priceless. No amount of money could
bring back our dignity. All we wanted, and I am happy
to tell the House we did receive at end, was that those
who committed an affront to our dignity to squarely
look at the damage they caused and own up to it. We
wanted the perpetrators of these heinous crimes of slavery,
colonialism and racism to sit together with the victims
of these anti human and anti-social ideologies and apologize
for them and their consequences.
After protracted deliberations, all the stakeholders
on this issue agreed on common positions by consensus.
The final outcome addresses the main issues of concern
for Africa and African people in the Diaspora, in particular,
including the developing world in general. Apartheid
and genocide in the context of the conference were declared
crimes against humanity and colonialism was seen for
what it was, nothing but the unspeakable and rabid racism.
The apology for these inhuman acts was made albeit with
some legal caveats. For the first time in the history
of the world, these crime against humanity were publicly
acknowledged and that it was agreed that they accounted
for Africas underdevelopment and reinforced racism
against Africans. The broader remedial measures, which
are encapsulated in the New Partnership for African
Development, were agreed upon. These included socio-economic
and developmental initiatives such as the New Partnership
for African Development and other innovative mechanisms
such as the World Solidarity Fund for the Eradication
of Poverty, to ensure that affected countries and their
citizens should benefit therefrom in as broad a sense
as possible. Such initiatives, finally adopted by the
WCAR, are comprehensive, holistic and sustainable and
will benefit more victims.
The World Conference Against Racism also re-affirmed
the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination
and the establishment of their Independent State and
the right of Israel to live in conditions of security.
The return of the refugees was for the first time acknowledged
in the international document. The Conference also recalled
that the Holocaust must never be forgotten. Additionally
it recognized the need to counter anti-Semitism and
Islamophobia worldwide. We also agreed on the Grounds
for Discrimination and the listing of Victims.
All member states of the United Nations are now expected
to translate the Durban Declaration and Plan of Action
into action. In this respect, governments, civil society
and also the business sector would have specific roles
in realising the objectives of the Conference. Several
Government departments and national institutions/civil
society, therefore, have specific responsibilities to
ensure that the Durban Declaration and Plan of Action
become a living reality in the course of discharging
Consequently, the Department of Foreign Affairs will
be making specific recommendations to Cabinet in the
near future to ensure effective and appropriate action
at the national level. The proposal will seek to involve
all key players of South Africas society. Additionally,
the Durban document also recommends further action at
regional and international level.
Finally, Madam Speaker, the Conference Against Racism
succeeded because all of us made a super-human effort.
There were times when the Conference hovered on the
brink of collapse. But, it must have occurred to all
participants that the conference had to succeed for
the sake of posterity. We all had to dig deep in ourselves
to reach the acceptable outcomes we achieved.
At the end of this tumultuous conference, we can all
agree that what we set out to do, has been done. While,
we agree that it is still a long road to travel, we
have begun. The Movement I represent, the African National
Congress had for the entirety of its existence sought
to give succour to the despised, the wretched of the
earth. In continuing this rich tradition, through this
conference, we hope we have made a contribution to fight
till victory to eliminate racism, racial discrimination,
xenophobia and related intolerance.
Amidst all the rough and tumble of the conference, we
were emboldened by the beautiful words of Antjie Krog
in her book ": Country of my skull" she says:
Because of you
this country no longer lies
between us but within
it breathes becalmed
after being wounded
in its wondrous throat
in the cradle of my skull
it sings, it ignites
my tongue, my inner ear, the cavity of heart
shudders towards the outline
of my soul the retina learns to expand
daily because by a thousand stories
I was scorched
A new skin
I am changed forever, I want to say:
You whom I have wronged, please take, with you
This genuine expression of atonement, appealed to us
to work even harder to share with the world the gift
of South African uniqueness.
I thank you