CLOSING ADDRESS TO WCAR NGO FORUM BY
THE DEPUTY PRESIDENT ZUMA, 1 September 2001
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
Ladies and Gentlemen
It is indeed an honour and privilege to address this
closing ceremony of the NGO Forum on Racism, Racial
Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance.
As we deliberated about how to end global racism, a
stalwart and hero of our liberation struggle, Govan
Mbeki, passed on. An outstanding revolutionary, he dedicated
his life to the fight against racism and racial oppression,
and as a result spent 23 years on Robben Island. This
conference will have given him a fitting tribute if
it produces resolutions that will advance the fight
against racism in the world.
Brothers and sisters, your robust engagements over
the last few days have indeed made a meaningful contribution
to the debate about these pressing challenges. We are
also heartened by the inclusive nature of the conference.
The South African government takes immense satisfaction
that this important event is taking place on our shores,
which have been freed from the yoke of minority apartheid
rule only seven years ago. We are also speaking mindful
of the fact that the previous racism conferences were
primarily concerned with how to bring about maximum
pressure against racism in general and apartheid rule
in particular. The objective was the ultimate demise
of apartheid, and it was achieved.
As President Mbeki said in his opening address to this
Forum, we salute all of you for the invaluable support
you gave to us in our quest for democracy, freedom and
justice. Without your support, it would have taken much
longer for us to achieve our freedom. You set an example
of what can be achieved by united global action.
Both slavery and colonialism ceased to exist, not through
some act of charity, but due to the struggles by the
enslaved and colonised in the affected countries. Slavery
and colonialism caused untold harm, distortions and
destruction. Slaves and the colonised had to embark
on bitter and protracted struggles for their liberation.
The legacy of colonialism and slavery is evident in
the acute social and economic disparities, which exist
today. This in turn aggravates racial divisions, racial
discrimination and related intolerance. The huge gap
between rich and poor, and the increasing number of
vulnerable groups, demand that a concerted effort be
made internationally to adopt appropriate corrective
measures. This conference should be seen as the continuation
of the struggle to reverse the effects of these evils.
The world has also witnessed the increase of some values
that should have become outdated with the forward movement
These unacceptable practices include child labour,
slave labour and gender discrimination, including the
Included in this is the discrimination against people
living with HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases.
We need to change these appalling attitudes and in practical
terms intensify their eradication from existence. The
world cannot talk of enormous technological and other
advances on the one hand, while harbouring such backward
tendencies on the other.
We need to return to our homes and respective countries
and continents with renewed vigour to eradicate these
evils from within our hearts, our families, our communities,
our countries and our continents.
Secretary-general of the conference, there is also
reason to be concerned about the rise in xenophobia
in most parts of the world, including South Africa.
In our country, xenophobia results from and apartheid-era
isolationist mindset. It has been fuelled by perceptions
that the arrival of immigrants leads to scarcity of
resources for citizens.
The fact is that several countries supported our liberation
struggle. They provided us with shelter, training camps
and other humanitarian assistance during our time of
need. Unfortunately we have not been able as yet to
explain to South Africans the role played by our brothers
and sisters in the continent in the attainment of their
liberation. Our neighbours paid a high price for our
freedom, and those particularly in Southern Africa,
were terrorised by the apartheid regime.
This makes it crucial that we begin to intensify mechanisms
of educating our people to accept and welcome people
from beyond our national borders. This would assist
to eradicate suspicion and prejudice against what is
regarded as the outsider. Civil society has a critical
role to play in these actions.
As we conclude deliberations today, we need to ask
ourselves what it is we can do to stop racism and related
We believe it is important that the World Conference
Against Racism must pronounce on the link between past
injustices and the causes of poverty, underdevelopment
and marginalisation, which continue to plague the developing
world. Linkages are also critical for the understanding
of the various manifestations of racism. The most obvious
is the linkages between race and gender. By and large,
the face of racism is gender related, and so is poverty.
Strategies to combat racism therefore must take this
We also need to remember other forms of intolerance,
such as attitudes towards disability. This means we
should seek to radically transform attitudes that constitute
discrimination, and to fully integrate disability in
all programmes as a matter of cause and not as an afterthought
or special favour.
In South Africa we are attempting to do that, and have
established the Office on the Status of Disabled Persons
in the Presidency, with a mandate to mainstream disability
in government policies.
In the implementation of the Programme of Action the
focus should also be on the development and strengthening
of long-term strategic global partnerships. These are
key in acting as a solid front against racism and its
The ultimate challenge will be the implementation of
the results of this conference. The final declaration
should lay a firm basis for effective implementation
by all sectors across the globe. This means that issues
put forward by different sectors should be given serious
consideration, for all of us to see the need to take
part in this crucial struggle to get rid of racism and
create a better world for all.
It is our considered view that this conference should
find some common ground, and instead of polarising the
world further, we hope people will find each other.
It should be an opportunity for confronting the difficulties,
accepting responsibility and to accelerate the process
I must also stress that we believe it is most appropriate
for this conference to take place on the African Continent,
which has been devastated by decades of underdevelopment.
As we speak, there is already a plan of action to take
forward the revival of this Continent, through the New
The programme is aimed at ensuring among others:
The eradication of poverty;
Ensuring sustainable growth and development;
Promotion of peace, democracy, human rights and sound
Such an initiative is one of many attempts of redressing
the legacy left by centuries of oppression and exploitation
of the developing world. The underdevelopment of Africa
is for example, deeply rooted in our colonial past and
the history of slavery.
On behalf of the government of South Africa, I again
sincerely congratulate you on the successful outcome
of your deliberations.
We trust that the outcomes of the NGO Forum, the earlier
Youth Summit and the World Conference Against Racism
itself will inspire all of us to intensify our efforts.
We are all confident that the conference will serve
as a landmark in the fight against racism and poverty.
My brothers and sisters, in conclusion, allow me to
draw from the wisdom of the greatest leader of our time,
Thirty-seven years ago, when waiting to be sentenced
together with his comrades, without knowing whether
the sentence would be death or life, he captured the
policy of the African National Congress by personalising
it as follows: -
"During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to
this struggle of the African people. I have fought against
white domination, and I have fought against black domination.
I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free
society, in which all persons live together, in harmony
and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal, which
I hope to live for, and to achieve. But if needs be,
it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die."
This is the kind of selflessness and dedication we
would all need to have, to be able to reinforce the
values of equality and dignity of all living beings
regardless of their origin or status.