Address by Deputy Minister Pahad on the Launch of the UK-SA Ukuza Initiative, 5 April 2002

"Identity in the 21st Century"


Your Excellencies

Distinguished Guests

Ladies and Gentlemen

I wish to thank the organizers for inviting me to address this important gathering.

Let me once again extend our peoples’ and government’s warm welcome to our brothers and sisters from the UK.

The opening session of the "UKUZA 2002 Colloquium " this morning is an important step to enhance people to people relations; and to enable us together to strengthen and broaden our understanding of a new people-centred World Order.

The theme, " Who Are We ", chosen for this colloquium is very appropriate for the changes that South Africans and Britons are experiencing today.

Today there are Interesting debates in the UK about creating a new British identity which " involves recognizing that British people have different histories, ethnic backgrounds and heritages.

Being British should not involve suppressing these diversities. Diversity adds to natural richness……. "

The concept of identity is not easy to explain. Theorists and academics alike define the concept differently. It is not the intention of this paper to get into that academic debate but more to explain the South African identity in the 21st century, and how it relates to an African and an international identity.


According to discoveries by SA archaeologists, "we" descend from hominids who dwelled in an area to the west of Johannesburg 2 to 3,3 million years ago. The discoveries are scientifically significant in the sense that they have made the world realize that Africa is almost certainly the original cradle of humankind.

If we consider the important part which Africa has played in the development of civilization as we know it, we cannot escape the irony that many countries on the continent, including South Africa, experienced great difficulty to maintain and develop their own identities during the 20th century.

Many of our countries fought a struggle for our identity against colonial domination and apartheid. This is best described by Franz Fanon, in his "Wretched of the Earth" speech at the Congress of Black African Writers in 1959 :

"A national culture under colonial domination is a contested culture whose destruction is sought in systematic fashion. It very quickly becomes a culture condemned to secrecy. This persistence in following forms of culture which are already condemned to extinction is already a demonstration of nationality."

Since the advent of our democracy in 1994, we are making concerted efforts to create a SA identity based on a "new patriotism ".

President Mbeki, on the occasion of the adoption of the Republic of South Africa’s Constitutional Bill, 8th May 1996, said :

" I am an African.

I owe my being to the Khoi and the San whose desolate souls haunt those who fell victim to the most merciless genocide our native land has ever seen, they who were the first to lose their lives in the struggle to defend our freedom and independence and they who, as a people, perished in the result.

I am formed of the migrants who left Europe to find a new home on our native land. Whatever their own actions, they remain still part of me. In my veins courses the blood of the Malay slaves who came from the East. Their proud dignity informs my bearing, their culture is part of my essence.

I am the grandchild of the warrior men and women that Hintsa and Sekhukhune led, the patriots that Cetshwayo and Mphephu took to battle, the soldiers Moshoeshoe and Ngungunyane taught never to dishonour the cause of freedom.

I am the grandchild who lays fresh flowers on the Boer graves at St Helena and the Bahamas.

I come of those who were transported from India and China, being resided in the fact, solely, that they were able to provide physical labour, who taught me that we could both be at home and be foreign, who taught me that human existence itself demanded that freedom was a necessary condition for that human existence.

We are assembled here today to mark their victory in acquiring and exercising their right to formulate their own definition of what it means to be African.

The Constitution whose adoption we celebrate constitutes an unequivocal statement that we refuse to accept that our Africanness shall be defined by our race, colour, gender or historical origins.

It is a firm assertion made by ourselves that SA belongs to all who live in it, black and white.

Our sense of elevation derives from the fact that this magnificent product is the unique creation of African hands and African minds. But it also constitutes a tribute to our loss of vanity that we could, despite the temptation to treat ourselves as an exceptional fragment of humanity, draw on the accumulated experience and wisdom of all humankind to define for ourselves what we want to be. "

President Mbeki’s statement reflects the philosophical and political base which under-pinned the vision of our liberation struggle and now is the foundation for creating a SA identity.

This principle found expression in the Freedom Charter, adopted as early as 1955, which not only states that

" South Africa belongs to all who live in it, Black and White "

but also that

" All National Groups shall have equal rights "

In its preamble, our new Constitution states:

"We, the people of South Africa, recognise the injustices of our past… (and) believe that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, united in our diversity"

"We therefore….adopt this Constitution as the supreme law of the Republic so as to heal the divisions of the past….(and) to improve the quality of life of all citizens and free the potential of each person."

Our constitution recognises the fact that the dignity of the individual is both an objective which society must pursue, and a goal that cannot be separated from the material well being of that individual. It seeks to create the situation in which all our people shall be free from fear, including fear of oppression of one national group by another, the fear of the disempowerment of one social echelon by another, the fear of the use of state power to deny anybody their fundamental human rights and the fear of tyranny.

To successfully achieve national unity and reconciliation based on a common identity we have to do a number of things :

We should commit ourselves to achieve the objectives outlined on our Constitution
Ask ourselves honestly, are we really making progress, interalia, in
the creation of a non-racial society
healing the divisions of the past and achieving the peaceful co-existence of all our people
creating development opportunities for all our people, irrespective of race, class, creed or gender
are we improving the quality of life of our people
Against this background, as South Africans, whatever the difficulties, we are moving forward in the effort to combine ourselves into one nation of many colours, many languages, many cultures and diverse origin. In other words, reconciliation, transformation and nation building is progressing, notwithstanding the many problems we face.

Our growing identity as proud members of a democratic SA includes our respect for cultural diversity, our social awareness that we are enriched by diverse cultures and unified by way of our common humanity. As a source of exchange, innovation and creativity, cultural diversity is as necessary for humankind, as is biodiversity in nature.


Indeed, the new South African identity is encapsulated in the awareness of the virtues of mutual respect, tolerance and the value of our fellow human beings on a universal basis.

We believe that our unique South African identity – forged from the injustices of the past – can enable us to make a contribution to an ever changing international environment – as citizens of the global village – to advance the principles of peace, social justice and dialogue amongst civilisations, cultures and religions. Our national identity encourages us to pursue this important mission, especially given the present debate around the issue of the "clash of civilizations and cultures".

The painful events of September 11 underscores this point as well as the need for all of us to make contributions on the world stage in order to avoid a situation where cultures and religions are juxtaposed.

SA immediately condemned the terrorist acts of September 11th. We also warned that unless the root causes of terrorism, viz, under-development, poverty and conflicts are not dealt with, the scourge of terrorism will continue to haunt us.

Former President Mandela said " our common humanity transcends the ocean and all national boundaries. It binds us together in a common cause against tyranny, to act together in defence of our very humanity. Let it not be asked by anyone of us : what did we do when we knew that another was oppressed ? " This is an important bedrock of our new identity.

During the course of last year, it found expression in the deployment of our sons and daughters in uniform in the DRC and Burundi.

This year, we continue with efforts to attain peace and development in the DRC, Angola, and the Comoros. We are humbled to host the ICD, which currently takes place in Sun City.

We also continue to remain seized with the great human tragedy that is unfolding in the ME.

Our South African identity, itself the result of our past inhumane experiences and the search for another political, moral and cultural reality, positions us to advance the culture of peace by way of our respect for cultural diversity, be this in the sense of individual human recognition of others, or in terms of respect for their tangible and intangible heritage.

As South Africans, our national identity is also sensitized to the abject poverty in SA and on the African continent, especially, but also in other parts of the world. We bleed for our fellow citizens who suffer the scourge of poverty, under-development and socio-economic hardship, so aptly chronicled by the historic UN Millenium Summit.

We are therefore committed to empower and advance the position of the poor by way of sustainable economic development, promoting education for all, capacity building and providing equitable access for all our citizens to participate in the emerging knowledge society of the 21st century.

I cannot over emphasize that one’s identity cannot be complete unless we view it through our responsibility to our society. This implies both our individual and collective role to uphold the principles of dignity, equality and equity. In this regard the Right to Development is encapsulated in our vision as stated in the Declaration on the Right to Development of 1986 that:

"every human person and all peoples are entitled to participation, contribute to, and enjoy economic, social, cultural and political development, in which all human rights and fundamental freedoms can be fully realized."

The Right to Development is a reality for each of us, for our collective identity and as an instrument to ensure that humanity is free from want. Our own Constitution (Act 108 of 1996) and Bill of Rights clearly capture the spirit of the Right to Development through its various provisions. Without the freedom from want we will either be privileged or under privileged members of society or segments of society and cannot expect society, whether in our own country or in the global village, to be normalized unless the needs of all members are addressed. There can never be security for one society while there is great inequality in other societies, particularly in neighbouring societies. An island of prosperity in a sea of poverty is no solution, but rather the postponement of the inevitable socio-economic and political instability.

The crucial World Summit on Sustainable Development ( WSSD ) in Johannesburg in August/Septmebr this year must make an important contribution to an equitable system of development throughout the world. Three broad themes reflect the essential prerequisites for moving towards sustainable development, namely poverty alleviation and promoting sustainable livelihoods, realizing sustainable consumption and production and protecting the integrity of like-supporting ecosystems.

The Summit is a strategic opportunity for all of us to emphasize that poverty and inequality are still the greatest threat to sustainable global development in the twenty first century. We must use the opportunity to ensure that both the developed and developing world find consensus on how to promote sustainable development.

Let us remember that our developments as individuals or collective parts of society will contribute to the development of all if we reach out to each other. This is the challenge of our collective identity.

South Africa, as a nation that has overcome past injustices, has now been admitted as a member of the community of nations. South Africa is a responsible member of the OAU, SADC, UN, NAM, and the Commonwealth. South Africa is no longer seen as part of a European outpost on the African continent.

Our African identity, therefore requires us to ensure that the process of globalisation does not further widen the gap between the developing countries, especially Africa, and the developed countries. Africa’s debt was estimated to be US$ 201 Billion in 1999, overseas development aid to the continent has dropped in real terms since 1992, diseases such as HIV/AIDS, Malaria, and Tuberculosis are causing havoc and the telecommunication and electrical infrastructure of the continent are of the lowest reaching capacity in the world.

The New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) is Africa’s response to address the development and other challenges facing our continent. The introduction of the NEPAD document states that:

"NEPAD is a pledge by African leaders that they have a pressing duty to eradicate poverty and to place their countries, both individually and collectively, on a path of sustainable growth and development and at the same time to participate actively in the world economy and body politic. The programme is anchored on the determination of Africans to extricate themselves and the continent from the malaise of underdevelopment and exclusion in a globalising world."

We believe, as Africans, that we as South Africans should and can play a crucial role in the realization of the ideals of NEPAD through the active participation of all parts of our society.

We are confident that the government and people of the UK will become important partners with Africa to ensure the successful implementation of NEPAD.


Who are we in the Twenty First Century ?

We are African, we are part of the world family of peoples who seek to give content to the Final Declaration of the World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and related intolerance – held in Durban, SA from 31 August to 7 September 2001 , which states:

" We further affirm that all peoples and individuals constitute one human family, rich in diversity. They have contributed to the progress of civilisations and cultures that form the common heritage of humanity. Preservation and promotion of tolerance, pluralism and respect for diversity can produce more inclusive societies. "

South Africans have embarked on the long and hard road to forge a common identity. We have no illusions of seeking quick and easy successes. However, we do have a commitment and vision. We owe it to our future generations.

UKUZA is an important initiative that can contribute to our vision becoming a reality.

I thank the British Council, the British High Commission, and the Department of Foreign Affairs for organising this all important colloquium

I thank you.

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