Address by Deputy President Zuma on the Occassion of the Opening Session of the 76th Ordinary Session of the OAU Council of Ministers

Honourable Ministers,
Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Distinguished guests,
Ladies and gentlemen,

On behalf of the government and people of South Africa, let me bid you a warm welcome on the eve of the 38 Summit of the OAU and the launch of the African Union.

Distinguished delegates, we are also honoured to be hosting you for this Summit, as we prepare to launch the African Union at the dawn of the African Century.

We are humbled by the privilege to host you in this county, given the immense support given to us by our brothers and sisters in the continent, as we struggled for our freedom. During those days, we placed great trust in the OAUI and paid undivided attention to its meetings and activities.

It is important to note that the birth of the African Union represents continuity in the pan- African movement towards unity, and that the two institutions complement each other in a manner that will allows us to achieve our objectives.

When it was established in 1963, the main mandate of the OAU was to unite the African people, fight colonialism, imperialism and all forms of racial oppression, including the most inhumane one -apartheid, thereby promoting the independence of the African nation states.

The struggles waged by our people under the banner of the OAU were aimed at freeing and restoring the dignity of the African people. The unity and solidarity of our peoples from Cape to Cairo, and from Madagascar to Senegal characterised the anti-colonial struggle. Today, we are able to celebrate this major achievement of the OAU.

Those achievements of the OAU have laid the perfect foundation for the African Union, which will seek to consolidate the gains of the OAU, and foster unity and cohesion in confronting the challenges facing the continent

One of these challenges is the pockets of conflict in some parts of the continent, which the AU is gearing to deal with firmly and resolutely for the good of the continent and all of us. We must however acknowledge that there are processes under way to resolve these

We are encouraged that the people of the DRC are engaged in a historic dialogue that will lay the basis for enduring peace in that country as well as in the Great Lakes region.

The Angolans have laid foundation for peace and stability in their country through the Luenna Cease-fire Accord. The people of Burundi have ushered in a Transitional Government that has laid the basis for national reconciliation and unity. Intense negotiations are taking place to between the armed groups and the transitional government to bring about a cease-fire agreement.

Guided by the principles and values of the founding fathers of the OAU. we have also made major strides in broadening the base of democracy on the continent. The peoples of the Comoros, Lesotho and Sierra Leone have recently concluded elections.

These are but just the latest examples of the democratisation process that is taking place in the continent. They signify that the forward march towards democracy and good governance is unstoppable and irreversible.

The recent decision of the OAU Central Organ taken in Addis Abbaba with regard to Madagascar is a clear indication of a new way of doing things, and Africa's commitment to good governance.

Ladies and gentlemen, while being encouraged by the progress being made in the continent, it is important to note that the unequal power relations between the North and South are still a cause for concern.

While the twin processes of globalisation and liberalisation have brought about unprecedented changes in the global economic environment, our experience of these phenomena to date is that if they are left to their own devices, they will increase the divide between the developed North and the developing South.

Indeed, since the advent of globalisation, the gap between richer nations and poorer nations has widened, and more and more people in the developing world live on less than a dollar a day. Africa's share of world trade is negligible just below 2%.

These challenges demand that we put a concerted effort to ensure that developed countries address key issues such as:

The cancellation of the debt burden of the Highly Indebted Poor Countries:
Taking extraordinary measures to ensure substantial increase in foreign direct investments in Africa,
Greater market access for African exports, including agricultural products,
Access to technology in order to bridge the digital divide.
The only development programme through which we can negate the marginalisation of Africa from the global economic equation is the New Partnership for Africa's Development, (NEPAD).

It is a comprehensive response to the challenges facing the continent, especially those of poverty and underdevelopment. NEPAD has presented Africa's case in the most convincing and unprecedented manner. As a project of the African Union, NEPAD will draw on the conditions for sustained economic growth and development, which the Union will promote.

The AU's mechanisms for peer review and conflict resolution reflect commitment to democratisation, good governance, peace and security as being in the interest of Africans, irrespective of relations with industrialised countries.

On the other hand, growing support for the plan by the political, economic and civil society leadership in industrialised countries draws on a world-wide momentum for sustained market-based development based on recognition of the interdependence of the developed and the underdeveloped, of the richer and the poorer parts of the world.

Having secured the support and commitment from the North, civil society organisations and the business sector, concrete action to mirror the vertal commitment by all parties is vital. In this context let me take this opportunity to commend the efforts of our Heads of States and Government who have secured concrete support from the G8, in the form of the 08 Plan of Action for Africa.

As the Honourable Ministers would be aware, this initial response of the G8 and the European Union commits the developed North to at least 120 specific actions to advance the NEPAD agenda.

The response encompasses eight spheres of social activity, ranging from peace and security and economic growth, to human resource development, gender equality and the fight against HlV/AIDS.

Such support gives us rope that a new partnership between the North and South is developing, based on mutual interest and partnerships.

Chairperson, as we prepare to bid the OAU goodbye, and welcome the African Union, let us recall what one of post-colonial Africa's founding fathers, Kwame Nkrumah said nearly 50 years ago:

And I quote:

"Thus may we take pride in the name of Africa, not out of romanticism, but as an inspiration for the future... What our ancestors achieved in the context of their contemporary society gives us confidence that we can create, out of the past, a glorious future, not in terms of war and military pomp, but in terms of social progress and peace, far, we repudiate war and violence.

The heroes of our future will be those who can lead our people out of the stifling fog of disintegration through serfdom, into the valley of light, where purpose, endeavour and determination will create a brotherhood".

Brothers and sisters, a firm foundation has been laid and the right direction shown. How can we fail? We cannot fail. Ours is to succeed and accomplish the mission as clearly spelt out by our founding fathers.

With this vision of a great African future in mind, I declare this, the seventy sixth Ordinary Session of the OAU Council of Ministers, open.

Thank you.

Quick Links

Disclaimer | Contact Us | HomeLast Updated: 6 September, 2004 4:49 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