Keynote Address by Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, Minister of Foreign Affairs, South Africa - South African-German Women in Dialogue - Berlin, Germany - 24 April 2003

Chairperson / Programme Director

His Excellency, SA Ambassador to Germany, Prof Sibusiso Bengu

Ministers present here today

Your Excellencies Members of the Diplomatic Corps

Distinguished Guests

Ladies and Gentlemen

On behalf of my Government and the people of South Africa I would like to thank the organizers of this Conference and the Government of the Federal Republic of Germany for allowing us once more the opportunity to deliberate on the important challenges facing my country and our Continent.

It is my fervent hope and wish that conference will, while building upon the excellent bilateral political, economic, cultural relations and co-operation between the Federal Republic of Germany and the Republic of South Africa will lay a firm foundation for the consolidation of the existing bonds of friendship and ties among women of our two countries. Long live our fraternal relationships. Malibongwe Igama lamaKhosikazi!

The cooperation between South Africa and Germany especially on gender issues can only but advance the cause of gender equality in both our countries. Your Government’s interest in and support for the development of women in Africa has not gone unnoticed on our Continent.

We, in South Africa and the rest of the continent will act to the best of our ability to ensure that the process of reform continues until gender equality has been achieved.

The challenges facing our Continent and South Africa are no different from those facing other developing countries. Ours, in South Africa, is complicated both by the legacy of Apartheid racist policies and the patriarchal nature of our society. We are confronted by the major challenges of poverty eradication, underdevelopment and the growing income inequalities within our nation and between men and women.

Since 1994, South Africa has been grappling with the transformation of our society and the creation of a better life for all. Colonialism and Apartheid imposed a harsh life of oppression and exploitation in general on all black people. South African Black women in particular, were the worst victims of white exploitation and discrimination. They endured and suffered the triple oppression of race, class and gender.

For black people, poverty eradication must therefore mean the provision of basic needs, such as clean water and sanitation, which so many among us in this audience take for granted. I am sure that for most of us here, there would probably be more taps in our houses than there are people. However, in many areas of our country, the opposite is the reality.

Whilst for many in the developed world, the choice is between the utilisation of electricity, gasoline, gas or solar energy in the household –the developing world on the other is faced with the stark reality of the need to still extend the electricity grid to all.

The provision of basic services such as water, electricity and sanitation is very significant in bettering the quality of lives of black women. The provision of these services simply means that no longer shall they spend hours on end and endless energy searching for firewood, drawing and fetching water. Such services if provided enable women to spend their time more qualitatively and productively.

In South Africa we have provided these services to millions of people both urban and rural but there are still millions more who are waiting for the delivery thereof.

Needless to mention that the provision of such basic services will lead to the improvement of the general health of the populace and consequently less diarrhoeal diseases, cholera and respiratory problems.

Education, skills training and technological advancement remain the cornerstone for development and improvement of people’s lives. It is a sad reality that many black women lack basic education, have no skills and have limited access to modern technology. In this regard, educating the girl child is not only critical in redressing the imbalances of the past but also essential in poverty eradication, especially the feminisation of poverty.

The provision of adequate, affordable and accessible health services especially in rural areas remains essential. The provision of universal free primary health care and free health care for children under six years of age, pregnant women has made an enormous difference to our people.

Women still bear the primary responsibility of looking after the sick at home. Special attention has to be paid to women when dealing with the HIV/Aids pandemic, TB and malaria. Women tend to be more susceptible to HIV infections than men. They have less access to proper, balanced nutrition. We are now focussing on mother to child transmission in addition to our normal HIV/Aids programmes.

Additionally, a lot of HIV/Aids programmes place emphasis on home-based care- that relies solely on the availability of healthy women to provide the human resource for that home-based care.

Employment and economic growth remain a big challenge for our country and Continent. Policies that address the skilled health production resources, jobs, economic opportunities, employment equity and basic salaries have to pay special attention to the impact on women in general and black women in particular.

The development of a new human rights culture in our country and Continent should consider women’s rights as an integral part of human rights and should guarantee gender equality for women.

True to the words of one of the great heroes of our struggle, the late Oliver Tambo, that "Our struggle will be less than powerful and our national and social emancipation can never be complete if we continue to treat the women of our country as dependent minors and objects of one form of exploitation or another. Certainly, no longer should it be that a woman’s place is in the kitchen. In our beleaguered country, the woman’s place is in the battlefront of our struggle".

Women indeed are in the struggle for a non-racialism and non-sexism. They are in the struggle for human rights, the struggle against hunger, illiteracy, homelessness, disease and the restoration of dignity. There is no dignity in poverty.

Another fundamental challenge is that of safety and security. Whereas we have made very positive strides in making South Africa safe and secure for all its citizens and tourists. We are now focussing on the safety of women not only in the street but also at home.

Whereas, domestic violence is an international phenomenon that transcends race, class or religion, we have a programme focussing on this. It is totally unacceptable that there are women who cannot feel safe at home. We have the legal framework to deal with this scourge. The most difficult challenge is to change attitudes of the family, society and the judiciary system. In some communities, it is still frowned upon to charge a husband or partner with domestic violence.

Women of our country have made huge advances in terms of participation in the political life of South Africa and in the executive. After the 1994 elections, we had over 20% in our Parliament, now it is 30 %, thanks to the ruling Party, the African National Congress, who has a 30% quota system for all their structures including Parliamentary seats. There were two women Cabinet Ministers appointed then. By the end of the first five-year term, we had four women Cabinet Ministers and now in 2003, we have nine women out of a total of 27 Ministers. The Government has decided to lead by example and to create role models for other women, young and old. This has had a very positive impact on our society. This needs to be translated to all other sectors of our society.

We incurred much criticism for the quota system with antagonists arguing that women must be chosen because of merit. We have shown in practice that there are plenty of women of merit, what the quota system does is to force society to look for women and find them. I am convinced that even if we had 50% we would still find excellent women to fill that quota.

South Africa is peaceful and stable like the vast majority of countries on our Continent. Where conflicts exist we are as Africans involved in trying to resolve them using methods that are in line with African culture and tradition. I am glad to say that there is a lot of progress whether it is in Angola, the DRC, Sudan or Cote d’Ivoire.

Peace is essential for development and economic growth. Wars have the most devastating effect on women and children as we have seen now in Iraq. As a result of these wars, women and children are displaced, are becoming refugees, encounter humanitarian problems because of lack of food, there are no health-care services and there is lack of income. All of these impact most on women. The vast majority of women are not involved in creating wars, but remain major victims of war and conflict. Women would rather see these conflicts resolved in amicable ways and in the context of international laws within our multilateral organisations such as the United Nations.

We are also dealing with the situation in Zimbabwe. The Zimbabwean Government is at this point in time dealing with three important Bills which are already in Parliament, which we think will make a difference in bringing solutions to some of the problems. The first bill will give citizenship to thousands of farmworkers who were removed from the farms and who originally came from Mozambique and Malawi and this will allow them to have access to land for resettlement and farming.

The second Bill that is being amended is the Information Bill. As you would know this Bill caused an uproar within the international community. This is being done in an effort to accommodate those complaints.

Thirdly, the draconian law and order maintenance act, which was promulgated during the then Rhodesian government of Ian Smith, has now been amended to be in line with democratic and human rights norms.

The Government of Zimbabwe is also normalising its relations with the commercial farmers. The government has drafted a Memorandum of Understanding, which is now being discussed among the ranks of commercial farmers, who will hopefully submit their response to government soon. Tripartite discussions between Government, labour and business about the Zimbabwean economic situation have produced a document, which spells out different responsibilities to be undertaken. We are optimistic that a dialogue between all the concerned political parties in the country, will resume.

The information technology has left Africa marginalized and if this digital divide is not closed Africa stands the risk of being further marginalised. As we attempt to close this gap, again, a special focus has to fall on women and the girl child at school.

Indeed, Africa has strengthened its multilateral fora like regional organisations and also through the launch of the African Union. Unity, solidarity and partnership amongst ourselves remain critical to our success. We have dared to call this an African Century, with the concomitant responsibilities that accompany it.

The OAU, the predecessor of the AU, focussed mainly on unity among the African people and decolonisation process of the continent. Now the challenge facing the AU is a concentration on issues such as democracy, good governance, human rights, unity, peace, security and development hence the development of our socio-economic recovery plan- NEPAD.

Accordingly, we express our hope that Germany and its people will join us in a true partnership for the development of the African Continent. NEPAD, the Millennium Development Goals of the UN and the programme of action developed during the Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) provides us with sufficient issues to help us improve the lives of millions of Africans, especially women.

Women still tend to be employed in the low-paying jobs and in most instances as domestic workers, in manufacturing textiles and as farm labourers. In the economy they are often in the informal sector. Indeed, this has to be addressed to integrate them into the mainstream economy while programmes to train and assist them to establish their own businesses should be targeted.

We need to build solidarity and mobilise women to participate in their own emancipation. In South Africa progress that has been achieved in all sectors has been in large measure because women themselves participated not only in the struggle for emancipation but are still evolved in the titanic struggle against poverty, underdevelopment, peace and security and democracy.

Women whilst depending on Governments and Parliaments to create legal frameworks for the creation of a non-sexist society and for their emancipation, themselves, ought to be involved in those very legal and Government processes. Accordingly, they are not and should not be passive recipients of charity.

Women in our country and Continent have to be the locomotives for development because of their energy, resilience and capacity for hard work. They constitute the majority of the population producing the other half as well.

Whilst we appreciate the solidarity and support of the developed world, Africa carries the responsibility for its own development. Attempts to create mirror images of the developed world out of African societies would be disastrous.

As NEPAD has proven, we have the capacity, ingenuity, creativity and intellect to shape the Africa we desire for ourselves. The assistance that we receive from the developed world should compliment these ongoing efforts.

Challenges of preserving our Continent and the planet face us all. We must rely on our co-operation as women of the world in the creation of a world free of wars, racism, sexism, free of hunger, poverty and under-development. The impact thereof is felt more by women.

Our collective efforts in Europe, Africa and elsewhere in the world must guarantee the continued survival of humanity on this planet. Together we must protect the biodiversity of our rivers, oceans and forests and thus safeguard planet earth for future generations.

I am confident that together we shall face and conquer these challenges for the sake of humanity as a whole.

I thank you

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