Address by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of South Africa, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, Oxford University, 12 June 2004

Madame President of the Student Union, Ms Georgina Costa;
Members of the Student Union;
Distinguished Guests;
Ladies and Gentlemen;

It gives me great pleasure to have the honour of being at this prestigious institution. I believe this interaction is important, as Governments must address the pressing issues of today with a firm objective that the next generation will inherit a better world than we have today. Young people have to be involved in shaping what Governments do because they will inherit and be in charge of the future.

I am grateful that the invitation for this lecture was extended to mark the 10th anniversary of our freedom. As we celebrate the 10th anniversary, we are mindful of the fact that our freedom was made possible not only by the sacrifices of the South Africans, but by millions of ordinary men and women of the world. It was a unique struggle that witnessed the titanic solidarity movement by workers, students, including Oxford University, professionals, children, housewives and senior citizens across the globe, under the anti-Apartheid Movement. Support from the Caribbean, Africa, the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), the then USSR and eastern bloc and the Scandinavian Governments and peoples.

The intergovernmental support, led by the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) on the African Continent, the United Nations (UN), the Non-Aligned Movement and the Commonwealth, was indeed a humbling show of solidarity for which we shall forever be indebted and grateful. These experiences continue to impose a responsibility on us to act nationally and internationally in a way that does not betray that solidarity.

The ANC-led struggle and the world solidarity movement gave us an experience which informs the current and future role of South Africa in international politics, the theme given to me for this discussion.

In 1986, South African children attending an Open School in Johannesburg were asked to draw pictures and put down their thoughts of the future. The drawings of most children were littered with policemen and soldiers - South Africa at the time was a place of turmoil and the townships where these children lived were where the brunt of suffering and oppression was felt.

A child called Moagi wrote the following:

"When I grow up, I want a big house and a wife and two children, a boy and a girl, and two dogs and freedom."

The "two dogs and freedom" became the title of a book of children's thoughts. Eighteen years later, as South Africans, we have to ask ourselves the question: what have we done in the last ten years to ensure that our children have their desired house, a caring wife or husband and healthy children who have access to quality education, enjoy their rights, eventually become responsible adults with access to jobs and can reach their full potential and in turn contribute to a non-racial, non-sexist society, and of course two dogs and freedom? How much do we still need to do in order to ensure that this freedom grows and blossoms, so that this South African child, this African child can be fully part of the wider reality comprising of all the world's children whose collective inheritance is indeed the earth. A world where no child goes hungry.

South Africa's role has to reflect the desire to contribute to a world that is peaceful, free from fear and from want, stable and secure, in line with the belief that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights which is the fundamental principle of the United Nations Charter.

We want to contribute to a world where there are predictable international rules, shared and applied by all without fear or favour, where the multilateral system of governance remains the only response to all challenges facing humanity whether in response to terrorism or to weapons of mass destruction, genocide, Middle East conflict or any other threat to global peace. The United Nations, imperfect as it may be, and its Security Council is still the only legitimate agent for our collective security. Actions outside this multilateral structure may themselves contribute to instability and evidence is abundant.

We work in order to contribute to a world:

  • which employs international machinery for the promotion of economic and social advancement of all peoples;
  • a world under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained;
  • a world that respects equal rights for men and women and of nations, large and small;
  • a world which does not confer unilateral rights to the rich and powerful nations to rule the world using their technological advancement and their economic and military might.

Ben Okri, in his work, "Way of Being Free", writes, "They tell me that nature is the survival of the fittest. And yet look at how many wondrous gold and yellow fishes prosper amongst silent stones of the ocean beds, while sharks eternally prowl the waters in their impossible dreams of oceanic domination and while whales become extinct;… how many butterflies and iguanas thrive, while elephants turn into endangered species, and while even lions growl in their dwindling solitude.

"There is no such thing as a powerless people. There are only those who have not seen and have not used their power and will. It would seem a miraculous feat, but it is possible for the undervalued ones to help create a beautiful new era in human history. New vision should come from those who suffer most and who love life the most".

As a country, which voluntarily disarmed itself of weapons of mass destruction, South Africa strongly believes in a world free of all weapons of mass destruction. Ideally, no state should possess such weapons.

A world free of racism and discrimination of any kind. Racism is growing in the world and other forms of discrimination sometimes assume more insidious character. Diversity should be seen as a strength and the beauty of the tapestry of our common humanity.

A Bahai scholar wrote: (Baha'u'llah)

"Consider the flowers of a garden, it would be said that though different in kind, colour, form and shape, yet, inasmuch 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 trees of that garden were all the same shape and colour. Diversity of hues, from and shape enricheth and adorneth the garden and heighten the effect thereof".

We would like to contribute to a world where:

  • there are no child-soldiers;
  • a world where children are never victims of war whether it is in the DRC, Sudan or Iraq or Kosovo, etc.;
  • a world where it would hurt a Palestinian mother to see an Israeli child torn to pieces by a bomb;
  • a world where it would hurt an Israeli mother just as much to see a Palestinian child blown up by a missile.

Building a better world should also mean paying attention to the poor of our world, the globally marginalized, rescuing them from despair, misery, disease, and impoverishment and restoring their hope and dignity.

The world possesses sufficient resources to make sure that no child grows hungry, that nobody lives in conditions of squalor and humiliation.

We would like to contribute to a world where:

  • everybody has self respect and self esteem so that they are able to respect the next person;
  • a world where dignity is restored for all - we know there is no dignity in ignorance, homelessness, and definitely no dignity in poverty.

Through our own experience of overcoming overwhelming odds and through world solidarity, South Africa remains hopeful and determined to be a positive agent for change at this critical juncture in history.

Some people call our transition from Apartheid tyranny to democracy a miracle. I think it is wrong because it presupposes that there were some extraterrestrial powers at play and that it may be impossible to sustain and repeat elsewhere. It denies the hard struggle and the vision of the South African people under the leadership of the ANC and the contribution of the solidarity movement internationally.

Every single aspect of what I have mentioned as contribution towards a better world is possible and is being implemented in South Africa which I view as a world in one country, or as a microcosm of the world.

Our Constitution states that:

"The state may not unfairly discriminate directly or indirectly against anyone on one or including race, gender, sex, marital status, ethnic or social origin, colour, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion, conscience, belief, culture, language and birth".

The ethnic, racial, religious diversity in South Africa and the values of non-discrimination we hold so dear, leave us no option but to build a non-racial society, a nation rich in and united in its diversity. This was part of why we hosted the racism conference and believe in the implementation of the action plan.

Our strong belief in the equality of men and women forces us to create a non-sexist society and to work hard internationally, in our Continent and in the world for the implementation of the Beijing Platform. I am proud that the African Union (AU) is the one and only international organization that decided to have at least 50% women in its Commission and South Africa contributed very strongly to have that implemented.

The contribution of women is vital for peace, stability, the resolution of conflict, for the eradication of poverty and for the creation of a more humane world. Out of 27 Cabinet Ministers, 12 are women. Though this is not enough, it is nonetheless a positive direction. 4 out of the 9 Provincial Premiers are women. Parliament has close to 30% of women. Government tries to lead by example. Women must take leadership position in all sectors of society if countries and communities are to develop to their full potential.

On peace and security, South Africa has taken a conscious decision to effect a culture of peace on our Continent. Listen to the words of President Mbeki spoken on the occasion of the adoption by the Constitutional Assembly of "the Republic of South Africa Constitutional Bill 1996" when he was still Deputy President:

"I am an African.

I am born of the peoples of the Continent of Africa.

The pain of the violent conflict that the peoples of Liberia, Somalia, the Sudan, Burundi and Algeria is a pain I also bear.

The dismal shame of poverty, suffering and human degradation of my Continent is a blight that we share.
The blight on our happiness that derives from this and from our drift to the periphery of the ordering of human affairs leaves us in a persistent shadow of despair.

This is a savage road to which nobody should be condemned.

This thing that we have done today, in this small corner of a great Continent that has contributed so decisively to the evolution of humanity says that Africa reaffirms that she is continuing her rise from the ashes.

Whatever the setbacks of the moment, nothing can stop us now!
Whatever the difficulties, Africa shall be at peace!
However improbable it may sound to the skeptics, Africa will prosper!"

This is why South Africa has moved from being a reign of terror in the Continent to being a peacemaker. Our National Defence Force is now the 10th largest contributor of forces to UN Peacekeeping mission and we shall continue to play that role. As a member of the African Union Peace and Security Council we shall continue to make our contribution in this regard.

South Africa has provided and will continue to provide humanitarian and disaster relief assistance where its resources permit and has actively engaged in mediation and participated in peacekeeping operations in conflict situations in Africa and beyond.

South Africa has stressed the symbiotic relationship between peace, security and stability with poverty and underdevelopment. Accordingly, South Africa made interventions in support of peace, stability and security in the following countries: Angola, Comoros, DRC, Lesotho, Rwanda, Burundi, Madagascar, Liberia, Sao Tome and Principe, Ethiopia/Eritrea, Sudan, East Timor, Israel/Palestine and Iraq, among others. We shall continue to help Zimbabwe and Swaziland to find solutions to their problems.

South Africa has been part of the countries that developed the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) which is an economic developmental plan for Africa with priorities in:

  • agriculture and food security because Africa has to feed itself;
  • in health especially in dealing with diseases such as malaria, TB, HIV/Aids, polio, etc;
  • in infrastructure - telecommunications, ICT, transport (rail, air and sea) and energy;
  • in market access for our products - movement away from exporting raw materials to manufacturing value addition;
  • in macro economic stability;
  • in democracy, good governance and respect for human rights.

This is a workable and achievable plan which Africa hopes to implement in order to end its marginalisation, underdevelopment and poverty. The Partnerships are between and amongst African countries first and foremost. It is a partnership between Africa and countries of the South, and then a partnership between Africa and countries of the North. In this context, we have just concluded yet another round of discussions with leaders of the G8 in the USA. South Africa will continue to play its role to contribute towards Africa's prosperity and stability.

South Africa is active in South/South cooperation through the Non-Aligned Movement. In this regard, it
is instructive to note what President Mandela said at the conclusion of the 12th NAM Summit held in Durban in 1998:

"As we close, we can firmly conclude that we have recommitted to the common vision and project of the reconstruction and development of the countries of the South.

That vision is driven by our firm determination to act together as we strive to raise the living standards and improve the quality of life of all our peoples on a sustained basis.

Thus we commit ourselves to work tirelessly, sparing neither strength nor effort, towards the eradication of poverty and under-development.

We are determined to continue to generate the human and material resources within our own countries which enable us to accomplish these goals.

We are committed to the pursuit of the goals of peace and stability in our countries and regions, democracy and good governance convinced that the purpose of government is to serve the interests of the people, all of whom desire peace and a life of dignity."

South Africa shall continue to work towards disarmament and non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction through the Non-Proliferation Treaty and other similar instruments.

The Reform of the UN including the UN Security Council to make it more representative, democratic so as to preserve its legitimacy and credibility remains a critical objective. Equally, the need for the reform of the world financial institutions to be more responsive to the needs and the realities of developing countries cannot be over-emphasised.

We shall continue to make sure that everything is done to meet the Millennium Goals of halving poverty by 2015, whilst making sure people have access to clean water etc.

The programme of action of the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) needs to be implemented. Critical is to note is that Fair trade rules are also an essential element for sustainable development.

We shall continue to call upon the Quartet to deal with the question of Palestine and Israel as matter of urgency as the ongoing conflict constitutes a threat to world peace. The stability of the Middle East including Iraq is critical to world peace.

South Africa believes in the fight against terrorism and that we can fight effectively and collectively only if we are led by the UN. Consequently, it is crucial that the centre - which is the Security Council - must hold so that things do not fall apart.

Brazil, India and South Africa have decided to work together in what is known as IBSA- to co-operate in all international fora, in matters of trade, investment, technology, defence, health, tourism, transport, culture and other areas of co-operation, so as to make our voice stronger because individually we are too weak.

We continue to work closely with the EU as well as China, Japan and the Russian Federation and to increase our co-operation with the Caribbean, the African Diaspora, Latin America and Asia.

We look forward to the hosting of the World Cup in 2010, making and giving it a real African Flavour!

I would like to conclude with a quotation from the State of the Nation Address of our President in the National Assembly on 21 May 2004:

"Less than a month ago, the peoples of the world joined us in Pretoria as we celebrated our First Decade of Freedom. The level and the breadth of the international participation in these celebrations demonstrated that the peoples of the world continue to value our achievements in creating the kind of society defined by our Constitution.

This was further confirmed by the many other celebrations that took place in various countries throughout the world, including the United Nations and other institutions.

These two celebrations, of our 10th anniversary and the success of our bid, confirm the strength of the sentiment shared by millions across the globe, for a world of peace, democracy, non-racialism, non-sexism and freedom from poverty. They speak of a shared dream for international solidarity and friendship among the peoples, and the victory of the African Renaissance.

These circumstances suggest that perhaps the time has come for the emergence of a united movement of the peoples of the world that would come together to work for the creation of a new world order. This would respond to the urgent need to address the concerns and interests of the billions on our universe who are poor and marginalized, as are the same masses in our country who must be the principal focus of our efforts to build a caring and people-centred society".

I Thank You

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2003 Department of Foreign Affairs, Republic of South Africa