Opening Address by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of South Africa, Minister NC Dlamini Zuma, at the South Africa/France Conference on "The Tenth Anniversary of Democracy in South Africa" at the International Conference Centre, Paris, France, 18 June 2004

Your Excellency, Bridgette Mabandla, Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development of South Africa;
Your Excellency, Xavier Darcos, Minister Delegate for Cooperation, Development and Francophonie of the French Republic;
Senator Robert Badinter, Chairperson of the Session;
Yves Laurin, Chairperson of the French/South Africa
Your Excellencies;
Distinguished Guests;
My fellow compatriots and dear friends of South Africa;
Ladies and Gentlemen

My delegation and I wish to thank you for the warm welcome that we have received. I also wish to thank the French Foreign Ministry and the South Africa/French Committee for hosting this conference in celebration of South Africa's 10 years of freedom, democracy, peace and justice.

We are here today, to celebrate amongst friends and comrades, a decade of freedom and democracy. We are here to honour the spirit of human solidarity that nourished hope in the collective dream that victory in humanity's united struggle against apartheid, that crime against humanity, was certain.

Throughout the world people have come together, as we are doing today, to celebrate this 10th Anniversary of Freedom. They have done so because the struggle against apartheid was a united struggle of the peoples of the world against racism and racial domination. We do so because the victory against apartheid was as much your victory as it was ours.

History recalls that today, 64 years ago, on the 18 June, when the global struggle against nazism was at its lowest ebb and all seemed to be lost, that General Charles De Gaulle, a much beloved son of France, stood before a microphone in London, and rallied the French people throughout the world behind the flame of French resistance against the occupying forces of Nazism. On this day, amongst other things, he posed the question to the people of the world and France in the face of overwhelming odds:

"Must we abandon hope?" He went on to say:

Quoi qu'il arrive, la flame de la resistance francaise ne doit pas s'eteindre et ne s'eteindra pas.

Whatever happens, the flame of French resistance must not and shall not die."

History also recalls 14 years later a similar call was made to the people of the world and South Africa, in the face of overwhelming odds, to rally behind the South African flame of resistance as declared in the Freedom Charter:

"Let all people who love their people and their country now say, as we say here: these freedoms we will fight for, side by side, throughout our lives, until we have won our liberty."

On such a day as today, we must therefore rejoice. We must rejoice in victory and celebrate that remarkable spirit of humanity, courage and hope that rallied behind these clarion calls of resistance, overcoming overwhelming odds, to ensure the defeat of the 20th Century's twin evils, Nazism and apartheid. History says that today, 60 years after D-Day and 10 years of South African freedom, is a good day.

As we celebrate, we must also pay tribute to all the French men, women and children who were part of the formidable and powerful solidarity movement against apartheid and for the liberation of South Africa.

On this day we also have to honour those who lived and died for our freedom, but themselves never saw the dawn of that freedom. Amongst them, is Dulcie September. A woman, a comrade, a patriot and a heroin of our people. Sixteen years ago, her life tragically ended in the hands of a nameless murderer who was never brought to justice here in Paris at the ANC office.

Yesterday we visited Arceuil where she lived and together with the Mayor, some founder members of the Recontre Nationale Contre L'Apartehid and the inhabitants of Arceuil, paid tribute to Dulcie September. She died in her post with honour and dignity, like any fighter who falls on the battlefield. We honour her memory, we are inspired by her courage.

It is sixteen years since the bullets of a cowardly assassin ended her life, but the ideals and values for which she lived and died are now entrenched in our country. We shall forever be indebted to the community of Arceuil for naming their college after her, thus keeping her memory alive.

Today we are here together to celebrate an extraordinary victory of a collective human effort that saw the birth of a new democratic, peaceful, non-racial, non-sexist South Africa that saw the adoption of one of the most progressive Constitutions of the world.

  • The dignity of all South Africans has been restored and they now enjoy human rights.
  • South Africa is now a modern, 21st century democracy.
  • We have just had our 3rd democratic elections, with a very vocal opposition, a vibrant, independent media and a resounding victory for the ANC.
  • Peace: South Africa, once an international pariah, now is an active member of the United Nations (UN), the African Union (AU), the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), the Commonwealth and other international organizations. It has hosted major international conferences.
  • South Africa, once a reign of terror in the region, now the National Defence Force is the 10th largest contributor of peacekeepers, contributes to disaster relief and humanitarian assistance.
  • It is the first country to voluntarily abandon nuclear and biological weapons.
  • Water: Between 1994 and 2004, 10 million more people will have access to clean water.
  • Electricity: More than 70% of people have access to electricity.
  • Education: Now 85% of children have access to integrated secondary school education.
  • Housing: 1,6 million new homes have been built through government subsidies.
  • Economy: South Africa has diversified its economy, with manufacturing and services being the largest and mining and agriculture no longer dominating the economy. Trade has been diversified with Asia and Africa growing rapidly. The economy is no longer shrinking, but is growing consistently. Black economic empowerment for the deracialisation of the economy is progressing slowly.
  • 5 Million poor and old people receive state grants.
  • Gender: In 1994 2,8% of South African parliamentarians were women. Now a third of all parliamentarians are women. Women form 40% of the Cabinet. Over 40% of the Provincial Premiers are women. We are challenging the business sector to follow suite.

  • Free Primary Health Care: Free health care for pregnant women and children up to 6 years.
  • Sport: South Africa was barred from international sport. Now we have even hosted the World Rugby and Cricket Cups, the Africa Cup of Nations, the All Africa Games, amongst others. South Africa will host the Soccer World Cup in 2010, awarded to Africa for the first time in the history of FIFA.

Nation-building and reconciliation started during President Mandela's time. South Africa, almost as diverse as the world itself in terms of race, colour, religion, language, etc. sees this diversity as a strength and adds beauty to the common human tapestry. South Africa is a country of breathtaking, diverse landscapes and a mega diversity of fauna and flora. A land of diverse cultural heritage. In these turbulent times, South Africa is a land of hope and optimism.

As we celebrate, we are also mindful of the many difficult challenges that lie ahead. Poverty, underdevelopment, employment, HIV and Aids, TB and other diseases. These will form our primary focus in the second decade.

Development of a skilled labour force for our modern economy. Government has to intervene to assist the South Africans who are not part of the 1st world, modern economy. We cannot leave their fate to the markets. We have planned an expanded public works programme which will be labor-intensive; it will also impart skills to those who have none.

Chairperson, there is now consensus that the biggest challenge of the 21st century is Africa's underdevelopment.

Over the past ten years, our involvement in world affairs has been premised on the view that the strength of our nation depends on the strength of the African Continent. Hence our efforts in consolidating an African Agenda, in co-operating with the African Diaspora and in working together with other partners to create a better, more humane and people centred Continent and contribute to a better world. Conflict resolution, peace and stability, democracy, good governance, respect for human rights, sustainable development, economic prosperity have to be part of Africa's renewal.

The African Union is best placed to undertake a programme of such magnitude. We are all working hard to build and strengthen the institutions of the AU.

In March of this year the Pan African Parliament was inaugurated in Ethiopia. The establishment of this key political organ of the African Union is a crucial step towards Africa determining its destiny. We, like you, have established this continental parliament because we recognize that sustained development, an improvement in the quality of ours people's economic well-being, is inextricably linked to political stability, democratic governance, conflict prevention and resolution.

Last month, the leaders of our Continent gathered again in Ethiopia to officially launch the African Peace and Security Council. The launch of the PSC was a historical moment giving us a framework for conflict prevention, management and resolution and for peacekeeping and peace building. This new organ signifies the unwavering commitment of all African peoples to rid the Continent of any form of instability and to ensure that peace reigns on all corners of our continent because the renewal of the Continent, its prosperity and sustainable development is dependent on it.

The Programme of Action of the AU is 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;
  • Health, especially in dealing with diseases such as malaria, TB, HIV/Aids, polio, etc;
  • Infrastructure - telecommunications, ICT, transport (rail, air, sea) and energy;
  • Market access for our products - movement away from exporting raw materials to manufacturing and value addition;
  • Macro-economic stability
  • Democracy, good governance and respect for human rights.
  • Human resource development

The partnerships are between and amongst African countries first and foremost. It is a partnership between Africa and the countries of the South, and then a partnership between Africa and 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.

We are grateful to French/South Africa Committee for its work and sustained support.

There are common problems that the world is facing. Global poverty, marginalisation of billions of people, environmental issues, global governance, global trade rules, rise of racism, terrorism.

There is a growing movement towards unilateralism and the undermining of the United Nations (UN). The Security Council is not able to act at all times as a credible and reliable agent of our collective security when it is not representative, not democratic and is sometimes used by certain powerful nations for their own agendas. The financial institutions are not always responsive to the poor and underdeveloped. Unilateralism causes instability rather than stability.

What can we do collectively to address these problems?

On the 21st May, our President had this to say in Parliament:

"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".

It is possible to build a formidable, united movement to share ideas and collectively look for solutions to the problems of poverty and marginalisation. We have a collective responsibility to bequeath to future generations a safe planet, a safe, peaceful, secure and equitable world. A world without racism and sexism.

If we were able to collectively defeat apartheid, we can also fight and eradicate poverty. We can protect our planet and we a build a world order where there are predictable international rules. Let us be a positive force for change, a people's solidarity movement against poverty.

I am sure that in rising to these challenges, as we must for the future of this world, we shall answer as General de Gaulle did, when he asked the question, 64 years ago, when all seemed lost and when the future of the world then seemed so bleak:

L'esperance doit-elle disparaitre?

Shall we lose hope? Must we abandon all hope?

To this question of our time, we must answer as he did:


In the words of a powerful African scholar, there are no powerless people. We have the power in our collective action. Let us reflect on the following words of Ben Okri, in his work, "Way of Being Free" where he writes:

"They tell me that nature is the survival of the fittest. And yet look at how many wondrous gold and yellow fishes prosper among 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 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".

I thank you.

Je vous remercie.

Issued by Department of Foreign Affairs
Private Bag X152

18 June 2004

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