Address by the President of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki at the Pan African Parliament, Gallagher Estate, Midrand, 16 September 2004

President of the Pan African Parliament, Honourable Gertrude Mongella,
Your Excellency, Dr Abdul Kalam, President of the Republic of India,
The Honourable Ms Chikage Oogi, President of the House of Councillors of Japan,
Commissioner Julia Dolly Joiner of the Commission of the African Union,
Honoured members of the Pan African Parliament,
Your Excellencies Ministers, Ambassadors and High Commissioners,
Ladies and Gentlemen:

On behalf of the government and peoples of South Africa, I would like to say welcome home. As hosts of this Pan African Parliament, we have a responsibility to create the best possible conditions for this assembly of the peoples of Africa successfully to discharge its mandate. This we will do to the best of our ability.

In this regard, I would like to take advantage of this occasion once more to express our profound appreciation to the African Union and the leaders of the peoples of Africa for the unanimous decision they took to honour our country and people by giving us the privilege to provide a home for this important institution of the peoples of Africa.

Today, we meet at this gathering of the representatives of the peoples of our continent to write a new page in our continuing efforts to give meaning to the rallying call of our struggle for liberation that, The People Shall Govern!

For centuries the masses of our people, throughout our continent, waged heroic struggles to free all our countries from the inhuman systems of colonialism and apartheid. Even after most of our countries were free, those who had liberated themselves made the determination that they could only enjoy the fruits of freedom and independence when the rest of the continent was liberated.

Accordingly, we meet in South Africa today because the peoples of Africa dared to make the necessary sacrifices to end the criminal system of apartheid in our country, and thus bring to a close the long period of colonial and white minority rule in our country.

It is a matter of great shame and regret to all of us that nevertheless the issue of self-determination for the people of Western Sahara remains unresolved. This presents all of us with the challenge to ensure that we do everything possible to ensure that these sister people also enjoy this fundamental and inalienable right, whose defence by the entirety of our continent brought us our own freedom.

I am also privileged to join the President of our Parliament in welcoming to our midst our distinguished guests from other parts of the world, President Dr Abdul Kalam of India and President Chikage Oogi of Japan. Their presence here constitutes the continuation of their engagement with us, to help us meet the goals we have set ourselves as a continent, in the same way that they stood with us as we engaged in struggle to liquidate the oppressive and unjust systems of colonialism and apartheid.

Esteemed representatives of the peoples of Africa, the eyes of the peoples of our continent will be focused on you as you carry out your work over the next few weeks. These masses are interested to know what this brand new institution will mean to them. The want to know whether you will meet their dreams and their hopes, to give birth to the humane Africa that has eluded all of us for so long.

These masses do not need anybody to inform them about their condition and the history they have had to endure. They need no lectures to inform them that they have had to endure unnecessary wars, resulting in the death of innocent people, their displacement within their own countries and their dispersal to other lands as refugees.

They need no teachers to educate them about the denial of their human rights and the right to determine their destiny by military rulers; the theft of their resources by corrupt elites that abuse power to prey on the poor of our continent; their condemnation to perpetual and increasing poverty because of domestic and international policies and practices that result in the poor getting poorer and the rich, richer.

They know the reality of the civil wars, genocide, the conflicts that brought untold suffering to the innocent, the economic decay, social disintegration and cultural alienation that have defined the lives of many Africans. They know what others have done, which imposed on them the curse of poverty, hunger, famine, disease and underdevelopment.

They need nobody to remind them that they and their continent became an object of pity and despair among the peoples of the world, with their human dignity denied, because what happened and what we did suggest that we were incapable of doing the things we must do to restore and assert our own dignity, to do the things we must do to achieve the objective of a better life for all our people.

Because they know what has happened to them, these masses understand very well why Chinua Achebe said the things he said in his classic work "Things Fall Apart", when he wrote:

"Warriors will fight scribes for the control of your institutions; wild bush will conquer your roads and pathways; your land will yield less and less while your offspring multiply; your houses will leak from the floods and your soil will crack from the drought; your sons will refuse to pick up the hoe and prefer to wander in the wilds; you shall learn ways of cheating and you will poison the kola nuts you serve your own friends. Yes, things will fall apart."

The African masses look to the Pan African Parliament to help to change all that. They want you, their elected representatives, to give them the possibility to control their institutions. They want you, their elected representatives, to help them to change their material conditions so that they escape from the jaws of poverty and their countries and continent from the clutches of underdevelopment.

They want their sons and daughters to grow up in decent conditions, and in their adulthood to engage in productive activities that will improve the quality of their lives and the lives of their peoples. They want you to help them to ensure that their governments discharge their responsibilities to them, telling them no lies, respecting their obligation to be accountable to the people, desisting from poisoning the kola nuts they bring to the people as gifts.

The Pan-African Parliament creates a new space for us as Africans to forge a collective identity and to act together in our interest both within and between our countries, as well as in the many important global engagements with other regions and the rest of the world.

This Parliament has been established on the basis of the continental decisions expressed in the Constitutive Act of the African Union. It is also governed by its own Protocol.

Together these instruments make the unequivocal statement that the peoples of Africa yearn for peace, democracy and respect for human rights. They make the unequivocal statement that the peoples of Africa are determined to extricate themselves from poverty and underdevelopment.

They make the unequivocal statement that Africa must and will unite and that she will take her place among the continents as an equal partner in the human striving for a world of peace, freedom, respect for all human beings and a shared prosperity.

Our continent has decided where it wants to go. We are in the process of establishing the institutions that will help to take us to that destination. These include this Pan African Parliament. We have elaborated and are working on the programmes we need to implement to achieve the goals we have set ourselves. These programmes include NEPAD.

The task ahead of us is to implement what we have decided. We face the challenge to make the determination within ourselves that the resolutions we pass have no meaning unless we translate them into action. We have the obligation constantly to criticise ourselves as we constantly measure the distance we have travelled to meet the hopes and aspirations of the masses of our people.

You, esteemed Members of the Pan African Parliament, have been elected by the masses of our people as their trusted representatives. You carry in your hands the hopes of the people. These masses expect that you will be their fearless champions, who will refuse to be distracted by petty things, inspired to serve the great causes that must lead us to the Renaissance of Africa.

For all these reasons this gathering of the Pan African Parliament is a proud moment for all Africans, wherever they may be. It is a moment that gives us hope that sooner rather than later, the entirety of the people of our continent will express the reality of their own situations with the words - Africa's time has come!

As we respond to the challenges we face, we must also keep this constantly in mind and act on it, that the mobilisation of the African masses is central to the victory we must achieve. We know from our own struggle for freedom that to advance the peoples' cause, we need the full participation of the masses. We know that peace, democracy and justice can only take root when the masses of our people are themselves active agents of change.

Those who elected you, the women, the youth, the peasants, the workers, the religious communities, the artists and intellectuals, and others, must accompany you through their actions to bring about the veritable revolution spelt out in the vision that has given birth to the Pan African Parliament.

Together with these masses, you have the duty to ensure that nobody contemplating the future of Africa should, once again, say - things fall apart!

I wish this institution, so critical to the achievement of the task of the renewal of our continent, the Pan African Parliament, success in its important work.

I thank you for your attention.

Issued by: Presidency
16 September 2004

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