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
Your Excellency, Dr Abdul Kalam, President of the Republic
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
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
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
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
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
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
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