Address by the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ms Sue van der Merwe, to the Cape Town Press Club, Cape Town 18 August 2004

All roads lead to The Pan African Parliament

Distinguished Guests
Ladies and Gentlemen:

Forty four years ago in this very town, the British Prime Minister, Harold Macmillan sounded an ominous warning to a joint session of the apartheid Parliament of South Africa with the following prophetic words:

"The wind of change is blowing through this [African] continent, and, whether we like it or not, this growth of national consciousness is a political fact. We must accept it as a fact and our national policies must take account of it."

One wonders what Prime Minister Macmillan would say today if he were here to be told that the Pan African Parliament (PAP) is coming to South Africa.

It was at the third ordinary session of the Assembly of the African Union held in Addis early in July this year that this extraordinary and unanimous decision was made by Heads of State and Government. It was extraordinary for us in South Africa because only ten years into our democracy, African leaders placed their hopes in our hands and through this far-reaching decision they expressed their confidence in our abilities to be the permanent home of this crucial continental forum.

This was the African renaissance moment that we had been waiting for. Macmillan's "winds of change" were indeed blowing southward. And in this too, we heard echoes across a hundred years of W.E.B. Du Bois and Marcus Garvey in the African Diaspora as well as Kwame Nkrumah, Julius Nyerere, and our own Nelson Mandela who had during his time in office spoken of "an African renaissance whose time had come."

It is worth recalling that the a year after Macmillan uttered his now famous lines the world witnessed the inception of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) that arose from the need of the marginalized countries of the world to have their voices heard. The principles of the Movement included respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all nations and the settlement of international disputes through peaceful means.

Two years later saw the formation of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) where Africans came together to cement their political unity and believing too that economic independence resided within a collective of African states.

Now more than forty years later we believe that we do have the opportunity to create a different and more desirable world than the one we currently inhabit. Nothing is carved in stone. The freedom to choose a different future is a real possibility. For us this means the nurturing of an African continent, which is non-sexist, prosperous and united.

We are convinced that the favourable winds of change are with us and that the time is ripe for us to be able to succeed at transforming the lives of African people for the better, to nurture authentic spaces where we can all be ourselves.

The South African government and the national liberation movements in exile have been part of global initiatives to live life differently, to approach the world with a people-centred agenda, to cultivate a caring community of nations and states whose concerns for each other are characterised by mutual respect and recognition, and where solutions to problems are sought through dialogue and not war.

Today the Pan African Parliament is an expression of this spirit of the NAM and the OAU at a political level. It is an embrace of people-to-people interaction and it encapsulates the idea that as part of our new democratic outlook, we have choices to make and that there is a genuine alternative to a world of conflict. What brings together African countries in support of this is the need to deepen and nurture democracy at a continental level, to engage in dialogue so as to avoid conflict and to resolve problems through negotiations and settlements.

It is because of what our own history has taught us that we have set our sights on contributing to a world that is just and equitable, where democracy is entrenched and a human rights culture actively encouraged and protected.

Our commitment is also driven by the idea that the PAP as a site both real (political and geographic) and imagined (cultural and philosophical) creates a new space for developing nations such as ourselves to forge a collective identity and to act in our collective interests to assert and position ourselves more favourably in the global reality. In this way it helps to further extend our freedom to be ourselves.

Thus not surprisingly President Mbeki aptly called it an "African Parliament of Liberators" and he welcomed the decision by declaring that:

"It is our responsibility, acting together with all other patriotic forces in Africa and the African Diaspora, to ensure that we mobilize the masses of the people to act as their own liberators, taking advantage of the current African and global conjuncture that presents us with the possibility to achieve the age-old dream of the genuine, all-round emancipation of the African people."

He further explained that: "As the hosts of the PAP we have a responsibility to create the best possible conditions for this assembly of the peoples of Africa to carry out its work."

But what were the significant stepping stones that led us to take on this task of hosting the PAP? There have been a number of landmarks worth mentioning on our road to the present.

· For us, since the attainment of our democracy in 1994, this moment was the first real African homecoming. Because, for the first time in this second wave of democracy to sweep the African continent, the African people now had it within their own grasp to decide jointly on their political futures, to pave the way to permanent peace and stability through entrenching democracy. We have within our hands the know-how and skills to build our own economies and to bring about social and cultural advancement.

· Consciousness of our role in the world had led us to embrace an African agenda, and to strive for the renewal of our continent. We recognise that our national liberation had been crucial for an entire continent whose future was at stake. Our task would have to be to ensure an end to the impoverishment of the African continent of which we are part and to embark on processes that would lead to continental prosperity and sustained development.

· Together with other OAU member states, we were seized with the task of transforming of the OAU (an organisation focused on eliminating colonialism and minority rule, into the AU, the new continental body focused on achieving sustainable economic development. It was this continental effort at transformation that culminated in the Inaugural Summit of the AU in July 2002, with South Africa becoming its first Chair.

· The most recent AU summit took important decision on, amongst other things, the establishment of ECOSOC, the Economic, Social and Cultural Council, on an agreement that the African Court of Justice be combined with the Human and People's Rights Court and further, South Africa successfully led the campaign to ensure appropriate and adequate representation of the African women in all the AU structures.

Another land mark for continental advancement is the

· The New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) which is the development programme of the AU that will expedite economic growth and in this way tackle head-on the twin problems of poverty and underdevelopment. NEPAD introduced a voluntary instrument for monitoring compliance with the principles, priorities and objectives of the Constitutive Act and other decisions of the AU - the African Peer Review Mechanism.

· The APRM serves to provide a mechanism for peer learning and the sharing of information and best practice. It is designed to be a corrective measure rather than a punitive one. It is anticipated that in time all African countries accede to peer review. 5 countries have already begun the process of peer review, starting with Ghana and including South Africa. Our review will be done in the first quarter of next year.

· We worked hard to ensure the development and adoption of the Common Defence and Security Policy, which led to the establishment of the Peace and Security Council (PSC) of which South Africa is a member. South Africa was chair of the PSC during July 2004.

These have been some of the high points along the way of which the PAP is but a part, but this background ought to assist in placing the Parliament within a bigger picture of continental change.

South Africa also contributed to ensuring the successful inauguration of the Pan African Parliament in Ethiopia in March 2004. The establishment of this key political organ of the African Union is a crucial and necessary step towards Africa taking control of its own political future.

In South Africa we have prioritised the formation of this Parliament because we recognize that the prerequisite to sustained economic development is indeed the cultivation of democratic culture - that should have as its cornerstones political stability, democratic governance, conflict prevention and resolution.

Thus far, 45 member states of the 53 AU states have signed and deposited their instruments of ratification of the PAP Protocol.

For interest sake, they are: Algeria, Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Chad, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Libya, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Niger, Rwanda, South Africa, Sahrawi Republic, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Tanzania, Togo, Tunisia, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

The objectives of the PAP include - among others, the promotion of the principles of human rights and democracy in Africa; encouraging good governance, transparency and accountability in Member States; promoting peace, security and stability and contributing to a more prosperous future for the peoples of Africa by promoting collective self-reliance and economic recovery. In the first five years of its existence, the PAP will be advisory and not a legislative authority.

South Africa's responsibility as host is to provide the venue - that is the physical structure as well as the infrastructure in the venue, office accommodation for parliamentarians and staff and the residence of the President of the PAP. A temporary venue at Gallagher Estate will serve as the seat of PAP while a permanent venue is being constructed.

We are excited about the prospect of a permanent purpose-built PAP building being constructed in the longer term. For this building to be the pride of Africa and of our nation, its architecture ought to be appropriate for the identity of a new Africa. In order to get the most appropriate design and to ensure that every member state is given an opportunity to contribute to its design, a continent-wide architectural competition will be held. Other countries may also contribute materials and art works to be part of the completed building.

While these are simply some of the details around the PAP, it is the road that has brought us to this moment that is important. The PAP is a culmination of decades of African struggle and yet it is also a new beginning since it provides an alternative vision of the continent and of the world.

I arrived last night from a meeting of the officials of the Non-Aligned Movement in Durban where the theme of the gathering is "Multilateralism in the 21st Century". Among the messages I tried to put across is that "Now is the time when our Movement (NAM) ought to intensify its work towards the creation of a new people-centred world and an egalitarian world society and that our conscience dictates to us that we strive for nothing less than self-determination."

This is the same week in which AASROC (Co-operation between Africa and Asia) gets off the ground in Durban through looking at concrete projects and plans for co-operation. Our Minister will be addressing this meeting in preparation for the 50th anniversary of the historic Bandung summit.

Certainly I believe that a new space is opening in our political psyche and our physical reality in which the voices of the marginalized can be heard.

The PAP is one such place within this new site of dialogue and democracy that has tremendous potential. We have to nurture it and see to its infancy and future growth, so that it can walk and not simply crawl - and so that it can take its proud position on an international stage as one among other international bodies that seek to articulate a different future for the world.

Macmillan's winds of change are once more blowing across the African continent and our task is to direct this wind and take its advantage so that it moves to the realisation of our common continental and global dreams of peace, prosperity and people-centredness.

I thank you.

Issued by the Department of Foreign Affairs
Private Bag X152

18 August 2004

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