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
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
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
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
· 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
· 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
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