Address by Deputy President Jacob Zuma on the "Ten Years of Freedom in South Africa", to the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Beijing, People's Republic of China, 28 September 2004

Professor Chen, the President of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences,
Honourable Ministers and Deputy Ministers,
Your Excellency the South African Ambassador to the People's Republic of China,
Your Excellencies the Dean of the Diplomatic Corps and all members of the Diplomatic Corps,
The South African business delegation,
Government officials,
Honoured Guests,

It is a great honour for my delegation and I to be in this great country, amongst longstanding comrades and friends.

I am truly delighted to be given the opportunity of sharing with you the story of our beloved country, South Africa, during this very special year as we celebrate 10 years of freedom and democracy.

We are also privileged to be with you during the special evening of the Moon Festival, when the warmth of families and friends are celebrated. We wish you and your loved ones all of the best during this occasion.

Distinguished guests, today marked another milestone in the close and cordial relations between South Africa and China.

We had the pleasure of meeting with His Excellency President Hu Jintao, with my good friend, Vice President Zeng Qinghong, and also with Chairman Wu Bagguo and Premier Wen Jiabao, to exchange ideas on the way forward in our relationship.

We re-affirmed the strategic partnership between our two countries, and our resolve to continue working together, to deepen our co-operation in the bilateral and multilateral arenas.

Before coming to Beijing, earlier this week, we had the pleasure of visiting the city of Shenzhen, and were impressed by the spectacular economic development experienced over the past 20 years. We could see first-hand, the spectacular results of the far-sighted leadership and vision of the late Deng Xiaoping.

Ladies and gentlemen, as said earlier, I am honoured to be able to share with you the story of my country, which has been transformed from a pariah state to a stable democracy and a respected member of the international community, within a very short space of time.

On 27 April 1994, South Africans voted together for the first time and ushered in democracy and freedom, and dealt a final blow to apartheid and racism. The victory over apartheid can be regarded as one of the greatest international achievements of the last decade of the 20th century.

We reiterate our gratitude to the Chinese people for your contribution to this achievement, through the all-round support you gave us during the struggle for liberation.

From 1994, the new democratic government, led by Nelson Mandela, our country's first democratically-elected President, promoted reconciliation between the former oppressors and formerly oppressed. The purpose was to build a new nation, free of hatred and revenge.

After a smooth transition from the Mandela Presidency to that of Mr Thabo Mbeki in 1999, this policy of reconciliation continued. That very transition between the two Presidents, within only five years, at a party political and government level, was in itself an indication of the maturity of our democracy and of the ruling party's leadership, and boosted confidence in the new democracy locally and internationally.

For the formerly oppressed to see change in their lives, we had to immediately restructure the state to make it people-centred, and to urgently remove racist laws from the statute books.

The Constitution and over 780 pieces of legislation have created a framework for the reshaping South Africa. Distinguished guests, many people wonder how a society previously steeped in conflict and hostility, governed through a political system of apartheid which had been declared as a crime against humanity, could achieve harmony, peace, stability and socio-economic and political progress in only 10 years.

We believe that historians should in all honesty give due credit to the sound leadership and foresight of the ruling party, the African National Congress, in this regard.

In order to succeed, South Africa needed a political leadership that was forward looking and who had a clear agenda and vision of what a new South Africa should look like.

It needed a leadership that would unite both the oppressed and oppressors and lead them into a future filled with hope and promise.

The ANC provided that kind of leadership, through putting the interest of the whole country first, and inculcated that culture to political parties and the population as a whole.

An advantage as well was that during the long and protracted struggle, the ANC prepared itself to govern, and had a clear vision of what kind of society it wanted to produce, in the advent of freedom. Therefore as soon as Nelson Mandela formed the first government, the ANC knew exactly what it needed to do to transform the country.

Such foresight and sound strategic planning assisted in ensuring a sustainable outcome during the political negotiations from 1990. The negotiations laid a firm foundation for an inclusive multiparty non-racial democracy.

We ensured a successful result through the following:

· The negotiations were inclusive, more than 25 political parties participated, and this made the outcome acceptable to the majority.
· We confronted our political problems head on, and negotiated them directly. By the time we came to the drafting of the Constitution, the document was not seen as an instrument to solve political problems. Our Constitution provides a solid foundation for our democracy, with a specific emphasis on human rights, with built in checks and balances in Chapter 9, which establishes institutions that protect every citizen. These include the Public Protector, Human Rights Commission and the Commission on Gender Equality.
· We invested heavily in real reconciliation, and this included the establishment of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, not for retribution, but to uncover the truth, and achieve forgiveness and amnesty based on full disclosure.

Within a short space of time, we achieved political stability, and created the right environment to focus on socio-economic development, an area in which we have also made tremendous progress.

The living conditions of the black majority have been considerably improved. Millions of people now have access to services they never could access before, such as clean piped water, housing, electricity, health care, and education to mention a few.

Economic recovery and the achievement of macroeconomic stability were amongst the democratic Government's top priorities. In this regard, carefully designed economic policies have been implemented to provide domestic and international business confidence.

We have had almost continuous growth since 1994 which has created jobs, but unfortunately not enough to keep up with the increased number of people looking for employment.

We must admit that while we have achieved a lot, there are challenges that still remain. We still have to extend access to social services to more people, create jobs and continue the agenda of eradicating poverty. There are a number of programmes in this regard and time does not allow us to elaborate and outline them.

As you are aware these are challenges that face many developing countries, and which require the creation of the right global environment for them to address. We therefore continue to work with partners in the developing South, to call for the transformation of relations between the developed North and developing South, to establish relations that are based on equality and mutual respect.

We are also calling for the transformation of multilateral relations, through for example the reform of the United Nations system, and the international economic and financial institutions, the World Trade Organisation, the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. We are pleased to have China as a partner in pushing this agenda of the South.

We must emphasise that while calling for a reform of the UN, we also strongly support its role in maintaining order in international relations, and believe it is the only body that should undertake this responsibility in the world.

Building on the solid foundation of a shared global political vision and accelerating economic interaction, China and South Africa, have a strategic opportunity to cement South-South cooperation in advancing reform of the existing global order.

Distinguished guests, our growth and development is intimately linked to that of the rest of the African continent. Therefore the success of the African Union, and the New Partnership for Africa's Development, (NEPAD), Africa's socio-economic blueprint, are of paramount importance to us.

We view African problems as our problems, as we cannot be an island of peace and development in the midst of poverty and conflict. That is why we are participating in peacemaking and peacekeeping in the continent. The democratic South Africa is now known as an exporter of peace, as opposed to the role that apartheid South Africa played, as an aggressive neighbour in the region.

Ladies and gentlemen, there is a lot that has been achieved in the last 10 years. We have a clear idea of the challenges that remain, and have plans in place to tackle them and accelerate access to a better life.

We are also convinced as we enter the second decade, that political stability and reconciliation will hold and that there can be no turning back.

A powerful indication of this is the fact that a few months ago, the National Party, the architects of apartheid, and the party that imprisoned Nelson Mandela and scores of others for so many years and dehumanised the entire black population of our country for decades, adopted the fundamental policy document of the ANC, the Freedom Charter.

The party also resolved to dissolve at the appropriate time permitted for parties to dissolve mid-term, and advised its members to join the ANC in the meantime.

This was indeed a triumph for progressive political thought and ideas, and for reconciliation and nation building in our country.

Most importantly for us, we have the support of the South African population in everything we do, as evident in the increasing electoral majority that the ruling party receives during each election.

I thank the People's Republic of China for partnering us in this mammoth task of rebuilding our country, in the interests of mutual benefit.

I thank you.

The Presidency: Republic of South Africa

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