Address by the President of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki, on the
Occasion of the Honoris Causa Degree Ceremony, at the Salón de Diputados,
Old Congress, Santiago, Chile, 7 June 2005
Rector of the Universidad de
Chile, Luis Riveros,
Prorector, Jorge Litvak,
Ladies and gentlemen:
I am very privileged and honoured to receive
this high accolade from one of the pre-eminent universities of the world. In all
humility and with sincerest gratitude, I accept this Honoris Causa degree on behalf
of the people of South Africa and Africa, who won our liberation and today continue
to fight poverty, underdevelopment and global marginalisation.
South Africa share a common bond - of ancient indigenous peoples, of conquest
and imperialism, of colonialism, oppression and resistance.
today is a cross-section of the leadership of this country and accordingly it
will be appropriate to ask that we form partnerships between the Chilean people
and South Africans and work together to open 'a thousand doors' towards a better
life for all our people and 'invent new worlds' where poverty and underdevelopment
would be a nightmare long forgotten.
Clearly, this means dealing with the
many challenges that characterise the phenomenon of globalisation. I am confident
that this important conclave of intellectuals and leaders in different fields,
can and should further engage the suggestions that we are privileged to put forward
today and accordingly form these necessary links and partnerships.
Chile and South Africa know many of our fellow citizens whose lives are characterised
by the indecency of poverty; those who live in poor shelter or food; people whose
daily routine is a perpetual motion of survival.
Both Chile and South Africa
also know about others who live a better life; whose daily struggle is not survival
but a continuous activity to better the achievements of yesterday to increase
their property and portfolios
Again, we both know of men and women, globally,
who inhabit the two worlds of poverty and affluence. At times, those who are rich
and powerful even pretend that the poor and the weak do not exist, that their
high walls of affluence will defend them from those whose pangs of hunger have
dulled their cries of pain.
We know the division imposed on our societies
by autocracy and racism. It is these scars, etched in our collective souls, that
bind us and leave us with no choice but to form strong partnerships and work together
for a better world.
As we know, the need for partnerships within and beyond
national borders has evolved over time. John Micklewaith and Adrian Wooldridge
in their book 'A Future Perfect' discuss what they describe as 'elite' partnerships.
"The idea of 'a global ruling class' has been one of the
great canards of modern history - a trigger for resentment, persecution, and paranoia.
Before the rise of democracy, European politics were indeed the preserve of a
fairly coherent elite. Most monarchs - and many leading politicians - were related
to one another. Everybody who mattered had read the same classical texts. French
had established itself so firmly as an international language that both Frederick
the Great of Prussia and Metternich wrote their memoirs in it. National leaders
were so pally that they even held honorary positions in each other's armies. In
1910 for example, Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany turned up at Edward VII's funeral
dressed in the scarlet uniform of a British field Marshal."
"Some fragments of this life survive even today. But in general
this dandified class has been swept away by revolutions, nationalism, and the
'discovery' of the Americas, Africa, and the East
Future Perfect, Published by Crown Publishers, 2000)
Clearly, the elite,
the rich and the powerful have always been good at forming partnerships for mutual
benefit. Even when they occasionally went to war against one another, to assert
their hegemony, in the long periods of tranquillity they have always collaborated
so as to better regulate their affairs and ensure that those who are excluded,
do not threaten the status quo.
It is also true that while the United Nations
has always had the potential to be a 'new seat of power', this has not been possible
because of the structural fault in the international system of governance.
the question should be asked as to who represents the poor globally?
are aware that the Secretary-General has initiated bold moves to revitalise and
democratise the United Nations and I am confident that together we will play our
part to ensure that we transform this world body to be a true representative of
all the peoples of the world.
Like the elites of Europe who were related
to one another and read the same classical texts, used the same language, French,
to write their memoirs and held honorary positions in each other's armies, I would
like the people of Chile and those of South Africa and our two regions also to
be related to one another, to read the same literature, use the same language
that articulates the need and preparedness to defeat poverty, underdevelopment
Together we should hold honorary positions in our
respective universities and research institutions and in our regional bodies such
as the African Union and the Community of South American Nations. We should share
experiences on how to deepen our democracies; how to ensure respect for human
and people's rights.
We should collaborate and share ideas and engage in
practical programmes that would ensure that our people experience prosperity and
move away from the undesirable situation of underdevelopment and exclusion. Indeed,
our generation is charged by history to find ways of bridging the gulf between
the two worlds of affluence and poverty. This we should do both in our own countries
as well as in the metaphorical global village.
Accordingly, we have a duty
together to attend to the pressing challenges facing us both in our own countries
and in the world. The ability to be both indigenous and exotic, to be both at
home and foreign is what should define us as we confront the problems facing our
people whether they are resident in Chile or in South Africa, or anywhere else
in the world for that matter.
I know that many of us are aware that the
African continent is engaged in a process of development and regeneration through
an AU programme, the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD). This is
a programme through which the people of Africa are harnessing their resources,
both natural and human, to put their countries, individually and collectively,
on a development path.
The African intelligentsia, businesspeople, workers,
youth and women are engaged in this programme of the renaissance of the continent.
It is because of this energy, enthusiasm, self-belief and the preparedness to
learn from past mistakes that we have boldly proclaimed the 21st century as the
African century of hope and prosperity.
We also know that Chile and the
region are equally engaged in continuous efforts to defeat poverty and ensure
prosperity for all the citizens of South America.
Because our agendas are
similar, it would be appropriate to say that when we engage in these programmes
we would do so not only for short term selfish interests, but for a common geography
that straddles the cold waters of the Atlantic Ocean.
archaeological artefacts, mummies and skeletons may repose in museums to remind
us of the rich legacy of our ancient thinkers and visionaries, we, the living,
owe it to the present and the future generations, to employ the "true vigour"
which resides in our heads.
Our minds are now indeed free to give rein to
our own creative possibilities of planting seeds to nurture the flowering blooms
of our nations. Today, Chileans and South Africans are free - united in our diversity.
Cries of freedom ring across our democracies.
Yet, we are learning all too
well that our struggle for freedom and democracy is an eternal golden fibre woven
in the tapestry of ideas by visionaries who came before us - thinkers and architects
of new plans, new drawings, new roadmaps for our social contracts - thinkers such
as the esteemed conclave of intellectuals, politicians, and civil society we have
The poor and those marginalised - women, the youth, the elderly,
people with disabilities also have clear ideas of what they want and desire. Are
we able to draw from these rich fountains so as to enrich our ideas and ourselves!
for governments, the central issue, among others, is how we devise practical programmes
of action and manage our economies and our finite coffers for the benefit of those
who gave us the mandate to do so. This is why governments and nations form bilateral
and regional alliances such as the Community of South American Nations and the
African Union so as to co-operate on areas of mutual benefit and concern.
universities and the intelligentsia and all our social partners have a concomitant
responsibility to join hands between themselves and with governments and the rest
of civil society to build a better world.
A distinguished naturalised son
of Chile, Ariel Dorfman poses several questions about Chile which have similar
resonance for us all, when he anguished over a burning question in his book, Heading
South, Looking North:
"Two hundred years ago before I arrived on the
shores of [Chile] and wondered how so much bounty could produce so much suffering,
a Chilean named José Cos de Iribari had asked a similar question even before
independence had been gained from Spain: How is it possible that, in the midst
of the lavishness and splendour
," most of the population was "groaning
under the yoke of poverty, misery and the vices which are their inevitable consequences"?
from Dorfman, A., Heading South, Looking North (Hodder and Stoughton, London:
1998, p. 126)
For Dorfman, this remained a burning question as to why there
continued to be in the nineties "social injustice, educational and technological
stagnation, a scandalous disparity between the means and lifestyle of a small
oligarchy and those of the vast impoverished nation."
"scandalous disparity" has to be overcome across the developing world
in all spheres of life. Yet, the structural fault in the global economy means
that the few are able to dictate to the rest of humanity terms and conditions
of economic engagement in a manner inimical to this majority.
Joseph Stiglitz was frank when he wrote in his book, 'The Roaring Nineties', that:
pushed the ideology of the free market and tried hard to get access for U.S. companies
overseas. In doing so, we in the Clinton administration too often put aside the
kinds of principles for which we should have stood. We did not think about the
impact of our policies on the poor in the developing countries, but on job creation
in America. We believed in liberalising capital markets but didn't think about
how it might lead to greater global instability. We thought more about what America
might gain in the short run from hard bargaining - and how that in turn might
enhance the administration's standing - than we did about how perceptions of unfairness
and hypocrisy might in the long run set back America's interests." (P204,
the Roaring Nineties, Published by Penguin Group, 2003.)
A better response
to this disproportionate power is the strengthening of the multilateral system
of government and for developing nations like Chile and South Africa, as well
as our respective regional bodies, to strengthen our relations and collaborate
on all matters that would benefit the poor.
We are very
happy to be among the people of Chile because among other things, it is the Chileans
who inspired us into looking at the best ways of healing the divisions of our
own traumatic past. This led to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South
Africa. We followed this example because the courageous Chilean people know and
knew only too well the psychological trauma of that tragedy of 11 September 1973
as well as subsequent abuses that scarred this beautiful country.
also dictates that we need to transform how we govern ourselves at a global level
as well as nationally. Again, the distinguished Nobel Laureate in Economics, Professor
Joseph Stiglitz has urged the nations of the world to find new ways to reform
global governance. He states:
"Unfortunately, we have no world government,
accountable to the people of every country, to oversee the globalization process
in a fashion comparable to the way national governments guided the nationalization
process. Instead, we have a system that might be called global governance without
global government, one in which a few institutions - the World Bank, the IMF,
the WTO - and a few players - the finance, commerce, and trade ministries, closely
linked to certain financial and commercial interests - dominate the scene."
J., Globalization and Its Discontents (Penguin, London: 2002, pp. 21-22).
globalisation and a global market to thrive, Stiglitz urges a united and collective
voice in the global decision-making process so that "growth is not only more
sustainable and less volatile but the fruits of this growth are more equitably
And we are not alone in our quest for equitable sustainable
development. Like-minded leaders of the North are now coming up with their own
vision on how to eradicate poverty and give hope to billions of marginalised people.
And this is what Pablo Neruda means when he draws inspiration from the
French poet, Rimbaud in his Nobel Lecture and says, "There is no such thing
as a lone struggle, no such thing as a lone hope. In every human being are combined
the most distant epochs, passivity, mistakes, sufferings, the pressing urgencies
of our own time, the pace of history."
Indeed, if we are to succeed,
Pablo Neruda implores us, in the memory of Rimbaud, the Visionary: "only
with a burning patience can we conquer the splendid City which will give light,
justice and dignity to all mankind."
And it is this burning patience
and quest for new ideas, which will surely renew our vigour and our minds to reach
out for the infinite possibilities awaiting us.
Muchas gracias. Thank you.
by Department of Foreign Affairs
Private Bag X152