Remarks by Minister Dlamini Zuma in Howard University, Washington DC, 11 January 2006

President Swygert, Board of Trustees of Howard University, The dear student who spoke so movingly to us, Deans of the University, Faculty, Ambassadors and members of the diplomatic Corps, distinguished guests, and all the friends and family of Howard University who are here.

South Africa's relationship with Howard University is one with a long and proud history of collaborative efforts to end the injustice that deprived our people of their dignity and disaffected their human spirit. The support that academics, students and the wider university community gave to South Africa is immeasurable and will be remembered for generations to come both in the United States and South Africa.

As South Africans, we cannot forget that many of our greatest leaders were educated in the United States, and were all imbued with the spirit of Pan Africanism which binds us together today. Leaders of the ANC like Pixley ka Izaka Seme, John Langalibalele Dube and Charlotte Maxeke amongst others, had first hand experience of what it meant to be black in America. Thus WEB Du Bois wrote, "The problem of the 20th century is the problem of the colour line". In choosing to assist Howard University, we are directed by Du Bois and his belief that it was the "talented tenth' who would presage a common liberation for all.

When Hurricane Katrina came ashore on the dreadful September day, few could have imagined the sheer devastation and destruction it would inflict on the lives of countless thousands in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.

We followed with great sadness as the scope of the sobering tragedy unfolded, and we learnt again that it was always the poorest of the poor- those who need most, and have least- who are inevitably burdened with the burnt of the suffering. We could not help but share the pain, which no human being should ever be asked to endure.

In the courage and devotion of the family at Howard, and in the fortitude and resilience of the survivors, we are reminded of the legacy of the greats like Sojourner Truth, Frederick Douglas, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., and Rosa Parks amongst others. Howard University has done, as it should have done, and extended its generosity to the people of New Orleans. Like Howard University, we wanted to embrace our young brothers and sisters by lending a humble hand. Our hearts have gone out to those who were particularly vulnerable and marginalised during this trying period on your history; and we wanted to contribute in the best possible way to help alleviate the suffering.

This gift is a small token of the spirit that joins all of all together, and it is in this spirit of understanding and through embracing that notion that 'I am my brother's keeper", that we decided to make this contribution.

When President Mbeki awarded Plaque of Appreciation to Howard University in honour of all the Anti-Apartheid movement in the United States, he wrote: "this plaque is a memorial to the triumph of human spirit over oppression…and it is right and fitting that it should be dedicated at Howard University."

Eversince the first South African Student admitted at Howard in the early 1890's, to the dedication of the plaque by President Mbeki, you have weathered the storm with us. You have helped us rebuild and rejuvenate our spirit.

While tempest, uproar, wind and the gale will continue to rage, nothing will shake the foundation of the human spirit, and nothing will break the strong ties that the people of South Africa have with Howard University. You are a microcosm of the Diaspora, which stretches across the United States and beyond to the Caribbean and Latin and South America.

We are confident that this esteemed institution, including the contingent from New Orleans, will always renew and rebuild the spirit of resilience that charecterises the best of human kind.

As you make even greater progress in the future, I am sure that Howard University will continue to produce excellent and insightful graduates who will help to lead us into a better future and a New World. As we have heard about the President of the University who is himself a graduate of this instituion.

I believe that part of our striving is precisely for a system of global political, economic and social governance that is more inclusive than the status quo. A system where material resources are not out of reach depending on place of origin or location or gender on the colour of one's skin, but accessible to all who strive to improve their lives.

We stand at a new time of renewal and rebuilding, and I thought it pertinent to borrow an extract from the celebrated novelist and poet, an African son, Ben Okri:

"There no such thing as a powerless people. There are only those who have not seen and have not used their power and will. It would seem a miraculous feat, but it is possible for the unvalued ones to help create a beautiful new era in human history. New vision should come from those who suffer most and who love life the most….Nature and history are not just about the survival of the fittest, but also about the survival of the wisest, the most adaptive, and the most aware."

We have been blessed with the brightest, the most adaptive, and the most aware. This is why we are here today as survivors of the apartheid, colonialism and slavery, We are powerful because although we were raised on the legacy of oppression and struggle, we still forgive but never forget where we come from. As President Thabo Mbeki said:

"We cannot win a grandiose war on poverty. But after the tragedy comes opportunity. This is the post-Katrina moment. Let's not squander it."

Thank you.

Issued by Nomfanelo Kota on 0824593787

Department of Foreign Affairs
c/o SA Embassy in Washington DC
United States of America

11 January 2006


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