Keynote Address by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic
of South Africa, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma at the African Union Caribbean Diaspora
Conference London, 24 April 2007
Honourable Chairperson, Your Excellency
Christopher Kolade, the High Commissioner of Nigeria,
The Honourable Minister
of Foreign Affairs of Jamaica Anthony Hylton
Your Excellency The Dean of African
Missions in London Mr. Samuel Libock Mbei
Your Excellency The Dean of the Caribbean
Missions in London Mr. Laleshwar KN Singh ,
Your Excellencies Members of the
Ladies and Gentlemen
First, let me express our gratitude to all of you for having
heeded the call to this Conference. Your presence here today, answers why the
need for this Conference.
In his book entitled "In Arcadia , Ben Okri
tells us the following story :
You die, and find yourself, like Daphnis,
at Heaven's Gate. A mysterious person meets you at the entrance. You ask to be
admitted. The mysterious person insists first on a conversation about the life
you have lived. You complain that you had no breaks, that things didn't work out
for you, that you weren't helped, that people brought you down, blocked your way,
that your father didn't love you, that your mother didn't care, that economic
times were bad, that you didn't have the right qualifications, that you didn't
belong to the right circle, that you weren't lucky, in short you pour out a veritable
torrent of excuses.
But for every excuse you bring forth the infinitely
patient mysterious person points to little things here and there that you could
have done, little mental adjustments that you could have made. He gently offers
you examples of where, instead of giving up, you could have been more patient.
Tenderly, he shows you all the little things you could have done, within the range
of your ability, your will that would have made a difference. And as he offers
these alternatives you see how perfectly they make sense, how perfectly possible
the solutions were, how manageable. You see how, by being more alive to your life,
and not panicky and afraid, things could have been so much more livable, indeed
"You suddenly see that you could have been perfectly
happy during all the time that you were perfectly miserable. That you could have
been free instead of being a prisoner. That you could have been one of the radiant
ones of the earth. That living could have been fun. It could have been worthwhile.
That life could have been a playground of possibilities. It could have been a
laboratory of intelligence and freedom. And living could have been composed of
experiments in surprise, in immortality. Experiments in the art of astonishment.
Fascinating time - games. Space - games. Dimension- games".
suddenly see that living is the place where gods play within mortal flesh. An
open - ended play in which dying is the most open - ended ending of them all,
opening out into the infinity of nothingness, or into the infinity of absolute
"Therefore, living is the place of secular miracles. It
is where amazing things can be done in consciousness and in history. Living ought
to be the unfolding masterpiece of the loving spirit. And dying ought to set this
masterpiece free. Set it free to enrich the world. A good life is the masterwork
of magic intelligence that dwells in us. Faced with the enormity of this thought,
of the Damascene perception, failure, despair, unhappiness, seemed a small thing,
a gross missing of the point of it all."
But, I'm happy that since
the beginning of time, Africans wherever they have been, whatever the circumstances,
have ensured that they do not find themselves at the Heaven' Gates, unable to
account for the lives they had lived.
The Africans had always taken for
granted the necessity to advance development and contribute to the greater wellbeing
of self, society and the environment. The civilisation that Africans collectively
produced were to be reflected in the architecture of the city of One Hundred Gates,
the Pyramids of Egypt, the Temples of Ethiopia, the City of Carthage in Tunisia
and the many prehistoric ruins in other parts of Africa. The Sculptures of Benin,
Ancient Kingdoms of Ghana and Mali, the Makhondis of Mozambique and the rich Paintings
of Kgalagadi. The African participated in the human development for the greater
good of Humanity and deliberate subordination of the individual.
it as a matter of historical fact and not an act of self praise that Africa enjoyed
a Golden Age of trade, commerce, education, flourishing of the arts and craftsmanship.
These contributions were made because - We always understood that "life was
a playground of possibilities, a laboratory of intelligence and freedom and that
living is a place of secular miracles"
We carried this belief even
when our cities were destroyed as evidenced when Rome ordered the destruction
of Carthage, turned such a beautiful city into ruins and cursing the strong men
and women of Africa were condemned into slavery in the most cruel and inhuman
manner in order to build their capitalist economies in the name of trade.
the words of Guyanese scholar, Walter Rodney, in "How Europe underdeveloped
Africa", he asserts that
"The process by which captives were obtained
on African soil was not trade at all. It was through warfare, trickery, banditry
and kidnapping." It was social violence and destruction, many died on the
route and "the massive loss of the African labour force was made more critical
because it was composed of the most able-bodied young men and young women."
Africans on the continent and the Diaspora shared a common bond of suffering;
they also together celebrated the victories against their enslavers and oppressors
- albeit short-lived. They inspired each other in mind in the celebrated victory
in Haiti in 1804 with the establishment of the first Black Republic, the Battle
of Isandlwana in 1879, that saw the mighty army of the British empire vanquished,
the battle of Adwa in 1896 where the Italians suffered a humiliating defeat by
the Ethiopians. These are some of the instances that inspired Africans towards
their liberation and led to powerful cultural movements and bonds such as Ethiopianism
and later Rastafarianism.
Africans always lived their lives in a way that
made it possible to face that mysterious man at the gates of heaven with their
The 200th anniversary of the Abolition of Slavery
join forces around the world in marking the struggle for the abolition of the
slave trade, of the trans-Atlantic slavery of Africans to the Americas and the
Caribbean with the passing of the Abolition Act 200 years ago.
support the commemoration of this, as a special year in honour of those who suffered,
as indeed we celebrate the lives of those who fought bravely against slavery.
- And again it was here in London in 1900 that the early stirrings of
Pan-African Unity took place when the Trinidadian barrister Henry Sylvester Williams
organised the first meeting of the Pan-African Congress. The legendary W.E.B.
Du Bois in his address "To the Nations of the World" made his famous
statement; and I quote:
"In the metropolis of the modern world, in this
the closing year of the nineteenth century, there has been assembled a congress
of men and women of African blood, to deliberate solemnly upon the present situation
and outlook of the darker races of mankind. The problem of the twentieth century
is the problem of the colour line, the question as to how far differences of race
- which show themselves chiefly in the colour of the skin and the texture of the
hair - will thereafter be made the basis of denying to over half the world the
right of sharing to utmost ability the opportunities and privileges of modern
People like Marcus Garvey were committed to celebration
of black historical achievements, but were also very concerned about linking the
Diaspora to the Continent. Writers such as George Padmore, later CLR James and
even later Frantz Fanon contributed immensely to the analysis of the African condition
and outlining the circumstances for liberation. Of course, there were also South
African intellectuals like Sol Plaatjie, Pixley ka Seme and John Mafukuzela Dube,
founders of the African National Congress (ANC), who were inspired by these developments.
ka Seme wrote in 1906 in an essay entitled "the Regeneration of Africa",
I quote: The African already recognizes his anomalous position and desires a change.
The brighter day is rising upon Africa. Already, I seem to see her chains dissolved
her desert plains red with harvest, her Abyssinia and her Zululand the seats of
science and religion, reflecting the glory of the rising sun from the spires of
their churches and universities. Her Congo and her Gambia whitened with commerce,
her crowded cities sending forth the hum of business, and all her sons employed
in advancing the victories of peace- greater and more abiding than the spoils
"The ancestral greatness, the unimpaired genius, and the recuperative
power of the race, its irrepressibility, which assures its permanence, constitute
the African's greatest source of inspiration. He has refused to camp forever on
the borders of the industrial world; having learned that knowledge is power, he
is educating his children. You find them in Edinburgh, in Cambridge, and in the
great schools of Germany and so on. These return to their countries armed with
their industrial and educational initiative, and untiring devotion to these activities,
must be regarded as positive evidences of this process of regeneration"
although this was said in 1906, it still has resonance today. Africans "have
always understood life as a playground of possibilities". They have always
been able to manage difficulties and found solutions to seemingly intractable
problems. They have always been able to account - how they lived their lives to
"the mysterious man at the gate of heaven"
antecedent set in motion heroic struggles whose legacy we now have the privilege
to celebrate and honour.
Of course, Africa and the African Diaspora are
celebrating this year, the year of the 50th anniversary of Ghana's independence.
and the African Diaspora are also celebrating the 50th anniversary of Ghana's
independence. We pay tribute to the heroes of this country and to the legacy especially
of Kwame Nkrumah who believed that only a united Africa could achieve economic
independence, that only African countries acting in unity could give support to
those who were still fighting for liberation in Southern Africa, especially South
The 40th anniversary of the death of Albert Luthuli
year we are also commemorating the 40th anniversary of the death of South Africa's
First Nobel Peace Laureate and President of the African National Congress (ANC),
Dr Albert Luthuli.
In his Nobel Prize Acceptance speech, he ( Chief Luthuli)
spoke about the goal of a united Africa "in which the standards of life and
liberty are constantly expanding" and "in which the dignity of man is
rescued from beneath the heels of colonialism which have trampled it." He
called for Africa to free itself from past woes and tribulations; and "to
see herself as an emerging continent" whose fight is for "noble values
and worthy ends" and "not for land and enslavement of man".
are here to attest and celebrate the leadership of the torchbearers that gave
birth to this historic moment;
Of course in Africa, we celebrate the lives
of many leaders who through their vision formed the OAU.
that solidarity and unity were crucial for strengthening the struggle for independence
especially the countries of the South like Zimbabwe, Namibia, Mozambique, Angola
and South Africa and for the fight against underdevelopment and hence the birth
of the OAU including those here in London who formed the Anti - Apartheid Movement
probably the largest global solidarity movement the world has seen founded here
in London by Archbishop Trevor Huddleston spread all over the world and all peace
- loving people.
It was therefore not surprising that the first country
to impose sanctions against Apartheid South Africa was Jamaica because they had
accepted that the African and the African Diaspora needed to act in unison and
in solidarity for the freedom of Africans wherever they are.
After the liberation
of South Africa, President Nelson Mandela said the following in his address to
the OAU "The titanic effort that has brought liberation to South Africa,
and ensured the total liberation of Africa constitutes an act of redemption for
the black people of the world. It is a gift of emancipation also to those who,
because they were white, imposed on themselves the heavy burden of assuming the
mantle of rulers of all humanity. It says to all who will listen and understand
that, by ending the apartheid barbarity that was the offspring of European colonisation,
Africa has, once more, contributed to the advance of human civilisation and further
expanded the frontiers of liberty everywhere.
Of course the Africans in
the continent and in the Diaspora were strengthened by the tireless efforts by
persons like Michael Manley, Sir John Compton, lots of personalities and many
ordinary people in the Caribbean and the Diaspora.
Finally at this meeting
in Tunis, President Nelson Mandela stated that " We shall remove from our
agenda the consideration of the question of Apartheid South Africa"
South Africa appears on the agenda again, let it be because we want to discuss
what its contribution shall be to the making of the new African Renaissance. Let
it be because we want to discuss what materials it will supply for the rebuilding
of the African city, Cartage"
Of course, I would like us to go back
to what President Thabo Mbeki delivered in his speech "The Historical Injustice"said
in 1978 in Ottawa, Canada "Modern political science recognises the fact that
social systems are founded on definite historical origins. If the saying "out
of nothing comes" is true, then it must follow that the future is formed
and derives its first impulse in the womb of the present. All societies therefore
necessarily bear the imprint, the birth-marks of their own past and whether to
a greater or lesser extent must depend on a whole constellation of factors both
internal and external to each particular society.
"Those of us, who
claim to be revolutionaries, must resist all attempts to persuade us that our
future lies in the hands of an ungovernable fate. For the imperative of our epoch
has charged us with the task of transforming ourselves from the status of objects
of history to that of masters of history."
I am quoting all these people
to say that what we are doing today has its first impulse in history.
African leadership having arrived at the conclusion that the OAU was no longer
adequate to deal with the challenges of today, in the year 2002, requested South
Africa to host the launch of the African Union. After the it's launch, the continental
body decided to recognise the Diaspora as the sixth Region of the African Union.
a number of Conferences of Africa and the Diaspora intellectuals took place in
Trinidad, Senegal, Brazil etc.
These gatherings were an effort to consolidate
what was started by the Africans in the Diaspora in 1900. Putting the signposts
of the journey ahead that we are collectively undertaking to take in our hands,
understanding that our future is bound together.
South Africa in 2005 had
a meeting in Jamaica primarily to express our appreciation, support and to celebrate
our 10th anniversary with the Caribbean.
AU in 2006 decided that South Africa should host the first Summit of Africa and
the African Diaspora. This was accepted with humility recalling the sentiment
expressed by President Mandela that when South Africa appears on the Agenda it
should be to discuss what South Africa's contribution should be to the rebirth
of the continent.
Challenges of the 21st century
having declared the 21st century, as the African century, it is clear that we
have to mobilize all people on the continent and the Diaspora because we have
to wage a titanic battle. a titanic battle of ideas, battle against poverty and
underdevelopment ,a battle for the emancipation of women and empowerment of our
It has to be a battle for ending the marginalization of lots of Africans
in the Diaspora.
It has to be a titanic battle to reclaim our cultural heritage.
The fact that it is easier to buy CD's of an African artist in Europe and America
than in Africa must come to an end.
The implementation of the programme
of action of the World Conference Against Racism will need to marshal all our
forces in Africa and in the Diaspora. The question of reparations which should
be measures aimed at reversing the devastating consequences of racism and slavery
in history must necessarily extend beyond the narrow understanding of reparations
as individual financial compensation of victims.
"There is no doubt
that slavery and apartheid were crimes against humanity. The nature of the damage
caused by slavery and colonialism is complex and manifold: it involves the wholesale
destruction of peoples and groups, the erosion and in some cases theft of social,
economic and human capital and the destruction of the social fabric of entire
people", (WCAR Document 2001)
A further challenge for us is the closure
of the digital divide. Africa and the Diaspora has to come together to share their
scientific advances from biotechnology, nanotechnology to space technology for
Mobilization of the great battle against HIV and Aids and
other infectious diseases. The battle for the development of Africa and the Diaspora
has to be seen to be as inclusive as possible.
scourge of human trafficking should more accurately be described as a modern form
The term human trafficking obscures the evil practice that involves
the buying and selling of human beings in order to exploit them economically,
and force them into domestic and sexual servitude. We also have to address the
continued skills drain of Africa's best talent to the West is a new and insidious
form of an old practice - the practice of taking the skills of the best from Africa
for the advancement of Western economies
conference is part of the preparations in Europe, America, Caribbean and Africa
for the Ministerial and civil society conferences in October 2007 and eventually
the African and African Diaspora Summit in 2008.
Thus, to answer again
the question posed at the beginning, this conference is necessary to revive and
strengthen the spirit of Pan Africanism and to strengthen and profile the African
Diaspora wherever they are.
- To act in unison in order to deal with
the challenges of globalisation.
- To challenge the imbalance of power.
ensure the rebirth of the continent.
Africans against all odds have
always scored victories; they have always turned "life into a playground
of possibilities". The African rebirth will be moral, peaceful and will lead
to a better world.
The Conference will have to focus on an action plan that
will both accelerate socio-economic development and increase our access to markets,
both regionally and internationally.
The people of African descent have
to show the world a new world order where diversity is celebrated and harnessed
as a collective strength rather than a cause for discrimination.
I would like to quote from an unlikely source, a Bahai scholar who wrote: (Baha'u'allah)
"Consider the flowers of a garden, it would be
said that though different in kind, colour, form and shape, yet, inasmuch as they
are refreshed by the waters of one spring, revived by the breath of one wind,
invigorated by the rays of one sun, this diversity increaseth their charm and
addeth unto their beauty.
How unpleasing to the eye if all flowers and
plants, the leaves and blossoms, the fruits, the branches and the trees were all
the same shape and colour. Diversity of hues, form and shape enricheth and adorneth
the garden and heighten the effect thereof".
I do believe that indeed
those who have suffered and who have been undervalued can create a new beautiful
world for all humanity.
Ben Okri, in his book, "Way of Being Free",
writes, " They tell me that nature is the survival of the fittest. And yet
look at how wondrous gold and yellow fishes prosper amongst silent stones of the
ocean beds, while sharks continuously prowl the waters in their impossible dreams
of oceanic domination and while whales become extinct
how many butterflies
and iguanas thrive, while elephants turn into endangered species, and while even
the lions growl in their dwindling solitude.
"There is 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 under valued 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".
I wish to conclude by stating that "At heaven's Gate when we meet the mysterious
person we shall not pour out a veritable lament of excuses but be able to show
that life was a playground of possibilities, a laboratory of intelligence and
freedom and that living was a space of secular miracles, where amazing things
were done in consciousness and in history"
I thank you.
by the Department of Foreign Affairs
C/O South African High Commission in London
For more information, contact Ronnie Mamoepa on +27829904853
or Nomfanelo Kota at +27824593787 or firstname.lastname@example.org