Address by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma at the Parliamentary Debate on the Unification of Africa, Cape Town, 14 June 2007

"Debate on the Continental Government"

Madame Speaker and Deputy Speaker
Ministers and Deputy Ministers
Honourable Members of Parliament
Representatives of Political Parties
Distinguished Guests
Ladies and Gentlemen:

We would like to take this opportunity to express our gratitude to the Honourable Members for taking this time to engage in this important debate of the Union Government.

The question of unity and solidarity is itself more than a century old. In the spirit of Pan-Africanism there were earlier initiatives by Sylvester Williams, Web Du Bois, Marcus Garvey and many others.

A few weeks ago, during our Budget Vote, we expressed hope that parliament would initiate a debate on economic and political integration of Africa, appropriately dubbed the Grand Debate.

Let me hasten to add that this debate is not new, but what is new is the level of participation by civil society, parliamentarians, and different socio - political formations.

At Ghana's independence fifty years ago, the first President of Ghana, Kwame Nkrumah said: "Our independence is meaningless if it is not linked to the total independence of the African continent."

Madam Speaker

There were various events held from 1958 to generate discussions on forging African Unity these events, together with other important meetings in Brazzaville, Casablanca, Monrovia and Lagos, would culminate in the founding of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) in 1963.

Why was the integration so necessary? Why was the OAU established, besides the decolonisation?

In 1963, in his speech entitled "Africa Unite", Nkrumah pointed out the following, which is still true even today:

He further argued that:

"The forces that unite us are far greater than the difficulties that divide us at present, and our goal must be the establishment of Africa's dignity, progress and Africa. It is for us to grasp what is a golden opportunity to prove that the genius of nationhood by coming together speedily, for the sake of Africa's greater glory and infinite well-being, into a Union of African States."

The "golden opportunity" of which Nkrumah spoke with urgency was not fully realized during his lifetime. "We must act now", he said "Tomorrow may be too late."

It is therefore, obvious that while the collective political will was strong, conditions had not yet been attained for such a Union of African States.

The integration process started in earnest with the formation of the OAU even though it was not through the "Union of African States" that Kwame Nkrumah, Sekou Toure and others had pressed for.

Madam Speaker

Speaking at the OAU Summit in Tunis, in June 1994, the then President Nelson Mandela expressed this position very passionately and stated that:

"Finally, at this meeting in Tunis, we shall remove from our agenda the consideration of the question of apartheid in South Africa.

Where South Africa appears on the agenda again, let it 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 of Carthage.

One epoch with its historic tasks has come to an end. Surely, another must commence with its own challenges. Africa cries out for a new birth, Carthage awaits the restoration of its glory.

If freedom was the crown, which the fighters of liberation sought to place on the head of Mother Africa, let the upliftment, the happiness, prosperity and comfort of her children be the jewel of the crown."

That Africa should unite has never been in question. The question is the model of integration that would help accelerate Africa's economic development and strengthen democratic governance on the continent.

The current leadership of the continent realising that the OAU belonged to the epoch with its historic tasks that had come to an end and that another had to come with its own challenges launched the AU with clear objections including

  • Acceleration of the political and socio-economic integration of the continent;
  • Promotion of peace, security and stability on the continent;
  • romotion of sustainable development at the economic and cultural levels;
  • the integration of Africa's economies;
  • Embracing Gender Equality.

The question therefore is what model of integrating is best suited for the realization of these objectives.

As I mentioned earlier, integration has been a continuous process which has been taken to a higher level through the AU and its institutions, including -

  • The Peace & Security Council, together with a common Defence Policy and the establishment of a Standby Force to deal directly with questions of security, peace and stability, including peace keeping missions.
  • The Pan-African Parliament, the Human Rights Court and a host of other common policies that have been agreed upon are further evidence to this ongoing integration, which is to accelerate Africa's social and economic transformation has and has in turn, identified the following priorities:

    • Eradication of poverty;
    • Placing African countries, both individually and collectively, on a path of sustainable growth and development;
    • Halting the marginalisation of Africa in the globalisation process and enhancing its full integration into the global economy;
    • Accelerating the empowerment of women.

    It is premised on the following priorities -

    - Infrastructure development;
    - enhanced food security;
    - health,
    - education ,
    - energy security,
    - gender parity,
    - ICT
    - Proper management of migration;
    - Human Resource Development.

The question to answer is whether the time has come for a Union Government in order to implement the above, even if it targets a few areas.

Should we do more in rationalizing and strengthening the Regional Economic Communities (REC's) as building blocks?

Should we strengthen the AU Commission's capacity by providing it with both human and financial resources and giving it a stronger mandate?

Should we do more to mobilize financial resources for the implementation of infrastructure, human resource development, agriculture, and so on?

If we agree to form the Union Government, which areas will fall under it?

There are suggestions that we may start with Defence, Foreign Affairs, Trade, Infrastructure, Finance and Agriculture, amongst others.

Others say we should go for a fully fledged Union Government. If we do, there would have to be harmonization of policies in these areas. There would also have to be proper funding of this government. Are the conditions now ripe for the Union of African States? These are some of the questions you have to answer.

Madam Speaker

It would not be desirable for me to pre-empt this important debate, so I have just posed questions and given options to allow the house to have proper deliberations.

The forthcoming Ghana Summit will consider nothing but this question of the Union Government.

Should it be established now? And if yes, then all the attendant questions will need to be considered. And if not, what then needs to be done to accelerate integration?

Other governments across the continent are consulting their respective citizenry on this matter because there is no consensus yet on how to accelerate the integration; hence the Grand Debate.

As we ponder these critical questions, it would be important to reflect on the words of our President, then Deputy President, Thabo Mbeki, at the adoption of the present Constitution of South Africa.

"I am an African

I am born of the peoples of the continent of Africa

The pain of the violent conflict that the peoples of Liberia, Somalia, the Sudan, Burundi and Algeria is an pain I also bear
The dismal shame of poverty, suffering and human degradation of my continent is a blight that we share.

The blight on our happiness that derives from this and from our drift to the periphery of the ordering of human affairs, leaves us in a persistent shadow of despair.

This is a savage road to which nobody should be condemned.

This thing that we have done today, in this small corner of a great continent that has contributed so decisively to the evolution of humanity says that Africa reaffirms that she is continuing her rise from the ashes.

Whatever the setbacks of the moment, nothing can stop us now! Whatever the difficulties, Africa shall be at peace! However improbable it may sound to the sceptics, Africa will prosper!

Whoever we may be, whatever our immediate interest, however much we carry baggage from our past, however much we have been caught by the fashion of cynicism and loss of faith in the capacity of the people, let us err today and say-nothing can stop us now!"

How best can we achieve this peaceful and prosperous Africa?

Thank you for your attention.

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