Address by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of South Africa, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma at the Belarusian State University on receiving an Honorary Professorship, Minsk, 6 July 2007

Chancellor of the Belarusian State University, Prof. Vasily Ivanovich Strazhev
Vice-Rector in Natural Sciences, Prof. Viktor Vasilyevich Samokhval
Vice-Rector in Humanities, Prof. Vladimir Leonidovich Klyunya
Vice-Rector in Social Affairs, Prof. Vladimir Vasilyevich Suvorov
Head of the International Relations Service, Mr Vladimir Yuryevich Tikhonov
All Principal Officers of the University
Distinguished Guests
Students
Excellencies
Ladies and Gentlemen:

Introduction

I thank you for the honour that you have bestowed upon me as an honorary professor of the Belarusian State University of and the privilege you have given me to address this special gathering.

Universities occupy a very special place in society. They sharpen the enquiring mind and perfect the analytical skills. They are arenas for the production and contestation of ideas.
A great African writer, Ben Okri in his book Astonishing the Gods tells us that universities are "places for self-perfection, places for the highest education in life". He says that the purpose of a university is "to discover the hidden unifying laws of all things, to deepen the spirit, to make profound the sensitivities of the individual to the universe and to become more creative."

I accept this honorary professorship with honour and humility. On behalf of the African women whose toil in the fields may be the only hope for the survival of their children. The women who with bundles of wood on their heads, buckets of water on their sides and babies on their backs can be mistaken for beasts of burden. They do so for the love of their children, their communities and their continent. They do this conscious of their responsibility for the survival of the human race.

To be so honoured by a university that has opened its resources and facilities to the benefit of Africa and the world is an even greater honour. I am indeed proud to be an honorary professor of this great institution that collaborates with more than a hundred similar institutions all over the world and where many of our African leaders, including South Africans in our liberation movement, were given the opportunity to study to help to build a better Africa in a better world.


As you are well aware, in South Africa apartheid was a system specifically designed to oppress and dispossess the majority. It produced gross inequalities in all aspects of life and education was specially designed to perpetuate servitude. As stated by Pixley ka Seme at the founding conference of the African National Congress (then the South African Native National Congress) "… in the land of their birth Africans are treated as hewers of wood and drawers of water". The education prepared the majority of Africans to be able to take simple commands from their masters.

The new democratic government had to transform the entire education system to ensure basic education for all. The biggest challenge is to deal with that legacy of apartheid whilst at the same time trying to grow a diverse economy based on information, knowledge and innovation. We need to ensure that we have a highly educated population with high-level skills who can meet the needs of industry and the new information economy.

In order to embark on a path of sustainable economic growth in terms of which we can effectively close the gap between the first and second economies inherent in our society, combat poverty and ensure effective service delivery, we recently have launched social and economic initiatives to address these challenges, namely the Accelerated and Shared Growth Initiative (Asgi-SA) and the Joint Initiative for Priority Skills Acquisition (JIPSA). They will also contribute to the development of our industrial base as well as value-addition in the manufacturing sector and the growth of our markets. Skills development is a critical element in these processes.

We believe that we can learn a great deal from Belarus with its high education and literacy levels, the strong focus on science and technology and the sound industrial base. We are particularly interested in the work of highly ranked institutions such as the National Academy of Science and others. Respected for its innovative work in broadening the science and technological base of Belarus. We trust that in the context of our growing and constructive relations we can expand our co-operation with these reputable institutions in the field of technological and skills training.

Speaking two years ago at a university gathering, President Thabo Mbeki pointed to the need for us:
"to find ways in which together as institutions of higher education, government and the rest of society, we will improve our collaboration."
He also spoke of the challenges facing African universities in particular and the need to find ways of strengthening links between university programmes and those of the African Union and its development programmes, particularly the New Partnership for African's Development (NEPAD), our African social and economic recovery and renewal programme.

Perhaps of great importance to the gathering here today is the emphasis President Mbeki placed in the role of higher education; and I quote:
"Two of the key activities of higher education, namely research and teaching, in all their forms and functions, are perhaps the most powerful vehicles that we can and should use to deepen democracy. Research, in particular, engenders the values of inquiry, critical thinking, creativity and open-mindedness, which are fundamental to building a strong democratic ethos in society.

We need research and a curriculum that can contribute to the advancement of all forms of knowledge and scholarship. In particular these must address the diverse challenges and demands of the local, national, regional and African contexts, while simultaneously upholding rigorous standards of academic quality."

In this context, I recall vividly the encouraging message His Excellency President Alexander Lukashenko sent when he congratulated President Mbeki in person and the leaders and peoples of all African countries four years ago on the occasion of Africa Day. He said that the Belarus Republic is willing to participate in implementing the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) "through mutually advantageous co-operation in economic projects, scientific developments and training of specialists."

It is evident from the above that our two countries, recognise that the development of society can only come about through the active enhancement of education, the advancement of knowledge, the training of specialists and the practical realisation of economic co-operation. We believe that our friendship and partnership with the Republic of Belarus and with this university in particular, have the potential to contribute towards the realisation of an African renaissance and that together through our collaboration we can instil in our youth the need to be progressive agents of change. Education indeed, has the capacity to contribute to the greater good of humankind.

SA-Africa relations

We would like to share with you our vision of an African continent that is united and prosperous and the steps that we are taking for the social and economic development of Africa.

South Africa is home to the oldest liberation movement on the African continent. Established in 1910, the African National Congress (then the South African Native National Congress), was established by people who believed not only in the liberation of South Africa but in the self-determination of the entire African continent.

Indeed, inspired by Pan-Africanism, statements by giants of the oldest liberation movement in Africa, the African National Congress, such as John Dube, Sol Plaatjie, Pixley ka Seme, Albert Luthuli, ZK Matthews and by Oliver Tambo consistently over the decades reflected our leaderships' commitment to the regeneration of Africa and Africa unity.

The success of the independence movement in Africa in the late 1950s and 1960s naturally led to the formation of the Organisation for African Unity (the OAU) that had as its objective the decolonization and unification of Africa. Great African leaders such as Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana recognized that the development of African economies depended on unity.

Unfortunately, this was not to be the case in his lifetime, as the conditions had not been realized for such a Union to be possible. In our view, it would require more work through various programmes of regional cooperation and integration and through the establishment of appropriate pan African institutions.

We arrived in Minsk straight from Accra, Ghana where the Heads of state and Government of the AU dealt with the "Grand Debate on the Union Government".

In the words of our President immediately after the AU deliberations, at the University of Cape Coast in Ghana: "From the discussions it is clear that the political leadership of our continent is of the view that the future of all our peoples and individual countries lies in the socio-political and economic integration of Africa. This is because it would be difficult for one or a set of African countries to achieve higher rates of sustainable development while the majority are still defined by poverty and underdevelopment. Therefore, the political and economic integration of Africa has to happen not merely because we share the same history, populate common geographic space and exhibit identical physiological features-important as these are - but because our destinies are intrinsically bound together".

What President Mbeki implied, was that with the liberation of South Africa and the holding of the country's first democratic elections in 1994 as part of a second wave of democracy across the African continent and as the last country, except Western Sahara, to gain its liberation. South Africa is committed to a renewed effort to work towards African unity.

Our own experience has taught us the value of dialogue and problem-solving through negotiation. Our approach to African affairs and international relations are premised on the belief that there should and can be peaceful solutions of the world's problems. We embrace multilateralism in principle and in action.

The promotion of peace and security was identified as fundamental for sustained development. We believe that there is a fundamental inter-connectedness between security, stability, human rights and sustained development - each element can help to reinforce each other.

South Africa's foreign policy is therefore driven by an African agenda of social and economic development. A key focus became the need to strengthen the capacity of African institutions to meet the developmental needs.

Clearly the OAU, as it was constituted, was no longer able to meet the needs of the present and to fully address the challenges of economic and political integration and the eradication of poverty and underdevelopment. Thus the formation of the African Union, which was launched on South African soil in 2002, was an important step in the direction of this unity.

The strengthening of Regional Economic Communities has been identified as pivotal to expedite unity, to promote regional security and stability, to work towards free trade and the harmonization of policies. In this regard, South Africa has played its part in the strengthening of the Southern African Development Community.

At the same time the building of the African Union has meant a concerted effort towards building its commission and technical committees as well as various organs. One of the most important organs of the AU is the Pan African Parliament. It is playing an advisory and consultative role for the first five years after which it maybe given legislative powers. We are honoured to host the Pan African Parliament. The Economic, Social and Cultural Council is also already in existence.

The African Union has established its Peace and Security Council so as to be able to react fast to conflicts whilst waiting for the UN whose reaction is very slow. Preparations are afoot to establish a Standby Force for peacekeeping. Each of the five Africa regions has to prepare a brigade. This can then be used as a rapid reaction force. A Human Rights Commission and a Human Rights Court have also been established.

Because our destinies are initially bound together we have taken a view that all African countries have an obligation to create a continent that is stable, secure and peaceful, well governed and prosperous. A continent that is democratic and respects human rights.

It is for that reason that South Africa has spared no effort acting within the multilateral framework in contributing towards peace in the DRC, Burundi, Comoros, Sudan, Cote d'Ivoire, Liberia, etc.

Even now our President on behalf of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) is facilitating a process in Zimbabwe in order to assist the Zimbabweans themselves to find a solution to both their political and economic problems.

We have contributed troops to various peace missions on the continent.

South Africa and the continent have recognized the centrality of the role of women and acknowledges that for the continent to develop to its full potential, women need to be fully integrated. The position of women is crucial because they are often the backbone of the family, agriculture and African economies. If women are marginalized, Africa will never reach its full potential. We are therefore extremely proud that the African Union has led the African continent in its adoption of gender parity, so that commissioners are 50% women. Development initiatives can only succeed with the full participation of women and taking leadership in such projects. The role of women must include not only political representation, but also work in peace-building and conflict resolution as well as post conflict reconstruction

Although Africa is making progress on all fronts, many African countries still face the critical challenge of raising the rate of GDP growth and sustaining high growth rates over an extended period in order to accelerate progress towards meeting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Recognising the crucial need of sustainable development Africa has established the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD), which identifies some priorities for the continent in order to deal with poverty and underdevelopment.

The key priority action areas are:

  • Operationalising the African Peer Review Mechanism;
  • Facilitating and supporting implementation of the short-term regional infrastructure programmes covering transport, energy, ICT, water and sanitation;
  • Facilitating implementation of the food security and agricultural development programmes in all sub-regions;
  • Facilitating the preparation of a coordinated African position on Market Access, debt relief and ODA reforms and
  • Monitoring and intervening as appropriate to ensure that the MDGs in the areas of health and education are met.

NEPAD enables us, as Africans, to take possession of our own future and pursue domestic reforms aimed at maximising our benefits. This has been a significant development in the fight against poverty and underdevelopment. The challenge remains for the full implementation of NEPAD projects and programmes.

In 2000, a study by the World Bank Group with contributions from the African Development Bank, the African Economic Research Consortium, the Global Coalition for Africa in Washington and the ECA, concluded that "despite gains in the second half of the 1990s, Sub-Saharan Africa enters the 21st century with many of the world's poorest countries".

The "Commission for Africa Report" confirmed the above analysis on the extent of poverty in our continent. Now, the 2007 UN Economic Commission of Africa Report tells us growth in Africa has increased but it is still not enough.

We have also learned from this report that African economies continue to sustain the growth momentum of previous years, recording an overall real GDP growth rate of 5.7% in 2006 compared to 5.3% in 2005 and 5.2% in 2004.

As many as 28 countries recorded improvements in growth in 2006, relative to 2005. Africa's growth performance in 2006, as in previous years, was underpinned by improvement in macroeconomic management in many countries, and strong global demand for key African export commodities, sustaining high export prices, especially for crude oil, metals and minerals.

This is a welcome development. However, Africans need to develop their own capacity for manufacturing and beneficiation, rather than merely exporting raw materials. Hence, we also need to put in place the necessary infrastructure for the growth of modern economies. As a continent, Africa has begun to mobilise its own resources for development and to harness its domestic investment as well as partnerships.

In this regard, a welcome development has been the formation of the Pan-African Infrastructure Development Fund last week during the African Union Summit in Accra, Ghana. South Africa has played an important role in this initiative and President Mbeki together with President John Kufuor of Ghana co-hosted the launch ceremony.

The Fund has been established to invest in infrastructure across the continent so as to provide a backbone for growth and the economic development of the entire continent. This is a commercial fund capitalised by equity investments of several continental investors, both private and public. It will fund infrastructural projects i.e in roads, rail, airports, ports, energy, water, sanitation and ICT. The Fund attests to the fact that Africans have taken their destiny into their own hands. The continental nature of the initiative shows Africa's commitment to and belief in African-driven initiatives, as well as the viability of the continent.

There is now also increasing attention on Africans in the Diaspora to return to the African continent to contribute constructively to its upliftment and also to fund much needed skills development on the continent.

As alluded to earlier, according to the 2007 UN Economic Commission of Africa Report, "progress towards the MDGs remains below expectations in Africa." Compared to other regions, Africa, however continues to lag behind in all indicators of social development. Measures of poverty have remained virtually unchanged over the past decades.

Given these serious challenges facing Africa, we believe that it is critical to increase investment in education to match the expansion in demand so that gains in enrolments are not achieved at the expense of quality of education. More efforts are also needed to accelerate progress in gender equity in access to education.

Two main challenges facing Africa today are:

  • Firstly, there is an urgent need to put in place an environment that will promote public-private sector partnership in investment (domestic and foreign) activity. This will make us achieve high quality economic growth and create employment opportunities for poverty reduction. I believe that this challenge is in line with the requirements of the United Nations Millennium Declaration.
  • Secondly, Africa must become a full and competitive participant in world affairs, including trade and investment. For this to happen, it must create conditions to increase its power in international decision-making bodies and increase its share of foreign direct investment.

The promotion of the African Agenda will indeed therefore remain South Africa's overriding and most compelling foreign policy priority.

Allow me to make a few remarks on South Africa's role in the global community. South Africa believes in taking a multilateral approach to global challenges. We therefore endeavour to strengthen ties with countries especially of the global South for the purposes of trade and investment but also to deepen political links and to share best practices. In this regard, we have been active in the trilateral forum of India-Brazil-South Africa (IBSA). We have also been party to the Africa-South America Summit that took place last year in Nigeria. We have been active in the Asia-African Strategic partnership and are strengthening our relations with China in a bilateral and continental context.

As regards global governance, South Africa believes that the structures of global governance should be made more democratic, representative and legitimate by increasing the participation of developing countries in multilateral institutions such as the UNSC and the Bretton Woods institutions. Special focus should be placed on the reform of the UNSC and the international financial architecture, to make it more responsive to the needs and the interests of developing countries.

South Africa has now finished six months in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). South Africa has based its foreign policy on fundamental principles and consistency and will therefore continue to defend our principled and predictable positions especially in ensuring that the UN charter is scrupulously upheld and that the UNSC only deals with issues that are in its mandate.

South Africa and Belarus are both keen members of the Non- Aligned Movement (NAM). We share your vision towards the reinvigoration of NAM and we believe that together we can champion the importance of the diversity of voices reflected in NAM, being seen as a strength that can help to achieve sustainable development in the world today, in the face of those who wish to promote unilateralism.

Our partnerships with the developing North and in the WTO are not meeting our needs as seen in the Doha Round which fails to meet the development needs of the world's developing nations, inter alia as regards the critical issue of market access and subsidies.

South Africa wishes to reaffirm its support for the Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and our advocacy of a world free of nuclear arms. Belarus and South Africa therefore share similar concerns on the Board of the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) and we also welcome the constructive contribution that Belarus has made as party to the NPT and the Nuclear Suppliers Group.

We also welcome your groundbreaking work in improving controls over illicit trafficking in small arms and light weapons in particular. We also value your endeavours against human trafficking.

South Africa/Belarus Relations

On behalf of the government and people of South Africa, I would also like to express our appreciation to the Government and people of Belarus for our special relationship, founded on a solid foundation, laid during the era of the USSR and the liberation struggle in South Africa.

Belarus and South Africa, having suffered the devastation of war and the dehumanising apartheid oppression respectively, share a strong commitment to building a better life for all in our countries and regions and thus contribute to a better world.

In addition to our good political ties and dialogue, we should continue to strive to strengthen our economic ties to its full potential. Key to this is the increasing exchange of business delegations, getting to know each others markets and to explore joint projects in the field of science and technology. The economies of both our countries are showing significant growth which creates attractive opportunities for trade and investment for our respective private sectors.

We should also explore increasing practical co-operation in the fields of education, skills development, cultural exchanges and military technological co-operation.

It is against this background that Minister Martynov and I agreed yesterday that the launch of ITEC, during my visit, augurs well for the consolidation and active expansion of our economic ties in a structured and a focused manner.

Conclusion

I would like to thank you again for associating me with this great university.
And I pledge to impart my knowledge and experiences with you in keeping with the trust and confidence that you have vested in me.

I thank you.

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