Address by Minister Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma on the First International Day of Non-Violence UN Headquarters, New York, 2 October 2007

Your Excellency, Ban ki-Moon, Secretary-General of the UN
Your Excellency Dr. Rose Asha Migiro, Deputy Secretary General of the UN
Your Excellency, Sonia Gandhi, Leader of the Indian National Congress
Your Excellencies Ambassadors and Permanent Representatives to the UN
Distinguished Guests

Ladies and Gentlemen

It is with great honor and humility that South Africa is participating in this solemn occasion marking the First International Day of Non-violence. We are proud to claim Mahatma Gandhi as our own because it is in our country where he developed and fashioned Satyagraha as a tool of liberation.

A cruel and despicable act of racism in 1893–in which a young barrister was thrown off a train from Pietermaritzburg, simply because of the colour of his skin, produced the Mahatma Gandhi that the entire world today claim as theirs. Indeed as history teaches us heroes are not born but are products of their own conditions.

His philosophy of non-violence characterized many of the struggles waged by our people against the system of apartheid. Consequently, for many years our people resorted to the non-violent forms of opposition to apartheid as a weapon of struggle.

As late Oliver Tambo, President of the ANC noted “The story of this dignified, disciplined and peaceful campaign of Satyagraha is well known. It won many friends for the African cause in South Africa and abroad and served to focus the attention of influential sectors of world opinion on the South African political scene”.

Returning to the country of his birthplace, India, Gandhi continued to use the philosophy of non-violence. As he himself noted “I wanted to acquaint India with the method I tried in South Africa and I desired to test in India to the extent to which its application might be possible”

He continued to be an inspiration among the people of our country long after his departure. He was aptly described by Nelson Mandela as a “sacred warrior whose philosophy contributed in no small measure to bringing about the peaceful transformation in South Africa and in healing the destructive human divisions that has been spawned by the abhorrent practice of apartheid”

Faced with current global challenges we must necessarily pause and ask the question, what is the relevance of Gandhi’s philosophy in addressing current challenges facing humanity today?

We want to assert that Gandhi’s philosophy is as relevant today in addressing current challenges facing humanity today including poverty and under-development, as it was yesterday. We therefore agree with Louis Skweyiya an SA Constitutional Court, Judge that Gandhi is a “universal man, timeless in impact, as relevant today, as he was yesterday, as he will be tomorrow”.

Accordingly, Mahatma Gandhi, would have encouraged all of us to resolve all conflicts through peaceful and non-violent means as has been proven that violence simply leads to counter violence. Gandhi to whom we owe our presence here today, would have warned against the resort to attacks on unarmed and defenceless civilian populations including women and children to advance whatever political objectives.

In paying tribute to Gandhi today, we thus communicate the unequivocal message that unless nations of the world, communities and indeed the UN family claim Satyagraha as their own, peace will most certainly continue to elude us with dire consequences for all humanity.

Addressing current challenges of poverty and under-development most likely Gandhi would certainly have lamented the fact that the most poor nations of the world will not be able to attain the targets set during the Millennium Summit of 2000 to among others half poverty by 2015 but would have wanted to use the abundant resources that exist in the world to attain the MDG’s and empower the poor

Gandhi, we would want to believe, would have echoed President Mbeki’s view, that “although the concepts of freedom, justice and equality are globally accepted and fully embraced by the UN, this global organization has not itself transformed and designed the necessary institutions of governance consistent with the noble ideas that drive modern democratic societies”.

Accordingly, all of us should not be satisfied with a UN system that reflects mainly the will of powerful nations of the world and like Martin Luther King Jnr declare “we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream”

Let me conclude by going back to the Declaration of International Conference on Peace, Non-violence and Empowerment 2007 in New Delhi “to pursue Truth, to privilege peace and reject violence in all our activities, to respect diverse viewpoints, and to practice the philosophy of Non-violence to win over the forces of violence and injustice through tolerance, empathy and love.”

I thank You

Issued by Ronnie Mamoepa on 082 990 4853

Department of Foreign Affairs
Private Bag X152

2 October 2007

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