Keynote Address by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of South Africa, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma at the Pan-African Parliament (PAP) Design Competition Awards Ceremony and Gala Dinner, Cape Town 09 November 2007

Programme Director, Ambassador Rantobeng Mokou
Honourable Minister of Public Works, Ms Thoko Didiza
Honourable Chairperson of the Jury, Mr Femi Majekodunmi
Honourable Commissioner of the African Union, Ms Julia Dolly Joiner
Members of the PAP Design Competition Jury
Members of the African Union of Architects
Members of the South African Institute of Architects
Members of the Inter-Ministerial Committee
Members of the Steering Committee
Members of the Working Committee
Honoured and Distinguished Guests
Ladies and Gentlemen:

Today we are celebrating a truly wonderful day in the life of the Pan African Parliament – and that is of course the announcement of the winning design for the new home of the Parliament. This is indeed an occasion of celebration, another milestone in the journey towards African unity as we – quite literally – begin to plan and lay the foundation stone for the Pan African Parliament of the future.

A great son of Africa, iNkosi Albert Luthuli, Nobel Laureate - a President of the African National Congress and an internationalist, passed away more than 40 years ago this week. Today I am reminded of his words in his Nobel Lecture in 1964, when he made the following observations:

“…let me invite Africa to cast her eyes beyond the past and to some extent the present with their woes and tribulations, trials and failures, and some successes, and see herself as an emerging continent, bursting to freedom… This is Africa’s age – the dawn of her fulfilment, yes the moment she must grapple with destiny to reach the summits of sublimity…”

“To us all, free or not free, the call of the hour is to redeem the name and honour of Mother Africa. In a strife-torn world, tottering on the brink of complete destruction by man-made weapons, a free and independent Africa is in the making, in answer to the injunction and challenge of history “Arise and shine for thy light is come.”

This was more than 40 years ago and since then we have indeed cast our eyes beyond the past and have begun to imagine a better future. We have all been seized in the making of this “free and independent Africa”. We, who have fought for this freedom, are only now beginning to experience the results of our collective labour.

As Africans, especially for those of us here in the south, our freedom was part of the second wave of democracy to sweep the African continent since the 1990s. With the end of apartheid came the possibility of a new beginning. The African continent was given another lease on life. More so than ever before, we are now able to ensure that this is Africa’s age, and that we have it within our grasp to bring about the economic, social and cultural development of all African people.

With the formation of the African Union and the establishment of its various organs, the conditions are being realised on the ground for Africans to prosper, for the attainment of permanent African peace and for a flowering of society and culture. In addition, the African leadership has embraced NEPAD as the social and economic initiative of the continent. With the alignment of African leadership, the institutional support of the Continental body – the African Union - and underpinned by the work of the Regional Economic Communities, as Africans we are better placed than ever before to arrive at a common destination.

The African Union already has a number of organs in place - the African Union Commission, the Assembly of the African Union, the African Court of Justice, the Peace and Security Council, the Economic, Social and Cultural Council and the African Court on Human and People’s Rights, the Executive Council, as well as the Specialised Technical Committees and the Permanent Representatives’ Committee. Our task now is to consolidate and strengthen the work of these organs and committees.

Through a co-ordinated African approach, we have been able to make connections and to understand and harness the interconnections between peace, security and development – which former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan sees as the building blocks or the pillars that can help us to achieve a larger and greater freedom.

It is in this context that the building that will house the Pan-African Parliament should be seen as a monument to democracy and freedom, a beacon to dialogue and the sharing of ideas and expertise to make Africa a better place for all who live in it.

Democracy has brought about freedom, good governance, peace, security and stability in many of our countries. Now, we are ushering in another wave of democracy through the building of institutions that will protect the gains that we have made during our struggle for freedom and liberation.

These institutions will ensure that we fulfil our mandate of furthering the aims of economic prosperity and social cohesion in our own communities. It is within this context that the African Union under its visionary and committed leadership is making progress in creating a united, prosperous and peaceful continent and we have taken significant steps in putting all the building blocks in place to realise our dreams of unity.

The Pan-African Parliament is only three years old – yet it is also as old as the dreams of African unity first dreamt by Sylvester Williams and W.E.B. Du Bois more than a century ago. It is as old as the revolution in Haiti by Toussaint L’Ouverture and his comrades in 1804 who established the first Black Republic of San Domingo. It is as old as the victory at the Battle of Isandlwana in 1879 and the Battle of Adwa in 1896. It is as old as the oldest liberation movements on this continent, as old as the independence of Ghana 50 years ago and as the formation of the OAU.

Yet it is also as young as the new generation of African activists, intellectuals and representatives of their people whose role it is to fulfil the new mission of bringing an end to African poverty and of sustaining development.

It is as young as the Abuja Treaty of 1991 which first conceived the Parliament within the context of entrenching political unity and the Sirte Declaration of 1999 which called for the establishment of the institutions of African unity – including the Pan-African Parliament. It is as young as the dreams of a new and modern Africa eager to play its role on the international stage and eager to build a more people-centred and egalitarian world. It is as young as the evolving identity of a new generation who have given new meaning to common African-centred dreams for liberty, for transformation and for full emancipation.

Let me also remind you of the words of the great statesman and leader, Kwame Nkrumah, who in his book, Africa must unite, maintained that:

“I am convinced that the forces making for unity far outweigh those which divide us. In meeting fellow Africans from all parts of the continent I am constantly impressed by how much we have in common. It is not just our colonial past, or the fact that we have aims in common, it is something which goes far deeper. I can describe it as a sense of one-ness in that we are Africans.”

It is my view that, among others, tonight’s occasion represents an attempt to go “far deeper” and to embrace the shared experience of being African and the recognition that these commonalities are not only political or about our economies, but that it is also about the assertion of African culture and identity.

Amilcar Cabral tells us that:

“Just as happens with the flower in a plant, in culture there lies the capacity (or the responsibility) for forming and fertilizing the seedling which will assure the continuity of history, at the same time assuring the prospects for evolution and progress of the society in question.

The building of a unique structure to house the Pan-African Parliament is about part of that journey of growth - as we build upon our self-definition and set about practical tasks to nurture a reality that reflects and develops on our identity.

It is also a message to the world that Africans no longer accept a second class and marginal status in international affairs. It is a statement that no longer can our past and present be appropriated by others – through architecture and culture we have embarked upon new narratives – new ways and shapes of representing who we are and imagining the future.

Buildings, places and spaces are all - as the late Edward Said, tells us – territories that have been contested terrain. The construction of new kinds of knowledge – about ourselves, about where we want to go – depends upon the character of the place, the structure we create for ourselves. The new building is part of our extension of our freedom.

As the great African writer, Sekou Toure explains:

“To take part in the African revolution it is not enough to write a revolutionary song; you must fashion the revolution with the people. And if you fashion it with the people, the songs will come by themselves, and of themselves.”

The new building of the Pan African Parliament must indeed be a structure of the people and for the people! A design that gives form to our progressive ideas and struggles and helps us to give political revolutionary content to our actions and interventions.

The architectural designs that were received for this competition indicate the depth of artistic talent that the continent has in this field. It has made us realise how architecture is another form of showcasing our cultural identity and instils a sense of pride of being an African.

Our continent is renowned for its rich architectural heritage that to this day continues to contribute to and inspire the development of the architectural profession. Yet despite our positive contribution to the profession of architecture, the potential of this field has not yet been fully realised by our people. I hope that this competition will do more to popularize and encourage our people to consider architecture as a fulfilling career path.

The announcement tonight of the overall winner of the Continent-wide Design Competition is the first step towards building a new image for Africa and a permanent home for the Pan African Parliament that will host parliamentarians from all AU member states.

Conclusion

I hope this competition will further enhance the development of architecture amongst the people of the continent not only as a form of economic empowerment but also as an act of culture and an exercise of freedom of expression.

As work begins to translate the designs from paper into bricks and mortar, new challenges begin. But the search for a design is over.

To the 250 entrants and the 4 runners-up, we say you have come so far, that you too deserve our gratitude and praise.

May the injection of resources which the prizes bring, help the winners build on the foundations they have laid.
May their example strengthen the partnership of government, people and communities towards a better African way of life. Together, we have made a good start. Let us work together to build our countries and the continent of our dreams.
As South Africans privileged with the honour of hosting the Pan-African Parliament, we are hard at work in helping to fulfil all our obligations as host. Of course, preparations are underway for our country to deliver the second phase of its commitment namely that of providing the people of Africa with a permanent state of the art structure to house their Parliament.

I hope the winning team will leave a legacy that will inspire a generation of new architects to continue drawing designs that promote an African culture and society in which all our hopes and dreams can be fulfilled.

I thank you.

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