Welcoming Remarks by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of South Africa, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma at the African Union-African Diaspora Ministerial Conference, Gallagher Estate, South Africa, 16 November 2007
Honourable Chairperson, His Excellency Mr Kofi Osei-Ameyaw
President of the Republic of South Africa, Mr Thabo Mbeki
Honourable AU Commission Chairperson, Professor Oumar Konare
Honourable Foreign Ministers from Different Countries
Renowned Caribbean Pan-Africanist, Ambassador Dudley Thompson
CARICOM Assistant Secretary General, Ambassador Colin Granderson
South African Minister of Education, Ms Naledi Pandor
Goodwill Ambassador for Africa, Ms Miriam Makeba
Colleagues from the AU, the Caribbean and Latin America
Fellow Cabinet and Government Colleagues
Ladies and Gentlemen:
It gives me great pleasure to warmly welcome you all to South Africa.
We have been pleased that so many people were willing to travel so far to be here at the southernmost tip of this incredible continent!
We are deeply honoured to have in our presence a dedicated and a long-standing member of the Pan Africanist Movement and renowned Caribbean Pan-Africanist, Ambassador Dudley Thompson. Your presence here will indeed inspire us to take Pan Africanism to greater heights!
It is indeed humbling to host such an historic and distinguished gathering of the African family from various corners of the globe. A special welcome to those who have come from outside the African continent.
And of course no-one is a stranger here and this is really a homecoming since Africa occupies pride of place as the landmass where all humanity has had its origins and from where our ancestors in successive waves moved to different places and different times
This part of South Africa is also home to the Cradle of Humankind, the Sterkfontein caves, where some of the earliest hominids have been found that remain as a record of humanity’s presence on Earth.
South Africa is also home to some of the earliest rock formations that are found in Barberton not far from here.
South Africa is also home to some of the most interesting rock paintings produced by the San peoples in the caves of the Drakensberg Mountains – this is evidence of the early artworks of humankind.
South Africa’s diverse landscape is also home to a variety of wildlife and unique plants and flowers especially along the coastlands – and these are not found anywhere else in the world. Even in the coastal desert of Namaqualand, there are to be found an array of plants and species which makes it among the richest deserts on earth. Here the plants and animals live in symbiotic relations that have helped them to adapt to the extreme environment and to develop their own survival strategies
But even as we acknowledge that this is a country of breathtaking landscapes where two oceans meet and many people and cultures have mingled and coalesced, it is also a country where our people have had to overcome great injustice.
It is a country where new monuments are being built in honour of our fallen heroes and where place names for the first time are beginning to reflect histories that the apartheid government had spent decades trying to destroy.
Apartheid and segregation indeed brought about the widespread impoverishment of black people who were deprived of land, education, rights, justice – and transformation has meant that every aspect of our people’s lives has to be looked at – to bring about democracy in all spheres and deracialisation of the economy; to create a single and equal education system, to address the massive backlog in housing, education and health infrastructure as well as access to clean water and sanitation.
Certainly we are making progress, but there is a great deal that we still need to do to bring about greater access to all our people for a better quality of life.
This is a country of great challenges but also of immense possibilities. Our struggle and victory have placed a special responsibility on all of us.
I certainly hope all delegates will spend some time experiencing our country in all its splendour!
South Africa - in its twin quest of renewal and in contributing to a new world - has accepted the honour to host the African-Caribbean Diaspora engagements and dialogue as part of our contribution to continental freedom and development, but also for the freedom and development of Africans and people of African descent all over the world.
This Ministerial meeting is part of the fulfilment of the mandate given to us by the AU at its Summit in January 2006. We want to express our profound gratitude to the AU Commission for its guidance throughout this consultative process, and especially to Chairperson Professor Konare for his astute leadership.
Today let us pay particular tribute to the millions of African people abducted and enslaved and to those who sacrificed their lives in fighting for national liberation in Africa and in the Diaspora.
We also recognise that it has been Pan Africanist thinking that has guided us and that in our present age has found practical expression in this particular initiative of the African Union (AU).
In our present day and age, it is also the scourge of contemporary racism and the deliberate marginalisation of African people and people of African descent that brings us together. Among our tasks must be to help to ensure that the outcomes of the World Conference Against Racism (WCAR)of 2001 be fully implemented on a world scale.
The onus is on this Conference to come up with concrete and implementable programmes and mechanisms on how Africa and its Diaspora, collectively and individually, can help to address this and other collective tasks.
Let us also take full cognisance that our work here over the next three days is in preparation for the Global Summit of 2008.
In conclusion, let us bear in mind that the quest for a new Africa and a new world is as much about identity and culture as it is about history, politics and economics. A sustainable social and economic future can only be the product of people who are proud of who they are, who recognise their cultural ties and assert themselves with confidence in the world.
Our meeting here is thus also an act of affirmation and a shared consciousness that we are part of a collective project to build on this cultural definition arising out of a shared heritage and to assert an identity that seeks to further liberate us in the present and in the future.
Most importantly, let us pay attention to our youth – because our efforts here today are aimed also at future generations – the youth of our countries who own the future and yet who now need to know the commonalities we share, the areas of co-operation we envisage and the cultural identity that comes from our overlapping histories, collective struggles and sharing birthmarks that come from our Mother Africa.
I am reminded of the words of Frantz Fanon in a letter he wrote to the youth. He mourned that as colonised people we had been stopped in our tracks - and I quote:
“Every urge towards an expression of our nation that is in conformity with its history, faithful to its tradition, and linked to the very sap of its soil finds itself limited, stopped, broken.”
Now as a free continent and as African people of the free world, let us ensure that indeed this engagement with ourselves, this dialogue about Africa and Africans of the Diaspora ought to be part of a collective expression of our solidarity that is indeed in conformity with our history, faithful to our tradition – and of course – linked to the very sap of our soil – the African motherland – and every other related space that Africans have claimed as their own or marked with their presence over centuries.
Let us plant new seeds even as we replenish old roots - for our children and the generations to come!
I thank you.