Address of the President of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki, to the Joint Session of the Parliament of Namibia, Windhoek, Namibia, 30 October 2007

Honourable Presiding Officers of the National Assembly and the National Council
Your Excellency, President Hifikepunye Pohamba
Honourable Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister
Honourable ministers and deputy ministers
Honourable members
Distinguished guests
Ladies and gentlemen
Comrades and friends

Thank you very much for this opportunity and privilege to address the Parliament of the Republic of Namibia. I am honoured to bring you the warm greetings of the government and people of South Africa.

This is a special moment for me and my delegation because we are able, through this address to the public representatives of Namibia, speaking on behalf of the South African people, to thank our brothers and sisters in this country with whom we engaged in a common titanic struggle to defeat the apartheid crime against humanity, which represented itself here in Namibia also as a colonial monster.

As we prosecuted that difficult struggle, both our peoples drew strength from the victories of each of our fighting forces while the setbacks experienced by any echelon of our struggling masses was correctly viewed as a reversal for all of us. Accordingly, the independence of Namibia on 21 March 1990 was an important milestone that ensured that the freedom of the people of South Africa could not be postponed for much longer.

All of us, members of the African National Congress (ANC), led by that outstanding revolutionary, Oliver Tambo, whose 90th birthday we celebrated only three days ago, were greatly inspired to attend the independence celebrations in this city on that historic day in 1990.

The reality that we suffered the same fate in the past, and experienced the same liberation from oppression, has indeed served to cement the ties that bind us to a common destiny.

That common destiny is of an African continent defined by peace, by security, by development and by prosperity; it is of an African continent whose countries, individually and collectively are free from poverty, disease, underdevelopment and conflicts; a continent whose citizens occupy a pride of place among the people of the world, no more marginalised, no more an object of pity; a continent that has reclaimed its pre-eminence as a centre of technological innovation, scientific excellence and cultural advancement; a continent that would ensure that the 21st does indeed become an African century.

These, as the honourable members know, are the logical outcomes of the dream of an African Renaissance and constitute the objectives of an African agenda as enunciated in the Constitutive Act of the African Union and its development programme, the New Partnership for Africa's Development (Nepad).

Honourable Speaker and honourable members,

We live during an important new revolutionary era, whose form and content is different from the previous one. A evolutionary era that was defined by the struggle against imperialism, colonialism and apartheid.

I refer here to a new revolutionary era because when we transformed the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) into the African Union (AU) we also transformed the terms of engagement among ourselves as Africans.

Indeed, we moved from concentrating our resources towards the defeat of colonialism and apartheid to the struggle against poverty and underdevelopment.

As you know, with the exception of Western Sahara, our countries were the last nations on the African continent to overcome colonialism and apartheid.

We are proud that both our countries, immediately after our struggles and sacrifices brought democracy to our shores, have done what we can to be part of the forward brigade in the new revolution for true democracy, for peace, for security and development, together creating conditions for all our peoples to embark on a journey whose destination is a better life.

Namibia , South Africa and other African countries are critical components parts of the African Renaissance movement because we know the pain of autocracy, of poverty and underdevelopment. Indeed the work we are doing together through the AU and Nepad demonstrates that the African renaissance is neither a mirage nor a pipedream, but a reality of our lifetime.

Our refrain continues to be that Africa's time has come. There can be no stopping the momentum of change towards building the better continent whose people must realise their fullest humanity through self-reliance, empowerment, partnerships within our countries and continent and between our continent and the countries of the south and the north.

We have insisted that we, as Africans, must own the vision and programmes for the reconstruction and development of the African continent.

We firmly believe that without the broad mobilisation of all our people on the continent and those in the Diaspora, as well as the harnessing of our own resources, the regeneration of Africa will remain a dream deferred.

At the same time, through the AU and its development programme, Nepad, we have sought to build on the previous good work done by the OAU.

Among the rich legacies left to us by the OAU is the African Economic Community (AEC) established in 1991 by 51 African states in Abuja, Nigeria, as an integral part of the OAU.

The coming together of these African nations to form the AEC was prompted by the necessity for collective planning and action to build intra-continental economic relations for the benefit of the African masses.

Of importance, the AEC developed four critical objectives that would guide Africa's socio-development, namely:

  • to promote economic, social and cultural development and the integration of African economies in order to increase economic self-reliance and promote endogenous and self-sustained development
  • to establish, on a continental scale, a framework for the development, mobilisation and utilisation of the human and material resources of Africa in order to achieve self-reliant development
  • to promote co-operation in all fields of human endeavour in order to raise the standard of living of African peoples, and maintain and enhance conomic stability, foster close and peaceful relations among Member States and contribute to the progress, development and economic integration of the Continent; and finally
  • to co-ordinate and harmonise policies among existing and future regional economic communities to foster the gradual establishment of the community.

Accordingly, the vision and programmes of the AU and Nepad are rooted in the long-standing desire, commitment and efforts of the African people to work together for the integration of our economies as well as the creation of a continental socio-political unity that would facilitate the faster development of our countries.

Through the AEC we agreed, as Africans, that we needed to do more to strengthen existing regional economic communities, create new ones where necessary, and ensure that we achieve intra and inter-regional co-operation.

We also agreed on such important economic matters as trade liberalisation in each regional economic community; the adoption of a common trade policy and working towards a common external tariff to establish a common African market.

Again, we committed ourselves to a gradual elimination of obstacles to the free movement of persons, goods, services and capital and the right of residence among member states.

In this regard, Regional Economic Communities (RECs), such as Southern African Development Community (SADC) and Economic Community for West African States (Ecowas), constitute critical building blocks of the envisaged project of African integration.

The honourable members will be familiar with the outcome of this year's July AU summit meeting held in Accra, which convened under the theme, "Grand Debate on the Union Government".

Again we must applaud the decision of the AU to hold this summit meeting in Ghana, to celebrate the epoch-making 50th anniversary of the independence of this sister African country, under the leadership of the great Kwame Nkrumah.

This year's historic summit meeting in Ghana concluded by adopting "The Accra Declaration", among other things, the Declaration said: "We agree…to rationalise and strengthen the Regional Economic Communities, and harmonise their activities, in conformity with our earlier decision, so as to lead to the creation of an African Common Market, through the stages set in the Treaty Establishing the African Economic Community (Abuja Treaty), with a reviewed and shorter timeframe to be agreed upon in order to accelerate the economic and, where possible, political integration."

Thus "The Accra Declaration" placed the principal burden of accelerating the advance to the political and economic integration and unity of Africa on the shoulders of our Continent's Regional Economic Communities, such as SADC.

Our firm view is that SADC is well-placed to discharge its role in this regard. We have the great advantage that our region was brought together as a strategic alliance of nations by the united struggle we waged to defeat colonialism and apartheid.

This laid a firm basis for us to use this strategic alliance to confront the common challenge of poverty and underdevelopment, while making the contribution mandated by the July Accra AU summit meeting to the historic objective of African Unity.

We have already demonstrated what we can do in this regard. At the last Annual Lusaka Summit Meeting of SADC in August, we commissioned the SADC Peace-Keeping Brigade, the first of the Regional Brigades required by the AU to constitute the critically important Standing Peace-keeping Forces of the African Union.

I believe that as a region, including our governments, our parliaments, our political and other formations, and the masses of our people, we should pose and answer this question, what should we do to take the lead to advance the objective of African Unity, bearing in mind the tasks reflected in "The Accra Declaration".

Of course, our region has already grasped the challenge to implement the Abuja Treaty by adopting strategies that seek, among other things, to create a "SADC Free Trade Area and Customs Union".

SADC has also adopted the "Regional Indicative Strategy Development Plan" and the "Strategy Indicative Plan for the Organ on Politics" to accelerate the integration processes in our region.

I mention some of these important matters on integration because this is the route we must take to give effect to the vision of the African Renaissance and African Unity.

Further, Honourable Speaker, Nepad has identified a number of areas that are central to the regeneration of our continent. One of these, as I have mentioned, is our ability to mobilise internal resources for our development.

In this regard, this year we launched "The Pan-African Infrastructure Development Fund" to finance large-scale African infrastructure projects, using funds mobilised from our own continent, bearing in mind the specific developmental needs across the African continent.

As Africans we take pride in our ability to take responsibility for the establishment of this unprecedented Fund which, at the moment, has mobilised $625-million. Relying on this capital base, the Fund has pledged to finance African projects among others, in energy, technology, transport and water.

Again, last week, on 24 October 2007, the African Union Commission in collaboration with the European Commission launched the EU-Africa Partnership on Infrastructure at the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Among other resources, 5,6 billion euros from the 10th European Development Fund and an innovative financial instrument, the Trust Fund, has been set aside to support the Partnership.

Further, the partnership is aimed at ensuring a substantial increase of EU investment in African infrastructure and delivery of transport, energy, water, telecommunications and ICT services. This is a response to the development goals that we have set ourselves.

Again, the African Development Bank reported early this year that it has mobilised US $1,6 billion to finance various infrastructure improvement projects across Africa, mainly in the rail, road and energy sectors. The Bank also announced that it has already financed 33 different projects under Nepad to the cost of US$800 million.

The Nepad projects that the bank is financing include the Kenya-Uganda oil pipeline and the Kenya-Ethiopia highway extending nearly 1,600 kilometre from the port of Mombasa to Addis Ababa.

Clearly, all these are very important initiatives because poor infrastructure means it would be impossible for us as Africans to realise our objectives.

Honourable Speaker, one of Nepad's important projects, the Eastern Africa Submarine Cable System (EASSy), a 9 900 kilometre-long submarine cable between Durban and Port Sudan, which will radically reduce telecommunications costs in Africa could be operational by the end of 2008.

EASSy will connect with terrestrial fibre-optic cables to make up what will be known as the Nepad Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Broadband Network. This is aimed at helping the continent to free itself from its dependence on expensive satellite systems to carry voice and data traffic.

In addition, honourable members, Nepad has launched an important ICT programme called the Nepad e-Schools Initiative which will ensure that schools across the continent have access to modern communication technology. This initiative covers both the primary and secondary schools and is very central to the challenge of skills development in all our countries, and meeting theMillennium Development Goals in this regard.

As we all know, one of the challenges facing our continent is hunger and food insecurity. For a long time, to date, malnutrition and starvation have characterised the lives of many Africans.

The 2003 AU Summit Meeting held in Maputo adopted the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP). Co-operating with the RECs, the Nepad machinery is working to implement this important Agricultural Programme.

The CAADP draws our attention as member governments to actions designed to rejuvenate African agriculture. It also provides a framework for harmonised and collaborative responsive action to the agricultural challenges on the continent.

Specifically CAADP outlines four key areas on which we must focus to improve African agriculture. These are:

  • to extend the area under sustainable land management and reliable water control systems
  • to improve rural infrastructure and trade related capacities for tradable agricultural surpluses
  • to increase food supply, reduce hunger, and improve responses to food emergency crises
  • to improve agricultural research, technology dissemination and adoption
  • to maximise the contribution of agriculture, as Africa's largest economic sector, to the development of self-reliant and productive economies.

Most of our countries already report that they are allocating or working to allocate the minimum of 10% of their national budgetary resources to griculture, in line with the 2003 Maputo agreement.

I mention all these projects and processes because, together with others that are being implemented at country and regional levels, they communicate a story of a continent which although faced with many challenges, is however engaged in an exciting process of regeneration.

For the African Renaissance to work, and indeed for the vision of a peaceful and prosperous continent to be realised, we need not only political will, but also creative African solutions to our problems.

The African Renaissance is not just a philosophy, or an ideal – it is through, the Constitutive Act of the AU and Nepad, a practical roadmap through which we can all attain our common dream.

Honourable members, I am certain that we are all agreed that good governance, the institutionalisation of democracy, political mobilisation for development, and creating conditions for political stability are the warp and woof we need to ensure that our people reap the development dividend that must come with liberation.

For this purpose we have introduced the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) as yet another African initiative. The APRM is an essential tool for the signatory nations to gauge progress on the governance front, from an African perspective, on an objective basis, so as to make necessary interventions in areas of governance that may still need some fine-tuning.

The APRM, which has been in force for a few years now, is there to remind all of us entrusted by our respective electorates to run the affairs of our countries, that whatever we do must be in the interest of the people.

The success of this programme and the benefits that it accrues to signatories is shown by the fact that member countries reiterated their commitment to the APRM process at the continental conference in May this year.

Honourable Speaker, I believe that we should welcome and applaud the frequency of the interaction between the leaders of our two countries. Less than a year ago I was in this beautiful capital city to attend our fifth Heads of State Economic Bilateral meeting, which further concretised our shared economic roadmap.

Since then, I had the privilege to receive His Excellency President Pohamba and his delegation in South Africa on 11 October for our highly successful sixth Heads of State Economic Bilateral meeting.

The following day, I had the pleasure together with His Excellency the President, and President Festus Mogae of Botswana, to attend the opening of the Mata-Mata border gate.

We celebrate and must celebrate the excellent relations that exist between our two countries. The reality is that both our histories and our destinies are inextricably tied together. In a literal sense we shall sink or swim together.

Tomorrow I will have the privilege to accompany President Pohamba as he chairs the important Windhoek Investment conference intended to attract larger volumes of capital to finance various projects which our governments have identified through the Heads of State Economic Bilateral process.

Happily, all reports indicate that this important conference will attract many investors. At the end of the day, we must ensure that we intensify our co-operation to achieve a better life for our two peoples, on a sustainable basis.

During our last meeting with His Excellency President Pohamba in Tshwane or Pretoria, we also discussed the need for our two countries to intensify our co-operation in the all-important area of human resource development.

I am pleased to inform this important assembly of the elected representatives of the people of Namibia that, as we agreed with President Pohamba, our respective Ministers of Education will meet soon to give effect to this shared commitment. As your neighbour we are greatly interested that this sister Republic of Namibia should indeed successfully address its human resource challenges.

I am convinced that our current visit to heroic Namibia will again enable us to renew our bonds of friendship and solidarity and further strengthen our bilateral relations.

We are privileged that we have the possibility to work closely with the government, the parliament and the people of Namibia at the bilateral level, in the Southern African Customs Union, in SADC, the AU and Nepad, the Non-Aligned Movement and the United Nations to realise our shared goals.

Of the greatest importance, let us together, as we did during our common struggle for freedom from apartheid tyranny, join hands in the new revolution, a revolution that should and must bring peace, security, development and prosperity to all Africans, as well as the unity of our continent.

I thank you for your kind attention.

Issued by: The Presidency
30 October 2007

Source: The Presidency (http://www.thepresidency.gov.za)


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