Address by Minister Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma on the Second
International Day of Non-Violence, UN Headquarters, New York, 2 October 2008

Your Excellency, the President of the UNGA, Father Miguel d’ Escoto Brockmann
Your Excellency, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki Moon
Your Excellency Minister of External Affairs of India
Your Excellencies Ambassadors and Permanent Representatives to the UN

Distinguished Guests
Ladies and Gentlemen

Today as we commemorate this day we cannot but reflect on Mahatma Gandhi. His life, vision and philosophy inspired this United Nations to designate the 2nd of October, his birthday, as International Day of Non Violence.

Gandhi and many others have bequeathed us and future generations with this philosophy and practice of non violence.

Humanity has witnessed and experienced the tragedy of violent struggles and wars. We know too well how many lives are lost, how many people are maimed. It is very destructive and leaves deep scars both physical and emotional. It leaves a trail of destruction, it leaves widows and orphans. There is no bright side of war.

Non violence on the other side requires just as much courage and sacrifice without the spiral of violence. If you respond to injustice, to oppression, to racism or any unfair treatment with non violence, it exposes the immorality of the perpetrators.

To quote from Martin Luther King Junior’s The meaning of Non Violence “We must recognize that just as there is a capacity for evil, there is a capacity for goodness. Just as a Hitler can lead man to the darkest and lowest depths,  a Gandhi can lead men to the highest heights of non violence and goodness. We must always see these possibilities within human nature; the non violent discipline goes on with this belief that even the most difficult person, even the person who is committed to the old order with all his might, can be transformed.”

He goes on to say “ It says that one must never allow himself to reach the point that he is willing to co-operate with evil, that non-co-operation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is co-operation with good.”

The question we ought to ask ourselves on a daily basis is not how passionate we are, about the philosophy of non violence but rather how much have we ensured that it is an integral part of our  thinking  and our work.

How do we apply this in resolving conflicts in all situations, in our countries, in our inter-state disputes or in international conflicts as we try to advance a more peaceful world free of wars and hatred.

Former President Nelson Mandela, having spent 27 years in jail with his comrades, showing no bitterness and no revenge, is a practical application of this philosophy. It put him on the moral high ground and demonstrated that he is more just and not as evil as his oppressors. Had he been full of hatred and revenge he would have been no better than his own oppressors.

As South Africa we commit that in all our work we shall endeavor to remain true to the values and principles of non violence that were fashioned in our very struggle against the evil system of apartheid. If we all took the approach of non violence we would see less violence and less suffering to the millions of people women and children everywhere where violence is practiced. The world would be a better place if we were to all subscribe to non violence.

I Thank you

Issued by Department of Foreign Affairs
P/Bag X152
2 October 2008

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