Minister Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma‘s Address on the occasion of former Deputy Minister Aziz Pahad Farewell, Gallagher Estate Johannesburg, 26 November 2008.
Programme Director, Ambassador Billy Modise
Your Excellencies, Ministers and Deputy Ministers,
Your Excellencies, members of the diplomatic corps,
Ladies and gentlemen:
We are here to bid farewell to a diplomat par excellence, a freedom fighter, friend, a colleague, a true patriot and hero of our people.
Aziz has spent the best part of his life fighting for freedom in our country, both for the liberation from clutches of apartheid. 1994 saw the first democratically elected government and Nelson Mandela inaugurated as the first President.
We started on a long road towards building a nation out of all those who live in South Africa black and white. The culture of human rights was ushered in it. Building blocks of good governance... Peace and stability was established.
The major task of changing the material conditions of our people started with the implementation of the Freedom Charter, the reconstruction and development and all the government policies that followed.
I first met Aziz in 1976 in London, where he was living at the time. There were loyal members of the ANC- was also a member of the Communist Party. It was him, Pallo, Essop, Billy Nanaan, Moeletsi, Feni the artist to name but a few. They were also still members of the Youth League. Those days you could be a member of the youth for a long time.
We also used to meet especially on Fridays at the office in Rathbone Street. At that time Uncle Reg September was the ANC Chief Representative in the UK & Island.
They used to go to the pub at the Copper Kettle. We used to follow them and sit around and during the discussions we would learn a lot. I remember my first Christmas was spent at Billy Nanaan’s house with many other comrades Aziz was there.
I can also call Aziz without fear of contradiction my mentor or commissar. He and many others taught us about the ANC principles and values. He nurtured young people who came his way. He guided us around anti-apartheid solidarity politics, as he himself mobilised the world to support the ANC struggle.
Comrades like Aziz were at the forefront of getting the students across Europe to get their universities to disinvest from South Africa.
Aziz spared no effort in working amongst the workers in Europe to boycott and refuse to handle South African apartheid goods. So high up with the workers struggles and of course to participate in the general solidarity work.
The sports boycott was one of the struggles that was waged vigorously outside South Africa- Aziz was there.
The boycott of all South African goods, outspan oranges, wine, grapes and everything South African. I must say that required a lot of discipline, because at times you would go to a supermarket and find nothing that you could eat with a clean conscience especially fruit.
The free Mandela and all Political Prisoners campaign was made stronger and successful by people like Aziz.
Aziz the leader was indeed produced by the struggle. Sanctions campaign was very difficult both in the UK, Europe and the United States, but that did not discourage the leadership, they soldiered on even though at the UNSC there was always a triple veto against the resolution for sanctions.
Raising funds for the ANC in many functions, sometimes in concerts, annual ANC bazaar’s and ANC eve dance and sponsored walks, were all means and ways to raise funds for the struggle.
All this was essential and critical, but he was also involved in underground work. Meeting people from home, training people in some aspects of underground work and he also spent some time in Angola with MK comrades.
He belonged to that generation which was ready to perform any duty and participate in any form of struggle. This generation of our leaders had to bear witness to the commission of unforgivable crimes by the apartheid system against the persons of Ruth First, Dulcie September, Joe Gqabi, Cassius Make and countless others in Maseru, Matola and Angola, Switzerland and South Africa in the prosecution of the struggle.
Worse still it would have been bitter for them to carry the mortal remains of that hero of our nation, Chris Hani killed by the bullets of a racist immigrant.
Deputy Minister Aziz belongs to understood too well that with each horrendous crime committed against our people, this brought about the beginning of the end of the apartheid system.
They were sustained in their determination by the full knowledge that Africa and democrats the world over, who provided them with material and moral support were fully behind them. They were sustained by the knowledge that the masses of our people were ready to be their own liberators.
We make bold to suggest therefore that the history of Aziz Pahad’s generation is indeed synonymous with the history of the struggle of the people of South Africa against racial oppression and tyranny. In this regard, Aziz’s generation epitomises the determination of our people to end the yoke of oppression despite the hardships they had to endure.
Comrade Aziz Pahad, you belong to that rare breed of people who in their youth were confronted with difficult moments brought about by the evils of Colonialism and Apartheid, together with many of your peers you took the correct stand against Apartheid and fought heroically to ensure that succeeding generations experience a life of freedom, democracy and justice.
Yet you will look back with pride at the time when the whole world mobilised against the system of apartheid leading to economic and military sanctions. It was sweet memories when the masses of our people under the leadership of that tried national liberation movement, the ANC, made South Africa ungovernable and institutions of apartheid unworkable.
When leaders of the Afrikaner establishment sought answers to the quagmire created by the apartheid system from the leadership of the ANC. When leaders of the apartheid system met clandestinely with the ANC to find resolution to the country’s political and economic crisis. When the doors of Robben Island, Pollsmoor and other prisons of our country were flung open and Nelson Mandela and other political prisoners walked free, leading to negotiations and ultimately freedom on 27 April 1994?
The Post-1994 period opened great opportunities for all our people in various fields including the area of foreign policy. In this regard, Aziz’s generation was once more instrumental in the charting of a new foreign policy for South Africa which was a key element in the creation of a peaceful and prosperous country.
Naturally, as part of a collective leadership you were challenged to build a nation in which all people - irrespective of race, colour, creed, religion or sex - can assert fully their human worth; after the devastating effects of apartheid.
Because of your clarity of vision we can only assert that the South African Foreign policy had to take into cognisant the effects of apartheid and ensure a commitment to such principles as human rights being central to international relations and an understanding that they extend beyond the political, embracing the economic, social and environmental; finding just and last solutions to the problems of humanity through the principle of multilateralism; that, considerations of justice and respect for international law should guide the relations between nations; that peace is the goal for which all nations should strive, and where this breaks down, internationally agreed and non-violent mechanisms, including effective arms control regimes, must be employed; that the concerns and interests of the continent of Africa should be reflected in our foreign policy choices; that economic development depends on growing regional and international economic cooperation in an interdependent world.
We have in the last fourteen years confounded the prophets of doom and in this regard, Comrade Aziz Pahad’s contributions to South Africa’s post 1994 success in defining its place in the world are immeasurable.
Recognising that we need to reopen doors we closed during the struggle Comrade Aziz Pahad was instrumental and played no small part when South Africa normalised its relations with the world and promoted its own interests and those of the South in all significant regional, continental and multilateral institutions.
He spared no energy and strength as we embarked on building bilateral relations with countries of Africa, the rest of the South, and strengthened relations with the countries of the North.
In this context his presence was felt when we hosted many international conferences and events since 1994, which include: the Non-Aligned Movement Summit in 1998, Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in 1999, UN AIDS Conference in 2000, UN World Conference against Racism in 2001, World Summit on Sustainable Development in 2002 and the African Union Summit in 2002
As part of a collective Comrade Aziz Pahad has been an integral part of South Africa’s promotion of regional integration in the context of SADC and NEPAD.
Given our history , we have continued to provide substantial support to the peace-building processes in the in the continent and our actions have affirmed the principle that South Africa’s engagements with the world should be guided by the imperative of African development as a necessary condition for South Africa’s own development. As a result of this guiding philosophy, South Africa is now the leading investor on the African continent with a ranking in the top twenty as a source of Foreign Direct Investment globally.
South Africa has been part of regional and continental initiatives to assist the Zimbabwean people resolve their problems and have assisted with peacekeeping in Ethiopia/Eritrea, DRC and Burundi.
One of Comrade Aziz Pahad’s passions has always been the resolution of the Israel-Palestine standoff and he has always called for continued dialogue between the Israeli and the Palestinians to ensure equitable resolution of the crisis, we will continue where he left to ensure that his legacy is preserved.
In this regard Comrade Aziz, we will continue with your selfless legacy and the Department will remain engaged with a vision of building an African continent, which is prosperous, peaceful, democratic, non racial, non sexist and united and which contributes to a world that is just and equitable with a mission to continue working for freedom, peace, human dignity and eradication of poverty in South Africa, Africa and the world.
We must continue to draw inspiration from Nelson Mandela’s wise words when he said that “It is no easy thing to rest while millions still bear the burden of poverty and insecurity. But my days will be filled with contentment to the extent that hands are joined across social divides and national boundaries, between continents and over oceans, to give effect to that common humanity in whose name we have together made the long walk to where we are today”.
For my part, I would want to say how privileged I was to have worked with you both in the course of the prosecution of our struggle through our glorious movement and in government for the last fourteen years. I have been humbled by your warmth and the opportunity to interact with you in a variety of political areas including foreign relations.
Your personal warmth, humility and charm will ever remain fresh in our minds. In the conduct of foreign policy, we shall forever be inspired by your example as a leader, comrade and a great political figure of our time.
Those of us who remain on duty have gained immeasurably by having worked with you. Your contribution to the dawn of peace, freedom and democracy in our country and the development of our foreign policy will forever be inscribed in the annals of the history of our struggle
Aziz is also a father. He used to come to the office and to meetings sometimes with his son who is his splitting image and of course his younger son.
He is a true hero and veteran of our struggle. Even though he is senior in the crowd and in age he never made us to feel that, but showed exemplary humility.
As a friend he could discuss so many of issues. It is always a pleasure to sit and discuss any subject with Cde Aziz. We were all sad in the Department at his departure but we understood that the ANC fought for all of us to have choices. He decided to exercise that hard won right.
On behalf of the Department, we are grateful for your extraordinary contribution to the Department, our Foreign Policy and to Government as a whole.
We wish you all the best in your future endeavours
I thank you.