Speech: Department of Foreign Affairs Farewell Function for Former Deputy Minister Aziz Pahad, Gallager Estate, 26 November 2008

Minister of foreign Affairs, Dr Dlamini Zuma
Deputy Ministers of Foreign Affairs – Sue van der Merwe and Fatima Hajeej
DG Ayanda Ntsaluba
DDGs, Colleagues from Foreign Affairs and my Office
Dean of the Diplomatic Corp – Dr AL Zubedi
Excellencies, Ambassadors and High Commissioners
Family, Friends and Comrades

I wish to express my profound thanks to the Minister and the Department for having organized this farewell dinner.  A special thanks to Grace and her colleagues in the protocol and marketing divisions.

This farewell has come 6 months earlier than expected.  As I said the other night, I hope that this will not impact on my listing in the Guinness Book of records as one of the longest serving deputy ministers in history. 

The last 15 years has been a period of learning in a fundamentally transformed international environment.  More specifically, the last decade has been very difficult, challenging and dangerous because of the rise of the neo-conservatives in the USA.  The terrorist attacks against the USA on 9/11/2001 further strengthened the neo-cons.

The USA Defense Review issued 2 weeks after 9/11 signaled that “defense spending would be increased massively on all programmes from star wars to counter-terrorism” and “…all wars will be prosecuted by decisive defeat of adversaries, regime change and occupying foreign territory until USA strategic objectives are met”.

Concepts such as ‘clash of civilizations’, ‘religious crusades’, ‘Islamic-fascism’, ‘for or against us’, ‘axis of evil’, ‘rogue state’ determined the foreign policy of the USA.

President Mubarak, reflecting the views of the vast majority of governments in the world, shortly after 9/11 warned President Bush that “any attack involving a middle east country would produce grave results, that will seriously complicate the situation throughout the Middle East”. And he went on to warn that the “Israeli-Palestinian conflict is causing 80% of terrorism in the world today”

This warning like many other similar warnings were either ignored or rejected.

We experienced pre-emptive strikes, disregard of international law and unprecedented unilateralism.  The tragedy of such policies led to the catastrophic situation in IRAQ, Afghanistan and the unprecedented wave of anti-Americanism, which provided fertile ground for terrorism.

Given this reality, former Secretary-General of the UN, Mr Kofi Annan, said in September 2006,

“we face a world whose divisions threaten the very notion of an international community upon which the UN stands for. The events of the last 10 years have not resolved, but sharpened the challenges of our unjust world economy, world disorder and contempt for human rights and the rule of law.”

In 2004, President Elect, Barak Obama said

‘The American dream is measured in ‘faith’, in simple dreams, and insistence on small miracles”.  On November 4th the ‘simple dreams’ and ‘small miracles’ became a reality when he was elected as the President of the USA.  This historic and memorable day was not only celebrated in the USA, but throughout the world.  The outpouring of joy and relief was unprecedented.  Clearly, people wanted change in the directions of policies of the most powerful country in the world.

In his acceptance speech, President-elect Obama said “although our stories may be singular, our destiny is shared, and a new dawn of American leadership is at hand”. The American people and the world expect the new dawn to demonstrate:

  • Mutually beneficial relations with other countries based on principles of equality, sovereignty and respect.
  • A more sustained and concrete programme of action to deal with poverty eradication and under-development. Latest OECD statistics on unemployment are a cause of serious concern.
  • A greater commitment to multilateralism and respect for international law
  • A better approach to climate change
  • Holistic approach to dealing with terrorism
  • Resolution of the Palestinian, IRAQ, Afghanistan and Iran Nuclear issues  

Failure to deal successfully with these fundamental challenges will result in proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, increasing terrorism, increasing conflicts, and greater poverty and under-development – ending all hopes of a new dawn.

In an era of unprecedented globalization, we have indeed become a global village.  This reality dictates that the rich and the poor, the weak and the powerful, people of all religious faiths are an integral part of humanity bound by a common destiny.

Given this reality since 1994, South Africa’s foreign policy has been based on a vision of a ‘better South Africa, a better Africa and a better world’.  We identified some fundamental values that were essential to international relations in the 21st Century, inter-alia:

  • Freedom
  • Equality
  • Solidarity
  • Tolerance
  • Awareness of the dangers of climate change
  • Shared responsibility

It is this context that we identified some major challenges:

  • Achieving sustainable development universally and the elimination of poverty in all its forms;
  • Ending war and violent conflict through dialogue and multilateral institutions;
  • Abolishing weapons of mass destructions
  • In a holistic way fight terrorism;
  • Ensuring that every nation has the possibility to be heard and their views taken into account;
  • Ensuring genuine respect both for the strengthening of nations and the reality of the growth of a common neighbourhood.

Achievements and Challenges in South Africa

In 1994, we inherited a legacy of:

  • Dire warnings of a racial conflagration
  • Racial and ethnic divisions
  • Hatred and distrust
  • Gross imbalances in wealth, income and opportunity
  • High levels of unemployment and poverty
  • A stagnant and distorted economy on the verge of collapse
  • A malfunctioning state machinery considered irrelevant and illegitimate by the majority of our people
  • A country considered a pariah of the world and isolated from the rest of the world.

The first democratic government under President Mandela, driven by the values of freedom, democracy, human dignity, peace, stability, poverty eradication and improving the quality of life of our people embarked on the difficult path of creating a new South African Patriotism, which would enable us as a nation united in diversity to tackle the major challenges of poverty, deprivation, degradation, unemployment, gender inequality, lack of basic amenities, such as education, health, housing, electricity, safe drinking water, and social problems, such as moral degeneration, crime and drugs.

The last 15 years has been a period of learning on the job on how to govern. Inevitably, mistakes were made.  But it cannot be denied that we achieved some impressive successes.

The prudent macro-economic policy resulted in an unprecedented and sustained economic growth that gave Government the capacity to try to fulfill the mandate of our election manifesto to improve the quality of the people’s lives. 

Millions have received housing, education, health care, safe drinking water, and electricity and welfare payments.

Despite weaknesses in the BBE and affirmative action programmes, millions of previously disadvantaged have now joined the ranks of the middle classes.

There has been no racial or ethnic war.

We have become important players in Africa and the world and have made an important contribution to world peace and stability as a non-permanent member of the Security Council during the past two years.

We will host the 2010 World Soccer Cup.

It would have been utopian and populist to believe that we could have successfully dealt with all the legacies of over 400 years of colonialism and apartheid.

Therefore many challenges remain:

  • Poverty and unemployment
  • Millions are still without basic amenities
  • HIV and AIDS and other infectious diseases continue to ravage our communities
  • Crime and security impacts on all our lives
  • The capacity of government institutions at every level has to continue to be improved

If we are to overcome the people must become active agents of change.

Elections next year

In a few months time millions of South Africans will participate in our 4th democratic elections, an achievement all South Africans can be proud of.

  • Political landscape has changed with formation of the Congress of the People. 
  • Not a crisis but a sign of the continuing maturity of our democracy. 
  • Surge in voter registration.
  • The IEC meeting held in Durban two days ago in which all political parties committed themselves to ensuring that the elections are peaceful, free and fair.
  • The central challenge will still be the forging of a new South African Patriotism tackling the common agenda I mentioned earlier.
  1. Our domestic challenges are inextricably linked to our African challenges.  Since the formation of the ANC in 1912, we proceeded from the strong conviction that we Africans share a common destiny and therefore we must deal with our challenges as a committed and united force.  Also given the reality that South Africa’s democracy would not have been born without the immense sacrifice made by the people of our continent.  Africa, therefore, stands at the centre of our foreign policy and it is the foundation on which we seek to contribute to the creations of a new world order of democracy, peace and prosperity.
    • 5.1 As we seek to achieve our objectives we are conscious of the impact of globalization and the African reality

The 2000 historic UN Millennium Summit declaration proclaimed:

“we believe that the central challenge we face today is to ensure that globalization becomes a positive force for the world’s people. For while globalization offers great opportunities, at present its benefits are very unevenly shared, while its costs are unevenly distributed ---- thus only through broad and sustained efforts to create a shared future based on our common humanity in all its diversity, can globalization be made fully inclusive and equitable”.

  • The Summit, inter-alia, decided that by 2015 the proportion of people whose income is less than 1 dollar a day and the proportion of people who suffer from hunger, and who are unable to reach and afford safe drinking water should be halved.
  • By 2015 education should be improved, maternal mortality should be reduced by three-quarters, and under 5 child mortality by two-thirds
  • To halt and reverse the spread of HIV and AIDS and other infectious diseases

What have we achieved since this declaration?

The reality is reflected by a Commission on Africa Report which stated that:

 “growth and globalization have brought higher standards to billions. Yet it is not a wealth that everyone enjoys.  In Africa millions of people live each day in abject poverty and squalor.  In years to come future generations will look back, and wonder how could our world known and failed to act”.

As we seek to answer this question we realize that the unprecedented present international economic crisis will undoubtedly have a major negative effect on the capacity of Africa and other developing countries to meet the MDGs

We also realize that there can be no development without peace, and no peace without development.  Therefore we are very concerned about the situation in:

  • DRC
  • Burundi
  • Somalia
  • Darfur
  • Welcome President Bashir’s announcement of a ceasefire and urge all rebels groups to respond positively
  • Zimbabwe


After nearly 52 years of political activism, a long but very enriching and fulfilling chapter in my life is closing.   

It has been a chapter in which I joined the Transvaal Indian Congress at a very early age.  I was tempered in struggle in the period of the coming into power of the Nationalist Government, which gave birth to the infamous apartheid system and the ruthless enforcement of the apartheid laws, including the Group Areas Act and the Pass Laws. 

This was also the period of mass political mobilization which, inter-alia, included the Passive Resistance Campaign, the Defiance Campaign, the Potato and Alexander Bus Boycotts, massive worker strikes.  It was also a period of the Congress of the People, which adopted the Freedom Charter, the Treason Trial, state of emergencies, the banning of the ANC and the decision to form Umkonto we Sizwe and to embark on the armed struggle, and the Rivonia Trial.

I was banned under the suppression of the Communism Act in 1964 – one of the first 30 to be so banned, and went into exile in the United Kingdom that year.  After completing my MA degree at Sussex I started working full time for the ANC in 1969.  I became involved with the work of the revolutionary council and was appointed as a member of the leadership of the Political Military Committee and the ANC Intelligence Department. I was elected to the NEC of the ANC in 1985 and remained a member of the NEC until the Polekwane Conference.  I was also elected as a member of the Central Committee of the South African Communist Party in this period.

I was privileged to have participated in the process of the establishment of the UDF and COSATU.
I participated in the open and secret talks with the White establishment and representatives of the then Apartheid-Government.

On my return to South Africa I served as secretary to the Political Committee of the ANC and later as deputy head of the ANC International Department under Thabo Mbeki.

I then represented the ANC in the international committee of the Transitional Executive Council.

President Mandela appointed me as Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs in the first democratic government of SA in 1994 and President Mbeki re-appointed me in 1999 and in 2004.  After resigning President Motlante re-appointed me as Deputy Minister in September 2008.

Because I strongly believe that the early recall of President Mbeki was a decision that was apolitical, irrational and inexplicable my principles, values and conscience demanded that I don’t accept the honour of being re-appointed.
As I open another chapter, I will always be motivated by the words of Nelson Mandela

“I have walked the long road to freedom.  I have tried not to falter; I have made mistakes along the way.  But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb.  I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can only rest for a moment, for with freedom comes responsibility.  I dare not linger, for my long walk is not yet ended”

As I continue on my long walk, I will also reflect on the exceptional legacy left to us by former President Mbeki and will always be guided by his speech in 1996 on the occasion of the adoption of the South African constitution:

“The constitution …..is a firm assertion ….. that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white.  It gives concrete meaning to the sentiments we share….and will defend to the death, that the people shall govern.  It seeks to create the situation in which all our people shall be free from fear, including the fear of the oppression of one national group by another, the fear of the disempowerment of one social echelon by another, the fear of the use of state power to deny anybody their fundamental human rights and the fear of tyranny.

It aims to open the doors so that those who were disadvantaged can assume their place in society as equals….without regard to colour, race, gender, age or geographic dispersal.

…..It creates a law-based society which will be inimical to arbitrary rule.

It enables the resolution of conflicts by peaceful means rather than resort to force.

It rejoices the diversity of our people and creates the space for all of us voluntarily to define ourselves as one people”

He continued “I was born of the peoples of the continent of Africa.

The pain of the violent conflict that the peoples of Liberia, Somalia, the Sudan, Burundi and Algeria experienced is a pain I also bear.

The dismal shame of poverty, suffering and human degradation of my continent is a blight that we share.

…..Whatever the setbacks….nothing can stop us now.  Whatever the difficulties Africa shall be at peace.

However, improbable it may sound to the skeptics, Africa will prosper”

Inspired by this vision, and as I begin another long journey, I look forward to a new and challenging future and I remain confident that I will continue to interact with many of you, albeit, under very different circumstances.

I Thank You.

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