Address by His Excellency, President Jacob Zuma on the occasion of the Africa Day Gala Dinner:  29 May 2010

Programme Director;
Your Excellency, President Bingu wa Mutharika
Your Excellency, Dr Jean Ping;
Commissioner Gawanas
Honorable Members of Cabinet;
Dean of the Diplomatic Corps;
Your Excellencies, Ambassadors and High Commissioners;
Representatives of Business
Members of the Diplomatic Corps;
Distinguished guests;
Ladies and gentlemen;

It is indeed a great honour and privilege for me to address you today on this truly historic occasion, in celebration of one of the most important symbols of African unity, the 47th anniversary of the Africa Day celebration. We celebrate this day to mark the birth of the Organisation of the African Unity (OAU), the precursor of the African Union (AU). Most importantly, we wish to utilise the opportunity provided by this day to reflect on Africa’s achievements, prospects and challenges that lie ahead. 
      
When the African Union took over the baton from the OAU in 2002, it was on the basis of the appreciation by African leadership that Africa will always have to adapt to a complex and ever-changing international environment. We can achieve the vision of a united, peaceful and prosperous Africa by continuing to draw strength from our diversity as people of Africa. We have indeed travelled long on the road towards the realisation of African Unity.

Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
This year’s celebration is special in that it takes place a mere twelve (12) days before the kick-off of the FIFA World Cup. This important event offers us an opportunity to showcase our African culture, history, heritage - our warmth and our revered hospitality. As you would know, the African Union chose the theme of this year’s celebrations as “Building and Maintaining Peace through Sport in Africa”. At the same time, the AU has declared 2010 as the Year of Peace and Security in Africa,   

What the theme and the 2010 declaration of the AU seek to imply is that we have to find resonance between the ability of sport to unify a people and establish the roots for peace and development. This international event, to which all of us should rightly claim a credit, should be used to sow the seeds of deepened understanding of our shared cultures and ensure that dialogue and cooperation among Africans is promoted.

Using the South African experience, I am convinced that all of you will agree that the magnetism of sport, amongst others, we were able to bridge the terrible ethnic, social, cultural and religious divides that had characterized our nation. When Tata Rolihlahla Mandela lifted the Rugby World Cup trophy in 1995 and that of the African Cup of Nations in 1996 – our nation became one – confirming that we are a nation united in its diversity. We believe Madiba continues to be a pillar of strength and a source of inspiration for our national teams and that his “magic” will see us progress in this tournament.

As hosts of this greatest sporting event the world over, we wish to utilize both the honour and responsibility of the FIFA World Cup to plant the seeds of peace and development in our Continent of Africa. It is therefore important that Africa take full advantage of the promotional and the socio-economic opportunities’ presented by the hosting of this event on African soil.  

While, we cannot predict that there will be no crisis and conflict in Africa during 2010, we will continue to support the African Union in sparring no effort to ensure that our programmes this year help create a climate conducive to rooting sustainable peace and security in Africa.

On September 21st when we celebrate the International Day of Peace, it is our desire and hope to confirm to the world that peace is indeed possible in Africa. The Flame for Peace has been lit and we, now, have the collective responsibility of taking forward the message it carries, peace and hope for all of Africa and the World!

Excellencies,
We are a Continent with a very rich history of gallant fighters and visionaries. Writing to “The African Abroad” magazine of April 1906, Pixley ka Isaka Seme - one of the founding fathers of the African National Congress - pronounced that a historian will one day “tell of a race whose onward tide was often swelled with tears, but refused to camp forever on the borders of the industrial world”. It is to this African race, ka Pixley ka Isaka Seme “sets his pride over and against a hostile public opinion”.

Pixley noted that “the elevation and regeneration of this African race is evidently a part of the new order of things”. Critical to this African regeneration which will have a clear common destiny, shall “rise the anxious and aspiring masses to the level of ancient glory, our ancestral greatness”. Like arrows, Africans shall return to their Continent “to drive darkness from their land”.

Despite our tears and our sweats, we should never allow ourselves to “camp forever on the borders of the industrial world”. Our founding fathers expect us to continue marching forward, regardless of the hostile Afro-pessimistic public opinion out there. We need to intensify our efforts in order to achieve lasting peace in every part of our Continent.  We support the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Jean Ping, who expressed the hope that 2010 will be the year for durable solutions and the culmination of processes begun to entrench peace, the safety and well being of Africans. 

In this year that the African Union has declared the “Year of Peace and Security in Africa”, we are called upon to redouble our efforts and our resolve in the resolution of conflicts, insecurities and instabilities that still plague large parts of our continent. There is no denying the fact that every conflict and every humanitarian disaster delays the arrival of the day of our total socio-economic emancipation. But what is even more disturbing, is that these ongoing man-made nightmares destroy our hope for a prosperous collective future.

There is no denying the fact that most countries in the African Continent remain underdeveloped, have large poor populations, have little or no access to educational and health facilities, have high levels of unemployment and their unskilled live in squalor. We know that globalization, in its trail, has left African countries in a state of increased poverty and underdevelopment, at a time when levels of official development assistance and foreign direct investment are dwindling.

This has resulted in millions of people becoming hopeless and desperate, hungry and angry, vulnerable and marginalized. As Patrice Lumumba said in a letter he wrote to his wife and children entitled “History will one day have its say” – I quote “we need to accomplish the sacred task of reconstructing our independence and our sovereignty: for without dignity there is no liberty, without justice there is no dignity, and without independence there are no free men” – close quotes.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

When it comes to building peace, we should look no further than Africa, where many years of conflict and war have ravaged countries, destroyed families, wiped away entire villages, mutilated women and created a generation of lost children. Africa has had more than its fair share of conflict and strife.

While the African Union has taken bold steps to address the sources of conflicts, more needs to be done to address the peace-making and peace-building processes within countries and regions, and help civilians normalise into a peaceful, democratic society. Sport can help contribute to this. It is a medium through which goodwill is generated, trust and confidence built and respect gained.

Africa’s love for football is legendary and our great players are world renowned for their soccer prowess. This in itself can be used as a new impetus for greater effort towards peace and security and initiate grass-root efforts towards the peace process.  Playing friendly matches across borders can dispel myths and create healthy competition and can help unite neighbouring countries embroiled in self-defeating conflicts.  

As Africans, we have a greater responsibility of ensuring the wellbeing of our Continent and its people, our brothers and sisters who have fought dearly and continue fighting for the ideals of freedom, liberty and democracy. We owe it to them to ensure that our peace-making and peace-building efforts create a society where we all will feel safe to walk our streets and for our children to be able to play and dream of a prosperous future.  
The year 2010 is a truly auspicious year, as we stand together with 14 African countries who are celebrating 50 years of freedom. We have shared in their struggles and so shall we share in their celebrations. History has bestowed upon us a Continent whose founding fathers did their best for us – are we not therefore expected to do the very best for future generations? We have a responsibility to safeguard a prosperous future and a legacy of peace to our future generations. In a world fraught with challenges, we need new and innovative ways of bridging divides and fostering peace and development.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen
As we converge here today, we need to be the midwives of a new beginning for Africa. Our destiny and place in history has located us in an enviable position, where Africa will be become the theatre of dreams for the FIFA World Cup and South Africa just a stage. We wish to reiterate that the 2010 FIFA World Cup does not only belong to South Africa but to all of Africa.

We congratulate the 5 Qualifying African Nation – i.e. Nigeria, Cameroon, Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire and Algeria, not forgetting the host of course, South Africa. To all participating African countries, especially the players, they should know that they carry the hopes of all Africans on their shoulders. South Africa is ready and its all-systems-go for that momentous kick off in 13 days time.

In the words of the greatest South African of our times, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela,
(I quote) “The time for the healing of wounds has come;
The moment to bridge the chasms that divide us has come;
The time to build is upon us;
Let there be peace for all! (End-quote)

Ke Nako!
Africa’s time has arrived.
Thank you!


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