Speech of Deputy Minister Ebrahim I Ebrahim at the African Union Peace and Security Council Ministerial Meeting on: “National Reconciliation, a Crucial Factor for Security, Stability and Sustainable Development in Africa”, Algiers, Algeria, 29 June 2013
Chairperson of the Peace and Security Council, Your Excellency Mourad Medelci, our gracious host,
Members of the Peace and Security Council,
AU Commissioner for Peace and Security, Ambassador Lamamra,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I would like to express my sincere appreciation for the invitation extended to South Africa to participate in this important Peace and Security Council meeting and for the opportunity to share with the Council members, our experiences on national reconciliation. In particular, we wish to commend Algeria for chairing this very important session of the AU Peace and Security Council as it Chairs the PSC for the month of June 2013, as well as the hospitality extended to our delegation.
On behalf of President Jacob Zuma, the government and the people, I wish also to express our appreciation for all the well-wishes received for our former President Nelson Mandela, who remains in a critical condition in a Pretoria hospital. Former President Nelson Mandela, the embodiment of reconciliation championed nation-building among South Africa’s polarised races, promoting the principles of national unity and cooperative governance. His role in fighting apartheid, his imprisonment on Robben Island - where he came to symbolise the struggle of oppressed people around the world - and his ability to steer South Africa through the crisis of its rebirth, earned him the reputation of ‘father of the nation’ and international peacemaker.
Mandela was always inspired by the principles espoused by the founders of the OAU/AU who were at the forefront of the struggle for self-determination and total liberation of the continent. Therefore, this gathering of Ministers of the PSC will have the blessing of former President Mandela, especially given this very important and appropriate theme.
The support of your countries, including our gracious host Algeria, where Madiba spent some time undergoing military and political training during the early years of his illustrious and noble struggle, will not be forgotten.
Reconciliation encompasses a number of aspects which have as its final aim the creation of security, stability and sustainable social-economic development in societies emerging from conflict.
One of the most important processes that South Africa embarked upon to dismantle apartheid and redress the past was the convening of the all-party Conventions for a Democratic South Africa (CODESA), commencing in December 1991,and bringing together various political, civil, religious and community organisations. The purpose was to forge a smooth transition process and to chart the future for a new and democratic South Africa. During these Conventions the parties decided on, amongst others, the new constitution, the setting up of the interim government, and the electoral system.
However, these negotiations and other debates to end apartheid did not go smoothly. Emotions ran high, violence erupted and some parties threatened to withdraw, while others did. Colleagues might remember incidents like the Boipatong and Bisho massacres, the assassination of Chris Hani, as well as the foiled attack at the South African World Trade Centre that nearly derailed the whole process of negotiation. In this volatile environment there were calls from some quarters of our society for retribution and retaliation against the apartheid system and its supporters.
It was during these testing times that the resolve to bring about peace was fully tested. However, our leaders and the vast majority of our people were conscious and visionary enough to embrace dialogue and reconciliation, mindful that if there was to be a future for the country, all parties had to sit together and chart a new future.
However, how to deal with the past, Chairperson, in particular the atrocities of the apartheid era was another major issue that confronted the new government.
When the new Government under former President Nelson Mandela took office in 1994, a means had to be found to deal with the past conduct of the apartheid regime while still managing the delicate process of transition to a new political system.
In dealing with these injustices, I would like to quote former President Nelson Mandela during his 18 August 1994 President’s Budget Speech in Parliament, 100-Days after taking up office. I quote:-
“From the outset, the government of National Unity set itself two interrelated tasks: reconciliation and reconstruction, nation-building and development. This is South Africa's challenge today. It will remain our challenge for many years to come.”
Chairperson, in quoting these words of former President Nelson Mandela, a number of important points, relevant within the context of reconciliation in Africa, come to mind.
The first was how to deal with the violations of the past. In this context the negotiating parties, on the eve of the April 1994 election, opted for a truth commission to investigate human rights violations.
Through the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the objective was to promote national unity and reconciliation in a spirit of understanding which transcends the conflicts and divisions of the past by;
- establishing a picture of the causes, nature and extent of the gross violations of human rights which were committed during the reign of the previous regime, by conducting investigations and holding hearings;
- facilitating the granting of amnesty to persons who made full disclosure of all the relevant facts relating to acts associated with a political objective; and
- establishing and making known the fate or whereabouts of victims and restoring the human and civil dignity of such victims by granting them an opportunity to relate their own accounts of the violations of which they were the victims.
Of further importance, as I pointed out earlier, reconciliation covers much broader issues.
President Jacob Zuma in 2011, on the occasion of the “Marking of the National Day of Reconciliation”, said that the most fundamental steps taken towards full reconciliation, is the ‘extension of basic services and the improvement of the quality of life of all’, especially those who suffered profoundly under apartheid, the black majority in South Africa’s case. The ongoing provision of housing, water, electricity, sanitation, roads and other services in areas that were deliberately excluded from development by the apartheid regime is a major contribution to the national process of healing. To quote President Jacob Zuma: “As government, we are conscious of the fact that reconciliation is a journey and not a one-day-a-year event. “Thus we are still on this journey but we can share and learn from other parties and friends because there is no one size fits all in this process.
The approach adopted by the report of the AU Commission Chairperson that situates the debate within the context of the AU Policy on Post-Conflict Reconstruction and Development as well as the broader framework of peace, justice and development is in keeping with the approach South Africa took in its reconciliation efforts.
Of importance is to develop programmes of action on our continent that include both government and civil society that can advance national reconciliation processes. South Africa has in the past shared its experiences in national reconciliation programmes and projects in Africa and will continue to do so.
It should be noted that practices and experiences of reconciliation are endemic to African modes of conflict resolution. Reconciliation is, therefore, not alien to our continent. Historical accounts point to instances of traditional modes of resolving differences, which included reconciliation.
Peace and security is critical to the African Agenda. Without peace and security there can be no sustainable development. Without sustainable development there can be no peace and security. Without these prerequisites the Millennium Development Goals will not be realized.
I thank you.
For more information, please contact Mr Clayson Monyela, 082 884 5974
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