Statement by H. E. Deputy Minister Ebrahim Ebrahim, Friendship and Dialogue in the Foreign Policy of Ubuntu, the Turquoise Harmony Institute Dinner, Hyatt Regency Hotel, Rosebank, Johannesburg, Thursday, 5 September 2013

Honourable Executive Director and Members of the Turquoise
Respected Elders
Distinguished Guests
Ladies and Gentlemen

I am truly honoured to be your guest this evening, especially for the privilege to be amongst a group of people with whom I share the basic values of “friendship, dialogue and cooperation”.

As a South African and as a former political prisoner of a regime that systematically opposed cross-cultural, and in particularly inter-racial, relations I know from my own life experience the importance of the values that the Turquoise Harmony Institute (THI) espouses. I thank you all for your collective and individual roles in promoting tolerance, mutual understanding and your outreach to different communities.

The Holy Quran states that the Almighty created us as male and female, and into nations and tribes, that we may know one another. I quote this important passage because I recognise that you have aptly adopted it as the motto of your institute.

In my work as a Diplomat, I am privileged to engage on a daily basis with people from all walks of life and from all across the world. I am enriched by the dialogue and friendship of those I meet and by the fact that it is my job to strengthen and promote even deeper relations between South Africa and other nations. Regrettably, my work is also very occupied with the realities of war, poverty and social discord. It is because of our history that South Africa is often called upon to mediate or to share our experiences with those who are experiencing conflict or striving to rebuild their lives through post-conflict reconstruction and development.

The prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is quoted as saying a person cannot attain complete faith until he loves for his brothers that which he loves for himself. I am quoting these Islamic values in full recognition that they are indeed universal and shared by those who adhere to other faiths and belief systems. This is why South Africans are so justly proud of our Constitution which embraces and institutionalizes these values into our legal system, our government policies and perhaps most importantly, projects who we are, and aspire to, as a nation.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It should therefore be no surprise to you and it is no coincidence that we have chosen to entitle our international relations policy as “The Foreign Policy of Ubuntu”. Ubuntu literally means: I am because you are. We chose to utilize this concept to embody the spirit of our international relations for many reasons, but I would like to share with you three of its key principles.

Firstly, our foreign policy is informed by the imperatives of our domestic imperatives. This means that the challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality as well as all the other challenges that our society continues to grapple with must not only be dealt with in narrow nationalistic terms but rather through a broader understanding of a national interest that recognises the importance of the plight of our neighbours in the global village.

Secondly, our prosperity cannot be achieved at the expense of others and that through enhanced bilateral and multilateral engagements we can forge partnerships for mutual benefit.

Thirdly, that disputes can and should be settled through dialogue and mutual respect because violence begets violence. Even when force is necessary, enduring peace can only be achieved when people finally realize that they have to reach out to each other with tolerance, a spirit of compromise and mutual respect.

The Foreign Policy of Ubuntu therefore compels us to champion multilateralism, promote human rights, democracy and development and mutually beneficial relations through political dialogue, trade, and people-to-people relations.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We are once again experiencing a time when we are confronted with the scourge of war and nations are at war with each other and with themselves. The work of your institute is therefore a critical civil society initiative that gives tangible expression to the Quranic verse that “the Believers are brothers, so make peace between them”.  I encourage you to continue your noble quest to reach out to all communities through friendship and dialogue and to create greater inter-faith harmony. In doing so, you are also embracing and giving meaning to the spirit of Ubuntu.

I thank you.

Enquiries: Mr Clayson Monyela, Spokesperson for the Department of International Relations and Cooperation, 082 884 5974.


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