Lecture by the Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Marius Fransman, “Celebrating the OAU/AU 50th Celebrations – Africa and her Diaspora strengthening Relations“, 10 September 2013, Havana-Cuba

Programme Director
Honourable Vice Chancellor
Your Excellencies and members of the Diplomatic Corps
Members of University of Raul Roa Institute for International Relations
Distinguished guests
Members of the Media
Students
Comrades and Friends

It is an honour for me to be here addressing you at this esteemed institution on the occasion of the 50 year celebrations of the OAU/ AU. Allow me at the outset to thank the leadership, government and people of Cuba for the revolutionary contribution that they have consistently made under the most difficult domestic and global circumstances.

I also want to thank the University of Raul Roa Institute of International Relations for hosting us here today and taking the opportunity for facilitating an engagement around a topic of extreme importance and relevance.

Comrades and friends; Cuba has demonstrated to the world the true meaning of international solidarity as you have always given expression to two cardinal principles echoed in the words of Commandante Che' Guevara when he said and I quote: "our struggle can never be over as long as there is a single human being suffering anywhere in the world`' and elsewhere when he said` : "if you can feel indignation at the slightest injustice done to anybody, anywhere, then you can be a comrade of mine.``

Cuba's example of international and Afro-Cuban solidarity is perhaps nowhere more evident than in the lives of its revolutionary leaders and disciplined cadres who fought side by side in the muddy trenches of Africa in pursuit of the dream of justice, freedom and peace.

We honour the memory of all those who lost their lives on African soil and everywhere the brave Cuban nation hoisted the flag of human dignity, freedom and peace in the face of the global terror of imperialism, neo-colonialism and oppression.

We are honoured today to have in our midst one of the great leaders and revolutionaries whose life epitomises what we mean that Afro-Cuban solidarity is not a theoretical paradigm but has been forged in the heat of battle. So allow me to say a special word of welcome to Commandante Victor Emilio Dreke Cruz of whom Che' Guevara wrote in a report to Cde Fidel Castro and said: "He was...one of the pillars on which I relied...The only reason I am not recommending that he be promoted is that he already holds the highest rank".  So we are indeed honoured to have someone in our midst the Vice President of the Cuba Africa Friendship Association; someone of such high calibre as a person, as a leader and a revolutionary whose life embodies a life of struggle and who has fought alongside great African leaders and revolutionaries such as Amilcar Cabral. Let us give a hearty round of applause!

Comrades and friends; Cuba has served as an inspiration to me as an individual and to the people of South Africa, Africa and the World. The reasons for the admiration that we have for your nation are many, and in my view can be best summed up by the words of President Comrade Fidel Castro upon whom South Africa conferred the order of Companions of O.R. Tambo, our country’s highest distinction, who said:

“Cuba knows no fear and despises deceit; it listens with respect but believes in its ideas; it firmly defends its principles and has nothing to hide from the world,”

I want to go a step further and say that the world owes Cuba an immense debt of gratitude not just for the revolutionary actions of its leaders and people; but for being a model and paradigm of international solidarity even under the most difficult times and often at great peril to its own domestic interest.

Indeed it is this indomitable spirit that has firmly placed President Comrade Fidel Castro and the people of Cuba in the hearts and minds of the struggling working class masses, revolutionaries and people of all walks of life across the world.

It is for this reason that the world has come out so strongly and expressed its indignation at the ongoing injustice committed against the Cuban Five and the freedom loving people of Cuba. We reiterate our commitment and support and will continue to raise our voices at International Forums and demand the unconditional release of the remaining four of the Cuban Five.

Comrades

Next year, on the 27 April 2014, South Africa celebrates 20 years since the end of the liberation struggle and the ushering in of a new dispensation. Just over two decades ago, Former President Nelson Mandela and his comrades had been released from prison after serving over 27 years on the infamous Robben Island. This momentous occasion is celebrated by people in every corner of the globe who fought tirelessly for the release of Nelson Mandela and the freedom of South Africans of all colours and creeds.

As we approach this important milestone that symbolises 20 years since the hard won victory over the former South African apartheid regime, we acknowledge with gratitude and respect all those who assisted us in the realisation of our objectives of a free, fair and just South Africa for all its citizens. Comrades from all corners of the globe joined forces and organised mass protests, sit ins, implemented sanctions and were even imprisoned in a bid to draw attention to the plight of the majority of South Africans. The battle to free South Africa was long; and it was difficult. We lost many cadres along the way. This battle however, was not fought by the people of South Africa alone. There are many who struggled with us, lending their support by promoting the liberation struggle, providing us with assistance with education and scholarships, and indeed fighting side by side with us in the trenches. Cuba stands as the first amongst equals in this regard; and perhaps has the unique distinction of having so many active combatants fighting the might of the Apartheid machinery and offering up the lives of so many young Cuban revolutionaries such as yourself in order to realize South Africa's freedom and liberation.

There can be no doubt that Cuba went over and above the call of duty in crushing and bringing the apartheid regime to its knees and helping to ensure our freedom.

Cuba’s commitment and dedication to ensuring that the principles of freedom, non- racialism and self-determination were realised was felt by many a nation on the African continent, and was not reserved purely for South Africa. There are few countries that can boast having played such a pivotal role in liberating the African Continent as a whole from the shackles of colonialism, imperialism and apartheid in the way that Cuba can.

From Angola to Cape Verde, Guinea Bissau to Mozambique and South Africa to Congo, Cuba’s unwavering support was instrumental to our attempts to rid ourselves of oppression and remains greatly appreciated to this day. In your support of the Continent you crossed the boundaries of social activism and international solidarity with the oppressed by actually laying down your lives for our freedom. We have not forgotten the vicious battles at Quifangodo, Cabinda, Ebo and of course the 1988 Battle of Cuito Cuanavale under the command of General Leopoldo Cintra Frias. It was this battle that was a key catalyst and tipping point in the fight against Apartheid. It was at Cuito and the role of Cuba that forever changed the balance of forces and forced the apartheid government to the negotiating table. It is for this reason that our great leader, revolutionary  and ANC President O.R. Tambo an icon of the liberation movement and a man loved and respected by many, including the people of Cuba said that;

“Cuban people live with us in Africa, they fight with us, they die with us, they fail, and they win with us. They have become part of the struggling people of our continent”.

Cdes and Friends since the advent of democracy in 1994 the positive relationship between our two countries continues to grow having been rooted in a common desire to live in a world which is prosperous, peaceful, democratic, non-racial, non-sexist and united, a world that is just and equitable.

I would like to take this opportunity to speak to you today about the African Union 50 year anniversary celebrations and the role that is being played by the South Africa, Cuba and the Diaspora to realise the objectives of the African Union’s vision.

Comrades on the 25th of May 2013 Africa and her Diaspora celebrated 50 years since the creation of the Organisation for African Unity (OAU) which is now the African Union (AU).  The theme for the celebrations is “Pan-Africanism and African Renaissance”. The African Union defines the Diaspora as consisting of peoples of African descent who are living outside of the continent, irrespective of their citizenship or nationality and who are willing to contribute towards the development of the Continent and the building of the African Union. The excellent relationship between Cuba and South Africa is one such way in which the contributions of the Diaspora to the Continent can be viewed.

Since 1994 the warm relations between our two countries have flourished and seen Cuba, which was amongst the first countries to set up an embassy in Pretoria, and South Africa continuing to work closely together to ensure that our nations shared similar interests in addressing the socio-economic needs and aspirations of our people are realised.

A number of bilateral agreements have been signed in the areas of science and technology, arts and culture, sport and recreation, air services, merchant shipping, trade and economic assistance. As I am sure that you are well aware Cuba, whose healthcare system is the envy of many nations across the world, has been training South African doctors.

In 2012, the South Africa/Cuba Extended Cooperation Agreement in the fields of health and medical sciences was signed. This has led to an increased number of South African medical students studying in Cuba, thus contributing to the implementation of that vision of National Health Insurance (NHI). South Africa currently has over 1000 medical students in Cuba and over the next five years Cuba will have equipped over 5000 of our young people with much needed medical training. This will go towards assisting South Africa to address some of the challenges within our healthcare sector, in line with our domestic priorities.  

Indeed the relationship between our two nations is mutually beneficial. In 2010, our Cabinet approved a R350 million economic assistance package to Cuba to strengthen bilateral trade and investment and assist in addressing the effects of natural disasters. Although we acknowledge that there have been some implementation challenges, South Africa remains committed to working with Cuba to further strengthen your economy and ours.

These agreements are shining examples of some of the success stories that should be celebrated under the banner of the OAU/AU 50 year celebrations and are further evidence of the warm relations that exist between Africa and her Diaspora of which Cuba is a leading member.

In 2012 South Africa hosted the AU Global African Diaspora Summit. This was an event of historic significance in the relations between Africa and her Diaspora.  The date chosen for this event, the 25th of May, symbolized our victory over colonialism and our quest for Pan-African unity. The African Diaspora Summit was the culmination of a long history of association – a history of unity in struggle – between the people of Africa and her Diaspora.  As with Africans on the continent our brothers and sisters in the Diaspora have also fought heroically for their right to self-determination in the Caribbean and parts of Latin America, as well as against racisms and racial discrimination. It is therefore understandable and admirable that one of the principals upon which the Cuban revolution is based is that of non – racialism.

Comrades and Friends

As we celebrate the 50 year celebrations we do so from not only a continental perspective but a global one.

At the Global African Diaspora Summit the African Union again reiterated the importance of the Diaspora as the 5th region and the need for the Continent and the peoples of the Diaspora to remain united to achieve our shared objectives- a message which I would like to once again highlight as it will form the cornerstone of the success of both our regions going forward.

The occasion of the OAU/AU 50 year celebrations comes at a time when Africa has made a record number of progressive steps. The Continent is now, more than ever geared towards ensuring that its people begin to harvest the fruits of our forefathers, icons such as Kwame Nkrumah, Marcus Garvey, Jomo Kenyatta, Oliver Tambo, Che Guevara and W.E.B. Du Bois amongst others.

African states are also moving decisively towards improved governance. It cannot be disputed that the Africa of today has made many gains towards the realisation of a Continent that is a driving force in global politics and economics.

Comrades and friends

As part of the 50 year celebrations the AU will be presenting “Vision 2063” at the AU Summit in Addis Ababa in January 2014.  At its heart, this new roadmap namely “Agenda 2063” emphasizes the importance of rekindling the passion for Pan-Africanism, a sense of unity, self-reliance, integration and solidarity that was a highlight of the triumphs of the 20th century. As noted earlier on in this speech, Cuba played an integral role in the Pan-Africanist movement and has done much through your various training initiatives and programmes towards fostering self reliance and unity both within the Continent and between Africa and her Diaspora.

Additionally this Vision represents a paradigm shift in how the African continent must move forward in the next 50 years. One element of the Vision that is fundamental is the honest and frank manner in which the problems that Africa is currently facing are acknowledged.

South Africa also continues to strive towards addressing these challenges. We acknowledge with concern persistent conflict situations in some parts of the continent many of which date back to the era of colonialism. Others are new and opportunistic. All need to be resolved in order for Africa to march decisively towards total emancipation.

Comrades and Friends,

We as South Africa are involved in post-conflict reconstruction and development in Burundi, South Sudan and Somalia. Our peace-keeping efforts in the Democratic Republic of Congo are well documented. We continue to insist on peaceful means to resolve conflicts. This is in line with our own recent history of a peaceful transition.

The 2002 Summit of the then OAU, held in Lomé, Togo, adopted the Declaration on the Framework for an OAU Response to Unconstitutional Changes of Government. The Lomé Framework defined unconstitutional change of government as “a replacement of a democratically elected government through a military coup d’état, intervention by mercenaries, armed dissident groups and rebel movements and the refusal by an incumbent government to relinquish power to the winning party after free, fair and regular elections.”  This position was incorporated into the Constitutive Act of the AU, as well as the protocol that established the AU’s peace and security architecture.

The African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance has since added a fifth element to the definition of unconstitutional change of government, namely “Any amendment or revision of the Constitution or legal instruments, which is an infringement on the principles of democratic change of government”.

Coups and rebel attacks on democratically elected governments, as well as disputes over elections and constitutions, are at the heart of our peace and security challenges in Africa today.

In addition to peace and security obstacles faced by the Continent, there are a host of economic issues that we are attempting to overcome. The wealth of resources that Africa possesses needs to be better harnessed in order to translate into sustainable economic growth and development.

South Africa understands this and this is why we are also using our position as one of Africa’s leading economies to advocate for the integration of Africa’s economies. We want to see more intra-Africa trade.

In 2011, the Southern African Development Community, the Common Market for East and Southern Africa and the East African Community signed a Tripartite Free Trade Agreement, which combines the economies of 26 countries with a combined population of more than 600 million people. Through the Free Trade Agreement, trade and the movement of goods among the signatories to the agreement will be easier.

But we cannot stop there. As inter African trade grows, so must the trade between nations of the Diaspora and the Continent. It is estimated that there are over 30 million Africans living in the Diaspora who in 2010 sent home approximately USD 40 billion. How do our banks interact with these facts? What are we doing to ensure that the trade between our peoples increases? 

Comrades and friends

As much as we celebrate the gains that have been made in the past – Vision 2063 also calls on the Continent and 5th Region to take stock of where we are now. The fact of the matter is that Africa must do things differently if we are to achieve the African Union’s vision of “An Integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in the global arena”.

It is essential that lesson from our past are learned. It is essential that we begin to move away from talking shop and transform Vision 2063 into a reality. It is comrades, essential that we meaningfully engage with nations such as yourselves, to ensure greater cohesion and participation from those who have always been ready and willing to unite with the peoples of Africa for the betterment of the continent.

Comrades, Friends, Colleagues

In closing I would like to assure you that the people of South Africa will continue to work with our brothers and sisters on the continent, in the Diaspora and indeed across the world toward the attainment of a better Africa and a better world. There is no doubt that Africa must continue to rise and with the partnership of great nations such as Cuba and others in the Diaspora , there remains in my mind, no doubt that we will.

As we walk in the footsteps of giants such as Cde Victor Dreke we will be reminded of an extract from Che's Notebook quoting Nicholas Guillen the Cuban poets words  ' I don't know why you think':

Soon we'll see ourselves, me and you,
Together on the same street,
Shoulder to shoulder, you and I,
With hate from neither me nor you.
But knowing you and me,
Where we go, you and I

I thank you

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

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