Public Lecture by the Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, H. E. Ms Maite Nkoana-Mashabane on the occasion of the Nelson Mandela International Day at the North-West University in Potchefstroom, 22 July 2016

Vice-Chancellor and the Management of the University
Provincial leadership
Your Excellencies Ambassadors and High Commissioners
Student leaders and the University community
Representatives of Non-Governmental Organisations
Invited Guests
Members of the media
Ladies and gentlemen

I am honoured to present this Public Lecture in honour of our internationally revered leader, former President Nelson Mandela, who would have turned 98 on 18 July 2016. The theme of this Public Lecture is “Reflections on the Value of Patriotism in Diplomacy”.

You will recall that the Nelson Mandela International Day was launched on 18 July 2009. This was followed by the adoption of a United Nations General Assembly resolution on 10 November 2009 declaring Tata’s birthday as the Nelson Mandela International Day.

As South Africans we have since resolved to embrace this opportunity to celebrate Madiba’s life and contribution to the wellbeing of our people and humanity at large during the whole of Month of July thereby designating this period the Nelson Mandela Month. It is therefore important to underscore from the onset that this occasion takes place within the designated dates of the Nelson Mandela Month.

Ladies and gentlemen

Allow me to take this opportunity to thank the men and women here at home, on the continent and across the globe who utilised the occasion of the 2016 Nelson Mandela International Day to honour his memory through various activities. Thus honouring Tata’s memory by undertaking collective and individual actions with a view to improve the living conditions of the needy and the less privileged.

I would also like to reiterate our heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of Mr Gugu Zulu who passed on while climbing Mount Kilimanjaro as part of the collective efforts to raise funds for charity in honour of Tata Madiba. He sadly met his untimely death on Monday 18 July 2016 before reaching the summit of Kilimanjaro. Gugu was embarking on this adventure not just for fun, he was doing it for a good cause that is to raise awareness about the Caring For Girls (Caring4Girls) sanitary pad distribution programme.  He will be remembered as the champion of people in need, particularly our young girls.

Ladies and gentlemen

We chose a theme which shall enable you, our esteemed audience, to further appreciate Tata Madiba’s patriotic and heroic sacrifices which culminated in a non-racial and non-sexist South Africa that has taken its rightful place in the world. Tata played an important role in moving the African National Congress (ANC) from politics of petitions and deputations to politics of defiance against the racist regime. Tata’s involvement in the defiance campaigns that led to the adoption of the Freedom Charter in 1955 is well documented.

You may ask a question why a leader who advocated for peaceful resolution of conflicts resorted to defiance and subsequently violence including the establishment of Umkhonto We Sizwe? The apartheid regime’s response to the demands of our people was violent in that they utilised repression and massacred many innocent people to supress the legitimate voices of our leaders.

Madiba recounted the circumstances that led to the establishment of MK during his visit to Cuba In 1991 and said:-

“It is well known that the response of the state to our legitimate democratic demands was, among others, to accuse our directors of treason and subject our people during the 1970’s to indiscriminate massacres. These facts, and the banning of our organization, left us no other road than the one followed by any self-respecting people, including Cuba, that is, to rise up in an armed struggle to retake our country from the hands of the racists”.

Your Excellencies

The fight against apartheid was an African struggle against colonialism of special type. As part of the collective, Madiba and his generation received support and solidarity from Africans, likeminded people of the global South and those who shared our aspirations for peace and justice in other parts of the world.

We are indeed appreciative of the solidarity and support provided to us when we were yearning for freedom. We also had at our disposal a charismatic leader who, together with is generation of leaders, embraced the values of Pan Africanism and would always put the interests of the people above his own personal interests. We are always inspired by Tata’s speech during the Rivonia trial when he told the judge that he was prepared to die in pursuit of a democratic, non-racial and non-sexist South Africa. This demonstration of bravery and his other gallant undertakings earned a status of a true symbol of South Africa’s struggle against the unjust and evil system.

Although his advisers advised him to tone down the language while preparing the speech, Tata was determined to tell the truth as he deemed it fit and necessary. His famous words reverberated across the country, the continent and the globe. He said, among others that:-

“During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”

Ladies and gentlemen

I will not over indulge you with the history regarding what happened following this well known speech. Suffice to indicate that the trial resulted in Mandela’s 27 years of incarceration by the racist Apartheid regime. I must also underscore that Tata equally loved his life like any of us but as a true patriot he had to make personal sacrifices for his people.

His courage, commitment and persistence was further demonstrated when he declined an offer for conditional release made by the then regime through its President PW Botha in 1985. He viewed such an offer as an indictment to sell out the struggle and most importantly his birth right.

You will recall that this offer came almost after 20 years of incarceration with conditions that Tata should denounce violence and by implications abandon a critical element of the struggle at that time.

In a prepared speech which was read by his daughter, my sister Zindzi, it was clear that no matter what he was going through, he considered his freedom as inextricably linked to the freedom of all our people. This is what Zindzi said on behalf of Tata to our people at a rally in Soweto on 10 February 1985:-

I cherish my own freedom dearly, but I care even more for your freedom. Too many have died since I went to prison. Too many have suffered for the love of freedom. I owe it to their widows, to their orphans, to their mothers and to their fathers who have grieved and wept for them…. I am not less life-loving than you are. But I cannot sell my birth right, nor am I prepared to sell the birth right of the people to free…”.

Madiba’s patriotism coupled with his inherent wisdom later made him a champion of truth and reconciliation. The apartheid regime could not delay the inevitable and succumbed to the pressure of negotiating a political settlement.

Ladies and gentlemen

It was through his diplomatic and leadership skills that South Africa managed to peacefully transit form apartheid to democracy in 1994. He embraced the ANC values of non-racialism and non-sexism in pursuit of a prosperous nation. These values are encapsulated in our democratic constitution, Act 108 of 1996. I wish to again remind you that this year, we commemorate 20 years since the signing of the constitution into the supreme law of our land which heralded a new chapter in the life of our nation.

Permit me at this juncture to reflect briefly on the linkages between patriotism and diplomacy so that you can further enhance your comprehension of our foreign policy engagements. The Freedom Charter which I referred to earlier on laid the foundation of our constitution and stated that:-

“South Africa shall strive to maintain world peace and the settlement of all international disputes by negotiation - not war”

Since the dawn of democracy we have deployed our scarce resources in pursuit of a policy of good neighbourliness. This was a clear break from the apartheid foreign policy of regional destabilisation. We have also utilised the South African experience of peaceful transition to assist fellow African countries to resolve their conflicts through negotiation.

Your Excellencies

The overarching principle of our foreign policy remains predicated in the pursuit of a peaceful, stable and a prosperous continent. You will appreciate the fact that South Africa’s future is inextricably linked to the future of our continent. In this regard, President Zuma reiterated the thrust of our foreign policy during his 2016 State of the Nation Address when he said that the African continent is central to our foreign policy engagements.

In this context, our definition of patriotism goes beyond the love of South Africa and takes into cognisance the aspirations and the needs of Africans. Similarly, our national interest are also defined in consideration of the aspirations of the general African populace.

I recall the words of Madiba during the 1994 Summit of the Organisation for African Unity, a precursor to our present day African Union when he made commitment on our behalf to contribute towards the rebirth of the continent and stated:-

“Where South Africa appears on the agenda again, let it be because we want to discuss what its contribution shall be to the making of the new African renaissance”.

Our foreign policy outlook and or orientation enjoins us to place the African continent on the agendas of our engagements with countries and formations of the South such as the Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS), Forum for China-Africa Cooperation; the Group of 77 plus China and others.

Tata Madiba taught us to dispel revenge and hatred in order to work towards a shared prosperity. In this vein we have continued to prioritise our relations with countries of the North to close the gap between the rich and poor countries as well as reversing the marginalisation of the global South in the international system.

Ladies and gentlemen

The National Development Plan vision 2030 and its trajectory requires us to build a resilient economy which will enable us to address the triple challenges of poverty, inequality and unemployment. We have through-out the epochs of our democratic history utilised foreign policy to contribute towards Madiba’s vision of creating a better life for all.

It is against this background that we have continued to revise and realign our economic diplomacy strategies in order to leverage trade and investment opportunities for the betterment of the lives of our people. Our missions abroad are at the fore front of promoting trade and investment with particular focus on areas that support Operation Phakisa programmes and the Government’s Nine Point Plan.

Let me conclude by stating that we formulate and implement an independent foreign policy which places cooperation over any form of competition with a view to address domestic imperatives. We seek to create “A Better South Africa, A Better Africa and A Better World”.

I thank you!!


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