Speech by Minister Naledi Pandor, MP, Minister of International Relations and Cooperation on the occasion of the African Diaspora Engagement held at DIRCO Conference Centre on 20 September 2019

Your Excellency Ambassador Mpoko, the Dean of the Diplomatic Corps

Members of the Diplomatic Corps

The Chairperson of the African Diaspora Forum

Fellow Africans

Thank you for accepting and honouring our invitation for this meeting.

Two weeks ago I had a meeting with diplomats of countries represented in South Africa. The aim of the meeting was to discuss and share information on the tragic acts of anti-African violence that occurred in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal early this month. I hoped their excellencies would assist our department and ministry in devising impactful responses to these very troubling challenges.

Programme Director,

In the course of our brief discussions several matters of concern were raised. Among them is the fact that DIRCO has had such discussions with the diplomatic corps previously.  Despite agreement on joint actions it was confirmed there had been insufficient follow through and monitoring.

The events that occurred just a few short weeks ago are regrettable and embarrassing for a country with the a proud liberation history and an association with heroes and heroines such as Pixley ka Isaka Seme, Marcus Garvey, Sylvester Williams, WEB du Bois Dudley Thompson, Julia Cooper, Charlotte Maxeke, Oliver Tambo, Jomo Kenyatta, Amilcar Cabral, Abidias do Nascimento, Lillian Ngoyi Julius Nyerere, Martin Luther King, Steve Biko and Nelson Mandela, Ben Bella, Gamal Abdel Nasser, to mention but a few.

These leaders had a vision. They wanted to see the liberation of black people from all forms of bondage, humiliation and degradation. They wanted to see black people regardless of borders, being treated with respect and dignity.  Our task is to act to make this vision a practical reality.

These leaders wanted to see Africa taking its rightful place in global affairs, and Africa not being impoverished through the endless exploitation of its raw materials. They wanted to see dependency and underdevelopment ending, replaced by a new Africa that took control over its resources for the benefit of its peoples. All of us are aware that the violence and hatred we witnessed points to the need for increased attention to developing African consciousness and promoting the ideals of African unity as the foundation for African development.

I and all of DIRCO believe we cannot sit back and do nothing. We need your advice as to actions we should set in motion to prevent further tragedies.  

What is the challenge before us?

The escalation of violence, intimidation and death witnessed recently in our country require us to avoid the pointing of fingers and reach out across all communities.  

The origin and sources of the antagonism and anger must be identified. I firmly support police action against the perpetrators of crime. Many suspects have been arrested, and we trust that our criminal justice system will have suspects tried speedily and incarcerated if found guilty. We need to go beyond that. Community members feel alienated and displaced, lack opportunity and jobs and live in fear.  

Whilst the attacks are aimed largely at African migrants, we have also noted that many South African citizens are also among the victims. The fact that the violence is associated with theft, destruction of property and murder points to motives other than the hatred of non-South Africans.

I have asked that we meet with you as I have been informed you work closely with these communities and you may have proposals as to how we could devise interventions that will help hatred and conflict.

I am told some of the organisations present here have worked on complex and challenging issues and I hope to draw on your experience to develop effective responses.  I wish us to collaborate to avoid more conflict and look forward to hearing your thoughts on what could be done.  

Together we are therefore faced with the challenge of defeating the political and economic conditions that, as we speak, condemn the majority of our fellow humans, particularly in poor countries, to the conditions similar to the ones on the Slave Ships that took our kith and kin away from the continent.

The African agenda must enable us to successfully fight this state of existence where people live as though they are imprisoned in the bars of a single jail.

We have to end the existence which makes our people suffer endlessly from economic stagnation, crime, and many preventable and curable diseases.  

We need to find solutions to the management of migration on our continent. We need to talk about the role that sending countries and transit countries can play in assisting receiving countries like South Africa to manage this issue.

Africa’s first Nobel Peace Prize laureate and former President General of the African National Congress Chief Albert Luthuli said some profound words in December 1961.

He said: "Africa is a vital subject matter in the world of today, a focal point of world interest and concern. Could it not be that history has delayed her rebirth for a purpose? The situation confronts her with inescapable challenges, but more importantly with opportunities for service to herself and mankind. She evades the challenges and neglects the opportunities to her shame, if not her doom. How she sees her destiny is a more vital and rewarding quest than bemoaning her past with its humiliations and sufferings."

Fellow Africans,

We are one people with a common past and certainly a common future. We have no choice but to be united, to work together for our common good and to strive to rewrite the story of our continent. It is possible!

I thank you for your attention.

ISSUED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND COOPERATION

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