National Assembly, Parliament, Cape Town
Wednesday 19 September 2012
Honourable President of the Republic, Mr Jacob Zuma
Honourable Deputy President, Mr Kgalema Motlanthe,
Honourable Speaker of the National Assembly and Chairperson of the NCOP
Deputy Speaker and Deputy Chairperson,
Honourable Ministers and Deputy Ministers
Members of the diplomatic corps
Comrades and friends
Fellow South Africans
Let me acknowledge the presence of the Speaker of Japan.
I am deeply honoured and moved by the convening of a Joint Sitting of Parliament to offer congratulations on my election as Chairperson of the African Union Commission.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank South Africans from all walks of life who have expressed their love, support and encouragement on my election. I thank you South Africa. I love you South Africa.
I have been privileged and honoured to be given the opportunity to serve our people over the past 18 years as their elected representative and as a Minister in various portfolios.
I take this opportunity to thank the former Presidents of our country - Nelson Mandela, Thabo Mbeki, Kgalema Motlanthe and Jacob Zuma for giving me the opportunity to serve our country and people at a critical period when our country needed transformation.
I also want to thank all my colleagues with whom I have worked in Cabinet over the past 18 years.
May I also extend my sincere gratitude to the chairpersons and members of the various portfolio committees, across the political spectrum, and particularly those in which I served. As a patriotic citizen, I remain committed to achieving a non-racial, non-sexist, democratic South Africa.
Eighteen years ago, millions of our people, black and white, urban and rural, young and old, men and women, labour and business, students and religious activists cast their vote in South Africa’s first and historic democratic election.
It is these citizens who have enabled us to be here as Members of Parliament.
All those who were elected to this house to serve our people were excited at being part of a collective effort to build our first democratic parliament. It was equally inspiring that the task of creating a non-racial, non-sexist democratic South Africa did not only fall on the shoulders of the ANC but - as enjoined by our Constitution – is the responsibility of South Africans from all communities. One of the positive outcomes has been a stimulating and fruitful sharing of ideas, experiences and perspectives.
Participating with members of the opposition has been an enriching experience. I have learnt a lot from their criticism and their praise. I thank you for this.
However, for the 169 women members, the immediate challenge was to deal firmly with patriarchy, such as a lack of facilities for women.
Whilst we still have a long way to go, the fight for gender equality played a decisive part in transforming the culture and agenda of parliament. The agenda of parliament is now more humane and people friendly and, let us admit it, a much brighter place with our colourful attire amidst sombre suits and ties.
It has been a very pleasant 18 years but a very steep learning curve for us all. When we arrived we did not know what a Parliament was or what the rules were. But we were fast learners and some of us became experts in some areas.
It is fitting that we come together to debate and to celebrate an Africa that is dynamic, developing and increasingly (not absolute but increasingly) democratic. Never before have African children faced a future that is so full of promise and potential and, at the same time with huge challenges.
It is therefore the sacred responsibility of our generation of Africans to lay a solid foundation for that future. So that indeed they can say that today is better than yesterday and tomorrow will be better than today. It is this agenda that must drive the African Union.
We accept this responsibility conscious that our road to the political and economic renewal of our mother continent is a task that rests on the shoulders of all African citizens in our different member states, in our various formations - labour, business, media, judiciary, youth and women.
In a short while I will join the many Africans deployed to the headquarters of our continental organisation, the African Union, to build on the foundations laid by my predecessors.
I am going to Addis Ababa, not as a saviour, but as a humble servant of the people to contribute to collective continental efforts to create a better Africa in a better world – to serve humanity which is indivisible. We must be Africans at all times – in good times and in bad. This is something we have been taught by many leaders who have become before us.
This was recognised, not least by Enoch Sontenga, as he composed Nkosi Sikelele’iafrika. It talks of God blessing Africa in its entirety.
I shall be inspired by the collective wisdom of the leadership and people of Africa, the vision of the founding leaders of the AU and its predecessor the OAU, in their determination to ensure Africa takes its rightful place among the family of nations as an equal and reliable partner for achieving peace and development.
The challenges of our continent - multifaceted and manifold as they are - require a resolute leadership; united by their passion, commitment, dedication and love for our African people.
Needless to state, that as part of securing the future of our continent, we have to make resources abundantly available for the education and training of all African children - both boys and girls in equal measure. A nation that does not invest in the future of its children is doomed and is not worthy of being called a nation. As a continent we have an abundance of young people and a large young and dynamic population. Treated well it will be a great asset to this continent.
The empowerment of women - politically, socially and economically must also remain the focus of all our efforts as we transform our continent for all who live in it.
Against the background of the Declaration by the African Union of 2010-2020 as the Decade of Women, we must spare neither strength nor effort to advance the total emancipation of women, enabling them to play a meaningful and fundamental role in shaping the destiny of our continent.
I want to quote the late Mozambican President Samora Machel in this regard:
“The emancipation of women is not an act of charity, or the result of a humanitarian or compassionate attitude. The liberation of women is a fundamental necessity for the revolution, the guarantee of its continuity and the precondition of its victory.”
Analyses of medium and longer term trends and indicators clearly show that over the past 15 years, and in particular over the last five years, the vision of the founders of the African Union is being progressively realized in spite of adverse global conditions.
As the President has said, seven of the world’s ten fastest growing economies are in Africa; more democracies are evolving; internal and external trade and investment has grown rapidly; and an expanding middle class is pushing up the human capital index and encouraging internal markets.
We must be seized with expanding our infrastructure in all its forms. We need to do this for, amongst others, trade and intra-African trade. We are the only continent in the world where our largest trading partners are across the seas. We will never be competitive unless we change this.
We also need to focus on agriculture – a continent that cannot feed itself will never reach its full potential.
Above all, Africans have gained confidence and are investing financially and otherwise in their future. Crucially, these trends are reflected in bilateral and multilateral relations and improved cooperation, especially within regions, and in robust efforts to reposition Africa internationally.
One among many examples of progress is the second Civil Registration and Vital Statistics conference recently hosted by South Africa. In opening the Conference the President of South Africa, Jacob Zuma, spoke of the scandal of invisibility of millions of Africans whose births and identities are not recorded anywhere, denying them access to rights and services.
The lack of accurate statistics also undermines national planning and service provision. Lack of accurate and secure population registers also undermines security and efforts to establish effective immigration systems.
Participation in the Conference and its outcome shows a high level of practical commitment and cooperation by African states in building modern systems and addressing this problem.
My dream is that every African child will have a secure and proud identity and citizenship of their state, region, Africa and indeed the world.
There are three final points to be made in relation to the Africa and the African Union.
The first is that it is in the fundamental interest of South Africa to pay focused attention to the integrated development of the SADC region and build its capacity to do so. Africa is poised to take flight and to fly high and we must not be left on the ground. African development is dependent on the development of each state and all of its regions.
The second point is that it is in the interests of South Africa to help build the institutional capacity of the African Union.
The third point is that there must be a collective and individual drive by all African states to empower women and youth and release their vast potential, especially with respect to rural development. Africa is a continent of youth, and neglecting them would be a fatal error.
We must ensure that the Union is driven by its citizens, not just by its governments. We must therefore try very hard to engage the citizenry of the continent in their various formations.
The African Union is working on establishing a Pan African University which will have campuses in various regions. SADC is lagging behind in this and I hope that as I leave to take up my position in Addis Ababa, SADC and South Africa will discuss this matter.
The Pan African University is going to be very critical because it will identify gaps in our skills and will also forge people to people relations amongst ourselves as people.
Integration is very important – it cannot only be the integration of infrastructure and economies, it must be the integration of people as well. This is one way of achieving this.
I would like to quote President Patrice Lumumba of the then Zaire who said in 1960 at the All African Conference in Leopoldville:
“We all know, and the whole world knows it, that Algeria is not French, that Angola is not Portuguese, that Kenya is not English, that Ruanda-Urundi is not Belgian. We know that Africa is neither French, nor British, nor American, nor Russian, that it is African.”
This is what will guide me as I take up my new position – I will look at everyone as an African.
I had an opportunity to meet with women of the shipping industry in Africa earlier this month in KZN. What encouraged me was that they said they are now working in the shipping industry but they would soon be owning liners. It is a scandal that we do transport our own goods. This must be addressed. It is also the reason that we are not competitive because we have to spend so much money on transporting our goods.
And on another area – as long as Africa’s story is told by other people, it will not be our story. We must tell our own stories. We must have a Pan African media house through which we can tell our own stories in our own voices. Of course our voices are not heard as long as we use other people’s mouths. We must use our own voices to tell our own stories.
I want to thank all of you who have participated in this debate. I will be sending my parliamentary liaison officer to some you to provide your speeches so the issues you have raised can be followed up once I am in office in Addis Ababa.
As I conclude, I wish to leave you with the words of the Russian author, Nikolai Ostrovsky:
“Man’s dearest possession is life. It is given to him but once, and he must live it so as to feel no torturing regrets for wasted years, never know the burning shame of a mean and petty past; so live that dying, he might say: All my life, all my strength were given to the finest cause in all the world - the fight for Liberation of Mankind.”
I thank you for being my comrades and colleagues, united in the service of our people.
Going forward, I can assure you that we will continue to work together.
I thank you.
Released by Chief Directorate: Communication