Address by Deputy President Jacob Zuma, at the launch of the South African Chapter of the African Renaissance, 7 April 2000
Master of Ceremonies
Chairperson of the South African Chapter of the African Renaissance
The Premier of Gauteng
First I should start off by congratulating the organisers of this function to launch the South African Chapter of the African Renaissance. To me this is but the first step in a journey that has just truly begun and whose fruit many of us shall not have the pleasure to witness.
And so the curse of history has been heaped upon our generation: to mould the democratic creation that South Africa represents; to toil so that the African child can at last play in the African sun.
So that the pangs of hunger that we knew and experienced, are foreign to its tender life and for it, the pain and gloom of epidemics a thing of the past.
Indeed we shall have achieved the ideal of the African Renaissance when the many wars and destruction that plague our continent are a mere chapter in history rather than a reality of life.
This launch of the South African Chapter is especially significant because, for us as South Africans, the African Renaissance is more than just a nice-sounding catch phrase or a fad to embrace when a happy mood beckons.
The African Renaissance is a condition for our success – as a nation and as a continent.
Africa’s rebirth is the ideal that inspired the African giants who moulded the organisational weapons that made our freedom a reality. And so their efforts are only half-fulfilled if the scourges against which they fought have only assumed a new form. South Africa cannot be truly free, and it cannot prosper, if their ideals have not found expression across the continent.
Africa’s rebirth has conception in the cry on the lips of thousands across the sub-continent, and further afield, who fell to the deafening sound of gunfire and tolerated their own wretched conditions so that our country could be free. For they knew that our freedom took the continent a step closer to new horizons. Their sacrifice can only have meaning therefore if our political freedom marked the beginning of the social emancipation of Africa.
Africa’s rebirth was the inspiration to the continent to work as one, to ensure that every inch of its soil vibrates to the rhythm of self-determination. But the dance to the beat of freedom must represent joy in the success of the struggle, for the continent to redeem itself.
The ingredients of South Africa’s own rebirth – reconstruction and development, nation building and reconciliation, democracy and non-racialism – are all part of the building blocks of the African Renaissance. We are purely and simply an African nation reborn: not the last post of some mystical empire; not a little Europe awkwardly perched at the tip of the African Continent; nor a clone of the American dream.
Distinguished Guests, the launch of the South African Chapter of the African Renaissance is to us a moment of celebration. Steadily but surely the idea is finding root, deep into the consciousness of the continent. The new generation of African leaders who declared the coming of an African Century expressed the hidden force of a giant about to rise. Tribute is due to them.
It is leaders such as these who have sensed and seized a decisive moment in the evolution of our continent. They have taken to heart the lessons from a generation that, at the turn of the century, dreamt of an ideal beyond the horizon.
Today, their hopes have the possibility of realisation. Conditions across the globe and across our own continent dictate that something new should come out of Africa, moulded by Africans themselves. For it is in the interest of both the rich and the poor of the globe that the African Century must become a reality.
The revolution in technology allows for speedier movement of capital, goods, services, labour and information across oceans and boundaries. Investors continuously seek bigger markets and lucrative destinations for their capital. Existing opportunities continue to shrink, in the same measure as investment and production expand.
Africa’s rich natural resources, its underdeveloped infrastructure in transport, telecommunications and energy provide a rare opportunity for massive reconstruction and development partnerships between governments and the private sector world-wide.
It is in the interest of both the rich and the poor that the world should work as one to build a better life for all. Continued degradation and backwardness in one part of the globe will surely, as day follows night, affect the rich nations themselves. The nature of human relations is such that the massive difficulties in Africa and elsewhere in the developing world will steadily filter into the lives of developed nations.
This will manifest itself in uncontrolled migration, massive instability affecting, trade and investment; and epidemics of all kinds that will affect all parts of the globe. In the current global order of things, no one can pretend to sit in a perch outside the problems of humanity.
The African Century can and should become a reality because the politics of the past, based on patronage, dictated to by ideology, has lost its glitter. It is becoming more and more difficult to sustain support for corrupt dictators. Humanity requires and deserves democratic and transparent forms of government.
Africa’s rebirth will become a reality because we have reached the stage where we can define ourselves in our own image. Gone are the days when mere reference to colonial relations would suffice to explain our woes. We are now called upon by our own societies to tackle the legacy of colonialism; but at the same time, to be more self-critical in assessing our own performance as leaders.
Ladies and Gentlemen, There is a spirit abroad in the corridors of power across the continent, that we should improve the way we do things. There is a call for us to challenge dictatorship and corruption ourselves, rather than plead for the continent to be measured by a smaller and different yardstick.
Our intellectuals, business-people, sports-people, women, youth, peasants, workers and so on, cherish their own humanity; and they demand nothing less than the freedom to determine their own destiny under conditions of equity.
The African Renaissance is therefore not a matter of choice, nor should it be a mere expression of brilliant foresight by the elite. There is a realisation among Africans that it has to be.
What they ask of those who are in leadership or claim to be their leaders, is that they create the conditions for this ideal to take root.
A fundamental condition for this to happen that needs urgent attention, is the mobilisation of society across the African continent to become active participants in this movement of renewal. We need to give serious thought to the character of this great movement. We need to detail the roles of all factors and define the various tasks. This will help to give direction and leadership so that we can all participate. This is important if the African renaissance is to become a great movement, involving the masses in every corner of our continent.
Our country which is only now starting to experience relations of mutual respect with the rest of the world, is making a special effort to ensure that we build even stronger relations within our continent.
It is not enough for us to say we trade; we invest; we co-operate with others on matters of culture and weather forecasting.
We must deliberately identify joint projects that will develop our infrastructure, improve our governance and management of resources, develop our human resources, and utilise the pool of African skills in the diaspora.
Gathered here today are some of the greatest minds that Africa has to offer. Religious leaders, social and natural scientists, poets, writers and musicians; journalists, engineers, experts in information technology, women, youth, business and worker leaders; All Africans. I urge you: Let the African Renaissance be like clay in your able hands. Shape it. Breath life into its body. Make it a living reality.
Often when a great idea captures our imagination, we talk. We arrange conferences and summits; we organise workshops; we plan and we strategise. Yet the idea remains in beautifully packaged books and files gathering dust.
The launch of the South African Chapter of the African Renaissance is, above everything else, a clarion call to action. We must as individuals and South Africans, identify our immediate and longer-term objectives, and set in motion practical programmes to realise them.
In all areas of endeavour the condition of life of Africans dictates that we must act:
* the dilapidated cities and towns that demand renewal;
* the transport and telecommunication infrastructure that require expansion and upgrading;
* the distorted information base in our curricula, which demands recasting, to make Africa’s children proud heirs of a great historical tradition and great artisans and scientists for rapid socio-economic development;
* the distorted self-consciousness in the pages of our newspapers, television screens and radio programmes that call for redefinition;
All these and more, require practical action and not words.
In the same measure, our systems of government demand conscious and continuous improvement, driven by the desire to serve the one single master: The People of Africa. We must create the conditions for the people of the continent to thrive in conditions of equity and ensure that their resources are used to improve their quality of life.
We must build and nurture law-governed societies in which the arrogance of wealth, greed; the unquenchable licence to kill and to maim, and vigilantism are banished from the continental body politic.
I am confident, Chairperson, that! this launch today will lay the basis for South Africans to make a humble contribution, to a historical movement that has the potential to restore Africa to her former glory, at the cutting edge of world civilisation. Ours is not a movement of the pitiful – begging bowl in hand -seeking sympathy from all. Our task is not to drum up a psychosis of a victim deserving of pity.
We shall demand what is due to the continent. We shall work harder to build partnerships and alliances with peoples everywhere who, like us, seek to build a better world. But we shall stand tall in the courtyards of the world, as a continent ready to mobilise its human and natural resources to improve the condition of its peoples.
Let us together lay the conditions for the 21st century truly to become an African Century. We know we can and must succeed, because we do appreciate that, when all is said and done – none but ourselves can make it happen.