Last week the Department of Arts and Culture went to Russia on official visit, our Embassy had organised event that mark our twenty years of Democracy.
As part of those celebrations, we also celebrated the life and times of Madiba; honouring the founding father of our nation and iconic international statesman.
However, in moments like this, we should perhaps start from the beginning. Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela we honour today has roots. On countless occasions during his lifetime he asserted that he is a member of the African National Congress.
The ANC was formed in 1912 and it evolved as part of progressive forces across the globe in the fight against colonialism, racism, poverty, underdevelopment and gender oppression. It drank and continues to drink from the well of these progressive global experiences. Madiba is our contribution to the world.
The role played by the Socialist countries led by the then Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) in this evolution is immeasurable. We should not by any chance seek to obliterate that glorious past. It is our heritage and we should draw all the necessary lessons as we surge forward.
It was in 1942, the governing party in South Africa today, the African National Congress, developed and adopted what is known as the African Claims. In its preamble the document state amongst others the following:
“We want the government and the people of South Africa to know that the full aspirations of the African peoples so that their point of view will also be presented at the Peace Conference. We want the Government of the United Nations to know and act in the light of our own interpretation of the “Atlantic Charter” to which they are signatories. This is our way of conveying to them our undisputed claim to full citizenship. We desire them to realise once and for all that a just and permanent peace will be possible only if the claims of all classes, colours and races for sharing and for full participation in the educational, political and economic activities are granted and recognised”.
Again in 1955, a lodestar policy document was adopted in the form of the Freedom Charter. This document was building on the African Claims. In its preamble the Freedom Charter states the following amongst others:
“South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white, and that no government can justly claim authority unless it is based on the will of the people”.
The expression “South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white” embodies the historical principle which has characterised the policy of the African National Congress towards the peoples who have settled in the country in the past centuries.
The Charter was not the statement of this or that section of the population. It was a declaration of all the people of South Africa. It is a simple, honest, unpretentious document reflecting the desires and ideas of millions of common people. The preamble of this document has found its way into our democratic Constitution.
In the face of the gravest injustices, the ANC never once abandoned the principle that all those who had their home in the country of the Africans, were welcome, provided only that they accepted full and consistent equality and freedom for all. In this the ANC was not merely bowing to history and reality but believed that it was correct in principle to make this position clear. Over and over again in the face of manifest inhumanity the ANC absolutely refused to be provoked into abandoning its democratic principles.
In recognition of the justness of the cause that Mandela and his generation stood for, the world has decided to do the following amongst others:
- In 2010, the United Nations has adopted the Mandela birthday to be a global day in which people dedicate 67minutes of their time to do good for others.
- Secretary General of UN has sent a message of congratulations to the ANC for its centenary.
- UNESCO dedicated the year of 2013 as the 50th Anniversary of the Rivonia Arrests.
Our country, our government remain committed to the cause of humanity and the ideals in which the United Nations architects stood for.
Madiba and his generation led a struggle for a just society as outlined by the two documents which are consistent with the agenda of the United Nations Organisation and its Agencies.
It is against this background that the United Nations General Assembly did not hesitate to declare apartheid as a crime against humanity.
We have learned as a country and a people that a fundamental concern for others in our individual and community lives goes a long way in making the world the better place. This is what Mandela and his generation were passionate about and work tirelessly to realise.
As a government we remain committed to fighting abject poverty that is demeaning. We understand that it is an assault on the dignity of those that suffer. In the end it demeans us all.
These are the sentiments of both Mandela generation and the progressive humanity share and therefore we all subscribe to the eradication of poverty.
Our world today.
The world we live in today is characterised amongst others by the following:
- the global situation has not resolved the contradictions within and among nations between poverty and opulence;
- to the extent that ethnic, religious and other tensions continue to ravage parts of the globe;
- Over the last six or seven years the world has experienced serious economic crisis only matched by the great depression of the 1930’s.
The emergence of this power block with such potential is a result of painstaking work by the progressive forces over the last twenty years or so.
Alternative to the unipolar world and the dominance of the US and Europe on international governance issues, BRICS was formed as both economic and political countermeasure.
BRICS constitute of major regional emerging economies, and as South Africa we are happy about this development.
Almost half of the world population live in BRICS countries.
- The GDP of the four countries excluding South Africa is close to five Trillion US Dollars
- The BRICS Bank will constitute an alternative source of development finance for the third world and emerging economies of the world which hitherto had been dominated by the World Bank and IMF.
- Middle East: The human tragedy that is unfolding in the Middle East, particularly in Palestine, Syria and Iraq remains a serious challenge to humanity and the institutions charged with the responsibility of global governance.
- Eastern Europe: The crisis in Ukraine and the response of world community remains a concern for the progressive humanity.
- Africa: The Ebola epidemic in West Africa is a major concern in which the world has not adequately responded, the continuing crisis in Somalia, Egypt, in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the unresolved question of Western Sahara continue to haunt humanity.
- The challenge of restructuring multilateral institutions, primary among which is the United Nations Organisation and its agencies, both to reflect the intention to create a new system of international relations and to regulate the process towards such a system.
This is not merely a matter of formality, but it issues from the understanding that these bodies are being called upon to play a greater role in the emergence of a new world order. The leadership role of these organisations must be strengthened, in a process that should see to the pooling of sovereignty among all nations, rather than domination by those who possess international political, military and economic power.
It is a reality to which governments, if only for their own self-interest, cannot afford to close their eyes.
The United Nations Organisation, its Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, are some of the outstanding products of the victory of the peoples of the world over Nazism.
They constitute the conscious resolve of humanity to ensure that both national and international affairs are governed by a common code of behaviour based on freedom, equality, social progress and peaceful coexistence among the peoples. This victory also guaranteed countries to develop and practice economic and social system of their choice.
These goals and objectives were prominent in the life and work of former President Mandela and the organization that he belonged to. And as a country we understand that this is what he would have expected of us.
We thank the world as we celebrate twenty years of our freedom and democracy. As we said during the struggle for liberation we reiterate that: “To the peoples of the world, loving people, here we are far from home, we shall love, we shall need you for the things you’ve done for us”.
>> Nathi Mthethwa is a member of the NEC of the ANC, Chairperson of the Political Education Sub-Committee and Minister of Arts and Culture