His vision for a better Africa and a better world will continue to resonate in current and future generations
It was on a hot Lagos afternoon on the 25th of January 1962, probably very much a day like this one, that a tall gentleman bearing an Ethiopian passport cleared customs at Lagos Airport.
It was the first visit to Nigeria by Mr. David Motsamai, the third country on what would be a 21 country blitz in support of his cause: the armed struggle in South Africa.
Back in his native land, apartheid repression at its zenith. Men, women and children were being harassment, imprisoned, tortured and killed.
Those leaders of the liberation movement, and in particular of the African National Congress (ANC) not imprisoned, had been exiled from the land of their birth.
Just a year previously at Oslo University, the then ANC President Inkosi Albert Luthuli gave his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech at Oslo University.
Inkosi Luthuli accepted the award as an honour “not only to South Africa, but to the whole continent of Africa, to all its people, whatever their race, color or creed.”
He went on to call the award “an honor to the peace-loving people of the entire world, and an encouragement to us all to redouble our efforts in the struggle for peace and friendship.”
Thanks to the redoubling of efforts in the self same struggle for peace and friendship by our late President Mandela – we no longer need to visit, work, live and and trade in each other’s countries clandestinely and under assumed names.
As chronicled so eloquently in his autobiography “A Long Walk to Freedom”, Mr. David Motsamai was the assumed name of one Mr. Nelson Mandela – which he used during his travels raising funds and support for the African National Congress.
The African National Congress of Oliver Tambo, of Walter Sisulu, of Nelson Mandela, has always been, and remains rooted in the spirit of internationalism: an internationalism that has advanced unity for the Global South for political social and economic advancement.
And so I begin my address by reaffirming the rallying cry of the Freedom Charter: the cornerstone of the South African constitution:
“There shall be peace and friendship!”
Comrade Madiba was many things, he meant so much, to so many people…I cannot begin on this platform to address them all, save those for which he will be best remembered: Leader, Statesman, Revolutionary…
Nelson Mandela was an ardent advocate of African unity.
Our late President, father of our nation and icon of our struggle understood too well the words of the celebrated writer and poet, Ngugi wa Thiong’o that the biggest weapon unleashed by the enemy on our forefathers was “not the Maxim gun. It was division among them.”
In 1962 he addressed the Conference of the Pan-African Freedom Movement of East and Central Africa, the forerunner to the OAU and later, the AU. In his speech he thanked several African nations for their efforts in enforcing diplomatic and economic sanctions against the apartheid regime.
As you will know, Nigeria chaired the UN Special Committee against Apartheid for 25 years until 1994, and was instrumental in the setting up of a fund that would provide assistance to apartheid refugees. Many of our people were offered passports, financial assistance and study opportunities in Nigeria during the apartheid years.
In his speech to the conference, Madiba noted that all the African members of the UN, except one, supported the draft resolution tabled at the fifteenth session of the United Nations calling for sanctions against South Africa.
“It has become clear to us,” he said, “that the whole of Africa is unanimously behind the move to ensure effective economic and diplomatic sanctions against the South African government.”
Comrade Mandela went on: “it is fit and proper that this conference should sound a clarion call to the struggling peoples…to close ranks, to stand firm as a rock, and not allow themselves to be divided by petty political rivalries..”
Mandela has always played a central and pivotal role in the ANC as the struggle for freedom upped its tempo and entered its different epochs for the more than 67 years of his life he dedicated to the struggle of our people.
In the early 1940s Nelson Mandela was amongst the generation of youth, which included amongst them, Lembede, Tambo, Mda, who injected radicalism and militancy in the programmes of the liberation movement. During the Defiance campaign against apartheid laws, Mandela was the Volunteer- In-Chief who led from the front.
Mandela, together with the leaders of the Congress movement, played a leading role in the drawing and adoption of the Freedom Charter in 1955. The Freedom Charter was a critical document drawn by all people of South Africa, the Congress of the People, indicating their vision of a non-racial, non-sexist South Africa, united and democratic. The Freedom Charter defined for the first time a vision that united our people beyond their rejection of apartheid.
Mandela was one of the 159 leaders who were charged with High Treason for this document only to be acquitted after three wasted years. When the ANC was banned Mandela was amongst those who supported the decision to embark on an armed struggle. Madiba was the first soldier to receive military training and irst Commmander- In-Chief of the military wing of the African National Congress, uMkhonto weSizwe (MK).
It was as a result of his famous speech on the dock, at the conclusion of the Rivonia Trial, after his arrest in 1962 that Mandela was projected to the international community as the symbol of the suffering people of South Africa.
He demonstrated courageous leadership and commitment to the struggle for freedom when he fearlessly declared:
” …these ideals I wish to live for and if need be die for….”.
The ANC had taken a timely decision to dispatch President O R Tambo to establish an external mission of the ANC that mobilised support for the anti-apartheid struggle just before the ANC was forced to operate underground. It was OR Tambo, with the exiled leadership that went from capital in our continent, Europe, Asia and America to spread the plight of the people of South Africa.
Mandela ‘s name was used as a rallying point to call for the release of political prisoners, the return of exiles and an end to apartheid. This proved the most powerful tool as the name of Mandela became a household name and a symbol of resistance providing a tempo for the struggle especially after the 1976 students uprising, the death of Steve Biko, the banning of the liberation movements and resurgence of violence. It became a subject of debate in Parliaments and multilateral forums for governments and ordinary people, leading to the establishment of anti-apartheid movements and the deepening international solidarity with the oppressed people of South Africa. Free Mandela Campaign was embraced in every country in the continent and many abroad. International isolation and disinvestment campaign damaged the minority apartheid regime.
Mandela remained resolute and principled as the regime tried to entice him and separate him from his comrades, humiliated and harassed his wife Winnie Madikizela Mandela and the family.
It was Mandela who tabled to ANC leaders in exile a document that spelt out a strategy to initiate the negotiations with Apartheid government, outlining in details the role of various components of our liberation movement as well as the African States, culminating in the adoption of the Harare Declaration that put pressure to South African Government to expedite freedom in our country after Namibia’s independence.
After his release Madiba concentrated on preaching tolerance, peace and unity of all the people, leading a successful negotiated process and the end of apartheid. He played a pivotal role in reconciliation and the creation of a nation united in diversity. For this he received and shared a Nobel Peace Prize with former President de Klerk.
This year South Africa celebrates the 60th anniversary of the Freedom Charter. The Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, adopted under President Mandela, is an elaboration of rights contained in the Freedom Charter; similarly is the political programme of action of the South African government. This means that the subsequent and successive governments in South Africa are following on the footsteps of Madiba.
Madiba was a an exemplary leader; a diplomat par excellence, strategic and charismatic, resolute and principled, always standing on the side of the vulnerable, poor and underprivileged as their champion. He remained an approachable, humble, honest and dedicated servant of the people who taught many leaders the example of voluntarily relinquishing power and usher in new blood and fresh ideas, even as multitudes clamoured for him to stay.
South Africa has been built as a nation that promotes the best human values of love, peace tolerance and unity but was greatly disappointed by the outbreaks of violence that involved foreign nationals. Regrettable and unacceptable as they are, these incidents are not a reflection of government policy or the attitude of the people of South Africa. They arose in the context of conflict that arise in areas of rapid settlement of large numbers of immigrants usually from inside and outside our borders, with dire competition for resources. Most of the incidents have their genesis in petty criminality. In some incidents crime, not national identity, sparked these attacks. South Africans are not by nature xenophobic. Many foreign nationals were protected by South Africans and several South Africans died in the hands of foreign nationals. Government and community leaders immediately stepped in to stop the violence and protected lives and properties as the criminal and justice system deals with those who broke the law.
It was unfortunate that the communication by print, electronic and social media as well as some organizations dominated and created an impression that caused huge reaction. We have many instances where reports were exaggerated, distorted and images used of things that never happened. I have an example of the NIGERIAN VOICE publication distributed in the Nigerian Embassy in South Africa in which many Nigerian organizations condemn an organization called NUSA (Nigerian Union of South Africa) and blaming it for misleading the people in Nigeria on this matter. NUSA fabricated, exaggerated and distorted reports about xenophobic attacks directed at Nigerian nationals. They reported deaths of Nigerians that never occurred and posted photos of carnage that never took place and claimed compensation of millions of rand on damage that had no record.
Fortunately, there are many Nigerian associations that stood up and dismissed this approach and set record straight where communities acted against criminals and drug peddlers and met with law enforcement agencies to agree that laws shall be respected and including deportation of undocumented individuals. For the record, not a single Nigerian national died during the tragic outbreak of violence against foreign nationals in South Africa. We reiterate, South Africans are not xenophobic. We put this unfortunate incidence behind us, and our wish is for it never to return.
Our message is that the message of unity of all the people of Africa, a legacy of our founding fathers such as Nnamdi Azikiwe, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, Kwame Nkrumah, Nelson Mandela, lives on in us. South Africa will remain home for Nigerians in as much Nigeria will remain home for South Africans.
Nigeria and South Africa have no option but to stick together, as brothers and sisters and partners, joined by the common destiny of leading the upliftment of our continent together with the family of African states.
We must preserve that legacy. We know Madiba was loved by Nigerians as he was by South Africans did.
Madiba lives on in our hearts and minds as we build on the foundation of human rights, justice for all and friendship amongst all people. His vision for a better Africa and a better world will continue to resonate in current and future generations to come.
Madiba has remained an inspiration to all people across the globe as a symbol of triumph of the justice, peace, democracy and resilience of the human spirit. His life and struggle has filled people with optimism to succeed against all odds. His legacy to us all has been the way he gave the world hope, love and compassion. Mandela represents to us the personification of Ubuntu and Panafricanism.
Our very freedom in South Africa was secured through the help and support of our African brothers and sisters, who stood by us even when this came at a great cost.
It is a sacrifice we have neither forgotten nor take for granted.
Which is why we continue to advance the notion of African economic integration: founded on the notions of African unity, solidarity, development and integration.
As South Africa we continue to work with coordinating formations such as the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) – in the process furthering the attainment of socio-economic growth for the African continent. In this regard, South Africa supports the renewed focus on the following:
- deepening democratic transition and rejection of unconstitutional change of regime;
- emphasis on good governance and efficient civil service which is not wasteful of public resources;
- uprooting crime, corruption and irregularities;
- entrenching human rights and promotion of peace, security and political stability;
- investing in infrastructure to connect African states and promote into Africa trade;
- human capital development, job creation and elimination of poverty and inequality; promotion of investment, technology transfer and economic growth.
Alongside our Nigerian brothers and sisters, we also continue to work with the African Union to enable it to respond to the challenges of poverty, underdevelopment and conflict on the continent.
Fifty-three years since Madiba first visited Nigeria – for there were to be many visits- the bonds of fraternity between our two nations are growing from strength to strength.
Nigeria has become one of South Africa’s most important trading partners on the continent – with many of our companies are successfully established in Nigeria, as are several Nigerian companies and multinationals in South Africa.
According to our Department of Trade and Industry, the West African region accounted for 40 per cent of South African exports in 2012, with total trade between the two countries amounting to R 36.6 bn in 2012. In 2014, 23 per cent of South Africa’s total oil imports came from Nigeria.
We continue to further expose trade opportunities for South African businesses in Nigeria, and further encourage Nigerian businesses to invest in South Africa.
At this point I would like to commend the South Africa Nigeria Chamber of Commerce for its efforts in advancing these political and economic ties between our two countries.
On this occasion, where we mark Mandela Day with our Nigerian brothers and sisters, may I once again affirm our commitment to work for a better Africa, and in particular, to cement already strong South Africa, Nigeria ties.
Our President, Comrade Jacob Zuma, noted in his Freedom Day address to the nation earlier this year that intra-African trade helped cushion our economy during the dark days of the economic recession of 2008.
The promotion of intra-African trade is key to unlocking continental growth, and facilitating economic integration. It offers the opportunity for firms and investors to grow new markets, as the movement of goods and people continues in a manner that is coordinated, strategic and for mutual benefit of both investor and host country.
Despite this, by some estimates, trade between African countries currently amounts to just twelve per cent of all trade on the continent. South Africa’s National Development Plan projects this to be 27% by 2030.
This needs to change.
For instance, although total trade between South Africa and Nigeria has increased substantially over the past three years, there is potential to increase the diversity of products and services traded between our two countries.
We as South Africa have long affirmed that our own prosperity and success cannot be divorced from the success and prosperity of the whole of Africa. Let us all embrace the Vision 2063 adopted by the African Union and work together to build a stronger African region with a vibrant and thriving integrated economy that will eliminate poverty build jobs and provide a quality life to our African continent.
Allow me to conclude with words delivered by uTata Mandela on the occasion of the meeting of OAU Heads of State and Government in Tunis on the 13th June 1994;
“There can be no dispute among us that we must bend every effort to rebuild the African economies. The fundamentals of what needs to be done are known to all of us; not least among these is the need to address the reality that Africa continues to be a net exporter of capital and suffers from deteriorating terms of trade. Our capacity to be self-reliant, to find the internal resources to generate sustained development remains very limited.”
“If freedom was the crown which the fighters of liberation sought to place on the head of Mother Africa, let the upliftment, the happiness, prosperity and comfort of her children be the jewel of the crown..
Let us work together to remove the bottlenecks, obstacles and blockages in whatever form they present themselves – to further advance cross-border trade between not just our countries, but across the continent as a whole to facilitate the movement of goods and people.
Let me commend the Nigeria-SA chamber for the good work done and lifting the bilateral trade to above 50 billion dollars.
We pay tribute to the pioneers who founded this Chamber and convey special appreciation to the Chief Patron of the Chamber, Dr Oba Otudeko for his guidance and leadership.
This chamber remains the most important reflection of bilateral relations and growing trade between our two countries.
Keep up the good work! Best wishes!
Note to Readers: These remarks were delivered by the ANC Treasurer-General on the occasion of the Annual Nelson Mandela Lecture of the Nigeria-SA Chamber of Commerce on the 23rd July 2015 at the Ekos Hotel & Suites, Victoria Island.
Dr. Zweli Mkhize is the Treasurer General of the ANC