Africa Day Celebrations Speech

Speech by the Premier of the Northern Cape, Mrs Hazel Jenkins, on the occasion of the Africa Day Celebrations, to the Northern Cape Provincial Legislature on 25 May 2011 in Kimberley

Mr Speaker and Madam Deputy Speaker

Members of the Executive Council

Members of the Provincial Legislature

Members of Faith Based Organisations

Organs of Civil Society

Members of the Community

Distinguished Guests

Ladies and Gentlemen

Allow me, Members of this august House, to extend my sincere appreciation to the Speaker of the Northern Cape Provincial Legislature for having invited me to say a few words on the occasion of Africa Day Celebrations, which is being marked today.

I am proud to be in Africa today. I am proud to be with Africa today. Spiritually, in terms of my very being, my very circumstance, my very mindset, I will never be out of Africa for I am a product of the soil and the blood, the sweat and the tears of Africa, our common Mother Continent.

Ladies and Gentlemen, as South Africans, it is barely a week that we emerged from nationwide local government elections, which was hailed both by our own Independent Electoral Commission and international elections monitors as one of the best they had ever experienced.

As Africans, we have reason to be extremely chuffed and a round of applause for our collective achievement will surely not be amiss.

Today, Africans on the Continent and indeed the Diaspora are joined together in celebrating Africa Day, the most auspicious event on the Continental Calendar. On behalf of the Northern Cape Provincial Government, I take this opportunity to convey our best wishes to all Africans everywhere. We also join other Africans to work together for the further development of the African Continent and the advancement of Africans wherever they may be.

We also recommit ourselves as the Provincial Government to work with Government at large to promote the achievement of the goal of African unity.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Africa has given so much to us and to the world; Africa fought relentlessly with us against apartheid. As South Africans we will forever be indebted to the Continent and its people. The Africa of which I speak has been generally acknowledged as the Cradle of Humanity.

In stating the obvious we are of Africa – her destiny and fortune; her suffering and courage are inescapably ours. At the founding of the Organisation of African Unity, which was the predecessor to the current African Union, African leaders such as Nyerere, Kaunda, Nkrumah and others with their rich fountain of wisdom, made the following commitment:

“The purpose of the Organisation of African Unity shall be to promote unity and solidarity of the African States and to intensify their co-operation and efforts to achieve a better life for the peoples of Africa.”

The late Honourable Oliver Reginald Tambo, President of the African National Congress, the Movement which I and many of us in this hallowed chamber also belong to, had the following to say on that watershed Day on the founding of the OAU:

“The OAU is one of the most hopeful symbols of African aspiration and determination to carve a proper place for our Continent in the world.”

For those who belong to our noble Movement, the African National Congress, the sentiment of African solidarity and unity are deeply ingrained in our psyche and always finds expression in matters concerning our continent.

Ladies and Gentlemen, it is neither my intention to repeat to you all the negative perspectives that have passed through the centuries about our Continent; neither is it my aim to dwell or ponder on that which will hold us back and by extension, give credence to that negativity. As I stand before you this afternoon, at this very moment, quantum waves of democratic change are sweeping through many African Countries. Democracy in being ushered in both robustly and rapidly. In seeking to bring about genuine democratic reform in the countries concerned, it is our fervent hope and prayer that there be no further bloodshed; no further loss of life; and no further totalitarian or dictatorial regimes. Enough is enough - for the will of the people of Africa cannot be further subverted or undermined. Put simply, the will of the people shall and must prevail. This is the only choice if we are serious about maintaining continental peace, stability and development.

Civil wars, intractable conflicts, genocide, mickey-mouse political systems and military dictatorships have no place in modern-day Africa. The displacement of millions of people, especially women and children together with unfavourable terms of international trade, lack of FDI, malaria, HIV and Aids and poor governance have contributed significantly to the marginalization of the continent from the global economy.

Ladies and Gentlemen, notwithstanding Africa’s difficulties, shortcomings and challenges, there is good reason to be optimistic for the future well-being of our Continent as a new generation, and indeed a new breed of African leaders emerge. This leadership, under the auspices of the African Union, is hard at work to create conditions where security, peace, stability, multi-party democracy, human rights and the emancipation of women are the norm, rather than the exception.

We are certain that one-party states with the attendant megalomania will be expunged from the African political landscape within our lifetime. Therefore the resolution by the African Union to ban from its ranks those who usurp power by force confirms Africa’s relentless advance towards the total renewal of our Mother Continent.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Chief Albert Luthuli, the visionary and President of the African National Congress, had the following to say about Africa’s rebirth in 1961:

“Let me invite Africa to cast her eyes beyond the past and, to some extent, the present with their woes and tribulations, trials and failures and some success, and see herself as an emerging continent bursting to freedom through the shelf of centuries of serfdom.”

On this note, Mister Speaker, Ladies and Gentlemen, allow me to refer to Africa Day in 2008. On that day South Africans marked the day with their heads bowed. The disgraceful and shameful actions of a few have blemished the name of South Africa through criminal acts against our African brothers and sisters from other parts of the continent, as well as foreign residents from Asia.

South Africans witnessed shocking images of violence against people from other countries who live in our country. Never, since the birth of our democracy, have we witnessed such cold-blooded and unprovoked cruelty. As a nation we acknowledged that the events of those two weeks in May 2008 as an absolute disgrace.

The actions of those few individuals did not reflect the values of our people, who for decades had lived together with their fellow African brothers and sisters – whom we accept, without question, truly as our own.

We are also mindful of the fact that the standard-bearer of liberation movements in Africa, in the form of our very own African National Congress, always struggled for the emancipation of South Africa and the Continent as a whole.

It is therefore within this context that all of us - government, civil society and a broad range of organisations, have begun to create conditions conducive to good neighbourly relations between ourselves as South Africans and other Africans.
While we will, as government, do everything in our power to address our people’s concerns, we will neither accept nor condone violence, looting and the destruction of property, as there are legitimate channels in our constitutional democracy to address our people’s concerns.

On this day, Africa Day, Mr Speaker, it is of great value to reflect on our common humanity, on what it means to be a South African and an African and, above all, what it means to be a human being. Also of significance will be for all of us to reflect on the values of Ubuntu and its role in continental culture and African Society in general.

In addition, Ladies and Gentlemen, the incontestable reality is that the rebirth of Africa is inseparably interwoven with the emancipation of African women. The leadership in Africa can only ignore, at their peril, the enormous contribution the women of Africa have made in the sustenance of the Continent intellectually, socially and politically. Their creative energy, unflinching resilience and organisational skills will indeed ensure that this century belongs to Africa.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I now conclude my address with a quote from a speech by Alberto Chissano on Africa Day in 2004:

“Each one of us faces the noble challenge and responsibility of ensuring that the future generations will live in a Continent free from the spectrum of hunger, wars and diseases. We must therefore engage ourselves in mobilising support for Africa and learn from experience of other partners which may guarantee the success of the programmes we design for the Continent.

The African Diaspora has a role to play in this process. It must be the image and the beat of Africa wherever it is. It must think of itself as an important network of advocates and ambassadors of Africa. It must turn the opportunities provided by its life experience into a vantage point that is of interest to the mother Continent.

While acknowledging that it is upon us that lay the main responsibility to develop our Continent, we would welcome a more positive attitude from the international community. We expect it to support us and to pool together with us in the building
of a more stable and harmonious world. After all, the global village in which we live will not be safe for a few of us, if it is not safe and stable for all of us. In the long run, no island of progress and stability will be sustainable if it is surrounded by an ocean of misery, of those without a present and without a future.

The journey might be long, but I have no doubt that many victories are ahead of us. We may not live long enough to witness them, as we do witness the triumph of the cause embraced by the founding fathers. As a matter of fact, it is not always that those who dare to initiate a great undertaking have to conclude it.

We must, however, work hard and do our best to be found deserving, from the future generations, of the same appreciation we make today of the mentors of the African unity. Together we will succeed.”

I thank you

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