Address by President Cyril Ramaphosa on Africa Day, Cradle of Humankind, Gauteng
Programme Director, Gauteng MEC of Sport, Arts, Culture and Recreation, Ms Morakane Mosupyoe,
Minister of Sport, Arts and Culture, Mr Zizi Kodwa,
Ministers and Deputy Ministers,
Premier of Gauteng, Mr Panyaza Lesufi,
MECs and members of the Gauteng Provincial Legislature,
Representatives of political parties,
Traditional and religious leaders,
Representatives of civil society,
Executive Mayor of Mogale City
There can be no better place to celebrate Africa Day than here at the Cradle of Humankind.
This is where some of our earliest human ancestors once walked.
It is called Maropeng, which evokes our return to the place of our origin.
As Africans we are proud of our history, as we are optimistic about our future.
Despite the plunder of Africa’s resources to make other countries rich, Africa rose in defence of her liberty and independence. Today we are the rulers of our own lands.
Despite conquest, colonialism, slavery, apartheid and the many acts of barbarism directed against Africans throughout history, we have prevailed.
More than a hundred years ago, Pixley ka isaka Seme gave a lecture at Columbia University in New York titled “The Regeneration of Africa.”
In his words:
“The ancestral greatness, the unimpaired genius, and the recuperative power of the race, its irrepressibility, which assures its permanence, constitute the African’s greatest source of inspiration.”
This recuperative power of Africa is one of the reasons we observe Africa Day.
We observe Africa Day to remind ourselves of the resilience we possess as Africans, which has taken us from where we have come into the future.
We observe Africa Day to celebrate our unity as Africans, and to remind ourselves of the responsibility we all share to bring about an Africa that is peaceful, prosperous and united.
We know that when we are united, we can overcome even the greatest of difficulties.
It was just three short years ago that the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in Africa.
South Africa had just assumed the chair of the African Union in Addis Ababa in Ethiopia.
The pandemic plunged the world into turmoil. There were well-founded fears that African countries with low levels of development would be devastated.
The pandemic was a great trauma for Africa.
Many lives were lost. In our country, we continue to mourn the loss of more than 100,000 lives.
Businesses were forced to close and people lost their jobs.
But this worst health emergency in living memory did not destroy Africa, because Africans came together and acted as one.
The African Union developed a continental response and implemented it with urgency across all the regions of the continent.
We set up a groundbreaking platform to procure medical supplies for African countries, and appointed envoys to mobilise resources to help countries fight the pandemic.
When vaccines became available, we set up a mechanism to acquire them for African countries in need.
Our collective response to the COVID-19 pandemic gave new momentum to the cause of African integration.
We learned as Africans that we have the means, the capacity and the political will to develop and implement solutions to Africa’s challenges.
We were reminded that excellent, world-class expertise exists right here on our continent.
It was eminent African scientists, supported by the World Health Organisation, that guided and advised countries on their responses and on evidence-based policymaking.
It was African researchers here in our country who detected new variants of the coronavirus and alerted the world.
We asserted our right to equip ourselves with tools to prepare for future health emergencies, and pushed for the transfer of technology and skills.
The greatest lesson we learned as Africa from the pandemic is to value and nurture our own capabilities.
As Pixley ka isaka Seme said:
“The African is not a proletarian in the world of science and art.”
“We refuse to camp forever on the borders of the industrialised world.”
We learned the importance of collaboration between African countries, and that if we work together, we can rebuild our economies, restore hope to our people and chart a new future for Africa.
This year marks 60 years since the Organisation of African Unity was founded on the 25th of May 1963.
The words of the founding charter of the OAU, which is the predecessor of the African Union, are as relevant today as they were back then.
The charter called for the harnessing of the natural and human resources of our continent for the total advancement of Africans.
It called for the building of understanding and solidarity between African countries, to build a larger unity “transcending ethnic and national differences”.
It called on African countries to safeguard and consolidate their hard-won independence, respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, and for resistance against neocolonialism in all its forms.
Africa has many challenges.
In many parts of the continent, battles for control of Africa’s natural resources are fueling conflict, instability and terrorism.
Some multinational companies are engaged in unscrupulous conduct that is harming human health and polluting the natural environment.
In some parts of Africa, instead of respect for diversity, divisions are being sown between communities. There are places where people are being persecuted on the grounds of gender, ethnicity, language, religion or sexual orientation.
We are now also witnessing Africa being dragged into conflicts far beyond our own borders.
Some countries, including our own, are being threatened with penalties for pursuing an independent foreign policy and for adopting a position of non-alignment.
As African countries, we have painful memories of a time when proxy wars were waged on the soils of Africa by foreign superpowers.
We have not forgotten the terrible, brutal legacy of first having our continent carved up and colonised by European countries, only to find ourselves once more pawns on a chessboard during the Cold War.
We are not going back to that period in history.
That is why I will say it again today.
South Africa has not been, and will not be, drawn into a contest between global powers. We will maintain our position on the peaceful resolution of conflict wherever those conflicts occur.
Guided by the lessons of our history, we will continue to resist calls to abandon our independent and non-aligned foreign policy.
As Africa, our focus remains on pursing the ideals of the founding charters of the OAU and the African Union, and on giving effect to the aspirations of the AU Agenda 2063.
Our eyes remain firmly fixed on the horizon as we work to achieve continental economic integration.
The Africa Continental Free Trade Area is a landmark achievement.
We are greatly encouraged by progress that is being made towards the operationalisation of the AfCFTA.
This includes the commencement of trade on a small scale in parts of East and West Africa; the training of small businesses that is taking place on new trade portals; and moves towards the operationalisation of the $10 billion AfCFTA Adjustment Fund.
As South Africa we reaffirm our commitment to peacebuilding on the continent, and to being part of efforts to resolve conflict in regions such as the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, northern Mozambique, Sudan and many other places.
We use Africa Day to reaffirm the importance of consolidating democracy and consolidating good governance across Africa. The African Peer Review Mechanism will continue to enjoy our full support and cooperation.
This Africa Day we commit ourselves to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals and to pursing national policies that advance gender equality, reduce poverty, inculcate sustainability into all aspects of our lives, and mitigate the impacts of climate change.
Fellow South Africans,
We are a people of many cultures, many languages and communities of many experiences.
We speak different languages and have different customs, faiths and traditions. But we are bound together by the invisible thread that is our Africanness.
Our Africanness is our respect for our many differences. Our Africanness is our empathy and compassion for those less fortunate.
There are times when we do not live up to these ideals. There are times when we fall short. But we need to strive for these values every day.
Our Africanness is our largeness of spirit and our capacity to strive for co-existence, even with those who have wronged us.
Even as we South Africans exercise our national pride, this can never be an excuse to turn against other Africans who live in our midst or have sought refuge in our country.
Let us find strength in our diversity. Let us forever strive to find the common ground that unites us as Africans, instead of seeking out what divides us.
In the words of the African Union Anthem: let us unite and celebrate together the victories won, let us defend our liberty and unity, and let us uphold the bonds that frame our destiny.
Happy Africa Day to you all.
I thank you.
Source: Government of South Africa