Africa Day Celebrations

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29 May 2010

Programme Director
MECs, Mayors and Councillors,
AU Commissioner, Adv Gawanas
Ambassadors and High Commissioners of Africa and the World,
Distinguished Guests
And Fellow Africans:

I am honoured and privileged to address you here today, as we celebrate Africa Day, 12 days before the 2010 FIFA World Cup, at the Bernard Stadium in Gauteng Province.

47 years ago on the 25th May 1963 African leaders gathered in Addis Ababa in their quest for continental unity and to lay the foundations for the Organisation of African Unity.

The leaders gathered in Addis Ababa wanted to rid their countries of the last vestiges of colonialism and apartheid. They gave their active support to our liberation struggle here in South Africa and contributed towards our freedom.

Among the luminaries gathered in Addis Ababa were great thinkers and freedom fighters who were then Presidents of African countries at that time. They included: Ben Bella of Algeria, one of the leaders of the Algerian revolution, Ahamadou Ahidjo of the Cameroon, a great orator, Abdel Nasser of Egypt, a great military leader, Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia, Dr Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana – the first African country to win its independence, the great then President Sekou Toure of Guinea, President Houphouet of the Ivory Coast, President Modibo Keita of Mali, President Leopold Sedar Senghor of Senegal, Dr Nmamdi Azikiwe, President of Nigeria and one of the fathers of Nigerian nationalism.

Our very own former President Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was also present at this historic gathering, but he was then a freedom fighter and commander of Umkhonto we Sizwe.

I would also like to report that African women leaders representing PAWO (Pan African Women’s Organisation) were there as observers and PAWO was formed in 1962, a year before the OAU was formed.

It is important that as we look back into the past but also forward into the future, we acknowledge that these great leaders were not only fighting for political unity of the African continent, but also for African economic and cultural unity.

It was Nnamdi Azikiwe who in his book Renascent Africa spoke about the flowering of Ethiopia in the days of antiquity and of Songhai in the Middle Ages.

It was Kwame Nkrumah who declared that Ghana would not free until all Africa is free and he wrote about the need to assert the African personality.

It was Leopold Senghor who became one of the greatest poets Africa has ever known and who helped to establish the cultural movement that became known as Negritude.

All these leaders noted that one of the pillars of African freedom and unity would also be the pillar of culture and that only those whose minds were decolonized could help to build a new Africa.

The movement towards African unity was also inspired by the thinking of great intellectuals from the African Diaspora – W.E.B. Du Bois and Henry Sylvester Williams in the 1900s who held the first Pan African Congress in London, Marcus Garvey with his “Africa for the Africans” movement that inspired Africans throughout the world as well as later writers such as Frantz Fanon who gave us a vision of ourselves in books such as The Wretched of the Earth.

During this period many cultural organizations were formed to bring cultural activists together. Africans also sought a larger unity with their brothers and sisters in Asia. One organisation formed was the Afro-Asian Writers’ Association, which grew out of the Afro-Asian People’s Solidarity Organisation, which was an outcome of the Bandung Conference.

It brought together writers form the two continents and the African Diaspora including many writers who were in exile from their homelands like Prof Keorapetse Kgositsile and Alex La Guma, a prolific writer, who was our Chief Representative in Cuba and who was elected as General Secretary of the Afro-Asian Writer’s Association until his death. The Pan African Writer’s Association was another important organisation with a vision of enjoining writers of the continent and promoting further writing.

The struggle for African unity was also a struggle that brought to the fore the struggle of the women of Africa for their emancipation. Writers such as Buchi Emecheta, Ama Ata Aidoo and Nawal el Saadawi also ensured through their writing to pay attention to the women’s condition on the African continent.

Civil rights activists such as Angela Davis also used their writing to rally support for women’s rights in the Diaspora and on the African continent. Great singers like our own Miriam Makeba sang to the people of Africa and the world about our struggles and our quest for freedom.

Later we would reach other milestones. In the second wave of democracy to sweep the African continent, here on South African soil we formed the African Union in Durban. This was launched in July 2002 and began working towards accelerating political, social and economic integration of the African continent.

The African Union also set about promoting the exchange of cultural activities to achieve a greater understanding of each other, the promotion and protection of human and people’s rights in accordance with the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights amongst many objectives. One of the political and administrative bodies of the AU is the Pan-African Parliament situated in the Midrand, here in Gauteng.

Another milestone achievement of the AU was its adoption of the Protocol on Gender and Development, which ensured that the AU and its organs adopt and implement the 50% representation of women in leadership positions and in society. We must make sure that these are adopted and implemented in all African countries.
Another important institution that was formed by the AU is NEPAD, the New Partnership for Africa’s development that continues to be a strategic framework for attaining Africa’s integrated social and economic development and is led by the five initiating Heads of State that were mandated by the AU (i.e. Algeria, Egypt, Nigeria, Senegal and South Africa). I am also happy to report that in this week both President Bouteflika of Algeria and President Zuma have recommitted themselves to NEPAD at the Binational Commission held in Algiers and they called on all of us to accelerate implementation of NEPAD on the continent.

This is an important theme since without sustainable peace in Africa and the wider world, there can be no sustainable development.

Development cannot occur outside conditions of peace and stability.
This is why as South Africa we are engaged in peace-keeping and peace-building missions together with other countries of the African Union.

We have been involved in peace-keeping missions in the the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Cote D’Ivoire, Darfur, Sudan and in Burundi. We have also worked hard to ensure a smooth transition to democracy in (DRC).
We have also been involved in post conflict reconstruction in the DRC and in Sudan. We are also involved in bring greater stability to Zimbabwe.

We are currently engaged in Madagascar. Together with former President Chissano of Mozambique, we are involved in bringing stability and dialogue to Madagascar so that the people of this country can also live in conditions that build peace and democracy and sustain development.

Today we continue on the same path as our founding fathers and mothers towards African unity.
We pledge to be an African people who take pride in their history and culture, who have the confidence to address the problems of the present together and who act in unison in the future – for all Africa’s children and for all future generations.

We shall continue to be a people who put Humanity first. Despite obstacle and setbacks placed in our path, we shall continue to build unity, strive towards permanent peace, sustainable economic progress and give our utmost attention to the cultural flowering of the African people through promoting arts, culture and heritage.
Today we are here to celebrate the achievements of African unity. Today we gather here as Africans united and we celebrate the cultural wealth our continent has to offer.

The theme of this year’s Africa Day celebrations is “Building and maintaining peace through sport in Africa.”
I believe we can use sport to unite our countries and nations and to stabilize our continent. We must remember that a health body is a healthy mind and that sports keeps us fit, keeps the brain alert and promotes education. We believe that through sports and cultural programmes, through cultural diplomacy we can build and maintain peace on the continent.

We believe that we should promote and build sport facilities on our continent in order to maintain peace. We commend FIFA for expanding sports development programmes in African and building sports facilities including Centres of Hope in various African countries.

We believe that this is progress but it is not enough and we urge FIFA to do more since football is the most popular sport in Africa.
Together we believe we can do more in building sports and peace on the continent.
Let us build on the theme of building peace through sport by pledging to work tirelessly for the unity of the continent and its people.

For where would we be without our songs, our music, our dance, our fine art, our languages and literature. This is the African soul and this gives us our identity and our humanity.

Early this year a great tragedy befell Haiti when the country suffered a server earthquake. More than 200 000 people were killed and large numbers of people became homeless. Most of the important structures were destroyed along with countless homes and businesses. The human losses were immense.

Together with the Department of International Relations and Co-operation, the Department of Arts and Culture hosted a special breakfast to launch the “African Artists for Haiti Initiative” in Johannesburg on 22 April in partnership with SABC and it was televised live on SABC 2 on Morning Live.

It was significant as we observed the 100th day to mark the tragedy of Haiti on that day. I invited artists, cultural visionaries and other players to pledge their solidarity with the people of Haiti.
Haiti is unique for several reasons. It was the first independent African nation. It is the first Black Republic in the world and the only people to successfully execute a rebellion against slavery.

I would like to quote from a poem by National Poet Laureate, Prof Kgositsile.
He writes:

The dead will not remember the devastation of Haiti
nor will they remember the impartial brutality of nature
that ravaged Haiti on January 12…..

If you claim to be alive, your memories of Haiti must haunt you.
If you are not dead you must remember there are people with urgent needs in Haiti.
We must begin again, without letting go.
We must rebuild Haiti to make concrete the dreams of the Africans who created it.
In very simple words, what you know of January 12 demands your solidarity with Haiti.
As my brother says, death is the reason, to begin again, without letting go.

Together Africa must continue to forge relations with and support our brothers and sisters in the African Diaspora.
This African village is here to welcome all our international guests into our midst and it is also a space where all Africans can gather to experience the cuisine and cultures of their home countries during their stay in South Africa. It is also a space where we can forge relations among ourselves – out of these partnerships; great cultural partnerships and initiatives can be formed.

The 2010 FIFA World Cup will be held on African soil for the first time just 12 days from today, with South Africa hosting the world’s most popular and the largest tournament in the world from 11 June to 11 July.
We promised to make it an African World Cup and have been working towards it with many African counties, especially the participating African countries, popularly known as the 6-Pack.

I am pleased to announce to our esteemed guests and to sister AU commissioner, Adv. Gawanas, that we have important cultural groups here from Africa in our cultural line-up.

At this African Village, there will be wonderful music sessions. In the Fanparks and Public Viewing areas, there will be a feast of cultural activities. SABC will be playing 100% African music during this period.

During the 2010 World Cup theatre, dance, films, exhibitions and literary sessions will be held in all the host cities and popular destinations as well as in our rural areas.

We promise an exciting African cultural extravaganza for the Opening and Closing ceremonies of the 2010 FIFA World Cup. This tournament will certainly bring Africa together.

With these words, may we welcome you to this Africa village. We say: welcome home – since Gauteng and Africa represent the Cradle of Humankind. This is therefore certainly a homecoming for the whole of humanity.

Welcome home!

Africa ke nako!

Now is the time. Let the games begin.

Ke a Leboga

Siyabonga.

Thank you.