Effective government relations in South and Southern Africa

Deputy President Motlanthe address to the 15th African Renaissance Conference Durban
23 May 2013

BACK

Address by the Deputy President of the Republic of South Africa Kgalema Motlanthe at the 15th African Renaissance, Durban, KwaZulu-Natal

23 May 2013

Programme Director;

Mr Senzo Mchunu on Behalf of Premier Zweli Mkhize;

The Chairperson of the African Renaissance, Minister Sibusiso Ndebele;

Vice Chair of African Renaissance Professor Sihaukele Ngubane

Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform Mr Gugile Nkwinti

Minister in The Presidency Mr Trevor Manuel

The Board of the African Renaissance;

MECs Present;

His Worship the Executive Mayor of EThekwini Metropolitan Municipality, Councillor Nxumalo;

Ladies and gentlemen:

 

 

I thank you for the opportunity to address the 15th African Renaissance Conference today.

 

 

What imbues this year's African Renaissance Conference with an epic atmosphere is that this is its 15th year of existence, meaning that it is growing by leaps and bounds with each passing year.

 

Even broadly, it is happening in the year that marks the 50th Anniversary of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU).

 

 

This then marks out this conference as a particularly historic event, thereby, ironically, making our task in this strategic engagement that much more difficult.

 

 

The difficulty of our task stems from the realisation that the historic ethos around this conference requires of us the corresponding gravitas in our approach, in view of the legitimate expectation that the 15th African Renaissance Conference should further contribute to the ongoing effort to meet Africa's developmental needs.

 

 

Some fifty years ago, on May 25th 1963, post-colonial African nations founded the OAU in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The central aim of the formation of the OAU was the total liberation of the African continent from colonialism and the forging of continental unity.

 

 

Colonialism was a historical stage during which our continent was subjected to political domination by Europeans. These colonial relations laid the grounds for economic exploitation, where

 

African mineral resources were taken away for the economic and social development of the European continent and its peoples.

 

 

Correspondingly, Africans, as subject people, were consciously held down in racial oppression as hewers of wood and drawers of water.

 

 

More than that, colonialism assumed a pronounced social expression where people of African descent not only in Africa but the world over were discriminated against on the grounds of their skin colour.

 

 

History in this regard is riddled with a plethora of racial and indeed racist theories on the basis of which African enslavement and later on, colonialism, were grounded. In its essence this falsification of history held that Africans were the beasts of burden incapable of scientific thought and conception and had, accordingly, never launched themselves into history.

 

 

Further, colonialism found justification in this discredited theory, that Africans could not be left to themselves as they were like children who did not know what was good for them. Eminent

 

European philosophers, missionaries and historians, among others, contributed to this myth about the African past, some among them even providing rationalisation for colonialism.

 

 

Against this background, the independence of Ghana in 1957 heralded a new dawn for Africans. It was a verdant season that revitalised the entire continent. As well, the formation of the OAU was the political expression of this emerging vision, which envisaged the restoration of African humanity through the total emancipation and unity of Africans.

 

 

With hindsight we now know that the OAU played a critical role in the emancipation of the African continent despite a host of challenges such as absence of the African unity, ethnic chauvinism, colonial borders and socio-economic development.

 

 

While many African thinkers have attempted to put the OAU in its historical context in terms of both its successes and perceived failures, it is heartening to note that the formation of the AU remains another pioneering African initiative which breaks new ground by seeking to define post-colonial Africa's future.

 

 

Critically, the AU, which effectively evolved out of the OAU, was a stage in the historical process of the African continent whose time had come.

 

 

It would seem that through human history the emergence of philosophical innovation and political visions tend to be the fruit of social crisis. When societies have sunken into conditions of stagnation, regress or instability, such conditions tend to serve as fertile grounds for the sprouting of visions responsive to the need of the age.

 

 

The OAU itself is the product of the visionary creativity of Africans who issued forth from conditions of socio-political crisis. Such pioneers of a new Africa are widely referred to as the founding fathers of African independence. Without sounding hyperbolic one could usefully designate this stage in African history as an Axial Age to the extent that it completely heralded the possibility of new ontological experience from the African point of view.

 

 

Leading lights from the African continent in this regard included Kwame Nkrumah, Gamal Abdel Nasser, Sekou Toure, Leopold Sengor, Mudiba Keita, Julius Nyerere and Jomo Kenyatta, while from the Diaspora such luminaries as W.E.B do Bois and George Padmore took up the cudgels for the envisioned Africa free of external subjugation and the objectification of its people.

 

In like manner, the AU followed the same historical pattern. As it had done by leading the de-colonialisation process that culminated in the end of Apartheid, so Africa did, once again, initiate a process of defining its post-apartheid and post-colonial vision.

 

 

In short, the evolution of the OAU into the AU is the result of this conjuncture. As a continental body of governance which seeks to take Africa to the next level of development, the AU cannot afford to fail for to do so would be to rob posterity of this heritage of dignity, self-respect and development that it deserves.

 

 

Among the leaders who found traction in terms of defining our future are former presidents Thabo Mbeki, Abdulaye Wade, Olusegun Obasanjo, the late Colonel Muamar Gaddafi, and the current President of Algeria, Abdelaziz Boutiflika .

 

 

Programme Director;

 

 

Ten years after it has come into being, the AU is still enmeshed in serious challenges most of whose provenance goes back to the post-colonial era.

 

 

While the AU has forged a new Pan-Africanist vision which to all intents and purposes promises a decisive break with our past, its vision requires that we mobilise much effort and energy for it to take off.

 

 

In essence, this vision primarily advances issues of socio-economic progress such as development, good governance, democratisation, economic growth, and peace and security as the primary goals towards which Africa is striving.

 

 

In the past ten years since the formation of the AU these issues have been the loci of its focus.

 

 

While the inter-relationship among these key goals is ineluctable, I wish to focus on the issues of collective ownership of the renewal of our continent as an endogenous African enterprise and peace and stability as one of the key underwriters of African development, which, consequently, requires a bit more attention.

 

 

I have decided to touch briefly on these two key areas from the realisation that they both carry so much weight that any tinkering with them without an effort to bring them to fruition will virtually stall the implementation of this new vision.

 

 

I am also aware that over the last three years the question of African inter-connectivity has been a running thread of this conference as one of the pre-conditions for a full African integration.

 

 

However, I have deliberately left out any of the issues relating to inter-connectivity, fully aware that many of the capable minds attending this conference will make a worthy contribution in this regard.

 

 

I chose the rubric of ownership, of African agency, in this process of African integration, not only because this 50th anniversary of the OAU is an opportune moment for reflection on our state as a people but also because at best reflection in this area does not seem to have been sufficient.

 

 

In consequence I believe during this anniversary of the OAU the 15th African Renaissance Conference is an ideal platform for some reflection on the pros and cons of the African Renaissance in its right as a mobilising vision.

 

 

Reflecting on the nuances of this challenging process is important in that it helps us clarify our thought processes by surfacing issues below the radar, including confusion and scepticism.

 

 

Anchoring our efforts on clearer theoretical episteme which we have embraced after a continued and shared interaction makes the effort of moving forward at once predictable and consistent.

 

 

As such I wish to begin by contending that stakeholders in this ongoing task, not least a forum such as the African Renaissance Conference, have to build an Afro-centric theoretical centre to both guide and mobilise our efforts.

 

 

With no such popular theoretical clarity to further illuminate current African thought-systems about the contours of the future towards which we are working the possibility is all too real that we may veer off course, unawares.

 

 

For instance, at a subtle level there is an expectation that the process of African unity, including inter-connectivity and other key issues, should necessarily unfold after the manner of equivalent processes that occurred elsewhere, outside Africa.

 

 

On the one hand this is not at all surprising given that the experiences of such developed continents is assumed to be normative, the centre, thus leaving little room for independent human experience outside this dominant frame of reference.

 

 

So the assumption that the process of African integration has to take on the same pattern as that taken by the other continental bodies betrays the all too pervasive bias governing our sense of progress.

 

 

This bias has mostly expressed itself by means of depicting the historical development of certain regions of the world in absolutising terms, as if such regionally peculiar realities are the inexorable basis of the historicity of human experience.

 

 

In consequence colonial legacy has cemented normative experience, so that even the formerly colonised have internalised the norms and standards that come from subjective experience of others with no demonstrably legitimate claims to the universal applicability of the laws of natural science.

 

 

These asymmetric power relations embedded in our world outlook remain the biggest challenge confronting African thinkers today. Putting the African experience at the centre may not be easy but it is a task that has to be done. Such an exercise is not meant to replace Euro-centrism with Afro-centrism. The ultimate goal should be to seek to build a fair world where the colonial legacy as the natural human experience is eliminated and replaced by shared norms deriving from the universality of human experience.

 

 

Elevating the African experience of renewing our continent is thus a challenge for the African thinkers, activists, politicians and all thought leaders who understand the project of African renewal as a duty to our history and a responsibility to our future to frame this process in subjective, African terms.

 

 

As an endogenous project the integration of the African continent is predicated on the notion of African agency, where a heightened African consciousness about conditions that shape our social reality enables us to own this process as well as shape its outcomes.

 

 

Such a conscious claim to the right to shape our destiny is in keeping with the founding vision that engendered the OAU within the broader scope of de-colonialisation in the first place.

 

 

As Africans from different social backgrounds united by the mobilising vision of African development within the context of African integration we are under the historical obligation to work towards this common vision without surrendering our multiplicity of voices from our different vantage points.

 

 

Among his criticisms of the OAU, Julius Nyerere contended that it was an organisation of governments, meaning it had left ordinary Africans behind.

 

 

Fortunately this is the one strategic flaw that the AU was able to avoid to the extent possible, aware that without the people as the motif of history very little can be accomplished.

 

 

At the same time, our conscious ownership of African renewal must not render us impervious to useful lessons from other parts of the world, including Europe. We do not have to reinvent the wheel or repeat the errors of others. All we need is an open mind and attention to history.

 

 

What this means for the notion of African agency is that while we are essentially in the saddle in terms of our future we also have to build on the best historical experience from around the world. After all, cross-pollination of ideas has always been the motor of human history.

 

 

Ladies and gentlemen,

 

 

The challenge of peace and stability remains infinitely important as the precondition to take us forward.

 

 

You will know that currently the spectre of violence is looming large across many regions of our continent. Among some of the primary conditions for the thriving of armed conflict are religious extremism, ethnic strife and abuse of political power.

 

 

The pandemic of violence would suggest that much still needs to be done by the political leadership not only to eliminate permissive conditions for political violence but also, once violence has been stemmed, to nourish conditions for sustainable peace and stability.

 

 

Writing in the Africa Insight Special Issue on The African Union at 10 Years, Tim Murithi contends that:

 

 

'the continental ability and capacity to promote peace has also been undermined by the lack of political will among African leaders to find ways to address their differences. African leaders have to take responsibility for the lack of peace and security on the continent...kleptocracy and the theft of state resources and their transfer to overseas accounts have also played a role in generating the degree of deprivation that creates conditions that foment conflict between groups'.

 

 

From this citation we know that at least in part the devastating violence enveloping Africa results from the actions of political leadership, such as misrule and kleptocracy. By the same token, it follows then that if African leaders can get their houses in order many of the conditions that generate violence and instability can be nipped in the bud.

 

 

From this viewpoint it is true that lack of peace and security which in turn holds up socio-economic development emanates from subjective conditions. Conflict also triggers off numerous other social ills that cannot be managed, not only because the continuation of conflict makes such management difficult but also, because social institutions are destroyed.

 

 

Social destabilisation that results from armed conflict accounts for rampant poverty, a short life expectancy and astronomical mortality rate of children. It also leads to run-away illiteracy rates among African youth and the scourge of diseases, both curable and incurable, that contribute to the general state of malaise on the African continent.

 

 

Economic development in any social system enveloped by continued violence and social instability is just not possible.

 

 

In some cases disputes and civil strife in African nations have a global dimension as a covertly driven impulse. For instance some multinational companies have been reportedly implicated in the ongoing strife in Nigeria, CAR, DRC, Sudan, Cabinda Enclave in the Angola and, Sierra Leone.

 

 

At stake are African resources such as oil, diamonds, timber, copper, uranium and coltan.

 

 

By its very nature the global context of these underlying conditions would suggest a continental approach to address this complicated internal African conflict.

 

 

Without imputing the wholesale causes of African conflict to an extraneous source, it is imperative to appreciate the urgent need to cut off this invisible outside hand that stokes the fires of African conflict from which it continues to reap the benefits.

 

 

The AU has developed Peace and Security Architecture with the aim of dealing comprehensively with conflict in Africa. The AU Peace and Security Council came into being in 2004 and in turn established the African Peace and Security Architecture, which further comprises a Panel of the Wise.

 

 

The point, though, is to put this security machinery to use so that it begins to yield some positive results. To be sure, challenges remain in many areas and not all governments are enthusiastic in terms of seeing this policy through.

 

 

Nonetheless this is a promising start that demonstrates a marked shift from the past policies which accepted and recognised governments that came to power through undemocratic means.

 

 

In addition, non-governmental African voices need to be heard as and when there is a perception that not much is done to live up to the Constitutive Act and other precepts of the AU.

 

 

The African Peer Review Mechanism is among the pivotal instruments that ensure that African governments are transparent, accountable and democratic. Its value becomes immeasurable when considering the fact that it includes African citizens.

 

 

We need to see a decisive paradigm shift in the way Africa carries on with the business of modernisation against the background of globalisation. Increasing our collective voices against conflict, especially when it results from conscious actions of Africans themselves, will ensure we thwart such actions.

 

 

Programme Director;

 

 

The historical obligation of our generation is to reclaim the humanity of the African people in all critical areas that define modernity, to modernise the forces of production, to raise education levels of all the peoples and to close the gap between urban and rural areas.

 

 

I am confident this conference is one among many tributaries to this swelling, mighty river called 'the renewed Africa'.

 

 

This is the task that falls squarely within our responsibility as Africans, including our brothers and sisters in the Diaspora. Our thought leaders, intellectuals, leaders and ordinary Africans have to join forces to drive this vision.

 

 

In his seminal speech entitled 'Without Unity, There is No Future For Africa', Mwalimu Julius Nyerere submitted that:

 

 

"Unity will not make us rich, but it can make it difficult for Africa and African peoples to be disregarded and humiliated. And it will, therefore, increase the effectiveness of the decisions we make and try to implement for our development. My generation led Africa to political freedom. The current generation of leaders and peoples of Africa must pick up the flickering torch of African freedom, refuel it with their enthusiasm and determination, and carry it forward.”

 

 

It is a subjective African experience that can only succeed when owned by us, Africans. It cannot be anyhow. As Dr Kwame Nkrumah said, 'we face neither East nor West. We face forward.'

 

 

Thank you and I wish you well in this historic conference!!