Speech at the Launch of the African
Renaissance Institute, Pretoria October 11 1999
Distinguished Elders of Africa,
Secretary General of the Organisation of African Unity,
Your Excellencies Ministers, Ambassadors and High Commissioners,
Ladies and Gentlemen:
I am very pleased indeed to welcome you to the launch
of the African Renaissance Institute. I sincerely thank
you for giving us, as South Africans, the opportunity
to host this launch and for me to speak at this Opening
I would also like to welcome to our country those of
our brothers and sisters who come from beyond our borders.
Once more, we would like to express our profound appreciation
to you all for the contribution that you made to our
own struggle for liberation.
Liberated South Africa is therefore your home, not
merely because it is an African country, but because
without your determined struggles, perhaps we would
not be a free people today.
The sacrifices the peoples of our Continent made to
end the apartheid crime against humanity, which denied
the very humanity of everybody who was African, were
many and varied.
Among other things, the countries of Southern Africa
also paid a very high price in human lives lost, as
well as property and infrastructure destroyed, as they
withstood the campaign of aggression and destabilisation
conducted by the apartheid regime.
Undoubtedly, Angola and Mozambique paid the highest
price in this regard.
I would like to take this opportunity, once more, to
reiterate our profound appreciation to their governments
and peoples for their extraordinary solidarity, which
our people will never forget.
I am also very pleased to make special mention and
pay tribute to our elders who are here, of whom we are
justly proud and whose wisdom and African patriotism
will make an important contribution to our common quest
for an African Renaissance.
All of us are greatly distressed that that great son
of all Africa, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, is unable to
be here, owing to a difficult health condition. I am
certain that we would all agree that we should send
him a heartfelt message of support and our wishes for
his speedy recovery.
We have also received the apologies of another great
son of our Continent, Ahmed Ben Bella, who could not
joint us owing to prior commitments.
As you are aware, the movement of our own struggle
for national liberation is the ANC, the African National
Brought up as we were by this movement and led by it,
throughout the entirety of our political lives we have
been exposed to the inspiring perspective of African
unity and solidarity and the renewal of our Continent.
Beyond this, the struggle for our own liberation led
to the development of perhaps the largest and most determined
Pan-African movement of solidarity our continent has
ever seen, involving both governments and all sections
of the population, in every country.
We are therefore pleased and moved that some of our
fellow Africans took the initiative to establish the
Institute that we are launching today.
I am convinced that all of us present here share a
common vision in favour of African unity and solidarity,
African development and renewal and an end to the marginalisation
of our Continent in world affairs and development processes.
It would seem to us vitally necessary that whereas,
for some time, the achievement of these objectives has
been left to our governments, it is necessary that we
return this vision to the people.
We are therefore of the firm view that there is a critically
important and urgent need to develop a Popular Movement
for the African Renaissance.
Accordingly, we believe that political organisations
and governments in all African countries should be mobilised
to act in furtherance of the objectives of the African
Equally, the masses and their organisations in all
African countries should similarly be mobilised and
drawn into action.
We must also pay attention to the intelligentsia, the
professionals, the trade unions, business people, women
and the youth, the traditional leaders, cultural workers,
the media and so on, to bring them into the popular
struggle for Africa's rebirth.
The question has been posed repeatedly as to what we
mean when we speak of an African Renaissance.
As all of us know, the word "renaissance"
means rebirth, renewal, springing up anew. Therefore,
when we speak of an African Renaissance, we speak of
the rebirth and renewal of our continent.
This idea is not new to the struggles of the peoples
of our continent for genuine emancipation. It has been
propagated before by other activists for liberation,
drawn from many countries.
But it has been suggested that when this perspective
was advanced in earlier periods, the conditions did
not exist for its realisation.
Accordingly, what is new about it today is that the
conditions exist for the process to be enhanced, throughout
the continent, leading to the transformation of the
idea from a dream dreamt by visionaries to a practical
programme of action for revolutionaries.
What, then, are these conditions! These are:
the completion of the continental process of the liquidation
of the colonial system in Africa, attained as a result
of the liberation of South Africa;
the recognition of the bankruptcy of neo-colonialism
by the masses of the people throughout the continent,
including the majority of the middle strata;
the weakening of the struggle among the major powers
for spheres of influence on our continent, as a consequence
of the end of the Cold War; and,
the acceleration of the process of globilisation.
As we take advantage of these changed circumstances,
we must move from the fundamental proposition that the
peoples of Africa share a common destiny.
Each one of our countries is constrained in its ability
to achieve peace, stability, sustained development and
a better life for the people, except in the context
of the accomplishment of these objectives in other sister
African countries as well.
Accordingly, it is objectively in the interest of all
Africans to encourage the realisation of these goals
throughout our Continent, at the same time as we pursue
their attainment in each of our countries.
We speak of a continent which, while it led in the
very evolution of human life and was a leading centre
of learning, technology and the arts in ancient times,
has experienced various traumatic epochs; each one of
which has pushed her peoples deeper into poverty and
We refer here to the three periods of:
slavery, which robbed the continent of millions of
her healthiest and most productive inhabitants and reinforced
the racist and criminal notion that, as Africans, we
imperialism and colonialism, which resulted in the
rape of raw materials, the destruction of traditional
agriculture and domestic food security, and the integration
of Africa into the world economy as a subservient participant;
neo-colonialism, which perpetuated this economic system,
while creating the possibility for the emergence of
new national elites in independent states, themselves
destined to join the dominant global forces in oppressing
and exploiting the masses of the people.
During this latter period, our continent has experienced:
unstable political systems in which one-party states
and military rule have occupied pride of place, leading
to conflict, civil wars, genocide and the emergence
of millions of displaced and refugee populations;
the formation of predatory elites that have thrived
on the basis of the looting of national wealth and the
entrenchment of corruption;
the growth of the international debt burden to the
extent that, in some countries, combined with unfavourable
terms of trade, it makes negative growth in national
per capita income inevitable; and,
actual declines in the standard of living and the quality
of life for hundreds of millions of Africans.
The task of the African Renaissance derive from this
experience, covering the entire period from slavery
to date. They include:
the establishment of democratic political systems to
ensure the accomplishment of the goal that "the
people shall govern",
ensuring that these systems take into account African
specifics so that, while being truly democratic and
protecting human rights, they are nevertheless designed
in ways which really ensure that political and, therefore,
peaceful means can be used to address the competing
interests of different social groups in each country;
Establishing the institutions and procedures which
would enable the continent collectively to deal with
questions of democracy, peace and stability;
achieving sustainable economic development that results
in the continuous improvement of the standards of living
and the quality of life of the masses of the people;
qualitatively changing Africa's place in the world
economy so that it is free of the yoke of the international
debt burden and no longer a supplier of raw materials
and an importer of manufactured goods;
ensuring the emancipation of the women of Africa;
successfully confronting the scourge of HIV/AIDS;
the rediscovery of Africa's creative past to recapture
the peoples' cultures, encourage artistic creativity
and restore popular involvement in both accessing and
advancing science and technology;
strengthening the genuine independence of African countries
and continent in their relations with the major powers
and enhancing their role in the determination of the
global system of governance in all fields, including
politics, the economy, security, information and intellectual
property, the environment and science and technology.
These goals can only be achieved through a genuinely
popular and protracted struggle involving not only governments
and political parties, but also the people themselves
in all their formations.
Such a popular movement for the fundamental renewal
of Africa would also have to take into account the multi-faceted
it is engaged in an extremely complex struggle which
would be opposed by forces of reaction from both within
and without the continent;
it would achieve both forward movement and suffer occasional
the continental offensive can only be sustained if
the active populations of all countries are confident
that none of the countries of the continent, regardless
of the extent of its contribution to the Renaissance,
seeks to impose itself on the rest as a new imperialist
the forces for change have to be built up and consolidated
within each country, without ignoring or underestimating
the imperative and the potential for an increasing coordinated
trans-national offensive for the mutually beneficial
renewal of the continent.
From all this, it is clear that the achievement of the
historically vital African Renaissance requires that
the peoples of our continent should adopt a realist
programme of action that will actually move Africa towards
its real renewal.
Accordingly, ways have to be found to ensure that:
the OAU is further strengthened so that in its work,
it focuses on the strategic objective of the realisation
of the African Renaissance;
links are built across Africa's borders among all social
sectors to increase the levels of cooperation ad integration;
steps are taken to ensure that both Africa ad the rest
of the world define the new (21st) century as an "African
Century", in furtherance of the objective of the
mobilisation of the peoples of the world to support
the offensive for an African Renaissance; and,
work is done to persuade the rest of the world, including
sch important institutions as the UN, the IMF, the World
Bank, the WTO, NAFTA, the EU, MERCOSUR, ASEAN and others,
to the point of view that we share with them the strategic
view that it is obligatory that we all support the vision
of an African Renaissance and that they should lend
support to this process, guided by what the peoples
of Africa themselves want.
The difficulty we will face with regard to the accomplishment
of the last of these tasks is illustrated by the problem
we are facing even as we stand here, of arriving at
the point when we can conclude the bilateral agreement
between our country and the European Union.
Stripped of all pretence, what has raised the question
whether the agreement can be signed today or not, is
the reality that many among the developed countries
of the North have lost all sense of the nobele idea
of human solidarity.
What seems to predominate is the question, in its narrowest
and most naked meaning - what is in it for me! What
is in it for me! - and all this with absolutely no apology
and no sense of shame.
None of us were present when the slaves were forced
into the dungeons on the Isle of Goree in Senegal and
on the island of Zanzibar.
But we would not be wrong if we came to the conclusion
that those who survived these dungeons as well as their
transportation across the oceans, did so because of
a strong will to survive.
None of us were present when the people of the Congo
were slaughtered in their millions, to satisfy the rapacious
and insatiable greed of a Belgian monarch.
But we would not be wrong if we came to the conclusion
that the Congolese people did not resort to mass suicide
to escape the horror, because of a firm conviction that,
in the end, as a people the were indestructible.
We were present when the colonial and racist powers
put up the most determined resistance to deny the people
of Algeria, Kenya, the Portuguese colonies, Zimbabwe,
Namibia and South Africa their freedom.
We know that the peoples of these countries and our
Continent as a whole were not discouraged by what seemed
to be overwhelming odds against them, because they were
determined that the people's cause for national emancipation
could never be defeated.
We bore witness to the unspeakable genocide that descended
on the people of Rwanda in 1994.
We know that, in the end, these extraordinary Africans
ended the slaughter themselves because they took it
upon themselves to make the determination that Africa
will not perish at the hands of her own sons and daughters.
That same spirit of optimism and commitment to overcome
must inform all of us now as we build on the victories
we have scored, to engage what will clearly be a titanic
struggle to achieve Africa's Renaissance.
What will decide the outcome is not the strength of
our opponents but our own determination to succeed.
Stretching through the mists, for a millennium, our
common African history is replete with great feats of
courage, demonstrated by the heroes and heroines and
the heroic peoples, without whose loyal attachment to
hope and the vision of a bright future for Africa, her
people would long have perished.
The moment is upon us when we should draw on this deep
well of human nobility to make this statement in action
- that Africa's time has come!
We, in all our millions, including those of us who
are in the Diaspora, will ensure that Africa will not
be denied what is due to her!
The African century will not be proclaimed! It will
come to be through struggle!
The struggle continues! Victory is certain!
We wish the African Renaissance Institute success in
the historic mission we are all called upon to carry
out, to end a long and dark night without whose ending
no human being anywhere in the world can claim to be
fulfilled as a human being.
The only ailment that has no cure is the spawn of a
I thank you for your attention.