Friday, October 30, 2009

President Jacob Zuma of the Republic of South Africa Addresses the Pan-African Parliament in Midrand

Address by the President of the Republic of South Africa, His Excellency, Mr Jacob Zuma, to the Pan African Parliament; Gallagher Estate, Midrand
26 October 2009

Your Excellency, President of the Pan-African Parliament, Dr Idriss Ndele Moussa;
Your Excellency, Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Dr Jean Ping,
Honourable Ministers, Deputy Ministers,
Members of the diplomatic corps,
Honoured Members of the Pan African Parliament,
Ladies and Gentlemen;

I feel greatly honoured and privileged to address the First Ordinary Session of the Second Legislature of the Pan-African Parliament.

On behalf of the Government and people of South Africa, I would like to extend a warm welcome to all participants in this inaugural session.

I would also like to congratulate the new Bureau on its election to office; in particular the new President of Pan-African Parliament.

This year marks the 5th anniversary of the formation of the Pan-African Parliament in March 2004.

It is a date that will be recorded in history as a pivotal moment in our efforts to ensure that the peoples of Africa determine their collective future.

The establishment of the Pan-African Parliament was informed by a vision to provide a common platform for African peoples to be more involved in decisions on the challenges facing the continent.

These decisions affect people directly.

We therefore need to find ways and means for people to be part of the processes that have an impact on their lives.

The Pan-African Parliamentarians are the elected representatives of the peoples of Africa.

We remain committed to the aim of the Pan-African Parliament to evolve into an institution with full legislative powers, whose members are elected by universal adult suffrage.

As a forum representing the parliaments and peoples of Africa, the Pan-African Parliament has a major role to play in deepening democratic ideals and ensuring respect for the rule of law, and equality throughout the continent.

We need to pose the question: What does it means to deepen democratic ideals, and how do we ensure respect for the rule of law?

Importantly, do we all have a common understanding of what these concepts mean?

This Parliament needs to help elucidate these concepts, so that this common understanding becomes entrenched on our continent and in individual countries.

Excellencies and Honourable Members;

It is fundamentally important that we encourage other member states to ratify the Protocol establishing the Pan-African Parliament.

The Pan-African Parliament is the only continental institution that has such broad representation of the public representatives of Africa.

It is this institution that constitutes a single collective voice of the ordinary people of our continent.

They are, in the main, voiceless in many existing forums, be they political, economic, cultural, religious or traditional.

It is therefore an appropriate institution to exercise oversight to ensure that governments pursue African Union programmes at the continental level and national programmes within individual countries.

It must speak on behalf of the peoples of Africa, and diligently pursue their common interests.

As the host country, South Africa is determined to provide the best possible conditions for this assembly to successfully discharge its mandate.

Excellencies, and Honourable Members;
Five years ago, members of the Pan-African Parliament adopted the slogan “One Africa, One Voice”.

The pertinent question is how do we realise this ‘one voice’ without a serious debate on the matters of life and death that face our continent?

We have not been able to discuss properly many of these problems, particularly the outstanding issue of conflict and war.

This slogan means we need to give concrete expression to our commitment to the continuation of the Pan-Africanist agenda pursued by the founding leaders of post-colonial Africa.

This is to be realised through the harmonisation and coordination of the policies and laws made at national and regional levels, and by promoting a sense of unity and common destiny among the people of Africa.

At the 12th Summit of the African Union, the Pan-African Parliament was mandated to develop a mechanism to ensure sound and effective contact, as well as the full participation of the peoples of Africa within the integration processes of Africa.

This mandate truly speaks to the confidence that we all continue to have in the Pan-African Parliament as one of the lead agents in the democratic project in Africa.

Once again, the question we must answer is what is our common understanding of the democratic project in Africa?

During the week of the 5th to 9th of October 2009 the Pan-African Parliament hosted important consultative meetings focusing on gender issues and the promotion of the work of the Pan-African Parliament through different African Parliaments.

I would like to congratulate the Pan-African Parliament for the initiative as well as successful deliberations held.

We look forward to implementation of the outcomes of the Conferences.

I firmly believe that the outcomes thereof will guide the Honourable Members in fruitful and vibrant deliberations during this Session.

Excellencies and Honourable Members;
This Parliament has many weighty matters to consider during its term.

Critically, it has to ensure that its deliberations strengthen the continent-wide effort to promote development, economic growth, peace, stability and democracy.

On four of these issues – peace, stability, human rights and democracy – the Pan-African Parliament can no longer delay a detailed discussion leading up to specific resolutions and recommendations to the AU.

If these issues are not discussed, there would be very little point for the existence of this Parliament

When it rises, this assembly needs to be able to point to progress in advancing these goals.

It needs to demonstrate that it is not merely a forum for debate, but an institution that forms an essential part of the renewal of our continent.

While we have achieved much since our people threw off the colonial yoke, we face many challenges.

Though we have achieved much in just the last few years, we cannot become complacent.

Africa’s people remain among the poorest in the world.

This is despite our continent being richly endowed with natural resources.

Our people remain exposed to disease and malnutrition, with high rates of child mortality and declining life expectancy, despite significant medical advances and improved health care provision.

Parts of our continent are still plagued by war and conflict, political instability and the removal of governments by unconstitutional means.

In such circumstances, development is stifled and economic activity severely curtailed.

It is the ordinary people who suffer – the very people that we in this assembly represent.

This is an indictment of all of us, individually and collectively.

We therefore have a profound responsibility to do everything we can to answer these challenges, and to build a better life for our peoples.

We proceed from an understanding that it is not sufficient for each national parliament to diligently undertake its work.

While it is possible for any one country to improve its situation, it is by working together that we can achieve that which our people need.

For this reason, among others, we are encouraged that the Pan-African Parliament will soon be able to transform itself from an advisory into a legislative body.

We look forward to the day when the peoples of Africa can send their representatives to the seat of this Parliament to fashion laws that will bring about a tangible improvement in all their lives.

Honourable Members,
Those who are gathered in this assembly are the most potent embodiment of democracy in Africa.

Among your responsibilities is to further instil democratic values and deepen democratic practices across the continent.

Already, the Pan-African Parliament has played an important role in contributing towards fair, free and transparent elections in a number of countries.

It needs to broaden this element of its work, which must include adopting standards for the holding of elections, so that the right of people to choose their own governments democratically is not undermined.

Important as elections are to the democratic process, they are but one element of a range of political, social and economic activities that must enable people to determine their own future.

We need to encourage people to organise, mobilise and work for their own advancement.

We need to support the development of grassroots structures and sectoral organisations.

It is our responsibility to build people’s power, not only within these walls, but in every place on this continent where people live and work.

Honourable Members,
This Parliament is also an embodiment of African unity.

Its mere existence is a confirmation that the vision of African unity that motivated so many of our continent’s greatest leaders remains undiminished.

The question of unity is what the founders of the OAU worked to achieve over many decades.

It is the matter this Parliament cannot avoid discussing at all times to support the efforts of the AU.

In this way, through this Parliament, the people of this continent will find a way to participate in the ongoing discussion on the African union government.

History has bestowed on us the responsibility to make a reality of that vision of unity.

In all our engagements, we should seek to preserve unity among our nations and advance a unified programme for development.

This Parliament is an important part of the political integration of our continent.

It will become increasingly important as we proceed towards the formation of a union government for Africa.

As we pursue this important objective, we must pay greater attention to the economic integration of our continent.

It is in this area where Africa’s greatest untapped economic potential is to be found.

Our economic development is hampered by the barriers we ourselves have constructed along the lines of the colonial maps.

As a consequence, we find ourselves divided into more than 50 different markets, with a multiplicity of trade and investment regulations, manufacturing standards, currencies, and jurisdictions.

Our electricity, transport and telecommunications infrastructure is fragmented, and often not compatible.

We do not collaborate in scientific development and technological innovation.

Most of our countries have a greater volume of trade with countries across the ocean than with those with whom we share the same soil.

It is a standing joke that there are some places in Africa where one has to fly to a European capital in order to catch a flight to a neighbouring country.

These are the very practical constraints to the progress of our continent, and the liberation of our peoples from the tyranny of underdevelopment.

Excellencies and Honourable Members,
South Africa is privileged to host the 2010 FIFA Soccer World Cup from June next year, which will be the first time that the tournament is held on African soil.

We hope that this historic event can be used as a driving force for African unity.

We hope that all of Africa will embrace this occasion as an opportunity to showcase our continent in all its diversity, richness and vibrancy.

To the Honourable Members of this Pan-African Parliament, the representatives of the people of this great continent, we thank you for the opportunity to address you and wish you well in all your deliberations.

I thank you.

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