Remarks by President Jacob Zuma at the farewell banquet in honour of the AU Commission Chairperson, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Sandton Convention Centre
08 October 2012
AU Commission Chairperson, Dr Dlamini-Zuma,
Honourable Chairperson of the NCOP,
Honourable Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke,
Honourable Ministers from SADC and the Republic and Honourable Premiers,
Deputy Ministers, MECs, Mayors,
We have come together as all spheres of government to celebrate the achievements of one of our own.
We are here not just to bid Dr Dlamini-Zuma farewell.
We are here to reflect on her legacy collectively and also to look ahead at the enormous task that faces her as she relocates to the headquarters of Africa.
Let me begin by endorsing all the accolades heaped on Dr Dlamini-Zuma at various farewell occasions before this one.
The most striking and humbling aspect of these was the unanimity even among opposition parties in parliament about her standing, decorum and excellent service to the nation.
This emphasizes to all of us that devout service to our people should be our badge of honour in this age.
Dr Dlamini-Zuma has been serving in the ANC-led government since we attained our freedom and democracy in 1994.
She served as Minister of Health, Foreign Affairs and Home Affairs respectively with distinction, grace and humility.
She is indeed, one of the most resolute, honourable and dedicated cadres of our struggle for freedom and for an improved quality of life of our people.
That is why she has had so many farewell functions organised in her honour. That is because people from all walks of life have something to say about this outstanding South African and African.
Her achievements at the Department of Health are well known.
It is thanks to her diligence that primary health care was promoted like never before in our country, that we have smoke-free public places and that a foundation was made for improved health care for the poor and especially women and children.
As Foreign Affairs Minister, she witnessed the birth of the AU and contributed during its initial growth.
She understands the AU and how it works. She knows the role it can play to promote the political and socio-economic development of the continent as well as to boost its position internationally.
She therefore brings the benefit of intimate knowledge of the continent, and an added benefit of a perspective of an outside observer while she was still at another department.
At Home Affairs, she helped to position the department as one of the most strategic ones as the government intended, particularly given the continuous movement of people and skills as a result of globalization.
She placed it well to play an important security role, controlling borders, screening immigrants, registering births and setting systems for a national population register.
More importantly, she turned Home Affairs into a department in which ordinary people felt they could be listened to, and be respected no matter how poor they are.
The efficiency levels of the Department have improved in a manner that was before unthinkable. The new Minister, Ms Naledi Pandor, is determined to take these achievements further by strengthening the Department so that it can continue on the path of renewal.
Ladies and gentlemen,
We are now looking ahead at the AU Commission under the leadership of this hard task master and steward.
The election of Dr Dlamini-Zuma as head of the AU Commission is significant in a number of ways.
Firstly, it heralds a new era for the continent as for the first time, the AU Commission will be led by a woman. The AU, therefore, has affirmed its own resolution to make this a Decade of Women.
She has also made history by being the first chairperson from the Southern African region. We thank SADC and know that they will continue to support her, together with other regions of the AU.
Dr Dlamini-Zuma’s assumption of duty in the AU is also significant because we believe the continent will have an energetic, dedicated, strategic and focused chairperson who will ensure that the AU Mission, vision, objectives and resolutions are implemented in a manner that changes the lives of Africans.
The Heads of State will take decisions as they should, and as they do, but these amount to nothing unless the AU Commission Chairperson ensures that they are implemented.
The AU technical infrastructure at Addis requires a strategist, a politically astute individual, a team worker, a unifier and someone who can motivate Commissioners and staff to do more to ensure success.
Dr Dlamini-Zuma is such a person.
As a loyal member of the AU, South Africa will play its role and provide support to make the institution successful in its programmes of promoting unity, peace, stability, prosperity and democracy in the continent.
We will play our role to support her and ensure that she fulfils her duties to the best of her ability.
We know that Africa as a whole stands ready to provide this support as well.
Dr Dlamini-Zuma has identified a number priorities for the continent during her tenure, in which we will support her.
She has identified the eradication of poverty and conflicts. The continent is already doing well in promoting peace and stability.
The AU Commission chairperson should assist us in promoting further cooperation with the United Nations so that the AU peace and security machinery can work closely with the UN Security Council machinery to bring about peace.
There are a number of regions and areas that need serious attention, such as the Sahel region which is under pressure following the Arab spring, in particular the Libyan crisis. The AU is also seized with the peace process in the Sudan, Madagascar, Somalia, the DRC and others to name a few.
The Heads of State will have a chairperson who comes with the background and experience of peacemaking and conflict resolution, as she comes from a country that has been playing a positive role in peacemaking and peace keeping since 1994.
Dr Dlamini-Zuma has identified building sustainable economies through infrastructure to promote intra-Africa trade as one of her priorities.
President Kwame Nkrumah told us as early as 1963 when motivating for the unity and economic development of the African continent, when he said;
“With our united resources, energies and talents we have the means, as soon as we show the will, to transform the economic structures of our individual states from poverty to that of wealth, from inequality to the satisfaction of popular needs.
“Only on a continental basis shall we be able to plan the proper utilisation of all our resources for the full development of our continent’’.
In this regard, the promotion of African freedom, sovereignty, independence and self-reliance should be strengthened, so that we can achieve total political and economic emancipation and the rebirth of the African continent.
The climate for taking forward the programme of economic emancipation and regeneration is conducive. Africa is being touted as the next big investment frontier over the next 50 years.
The continent is already the third fastest growing region after Asia and the Middle East.
The programmes of infrastructure development, within the framework of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) are poised to take the continent to a higher development trajectory if implemented well.
The fact that we have to fly to Europe to visit an African country remains unacceptable.
Therefore, the AU is on the right track in its programmes of promoting vigorously the development of rail and road; energy; water and sanitation; information, communication technologies, as well as agriculture and food security for realization of goals set for NEPAD.
South Africa chairs the AU Presidential Infrastructure Championing Initiative, leading the North-South Corridor Road and Rail projects, which will extend from Cape Town and Durban to Cairo, within the NEPAD framework.
In addition, the programme of integration is moving in all spheres with Regional Economic Communities as the building blocks.
Currently moves are afoot to ensure a successful integration of the Common Market of East and Southern Africa, the East African Community and SADC, which bring together a market of more than 600 million people.
The AU Commission chairperson will also assist member states with the consolidation of democracy and good governance in our respective countries.
Already the African Peer Review Mechanism has taken root and remains a very progressive mechanism of promoting good governance in the continent.
Institutions such as the Pan-African Parliament should be strengthened, so that they can convey positive ideas to take us forward towards realization of the African unity and prosperity.
At a social development level, the continent is under extreme pressure to meet the Millennium Development Goals on improving health, education, gender equality and other goals by 2015.
It is unlikely that sub-Saharan Africa will meet these goals, and this requires ongoing work on our part to move towards the objective.
We continue to impress upon our development partners in the North in particular, to meet the obligations and undertakings they have made to Africa with regard to overseas development assistance.
The AU, through the AU Commission, also needs to take forward the task of championing gender parity in the continent.
The role of women should be elevated and the plight of children and vulnerable people ought to receive greater attention.
Most importantly, the AU Commission Chair has undertaken to prioritise the advancement of African interests in the global agenda.
Africa’s voice in international fora needs to be increased.
This goes hand in hand with the need for reform of key international institutions such as the United Nations Security Council, in particular, and the Bretton Woods Institutions.
We have to lead in finding solutions to African problems, as Africans, and minimise the adverse interference in our affairs, as we saw happening in Libya and Cote d’ Ivoire last year.
More importantly, Africa must take its rightful place among nations of the world as an equal reliable partner, and a full member of the international community.
To be able to achieve all these goals, we cannot be the first who say that we will fail in whatever we want to do, even before we start.
The continent needs to have Africans believing in their own potential. We must reverse self-hate and turn Afro-pessimism to Afro-optimism.
Africa is rising, Africa is changing. The whole world can see that, now Africans must believe it, and move forward. They should stop doubting their own abilities. We are as good as anyone else in any continent.
There is a lot of work to be done.
Dr Dlamini-Zuma cannot be expected to achieve all these goals alone. She is as good as the support that will be provided by AU member states. South Africa stands ready to play its role and to encourage other member states to do the same.
Earlier today, I met with the current AU Chairperson, His Excellency President Bon Yayi, the President of the Republic of Benin.
We agreed that a lot of work must be done to infuse new life into the AU and that we will together support the Commission.
We need to change the way the AU works. It must function more efficiently and effectively. It cannot continue as if the world is not changing.
Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma represents that change. With our support, all of us, she will take the continent to new heights.
On behalf of the government and people of South Africa, congratulations on your election dear sister, comrade and compatriot!
We know that you will do exceptionally well in Addis.
You have all of us standing behind you, ready to support you in whatever way possible.
I thank you.