The events of 1994 will forever be imprinted in our minds. We celebrated our newly found unity, our fledgling democracy and shared the hope of a prosperous country that would see the lives of all South Africans change for the better.
The profound words spoken by former President Nelson Mandela at his inauguration still ring true today. His words, "out of the experience of an extraordinary human disaster that lasted too long, must be born a society of which all humanity will be proud” gave us hope. More importantly, our triumph over apartheid made us believe, and look forward to a better life for all.
Our fight for a truly democratic society and a better life for all South Africans have always been intertwined with our struggle for a better Africa and a better world. The Africa we wish to see is aptly described by International Relations and Cooperation Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane as: “an African continent that is prosperous, peaceful, democratic, non-sexist, people-centred and united, and which contributes to a world that is just and equitable.”
Over the past 19 years, we have shown extraordinary socio-economic and political stability, and have kept our promise to deliver, and maintain a better life for all South Africans. Our steadfast commitment has also shaped, and contributed to our role in Africa and in the rest of the world. In the latter case this has consistently been our guiding light whether we pursued this goal by choice or in cases where we gave substance to it in our various roles in the international community and multilateral forums.
We boast an advanced and diversified economy, which plays a vital part in our interactions with the international community and also accounts for a vast proportion of global foreign trade.
South Africa has always made it clear that whatever we do, and whichever role we assume nationally and internationally is informed by a strong African Agenda – an agenda where we want to see ourselves succeed together with others. We are always mindful of the fact that it is in our national interest to promote and support the positive development of others.
Against the above background, we have witnessed South Africa assuming an increasingly important role in a new emerging global political and economic order. One only needs to think of the country’s inclusion as part of the India-Brazil-South Africa Dialogue Forum (IBSA), the BRICS grouping, the only African country in the G20, and a series of non-permanent seats we assumed in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC).
However, our international role was never only going to be focussed on the above forums. We have given our unwavering support to initiatives such as the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) and joined our Africans brothers and sisters in celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Organisation of African Unity/African Union (OAU/AU).
We are fully aware of, and have at numerous occasions voiced our gratitude to the OAU/AU and its member states, for the role they played in dismantling apartheid. South Africa will continue to do so and we will provide on-going support to the organisation’s goals and objectives for our continent.
When Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma was recently elected to the position of chairperson of the African Union (AU) Commission, she spoke of a vision that would bring about stability and growth on the continent. A stable and united continent will result in greater foreign investment, growth and socio-economic development for South Africa, the region and the rest of Africa.
The fruit of greater cooperation and stability on the continent is already being felt, and is evident throughout our vast and beautiful continent. Africa has experienced a decade of economic growth and is the second fastest growing region in the world after Asia.
During his address to the Japan National Press Club in Tokyo this year, President Jacob Zuma also made South Africa’s contribution clear when he stated that we would continue to advocate for Africa’s socio-economic development and political unity. He stated: “South Africa is politically stable, and plays an ever-growing role in Africa and among the countries of the developing world through its membership of BRICS and the India Brazil South Africa (IBSA) Dialogue process to advance the goals of democracy, human rights, economic development, science and technology; peace and prosperity.”
As we continue to join in the commemoration of the 50th Anniversary Celebration of the AU, we call on all South Africans to join in and to ensure that a better life for Africa becomes a tangible reality. As a country we will, and must continue to support the push for regional integration, economic growth and political stability.
Our commitment for a better Africa and a better world will never waiver, in the words of former President Nelson Mandela: “When the history of our struggle is written, it will tell a glorious tale of African solidarity, of African’s adherence to principles. It will tell a moving story of the sacrifices that the peoples of our continent made.”
We are stronger and more determined than ever to take the long walk towards a better South Africa, a better Africa, a better world and a clear recognition of the important role Africa plays in a new world order.
Phumla Williams is CEO of the Government Communication and Information System (GCIS)