AMERICAN INDEPENDENCE DAY CELEBRATIONS
DURBAN : JULY 3, 2002
It is a great pleasure for me to partake in the celebration of Independence Day of the United States. I have maintained a long-standing dialogue with the people and the Government of the Unites States for almost half a century. I have had the privilege of meeting with four US Presidents, namely Presidents Carter, Bush, Reagan and Clinton. I met the latter during his trip to South Africa. A year ago, I met with Vice-President Dick Cheney whom I was also not meeting for the first time. He reminded me that when he was a Congressman he often quoted some of my speeches when I spoke very strongly about the imposition of sanctions against South Africa. This by itself could well signify how important the dialogue with the United States has been for me throughout my life. However, I feel that the importance of this dialogue has gone far beyond that which can be marked through state visits.
On an occasion such as this, I feel that I must acknowledge that the contacts between the United States and South Africa are much broader by far than anything which can be registered in a diplomatic diary. I myself have been greatly inspired by the legacy which flows from the American War of Independence and the universal values which it proclaimed, not only for the American people but indeed for mankind. We are all children of the glorious assertion which was made two hundred and twenty three years ago that human congregation and society can be organised around the principles of individual freedom and collective liberty. On that day, perhaps for the first time in recorded history, an enormously important assertion of confidence was made in the capacity of individuals to be responsible for their own destiny, without the constant supervision, tutelage and paternalism of autocratic and authoritarian governments.
On that day, mankind came of age and asserted before history the adulthood of each individual and his final emancipation from the bondage of authority and tyranny. It would take many decades to bring that assertion into full realisation and indeed in many respects one must acknowledge that the agenda of freedom and liberty remains largely incomplete. However, mankind’s history made an irretrievable qualitative leap and began moving in a different and better direction.
The revolution which began on the 4th of July 1779 is far from complete. Its value and significance is now tested as much as it has ever been before. These are indeed times of trial and testing. In these times, one is reminded of the immortal lines in the Gettysburg address which stated that the founding "fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure."
The aftermath of the September 11th attacks has made it clear that the rapid process of globalization in which the world is engaged and the incessant technological and social improvements which are radically changing our daily lives, have created vast conflicts between those countries which are informed and shaped by the rules of law and democracy, and those which operate by the rule of man and the dictates of power. This clash seems more ominous than any ever experienced during the past two hundred and twenty three years, during the many conflicts which have juxtaposed the forces of tyranny against those of democracy. Its territorial, geo-political, historical and cultural implications remain unknown and beyond the grasp of the most daring analysts. However, these conflicts are part and parcel of what began on the 4th of July 1779 to ensure that all individuals could finally grow into their adulthood and be free from the notion of perpetual tutelage. In too many countries across the world the great majority of mankind is still not empowered with the rights, privileges and economic power which would allow them to be, and to be regarded, as adult citizens of a modern world.
In South Africa, those of my generation have experienced the brunt of an oppressive system of government which regarded the majority of its subjects, especially black people, as perpetual minors who could never grow to adulthood. We experienced first hand how oppression is based on promoting the notion that certain individuals are better than others and that some ought to be treated as second-class citizens, if not minors. The greatest value for which America stands, in my eyes, is that of genuine equality amongst all its citizens. This is a type of equality which allows any of its citizens to dream of becoming President or to break the barriers of their own poverty and, through ingenuity and industriousness, achieve wealth and prosperity. It is the same type of freedom which enables a single individual to challenge the system and prevail through the strength of the law. We are far from having brought this type of freedom into Africa, but we remain committed to ensuring that this agenda continues to be part and parcel of our own struggle for a better future.
The struggle for liberation which we began many decades ago is far from complete. In South Africa, the majority of our people still labour under the yoke of poverty, unemployment, lack of essential services, and ignorance for lack of education, knowledge and exposure. Our liberation will only come when the overwhelming majority of our people are freed from the enslavement of abject social and economic conditions. During the first stage of our liberation, our objectives were clearer, as we had to secure the demise of a system of government based on racial discrimination and oppression. Nonetheless, even at that time, there were sharp differences of view on how to achieve this goal, and people such as myself opted for non-violence, passive resistance and negotiations, while others embraced the armed struggle and pursued the impossible dream of a military uprising while spreading generalised violence in our communities.
At the present juncture, it is more difficult to identify the goals of our struggle for liberation, and it is more arduous to determine the best way to achieve such goals. However, I remain firmly convinced that the Government of South Africa and its people should take heed of the legacy of the American War of Independence and the American experience which flowed from it, to believe that through the philosophy of freedom and the pursuit of individual happiness, our struggle for liberation can be moved forward. We are far from having established the rule of law in South Africa and having ensured that the rule of law can finally replace the rule of man. Our own democracy is far from having taken firm root in our country.
The risk of the consolidation of a one-party state in South Africa is now becoming a real possibility. For this reason, I have felt it is absolutely important that South Africa continues to benefit from a plurality of governments which are not all controlled by the same political party. I strongly feel that today the battle for democracy in South Africa is being fought on the political battlefield of KwaZulu Natal. For this reason, I remain committed to doing everything in my power to avoid that the electoral verdict of the people of this Province becomes twisted and thwarted through the application of the legislation allowing the crossing of the floor. I am aware that in many other countries such legislation is quite common. Yet in our specific context, it may be productive not of democracy, but rather of a one-party state. I do not suggest that crossing from one party to another party is basically wrong but what is bizarre in this case is for people elected on a PR system during an electoral cycle, to cross with seats they did not win but which their party gave to them.
There are many ways in which a democrat is called upon to fight the battle for democracy which began on the 4th of July, 1779. In our own context, we need to protect and promote political pluralism, create a viable democratic alternative and ensure that government does not become totalitarian and that it does not exercise its power and influence over the totality of economic and social phenomena. In our present context, this may seem a tall order. Nonetheless, I believe that the past two hundred and twenty three years prove the lesson that there is something about the forces of democracy which make them irresistible and victorious, even when fighting against the odds.
I hope that Americans and South Africans will continue to stand united in the many struggles awaiting our country on its road ahead. We appreciate the constant flow of assistance and aid which South Africa receives, not only from the US Government, but from a number of US institutions and organisations which are often too numerous to keep track of. This has been a constant flow of generosity, human solidarity and economic support for which we are deeply indebted.
Through the decades, the United States has proven its faithfulness to the legacy of the 4th of July. Having concentrated greater economic and military power than any other nation on earth ever did before, it has used its power and prosperity not to conquer or subjugate, not to impoverish and destroy, but to elevate, empower, free and democratise other nations throughout the world. This process has not often been perfect and has seen many contradictions and deviations, if not outright mistakes, but it has always been earnestly truthful to its intentions and faithful to its genesis.
To a lesser or greater extent, we are now all part of this agenda of democracy and individual freedom which is no longer carried out exclusively by government, but has fallen within the hands and responsibility of people across national boundaries. The dawn of the age of globalization has placed governments in the back seat and people, organs of civil society and commercial interests, producers and consumers in the front seat.
In a certain way the legacy of the 4th of July has become globalized and assumes a special and different significance in each corner of the world, bringing a special and different message to the various nations of the planet. In South Africa, we ought to celebrate this occasion by recommitting ourselves to our own struggle for economic prosperity and social stability and by strengthening our ties with the United States. The United States has been a genuine, trusted, generous and dedicated friend of ours. The time has come for our country, our government and our people to pay tribute to this friendship and to show that we are a friend to the United States as it has been to us. May God bless America.
I know that today we meet in a spirit of
celebration. It is a day when we celebrate democracy and the entrenchment of
that concept in the world's greatest democracy. I also know that it is in a way
a sad day when we have to say farewell to our two friends, the Honourable
Consul General of the United States Craig Kuehl and his beautiful spouse. They
have both been worthy representatives of the United States in our Province and
in our metropolis. Both of them have upheld for us the values which the
American pilgrims established in their country. They have also been our friends
and it is for this reason that while we can never forget their sojourn in our
country, we are saddened when we think that they will soon be departing our
shores. We thank both of them for having served the United States in our
country with such dedication and distinction. On this occasion we would like
them to know that we have been enriched by our friendship with them. As they
leave our country we wish them every blessing and we feel sure that we will
meet them again, God willing. Congratulations on a job well done.