SOUTHERN AFRICA ECONOMIC SUMMIT
WORKING DINNER ON THE THEME OF
Durban: June 6, 2001
It is an honour for me to participate in such valuable discussions around the theme of Democracy in Africa. Having considered the rubric of this working dinner, I was inspired to express my own perspective of the democratic miracle, a perspective which has been built throughout almost half a century in politics and the leadership of my people. For much of my life I have struggled alongside my people to see democracy born in South Africa. Democratic miracles are possible and yet we need to confront the reality of their having often not delivered the expected results in terms of development and progress. I believe that our own democratic miracle is still in the making and far from having succeeded. In fact, since 1994, we have engaged in a new phase of our struggle to achieve the genuine liberation of our people in all spheres of our cultural, social and economic life. In spite of democracy, our people are suffering under the burden of poverty, unemployment, ignorance and lack of basic services and development.
Our economy is fighting to reach the critical point of growth which may turn these conditions around. We are doing well, but not well enough to make the difference which really matters. Because we need to make such a great difference, the miracle of democracy in Africa is expected to achieve more than in any other part of the world. We cannot avoid this expectation and must, therefore, out-perform many established or other new democracies which may to a greater extent rely on what they have, rather than focusing on what they are still to achieve. For this reason, I believe that the miracle of democracy requires courageous leadership which ensures that its initial impetus does not merely stabilise, but also grows to accommodate the vast unfulfilled needs and expectations.
I feel that Ghana and South Africa share the historical responsibility of proving that democracy can work on our continent and can indeed deliver what our people expect. On an occasion such as this, we need to express the courage of analysing what has not worked, or what has not worked well enough in many African democracies. An African Renaissance is based on our capability to turn around the conditions of our continent and having the unwavering political will to do so. This requires our willingness to move steadfastly from the old into the new, from the known into the unknown, and from the comfortable into the uncomfortable. We must talk not only about the evils of colonialism and racial oppression, but also of the evils of the ages which preceded them. Most of all, we need to find the courage to talk about the evils which have bedeviled our continent after the age of liberation. We need to have the courage to identify our own flaws and shortcomings. Without this sense of self-criticism, it will be difficult to make progress. Our capacity to criticise ourselves is indeed the beginning of improvement and the guarantee that the impetus of forward movement keeps its required pace and brings the development of our country out of the interminable age of infancy.
Too often we remain complacent before evils springing out of our land. We are often too ready to justify ourselves for the shortcomings of our government. If we wish to turn our continent around, we need to become hard on ourselves. We can no longer accept and excuse corruption, inefficiency, delays and shortcomings as some chronic evils of our continent, part and parcel of our land. They may have been with us for a long time but they need not be here to stay. We must also accept that there is a fundamental connection between these evils and the poor social and economic conditions of many of our countries, and the inadequate functioning of our respective democracies. For me, making democracy work means identifying, exposing and redressing things which do not work at their best or impair progress.
In order to do so, we need once and for all to bury the culture which justifies and accepts shortcomings and deficiencies. We must dedicate our respective countries to a national endeavour towards greater efficiency, progress, development and technological improvements. I believe that this need to grow should rise from the bottom up, from our schools, families, work-places and communities. The greatest challenge is for me that of shaping new generations who recognise that new is better than old, and who gain the power to improve on their social and economic conditions through their own efforts and dedication. We need to promote a new culture of self-help and self-reliance which breaks the shackles of the mind-set of impotence, complacency and indolence. We need to free our people from a pervasive sense of paternalism and authoritarianism which often inhibits personal and intellectual growth. We need to promote critical thinking and personal ingenuity as the engines of an intellectual revolution to come.
In fact, to me, the most important aspect of the economic revolution which our continent must undertake lies in the need to improve the value of our most precious and least utilised resource, which is our people. The most important economic factor of our success remains the contribution that our people can make towards our growth. Therefore, I believe that our governments must focus their priority attention on training and education, and must promote across the land a new culture of intellectual stimulation and individual protagonism in social and economic activities. We must stimulate individuals to become protagonists and better citizens and role-players in what is becoming an increasingly more complex world, in which our countries must participate on an equal level. South Africa is championing this concept by devolving as much as one per cent per year of our national payroll towards training, to include adult basic education which is essential to real human upliftment. This action by government is extremely important, but not sufficient unless it is met halfway with a concomitant effort by all the building blocks of our society to promote individual growth and upliftment.
Looking at the past and then at the present stage of our struggle for liberation, I recognise that Ghana and South Africa have much in common. Before I speak about the successful election campaign of President John Agyekum Kufuor, it is my great pleasure to congratulate His Excellency on this recent victory. I esteem it a privilege to share this table with a man who has openly agreed that politics is for long-distance runners, and not for sprinters. As leaders, we must have a long-term vision for our countries. Operating with a perspective which looks into future generations, rather than exclusively into the time of our own lives, we must bring to our countries a leadership which is not merely for today, but which will reverberate far into the future, establishing success, prosperity and development in the years to come.
There is great affinity between South Africa and Ghana. Our soils have produced giants among men on the African continent. President Kwame Nkrumah who led his country to independence in March of 1957 with the slogan "Self-Government Now" was serving a prison sentence for his fiery liberation passion when his party, the Convention People’s Party, won the general elections. This son of Africa stepped from prison into the highest leadership of his country, the first African country to win independence from European colonisers. One cannot but draw a similarity with South Africa’s own political giant, former President Nelson Mandela, whose release from 27 years in prison ushered in a new era which would soon herald democracy for South Africa.
My own role in the liberation negotiations played itself out against a background of misperceptions and obfuscation of truth. I thank God that today the truth has emerged and has been embraced by all those involved in our country’s transition from apartheid to democracy. When the grand scheme of apartheid would no longer hold, the then Nationalist Government of South Africa approached me, as Chief Minister of the erstwhile KwaZulu Government, seeking bilateral negotiations. I knew that we could not proceed while some political organisations remained banned and many political prisoners, particularly Nelson Mandela, remained incarcerated. Based on what I knew to be the only route to South Africa’s victory, I rejected the offer of bilateral negotiations, calling as I had so many times in the past, for the release of my comrades. In so doing, I again looked to my country’s future and not my own.
I mention these matters to stress that the time for foresight and selfless actions is not over. Foresight and selfless action are more easily prompted in a time of war and struggle and are often impaired during peace. As we are still at war against poverty and under-development as our enemies, now more than ever we need heroics in our leadership and the willingness to endure sacrifices and the discipline of the struggle in our people.
Former President Mandela, President Kufuor and myself are of the same generation. We belong to the same generation of the age of democracy in Africa. I have often mentioned to my comrade, Nelson Mandela, that we are of the same age, only ten years apart. Today, I may express the same sentiments to President Kufuor. President Kufuor campaigned on the need for change during a time in which the economy of Ghana has experienced severe difficulties. In Africa we share a dilemma, which is that the needs are so great and so extensive, demanding a rapidly growing economy. Speaking at the Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum earlier this year, President Thabo Mbeki spoke of the global structural fault of poverty, which I believe exists in its cruellest and most visible form on this continent.
There are undoubtedly profound world imbalances and social injustices amongst nations which require to be redressed through concerted international efforts. However, as we bring about this realisation both domestically and internationally, we must also promote the notion that Africa wishes to level the playing field to be capable of standing on its own feet, and is committed to achieving the will, capacity and maturity to do so. There is a long path ahead, most of which remains uncertain and uphill. I believe that countries such as South Africa and Ghana share the responsibility to lead the way on this path and prove that through our efforts, sacrifices and will to succeed, the miracle of democracy may indeed finally work on the African continent.
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