President Cyril Ramaphosa has wished South Africans well on Africa Day, describing it as an occasion to reflect on our collective responsibility to further the cause of unity among the nations of the continent.
Africa Day commemorates the founding in 1963 of the Organisation of African Unity, the forerunner to the African Union.
“For us as South Africans, this day assumes the same significance as all the national days we observe in democratic South Africa, because our freedom would not have been possible without the support and moral courage of the people of Africa and their leaders,” President Ramaphosa said.
The President said that the cause of African unity had been given a new momentum over the past two years as the African Union drove a unified and coordinated response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“As we reflect on our own contribution as a country to advancing African unity, it should be a source of pride that our term as AU Chair in 2020 saw the rollout of ground-breaking initiatives like the first ever African Medical Supplies Platform, the appointment of Special Envoys that mobilised resources to enable the continent to fund its pandemic response, and the establishment of an African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team,” President Ramaphosa said.
The President said that advancing the African Agenda was a fundamental tenet of South Africa’s foreign policy and that our commitment to progressive internationalism meant that South Africa would continue to play its part to enable the continent to meet its aspirations.
“South Africa’s socio-economic development, stability and progress cannot be assured without a peaceful, integrated, prosperous continent. We will continue to contribute to this effort, whether it is through peacekeeping operations, through our role as AU Champion for COVID-19 response, or through supporting development projects through our African Renaissance Fund.
“South Africa will be participating in two important African Union summits in Equatorial Guinea later this week that will be addressing the issues of terrorism and unconstitutional changes of government, and humanitarian assistance. The continent’s collective action on each of these issues are vital to peace and stability in Africa,” President Ramaphosa said.
The President said that the African Continental Free Trade Area, once fully operational, will enable local businesses to produce and sell goods and services to a market of almost 1.3 billion people across 54 African countries.
“As a country we are banking on increased intra-African trade as a key enabler of economic growth and job creation,” the President said.
President Ramaphosa said that Africa Day was also an opportunity to celebrate South Africa’s Constitution and Bill of Rights.
“As a people who once felt the bitter cold of isolation and exile, we should also take pride that our democracy with guarantee of human rights for all is refuge for many men, women and children fleeing conflict and persecution in the lands of their birth,” the President said.
President Ramaphosa said that tensions between South Africans and nationals of other African countries was a troubling reminder that the divisions fomented by successive colonial and apartheid administrations had not yet been fully eradicated.
“As we address the critical issue of illegal immigration, as is our right as a sovereign nation, let us never become like the former oppressors, who sought to divide the African people and turn us against each other,” the President said.
President Ramaphosa said that Africa Day was an opportunity for South Africans to learn more about the role of other African countries in our freedom struggle, and that this was particularly important for the younger generation.
“Travelling across the continent, one sees streets and monuments dedicated to the leaders of South Africa’s liberation movement. Even today student movements and civic groups in some African countries commemorate events like the Soweto uprising. We will never forget this solidarity, nor the cost that came with it, particularly for our neighbours in the SADC region.
“South Africa must never be seen as a place of intolerance. This is not just an insult to the people of the continent who supported us and gave refuge to our leaders, but also a betrayal of our own Constitutional values,” President Ramaphosa said.
President Ramaphosa called on community and civil society groups supported by the South African Human Rights Commission to initiate dialogues and programmes that bring communities together and foster tolerance.
“Our brothers and sisters from elsewhere in Africa are not our enemies. Our common enemies are the scourges of poverty, crime, unemployment and social exclusion. We need to work together to defeat them, and not turn on each other as Africans,” the President said.