President of the ANC Women's League, Comrade Angie Motshekga
Tshwane executive Mayor, Kgosientsho Ramokgopa
ANC Women's League, International Relation sub-committee chairperson,
PWMSA Convenor, Hlengiwe Mkhize
ANC Women's League Deputy Secretary General, Mpai Mogorosi
ANC Women's League National Executive Committee Members
ANC Women's League International Relations Sub-Committee members,
Representatives of the Alliance
Representatives of the ANC Youth League
Representatives of Veterans Leagues
Comrades, friends and compatriots
Members of the Media
It is with honour and humility to have been invited to address this gathering on the issue of the African Union. Let me begin by expressing my sincere appreciation to all of you for your good wishes both, during the run up to the election of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission and following my successful election as the new Chairperson.
This election poses a greater responsibility on women in general since it is the first time that a woman has been elected to this position in 49 years. It is also the first time that the incumbent is from the Southern Africa region.
I was asked to speak about the African Union itself.
But before we can speak about the African Union, it might be important to pause and recall the history of our Continent. This will allow us tolocal the African Union and its people in a historical context.
Our history has both the positive, bright and proud side and the dark and painful history.
All evidence, genetic, paleontological and linguistic evidence indicate that modern humans existed only in Africa until about 100,000 years ago,when they migrated and populated the rest of the globe. There is no doubt therefore that Africa is the cradle of humanity and an advanced civilisation. We have had a very advanced architecture as evidenced by the Egyptian sphinxes and pyramids, Tunisian city of Carthage, Great Zimbabwe as well as the old city of Timbuktu in Mali to mention a few.
The intricate sculptures of Makonde of Tanzania, the Benin Bronzes of Nigeria, the beautiful paintings of the Drakensburg, various artistic creations of the Egyptians demonstrate to us a continent with a great past. Africa is a continent that boasts of old highly organised kingdoms from the Ashanti to Monomotapa to that of Timbuktu.
We also have rich astronomical heritage. The Dogon people of Mali have generational knowledge of the star Sirius A and B which appears only oncein 50 years. Scientists and astronomers are only now discovering what theDogon have known for generations.
Africa also has a tradition of highly organised kingdoms - to name a few,Mesopotamia, the Ashanti, Monomotapa and so on.
Our history also speaks of an Africa that valued the matriarchal family, where women were the economic backbone of the continent in which the values of peace, justice and social well-being was promoted. In many communities and kingdoms, women spearheaded development and led their countries with great invasion
In Angola in the 17th century, the powerful Queen Ann Nzinga
kept the marauding Portuguese at bay by creating alliances with other kingdoms.She declared all territory in Angola over which she had control 'free country' and allowed all slaves reaching this territory to be free forever. She ruled a mighty army with great military strategies and tactics and did not surrender her country during her four decades of rule.
In Ethiopia in the 10th century B.C. Makeda, the Queen of Sheba,ruled the Kingdom of Saba with distinction.
In the lands of ancient Egypt, African lands, gender equality flourished and women occupied position of authority and influence. Queen Ahmose-Nefertiti fought in active battle to protect her lands from foreign invasion and held a high position as a priestess in the national religious center. Queen Tiye demonstrated remarkable diplomatic skill and as aconsequence her advice was sought by others. Queen Hatsheput was known to have focused on the expansion of foreign trade, strengthening international diplomatic relations, initiated building programmes and building a navy.
In Cairo, there lies buried Sayyidinah Zaynab who is revered as a saint by countless Egyptians of every faith.
In Zimbabwe in the 1890s during the English invasion of this territory, Nehanda, the famous warrior, and her compatriots defended themselves and demonstrated astute leadership in the process.
In Ghana, Yaa Asantewa of the Ashanti Empire, the brave Queen Mother of Ejisu, fought against colonial invasion, and in her efforts, she declared: "Is it true that the bravery of the Ashanti is no more? I cannot believe it. It cannot be! I must say this, if you the men of Ashanti will not go forward, then we will. We the women will. I shall call upon my fellow women. We will fight the white men. We will fight till the last of us falls in the battlefields."
In North Africa, in 690 AD, there was Dahia Al- Kahina of Mauritania, an African woman freedom fighter who resisted the invasion of the Arabs. She commanded her forces in battle, was a ferocious and courageous fighter who eventually took her own life rather that to admit defeat to the Arabs.
The great African city of learning, Timbuktu of Mali, is
actually named after a woman called Buktu, and in this city of scholarship is the medieval mosque Sankore, also founded by a woman.
In the Diaspora, there were a number of heroines including Harriet Tubman who though born into slavery, led slaves to freedom from the Southern to the Northern States and Canada.
Rosa Parks' refusal to give her seat to a white man in 1955, was an act of courage that launched the civil rights movement. Parks, who was quite, soft spoken and diplomatic had the courage and dedication to makeher country better than it was.
Women also played an important role in economic and governance structures on the African continent.
In Kenya, Kikuyu women occupied pride of place for their role in th struggle.
In Ghana, the Queen Mother of the Akan people, protected the interests of the people by ensuring that the tax and revenue collected was used to further the education of the children.
In Nigeria, within the Igbo society, women spearheaded the development of a complex trade and market system and were highly respected for their business skills.
I remind you of the heroic role of ordinary women in the liberation struggle in Algeria in the 1950 and early 1960s. In East Africa women were vital in the struggles against colonialism, especially in rural and urban Kenya. Similarly in West African countries (such as Guinea Conakry, women pointed and embarrassed their men folk who did not join the anti-colonial movement, and of course, closer to home, we are familiar with stories of the brave women of Zimbabwe and Mozambique who joined in their struggle for liberation.
Women have played a pivotal role in sustaining communities and kingdoms, in nurturing nations and national economies and must play a role in the economic recovery of Africa.
In the renewal of African economies and societies culture will be critical to this effort.
This is part of our heritage, of our history which we should be proud of, a history which should inspire us and generations to come, a history which should assure us that we indeed have capacity to overcome the present obstacles to the restoration of Africa as a great, prosperous continent.
The dark side of our history cannot be forgotten because it is part of what defines and shapes our present position as Africans. Slavery robbed the continent of its finest and fittest sons and daughters. It was the most barbaric and cruel manifestation of racism. It is my belief that it is only if you define a people as of an inferior race that you can trade them as slaves.
In its long history, Africa has given much to the world, from new forms of social organisation and technology to arts and sciences. I will give you just two examples that we use every day. The word paper derives from the Egyptian word papyrus, a plant from which the first paper was made; and the origin of the alphabet we use when we write can also be traced back to Africa.
The plunder of Africa by outside powers began with the rise of capitalism and happened in two phases. In the first phase, which lasted 400 years,slave traders carried away the most precious of our resources, the sons and daughters of Africa. An estimated 12 million Africans were shipped as slaves, mostly to plantations in the Caribbean and the Americas. The enormous wealth they produced provided the capital needed to industrialize Europe and build empires. Slavery also created the African diaspora, with which Africans and Africa needs to build much stronger links, as emphasized at a recent conference hosted by South Africa.
In the second phase, the imperial powers established colonies over almost the whole of Africa. This process was completed after they divided up Africa between them at the Berlin Conference of 1884. Their aim was to use the super-exploitation of African labour to extract raw materials, ship them to Europe, and turn them into products to be sold at a huge profit, including to Africans.
Colonialism and imperialism not only led to carving up of the continent amongst certain European countries but it also meant Africans, through violent oppression and divide and rule tactics were denied freedom,self-determination and access to education. Our culture was despised and destroyed, our languages were suppressed, our ethics and values were replaced by European values, languages and religion. We were thus denied of our identity.
However all was not lost, the great African armies in Isandlwana in South Africa and Sudan defeated the mighty armies of the British Empire. There were also heroic struggles of the peoples of the continent, which saw progressive decolonialisation of the African countries and defeat of Apartheid in South Africa and Ian Smith in Zimbabwe.
It is a recognition of this simultaneously glorious and dark past that let to our leaders attempting to ensure Africa's institutions were robust and adequately equipped to help create the conditions for an African Renaissance, an Africa destiny determined by Africans.
In this regard, the first half of the 20th century, until the end of the Second World War in 1945, was marked by the rise of new form of African Nationalism and new forms of resistance. This was aptly surmised by Pixley ka Isaka Seme in 1906, when a student at Columbia University in the United States:
"The African already recognises his anomalous position and desires a change. The brighter day is rising upon Africa. Already I seem to see her chains dissolved, her desert plains red with harvest, her Abyssinia and her Zululand the seats of science and religion, reflecting the glory of therising sun from the spires of their churches and universities."*
In 1960, no less than 19 new states were born in Africa and 19 new flags raised to salute their independence. This followed the independence of Sudan and Ghana in the 1950s and the victory of Egypt after invasion by British, French and Israeli forces. Almost every one of the leaders of these states had spent time in prison and their movements were harassed,banned and ridiculed by the imperial powers.
We are talking of leaders like Kwame Nkrumah, Abdel Nasser, Ahmed Ben Bella, Patrice Lumumba, Kenneth Kaunda and Julius Nyerere. These leaders were visionaries who we must always be inspired by and learn from. They served their people, Africa and humanity selflessly and with great courage and wisdom.
In this same decade, the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) was formed in 1963. Amongst others, the OAU focused on unity and ending oppression on the continent.
Haile Salassie, the first chairperson of the OAU, made a powerful speechin this regard:
"We name as our first great task the final liberating of those Africans still dominated by foreign exploitation and control." He went on to say that, "Our liberty is meaningless unless all Africans are free. Our brothers in the Rhodesias, in Mozambique, in Angola, in South Africa, cry out in anguish for our support and assistance." *In the same speech he said, "History teaches us that unity is strength and cautions us to submerge and overcome our differences in the quest for common goals, to strive, with all our combined strength, for the path to the true African brotherhood and unity."
Ghanaian President Kwame Nkrumah in 1964 resonated the sentiments of Haile Selassie in an address entitled, "I Speak of Freedom":**
"It is clear that we must find an African solution to our problems, and that this can only be found in African unity. Divided we are weak; united,Africa could become one of the greatest forces for good in the world. Although most Africans are poor, our continent is potentially extremely rich. Our mineral resources, which are being exploited with foreign capital only to enrich foreign investors, range from gold and diamonds to uranium and petroleum. Our forests contain some of the finest woods to be grown anywhere. Our cash crops include cocoa, coffee, rubber, tobacco and cotton.
As for power, which is an important factor in any economic development,Africa contains over 40% of the potential water power of the world, as compared with about 10% in Europe and 13% in North America. Yet so far, less than 1% has been developed. This is one of the reasons why we have in Africa the paradox of poverty in the midst of plenty, and scarcity in the midst of abundance."
In 2002, the Organisation of African Unity was succeeded by the African Union. This was done not, because the objectives of the OAU had been achieved but because it was time for Africans to find African solutions to African problems, it was time for Africans to determine the nature of the relationships they entered into - to change the donor-recipient paradigm to one of a partnership amongst equals. It was envisaged that the African Union would therefore have the appropriate institutions and legal instruments to ensure a new era for our continent.
Evolution of the Organisation of African Unity into the African Union*
African Heads of State and Government converged in the Libyan City of Sirte in September 1999 for deliberations on the future of the Organisation of African Unity. In the Sirte Declaration adopted on the conclusion of their deliberations they said:
"We deliberated extensively on the ways and means of strengthening our continental Organisation to make it more effective so as to keep pace with the political, economic and social developments taking place within andoutside our continent," and were in this regard, "inspired by the idealswhich guided the Founding Fathers of our Organization and Generations of Pan-Africanists in their resolve to forge unity, solidarity and cohesion, as well as co-operation between African peoples and among African States."
In further recalling "the heroic struggles waged by our peoples and ourcountries during the last century of this millennium for political independence, human dignity and economic emancipation," and cognisant "of
>the challenges that will confront our continent and peoples [in the
>21stcentury], [they emphasized] the imperative need and high sense of urgency to rekindle the aspirations of our peoples for stronger unity, solidarity and cohesion in a larger community of peoples transcending cultural,ideological, ethnic and national differences."
In their discussions on how to strengthen the continent and its peoples,the Summit decided to, establish an African Union.
The African Union was established to, amongst others, accelerate the process of integration on the continent to enable it to play its rightful role in the global economy while addressing social, economic and political
The vision of the African Union is that of: "*An integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own* *citizens and representing a dynamic force in the global arena*."
This vision of a new, forward looking, dynamic and integrated Africa will be fully realized through relentless struggle on several fronts and as a long-term endeavour. The African Union has shifted focus from supporting liberation movements in the erstwhile African territories under colonialism and apartheid, as envisaged by the OAU since 1963 and the Constitutive Act to an organization spear-heading Africa's development and integration.
The Objectives of the African Union*
To achieve greater unity and solidarity between the African
countries and the peoples of Africa;
To defend the sovereignty, territorial integrity and
of its Member States;
To accelerate the political and socio-economic integration of
To promote and defend African common positions on issues of interest to the continent and its peoples;
To encourage international cooperation, taking due account of the Charter of the United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights;
To promote peace, security, and stability on the continent;
To promote democratic principles and institutions, popular participation and good governance;
To promote and protect human and peoples' rights in accordance with the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights and other relevant human rights instruments;
To establish the necessary conditions which enable the continent to play its rightful role in the global economy and in international negotiations;
To promote sustainable development at the economic, social and
>cultural levels as well as the integration of African economies; To promote co-operation in all fields of human activity to
raise the living standards of African peoples;
To coordinate and harmonize the policies between the existing and future Regional Economic Communities for the gradual attainment of the objectives of the Union;
To advance the development of the continent by promoting research in all fields, in particular in science and technology;
To work with relevant international partners in the eradication
of preventable diseases and the promotion of good health on the continent.
*The Organs of the African Union*
The Assembly of the African Union is composed of Heads of State and Government or their duly accredited representatives. The Assembly of Heads of State and Government is the supreme organ of the Union.
*The Executive Council*
The Executive Council is composed of Ministers or Authorities designated by the Governments of Members States. The Executive Council is responsible to
The Permanent Representatives' Committee*
The Permanent Representatives' Committee is composed of permanent representatives of Member States accredited to the African Union and is charged with the responsibility of preparing the work of the Executive Council.
The AU Commission
Mission of the African Union Commission
The Commission is governed by the following mission: to become "An
efficient and value-adding institution driving the African
integration and development process in close collaboration with African Union Member* *States,the Regional Economic Communities and African citizens".
The values that guide and govern the functioning and operations of the Commission are:
Respect for diversity and team work;Think Africa above all;
Transparency and accountability;
Integrity and impartiality;
Efficiency and professionalism; and
Information and knowledge sharing.