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Speech By The Chairperson Of The National Council Of Provinces, Hon Mninwa Johannes Mahlangu, On The Occasion Of The Joint Sitting To Mark Africa Day

25 May 2011

Hon Speaker
Hon Members
Distinguished guests

I appreciate the opportunity to take part in the debate to mark Africa Day under the theme African Renewal, Advancement and Development.

Although we are a diverse people, varying in terms of colour, religion, belief, language, culture or gender; today we are united by the fact that we share a common identity as Africans. As such, we share a common destiny for which we must all work.

The theme for this year’s Africa Day demands of us to transcend our differences and to unite for the renewal, advancement and development of our continent. It demands of us to rise above political differences, to embrace one another and to work for the common good of our continent.

Importantly, it demands of us to think about the people that have elected us, to serve them and to become their voices as they seek to live in a better environment, enjoying better opportunities under the African sun.

When our constituencies across the continent demand development, they are doing so because they know that they deserve a better deal. They are demanding what in fact is their right.

In 1986, the United Nations General Assembly, adopted the Declaration on the Right to Development as an inalienable human right. This means that each citizen of the world, or group of citizens, are entitled to participate in, contribute to and enjoy economic, social, cultural and political development.

Colonialism is the major contributor to underdevelopment in the continent. It is the source of disunity among the people of Africa. Of course, we have had a calibre of African leaders who perpetuated the ravages of colonialism by neglecting their duty towards the people.

Hon Speaker, as Africans we have asserted our right to lead our development and to resolve conflicts that are the cause of instability in the continent. However, we have often been criticised for acceding to foreign nations to solve our problems when instability sets in. We need to guard against this by strengthening our own institutions.

On the other hand, while conflicts still form part of the challenges facing the continent, there is no denying that Africa is rising again.

The Economist recently confirmed that Africa is beginning to shine. The news magazine reported that six of the top fastest growing countries worldwide, between 2001 and 2010, were in Africa, led by Angola at 11 per cent growth in annual gross domestic product.

Members in this Chamber know that in international forums South Africa is regarded as a shining example of democracy. It is a “stirring giant”, to quote again an edition of The Economist which was published in June 2010, on the eve of the first FIFA World Cup in Africa, held here in our country.

These are encouraging observations, especially given that at the turn of this century we declared the 21st century as the African Century.

During his visit to Ghana in 2009, US President, Barack Obama called on Africa to put democracy and good governance at the front and centre of its future. He reminded us that “Africa does not need strong men, but strong institutions”.

In the area of good governance we have, for example, the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) which is one of the most ambitious and innovative governance exercises. It provides important opportunities for public policy dialogue. Its approach is unique in both scope and breadth. It takes a comprehensive view of all aspects of a country’s governance system. It provides for a new participatory process that identifies governance deficiencies and verifies the adoption, consolidation and prescription of appropriate policies for the achievement of socio-economic and political objectives.

Currently 30 countries have voluntarily acceded to the APRM by signing the memorandum of understanding. South Africa is one of the first countries to do this. This APRM membership represents 76% of the African population.

However, despite its novelty the mechanism still has some challenges that must be dealt with such as slow pace in implementation both at the national and continental levels.

In 2007 the African Union (AU) adopted the African Charter on Democracy, Governance and Elections. The Charter commits member states to uphold the values of good governance and democracy, and stresses their critical role in the development of the continent. There is no doubt that democratisation and democratic consolidation are major components of Africa’s shared values.

We also note progress, albeit slow, with regard to integration of the continent as required by the Treaty Establishing the African Economic Community (Abuja Treaty). What we need to be careful of though are the challenges that result from the many trading blocs or regional economic communities (RECs) that we currently have.

There is the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), an African programme for overcoming marginalisation and poverty. It emphasises regional co-operation and integration and is premised on African states making commitments to good governance, democracy and human rights, while endeavouring to prevent and resolve situations of conflicts and stability on the continent.

Hon Speaker, this year is characterised by an unprecedented number of elections in the continent, 27 in total. In some cases though, instead of elections serving as the necessary and appropriate instruments for peaceful transition, they have sparked deep crises and conflicts that have left their societies deeply fractured. Elections are not the panaceas for deficient democratic institutions and practices. To quote the 2011 World Development Report “Democratisation does not start or end with elections”.

This is one of the areas that we must, as Africans, improve a lot on. One way of doing this is by ratifying and implementing the African Charter on Democracy, Governance and Elections that I’ve just referred to. We must stop the debates and arguments that the systems in these “not-so-democratic” countries are some forms of African democracy. This is wrong as there are no different forms of democracy. Democracy is one and it is "government of the people by the people" -full stop.

Hon Speaker, while we reserve the right to take pride at our successes as a continent, we must also deal with hard issues. We need to look at the challenges of Africa today and the strides we are making to fashion better solutions.

Some of the major challenges that we are faced with as the continent are the conflict situations currently happening on the continent, especially in North Africa.

The conflict situations in many parts of the continent take long to be solved because as Africans, African Union in particular, we are not decisive enough. And when we become decisive we seem not to be firm on principle. For example, the African Union knew for a long time that the systems in the North African countries that now have conflicts were “not-so-democratic” and yet did nothing to correct this situation. This is where I say we must be decisive. We need to come up with programmes that prevent conflicts on the continent.

It is commendable however that there are programmes at AU level to deal with conflicts, such as the African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA), which provides the continent with a guiding framework for preventing, managing and resolving conflicts, as well as for pursuing post-conflict reconstruction and development. Nonetheless, additional efforts are needed to develop APSA to its full capacity, especially with regard to the African Standby Force (ASF) and the Continental Early Warning System (CEWS). Both these components, within the overall framework of APSA, are meant to play a major role in AU peace efforts.

The Pan-African Parliament (PAP) has also, in its own right, passed a number of resolutions dealing with conflicts on the continent. At the recent Fourth Session of the Second Parliament, that took place from 9 to 20 May 2011 in Midrand, the PAP resolved, as it has been doing, to send a fact-finding mission to Libya to have first hand information on the situation there. This is the decisiveness that we need, not to rely solely on reports by other people.

One limitation to PAP’s effectiveness is its lack of legislative powers. This limitation has resulted in it operating at the mercy of the AU Executive, especially the African Union Commission. This is one area that must be corrected very soon and it is indeed happening. The process of transforming the PAP into a legislative body is well on track. As Members might know, the PAP currently has only consultative and advisory powers. But for it to be the true voice of the African people, it must have legislative powers as it is typical of any parliament. As we speak, the AU is busy finalising the amendments to the PAP Protocol to ensure that the PAP does have legislative powers.

Hon Speaker all these initiatives and developments can only have meaningful impact when fully supported by the international community and various AU member states individually and collectively. As Parliament of South Africa we must accelerate our efforts, as we have been doing, to facilitate the renewal, advancement and development of Africa.

We need to put all our efforts into ensuring that this century is indeed the African Century that we so proudly and courageously declared.

The time has come for all of Africa to turn weapons that fuel conflicts, where there are still conflicts, into ploughshares for development.

I thank you.

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