Tripartite Alliance Summit
Opening Remarks by President Thabo Mbeki
4 April, 2002
It has taken a long time to prepare for this Summit. The last time we met in this format was in 1998. We have correctly given ourselves a fair number of days to discuss the important matters on the agenda.
Last week we were in Abuja, Nigeria in a meeting of the implementation committee of NEPAD [New Partnership for Africa�s Development]. It was convened to look at the programme of action that the Secretariat and Steering Committee of NEPAD had agreed on, and to look at what needed to be done. We took the opportunity to look at what needed to be done to achieve the objective of defeating poverty. That process will require the greatest possible cohesion of the African continent.
In reality, that process will require the restructuring of global society.
You cannot achieve a progressive transformation without a progressive movement leading the process. In Abuja we looked at how to mobilise all the forces on the continent to achieve this task.
What emerged clearly from that meeting was that the progressive movement in Africa depends greatly on what the comrades in this room do! Because of its longevity and capacity, and on the basis of their experience of and interaction with the ANC over many years, many in Africa say it is necessary and inevitable that the South African democratic movement must lead the process. South Africa also has the level of economic development which other countries in Africa do not have. Of all countries and governments in Africa, South Africa enjoys significant respect in the world. We therefore cannot avoid being the spokesperson of the continent on many matters.
The tasks we face on the continent are basically the same as those we face at home: poverty, underdevelopment, and marginalisation of the continent; illiteracy, disease, and technical backwardness. We face the challenges of building democratic societies and achieving peace, stability and economic development � of radically changing the quality of life of our people, as well as changing the relations between the nations on the continent and the rest of the world.
This results, in part, in an obligation on us to provide advice, where asked, on matters that may arise in particular countries. For example, many countries are multi-ethnic and multi-cultural, and this has often been used as a source of instability. These countries therefore look to the South African experience. And they ask how our Alliance works.
Partly as a consequence, we are involved in a number of countries on the continent to assist in addressing problems. Comrade Kgalema Motlanthe is currently involved in discussions between ZANU-PF and MDC in Zimbabwe. There are around 500 delegates from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) meeting at Sun City to resolve the political, economic and other problems in their country. We asked comrade Madiba to facilitate the resolution of the Burundi problem, where great progress has been made. We are therefore practically involved in the process of addressing the problems of the continent. There is a similar expectation in other parts of the world. We are in contact with the Palestinians and Israelis around the resolution of the problem there.
Part of what results from this role, is that there are some people who have a vested interest in giving leadership on what we should be doing � here in South Africa and the rest of the continent. These people do not like that we can think independently, that we can identify for ourselves what our interests are and what we need to do about them. These people are accustomed to dealing with a continent that can be told what to do. The more we are able to think and act independently, the more those forces will try to subvert that action. If we allow them to succeed, we will fail to achieve the transformation of South Africa and Africa.
We meet as revolutionaries who seek revolutionary change in our country and continent. It requires, among other things, that we think independently � that we study and understand the many challenges we face; that we discuss these challenges among ourselves very openly and frequently.
Because there is no vacuum. There are people with opposing views to ours; and they are on a constant offensive to promote their views: what they think needs to happen in South Africa and the continent. We need to continually engage these views on an ideological level.
As the Alliance we need to share views on all the things on the agenda of this Summit and come to common positions.
Over the past years, all manner of tensions have arisen. The relationship has often been marked more by conflict than by cooperation. I hope we are over that period, and have learnt the lesson that such conflicts do not further the revolutionary transformation neither of South Africa nor of the continent. The unity of the Alliance is a strategic goal – which we need to work on all the time – to ensure that we have the cohesion to carry out the responsibilities that we have to carry out. We must defend the movement and the Alliance against a sustained offensive. By defending our unity, we defend the fundamental forces required to bring about that change.
The bilateral interaction that has taken place over the last few months has dealt with a lot of the matters which resulted in public friction, which were undesirable. We still need to discuss many questions. In approaching those discussions, I hope that we are informed by the understanding that we belong to one movement, that we have an obligation to the masses of South Africans and Africans, and that we do not betray their confidence in the leadership that is sitting here.
We are meeting here not to review the past, but to say where do we want the movement and the country to be tomorrow. What interventions do we need to make to ensure that we reach this goal? We need to look forward to the kind of transformation reflected in the agenda contained in the Freedom Charter and Reconstruction and Development Programme.
There is all manner of speculation that we are meeting to fight. We meet to fight not one another, but the impoverishment of our people, unemployment and underdevelopment. We meet to fight for the dignity of our people.
You have the minds capable of emerging from this process to provide hope to the people of South Africa and Africa that this movement remains loyal to the values and traditions it has stood for decades. Our deliberations must constitute a defeat to the forces that try to prevent the victory of this struggle.