Speech by Obed Bapela on the State of the Nation Address Debate

8 February 2006

Madam Speaker/Deputy Speaker

Cde. President

Cde. Deputy President

Honourable Members

June 16 happened in 30 years ago in 1976, and 20 years later in 1986, about 23 youth were massacred in Alexandra in what was later known or referred to as the “Alex-Six-Days-War” in February 14 – 19, (later about 15 more were killed in another massacre in April of the same year, as if it was not enough another massacre in June was executed leaving nine (9) young lives were snuffed out and a total of over 45 people were killed in the township of Alexandra, and would like to dedicate part of this speech to their blood that nourished the tree of liberation. The youth of the time, known as the “young lions” including those who perished in 1976 in the cause of fighting for our cherished freedom, shouted one particular slogan, that said; “Forward Ever – Backwards Never!”

As I stand on this podium today, I can still hear their cry as they shouted the slogan “Forward - Ever, – Backwards Never. And one cannot more than agree with the President when he said, “Today is better than Yesterday and Tomorrow will even be better than today, and I repeat the slogan; “Forward Ever – Backwards Never”.

Yes indeed, South Africa’s freedom and its achievements have given hope to the masses of our people in our country and also to the people of the continent and are also saying, as we say, “it is possible for all Africa to hear the mountains and the hills sing before them”.

The youth chanted and sang a freedom song, in solidarity with the people of the world, calling names of countries that support our revolutionary struggle, singing praises about their leader, President of the ANC Oliver Reginald Tambo. There was one particular song, which symbolized and linked our struggle to the people of the world; which went like;
Zambian people,

Loving nation,
Here we are - far away from home,
We shall need you, - we shall love you,
For the things you have done for us,
So the song went on calling names of all other countries who supported our struggle, such Angola, Mozambique, Cuba, the then Soviet Union, Hungary, etc.

The free South Africa has not forgotten what was said in the song, that we shall need you and we shall love you, for the things you have done for us, and today we are in the forefront of helping countries in conflict to attain peace and prosper like us such as the DRC, Palestine, Burundi, Cote d’Ivoire, Sudan and others that the Minister of Foreign Affairs mentioned in her speech.

The ANC has resolved and declared its commitment to create a better Africa and a better and just world. And the youth of the time (1986) in Alexandra and other townships said; “Forward Ever – Backwards Never, to a better South Africa, a better Africa, a better world. And there is no other organization that can deliver on this except the African National Congress.

We are aware that it is not going to be easy to achieve on this noble goal, but our resolve and commitment, coupled with solidarity by nations and people in all the developing and developed countries who are continuously seeking alternatives to un-workable agendas of the neo-liberal and conservative forces gives us hope. We welcome the meeting of the Progressive Governments as step in the right direction in seeking alternatives and solutions to the reactionary agendas presently dominant in our societies.

I recently attend the Council of the Socialist International in Athens – Greece, representing the African National Congress and elected new President of the Socialist International, Cde. George Papandreou, who is the President of Pan-Hellenic Socialist Party (PASOK) of Greece and want to borrow from his acceptance speech, and he said;

First and foremost, liberals, neo-liberals, conservatives and rightwing try to impose their values on the world.
We, progressive forces, socialists and social democrats, attempt to unite people around our values.

They speak of fear. We speak of security.

They speak of walls. We speak of bridges.

They speak of clashes. We speak of dialogue.

They speak of free markets. We speak of free people.

They speak of good and bad nation, good or bad religions. We speak of good or bad policies.

They speak about the war on terror. We speak about terror of violence.

They speak to capture emotions through fear.
We speak to liberate emotions through sincerity.

They speak of adapting people to globalization.
We speak of adapting globalization to people.

They speak of the God above.
We speak of the God within every human being.

They speak about a smaller state-but mean a bigger state that benefits the few. We speak about different state- and mean one that empowers the many.

Theirs is Politics of contentment.
Ours is Politics of knowledge.
They believe in long working hours.
We believe in creative work.

When they speak of protection from terror, they often mean taking way our freedoms. When we speak of protection from terror, we mean strengthening our

Cde. President, in pursuance of the dream of a better Africa, and as you alluded in the State of the Nation Address, was the strengthening of the African Union and the acceleration of the process of the implementation of NEPAD programmes. And you further said, “In this context we have to ensure we conduct a successful self-assessment process as we prepare our national report for the African Peer Review Mechanisms.

Parliament, has played an active role in the APRM process, has solicited submissions based of the questionnaire from various stakeholders in society, held public hearings of sectors and stakeholders in most provinces, visited communities in both urban and rural areas in all provinces in which about 9 000 people participated, and we are ready to adopt the final report in a joint sitting next week, and will be submitting it to the focal point as agreed.

President, we want to indicate here as you maybe aware that throughout the world parliaments are now beginning to be more involved in international relations and politics. To quote from a submission “Toward a Global Parliament” written by Richard Falk, professor of International Law and Practice at the Woodrow Wilson, Princeton University and Andrew Strauss, also a professor of International Law at Widener University School of Law, contributing to the debate in the United Nations on the consideration of parliamentary organ, both asserted as follows;

“One crucial aspect of the rising disaffection with globalization is the lack of citizen participation in the global institutions that shape people’s daily lives. This public frustration is deeper and broader than the recent street demonstrations in Seattle and Prague.
“But to date, these parties have clearly not articulated a general vision of how best to integrate a public role into international system.”

“So in the absence of a planned design, attempts to democratize the international system have been ad-hoc, as citizens and organizations and economic elites create their own mechanisms of influence. In domestic politics, interests group pluralism flourishes within a parliamentary system of representation. In global politics, interests-group pluralism is growing, but no unifying parliament represents the public interests.

“This state of affairs cannot last in a world where the prevailing understanding of democracy does not accept the fact that unelected interest groups can speak for the citizenry as a whole”.

At the Speakers of Parliament Forum held in 2000 and also in 2005, under the auspices of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, (IPU) which has taken the matter in their debates, they have resolved in their declaration that “Parliaments should increase their international work in partnership with the IPU, which they consider to be unique global parliamentary counterpart of the United Nations”. The speakers of parliaments are not in support of the creation of any new parliamentary assembly at the United Nations or elsewhere. Talks are held with the UN on the nature of the parliamentary assembly of the UN, and IPU is positioning itself to be the parliamentary assembly and has a membership of 146 parliaments in the world and 6 associated regional parliaments. We will need support of the Heads of State and Government.

The concern, Cde. President is the resistance by some of the Heads of States, as is the case here in our SADC Region, who for whatever reasons do not see comfort with SADC Parliamentary Forum, being converted into a SADC Parliament. I hope the SADC PF delegations which were sent to meet Heads of State and Governments, will help in clearing the matter and we are informed that in your meeting with delegations they were impressed with your views as exchanged.

We are mindful on adaptations, hence the South Africa parliament delegation took an informed when the debate started, that we will not wake up and just become a parliament, as there is a need for an instrument (protocol, convention, treaty) which must first be developed, presented and debated in parliaments of the region for ratification. We need to engage and debate as parliaments and governments and come up with changes to be on par with the changing world, both in the region and globally.

As a result of this increased parliamentary involvement our is developing a parliamentary policy on international engagement and relations which policy will be informed by our Foreign policy of the country, to give leadership and guidance, content, political direction and coordination in all the bodies we are affiliated to such as the IPU, Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA), SADC – PF, the Pan African Parliament (PAP), and the future bodies which we are still considering joining such as the African Parliamentary Union (APU), Forum of African Parliamentarians for NEPAD and participation towards the launch in 2008 of Asia – Africa Parliamentary Forum.

  • Finally, will be considering forming parliamentary friendship groups with targeted and strategic parliaments informed by our programme, on South – South Cooperation, North – South Interactions and Africa a role in Election observer missions, as happened in Burundi, Presidential elections of Palestine and are considering also participating in the forthcoming elections in the DRC.
  • Parliament is also engaged other parliaments in conflict areas through as happened with a delegation from Cote d’Ivoire last year and will visit sometimes this year to replicate their visit.

One fully agrees with the expression by speaker of parliament in the UN Parliamentary assembly that “Gone were the days when politics was purely domestic business if ever it had been. Whether, they wanted to or not, legislatures everywhere where under mounting pressure to debate an ever more transnational agenda. Parliaments simply had no choice but engage in multilateral negotiations, if only because the responsibility fell squarely on their shoulders when it came to enacting the results into domestic law.”

In conclusion:

  • The hope and confidence we are entering as South Africa, should cascade to the entire continent, which unfortunately still witnesses conflicts, with its children and women displaced from their homes and others in exile as refugees.
  • That the hope and confidence we enter into, will be embraced by all South Africans and not spoil it with xenophobic violence against our brothers and sisters from Africa, as happened in some communities.
  • That the hope and confidence we see in our country - will be exported by business as it spreads into the continent, in their investment programmes and not be bullish players, big brothers, but should invest to grow the economies of those nations to prosper.
  • As we build a just, equitable and better world, we hope that the we achieve on the MDGs, on eradication of extreme poverty and hunger, achieving on universal education, promotion of gender and equality and empowerment of women, reduction of child mortality, improvement on maternal health, combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases, ensuring environmental sustainability and development of a global partnership for development.

Parliaments are gradually occupying the center of international stage and hope are seen as partners to achieve on a better world.

We are hopeful and confident that a better world is possible and as the young lions said, “Forward Ever – Backwards Never”, For Tomorrow will indeed be better than today and only the ANC can deliver on that better tomorrow.

And one cannot agree more with an African proverb that says, “If you want to travel fast, travel alone. If you want to travel far, travel together”.

Keya Leboga!