King Zwelonke of AmaXhosa,
Speaker of the Legislature,
Board Members of the Mkiva Humanitarian Foundation,
Officials of Government,
Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen:
I am grateful for the wonderful tributes you have paid me for my contribution towards the emancipation of our people.
This is a sweet and bitter pill because even as we celebrate what has been achieved by distinguished personalities such as Madiba, Fidel Castro, Richard Mkiva, Walter Sisulu and many others, our global community is still blighted by many instances of human rights violations.
Richard Mkiva, after whom this award is named, represented the fight for freedom against oppression, colonialism and apartheid. He died seeking freedom for us. Many others, including Robert Mugabe, successfully championed the cause of independence for an oppressed continent.
Two months ago I delivered an address at the Africa-Berlin Conference in Berlin, Germany on the theme, ‘Freedom, Self-determination and Growth in Africa. The subject is relevant to today’s occasion so I have decided to share parts of that address.
Africa has recently been celebrating 50 years of independence from colonial rule. Perhaps the greatest aspect of that celebration has been that Africa, seen as the world’s weakest continent, recorded some of the world’s healthiest growth rates during the recent global financial crisis. After 50 years of independence, Africa is showing a new economic confidence. But will some of that wealth flow down?
In Europe, Germany was the first to recover from the global financial crisis. And when several waves of crisis hit the Eurozone, prolonging the misery, it was Germany that shored up debt-ridden European economies.
But what is the meaning of such economic confidence if between Europe and Africa we cannot speak out with confidence to protect freedom globally? What is the value of economic growth, if the concept of self-determination is subordinated to the exercise of power in a uni-polar world? And what is the value of freedom itself if it does not carry moral authority as well as provide a good measure of privacy?
I will focus my remarks on the meaning of freedom in a context where economic growth, or let me say economic power, has been allowed to make freedom and self-determination its subordinates.
Since the collapse of the bi-polar world, which created its own challenges for freedom and self-determination, some of the experiences of the uni-polar world speak of new dangers to world freedom.
Former President Jimmy Carter raised the alarm bells when in June last year he wrote in the New York Times that America had abandoned its role as champion of human rights. I quote:
“The United States is abandoning its role as the global champion of human rights. Revelations that top officials are targeting people to be assassinated abroad, including American citizens, are only the most recent, disturbing proof of how far our nation’s violation of human rights has extended.
“This development began after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and has been sanctioned and escalated by bipartisan executive and legislative actions, without dissent from the general public. As a result, our country can no longer speak with moral authority on these critical issues.”
Sadly the executive and legislature in the United States seem to be on a downward spiral over the issues of morality and human rights and the whole concept of global policing has given way to global bullying.
When Bolivian President, Evo Morales, was recently forced to land his plane in Austria, where it was searched amid suspicion that he had smuggled Edward Snowden out of Russia, America’s image as the defender of freedom was heavily dented.
France, and some other European countries, had refused to allow the Bolivian President to enter their airspace, for fear he might be attempting to convey Snowden to a safe haven. Only South American governments rallied to the Bolivian president’s support. In Africa, we did what we do best – silence.
So although everyone had been mumbling under their breath, it appeared that countries and personalities had chosen to maintain a diplomatic silence rather than to speak out against this affront on human dignity, truth and justice.
So I was impressed when I heard, or believe I heard, the German Foreign Minister boldly but politely question this breach of diplomatic privilege.
When the German Foreign Minister made his remarks, for me it was so welcome that someone had spoken out. It is time that others also speak out as he did.
Indeed, Germany must shake itself out of its World War II guilt and be a force of conviction so that together we can begin to restore international political morality.
Without ethics, we will see more Snowdens put on trial for telling the truth about human rights abuses.
Let us not underestimate the judicial consciousness of people. Opinion polls recently conducted suggest that the people of the United States take a different view of the Snowden issue from that of the government. According to the poll, 55 per cent of Americans see Snowden as a ‘whistle-blower’, and not as a ‘traitor’.
Let us look at the US itself. The fact that the US was historically guilty of enslaving black Africans does not mean that the US cannot speak out against slavery and racism in the world today. Nor does the fact that the US likes to project itself as the guardian of freedom mean that racism has ended in the US or that human rights violations are a thing of the past.
It is unfortunate that the rest of the world, with the exception of South America, maintained silence. Do we want to start nurturing a culture of silence globally when we are supposed to be enjoying freedom?
The fact that countries are not speaking out because of the fear factor is something that the US should be aware of and concerned about.
Now, since I made these remarks in Berlin two months ago, there have been some intriguing developments, which I will come to shortly.
It appears that Europe has finally found its voice to criticize the US over the Snowden case in relation to freedom and privacy.
Does the United States want a genuine democratic relationship with the rest of the world? Or does it just want the world to live in fear of its perceived super power status?
The collapse of the bipolar world has resulted in a uni-polar world in which we see the violation of basic human rights and the assault on human dignity occurring with impunity. It has also led to the curtailment of human freedoms in the so-called advanced democracies in the name of the rule of law and the prevention of terrorism. Global and national security is relevant and key to the world’s stability, but does Bradley Manning deserve 35 years for Wikileaks?
Has Manning’s exposure also not led to more responsible actions especially in diplomatic circles where ambassadors had the wherewithal to write scathing and sometimes untruthful dispatches to their governments? Are those diplomats not walking around freely while the man who exposed them stays in jail suffering from serious psychological problems?
The theme for the Africa-Berlin conference two months ago brought to the fore serious questions about the global political and economic order and where Africa factors in the equation. Where is the sense of African self-determination? While globalization means we have to rely on each other as global citizens, our lack of self-determination means we have sold our basic freedoms to the global powers who, while preaching democratic governance in one guise, are sponsoring puppet regimes on our continent through methods that can never be equated with democratic principles.
The second war on Iraq damaged the power, the virtue and the principle of right. It gave the upper hand to the right of might and undermined the might of right. It led to a very unhealthy situation and others have taken the cue. This is endangering true democracy.
And that is better exhibited in the actions threatening the entire Europe over the Snowden issue leading to the grounding and searching of a Presidential aircraft.
Ladies and Gentlemen: We achieved freedom and national sovereignty at a heavy price, but 50 years on can we be proud of what we have achieved as freedom fighters? Are those of us in positions of leadership and authority today doing enough to defend our people’s rights and to safeguard our freedoms?
A few too many of us have squandered the independence that was won for us at great cost.
The corruption and impunity that we see especially across our continent and beyond is threatening to become the norm. And an immoral and corrupted form of capitalism unaccountable to anyone and uncontrollable will no doubt contribute to stress and instability in some of our countries.
Most of our countries inherited under-developed economies. The hope we placed on South Africa was very optimistic because this freedom or independence was going to inherit an already highly developed economy.
However, the challenge to South Africa is akin to the saying, water water everywhere, not much to drink. Let us however hope that South Africa can become a leading example of a wealth sharing society.
The economic disparities in our societies and the seeming insensitivity and impunity by those of us who should know better, is creating an atmosphere, very susceptible to social violence. While serious efforts must be made to tackle or deal with the root causes of social violence amongst our people, allowing so many perpetrators of these heinous crimes is not only costing innocent lives especially those of women and children but is contributing to so much stress and insecurity in the lives of the poor and ordinary people.
The impunity of these crimes, the ease with which lives are taken is threatening to perpetuate itself. The apartheid system had very little or no respect for the lives of black people. In trying to reverse this psychology and put value on our lives, criminals, rapists and murderers arepersistently getting away with very inhuman crimes.
Not too long ago the world was witness to the cold-blooded killing of demonstrating miners. Could they not have shot to maim by aiming at the lower parts of the body, which is part of the training?
Ladies and gentlemen, I have re-introduced this issue to demonstrate the fact that its appears the state’s capacity to also kill is still intact. Those who really need to face the bullet are rather getting away with it, perpetrating their crimes with women and children as the common victims.
Women and children also put down their lives to fight against apartheid. Cheap, common criminals shouldn’t dare think they can get away with destroying noble but vulnerable lives.
I am sure South Africa is still struggling to come to terms with an action that was frighteningly reminiscent of the apartheid era.
We cannot speak of having shed blood to rid our countries of apartheid and oppression only to embrace other brutal forms of domination on behalf of the brothers and sisters who have embraced worldly trappings of wealth and ostentation yet refuse to adequately compensate those who sweat and toil daily to feed their lifestyles.
Many reports on the Marikana incident and related industrial action pointed clearly to the fact that the benefits of the toil of miners are not reaching them or the communities surrounding the mine. The Benchmarks Foundation states that, “lack of employment opportunities for local youth, squalid living conditions, unemployment and growing inequalities contribute to the mess.”
My dear brothers and sisters let us not allow the monster of unbridled and corrupted capitalism and political power to dominate us and create a new form of political insensitivity under which people who fought with us to create an equal and just society use their new found wealth and political power to lord it over the people and exploit their vulnerability.
We owe it to those whose blood was spilled to compel ourleadership at national, party and local level to protect national interests and ensure that the wealth of our countries is not hijacked.
While South Africa is trying to rebuild the country from racist tendencies some of the apartheid remnants have moved to other parts of Africa and engaging in unethical practices. Thankfully most are engaged in fair practices.
Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen: our world still abounds in inequalities and huge levels of hypocrisy as far as individual human rights are concerned.
When Carter wrote last year that, “The United States is abandoning its role as the global champion of human rights”, he was concerned about how Occupy Wall Street demonstrations had been crushed by the police in conjunction with the FBI and with the tacit support of the United States government. President Carter found it preposterous that for a country that has consistently sold its brand of democracy to the rest of the world and sometimes forcibly ejected so-calleddictatorial regimes because they did not allow political dissent, the USA could be caught in such a web of irony, deceit and hypocrisy.
Carter was also concerned about how, in the name of the fight against terrorism, the United States was enforcing drone strikes in sovereign states, while heavy civilian casualties were met with a lack of transparency about the impact of such strikes.
Just a couple of days ago both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch questioned the increasing civilian casualties in the drone warfare in Pakistan. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on a visit to Washington on Tuesday said the attacks violated his country’s sovereignty.
Today Assange is trapped in the Ecuador Embassy in London while UK taxpayers’ money is wasted guarding the embassy in case he should attempt to escape.
Even as I speak countries such as France, Mexico, Brazil and now Germany are angry with the United States over the latest revelations by Edward Snowden that millions of French citizens’ phone calls had been monitored by the United States and former Mexican President Felipe Calderon had his email hacked into by the US National Security Agency. Brazil’s President, Dilma Roussof, cancelled a state visit to Washington this week following allegations that she had been spied on.
French President Francois Hollande reportedly complained to President Obama in a phone call that the action was ”unacceptable between friends and allies because they infringe on the privacy of French citizens”. His Prime Minister followed up by saying: “It’s incredible that an allied country like the United States at this point goes as far as spying on private communications that have no strategic justification, no justification on the basis of national defence.”
Two days ago, the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, became the latest leader to react angrily to revelations that her own mobile phone calls had been monitored by the NSA. Until now, the German Chancellor has refrained from criticising the Americans.
Ladies and gentlemen: Despite these exposures Snowden is being hunted like a common criminal. The world is engulfed in hypocrisy at the highest levels. Why would France be happy to have Snowden arrested yet react to his revelations by accusing the United States of an affront to its territorial sovereignty? Had Snowden not exposed the phone tap scandal would France ever have known the extent to which its sovereignty was being violated by the United States?
Freedom of speech and abuse of human rights is seriously under threat. African countries know too well how much guiltier European powers are of the very accusations they are making of the US while insisting we embrace their kind of democratic governance. Today’s leaders will do well to pick a leaf from his Holiness Pope Francis’ book.
We have been witnesses to how a patriot like Laurent Gbagbo was smoked out of his country and shipped to The Hague. Today Charles Taylor has been found guilty and imprisoned for 50 years for crimes against humanity. But what do we hear? That he will spend his jail time in the United Kingdom? What happened to the offer by Rwanda to have him spend his jail time there?
On whose terms and conditions did the International Criminal Court decide to send Taylor to the UK instead of Rwanda on his mother continent?
Africa has to do more about the abuse of its sovereignty. I am not saying people should not be punished for their actions, but let us be unified in showing that we have the capacity to deal with our own problems. Is it possible to imagine that an American President would be tried by the ICC for its role in the Iraq war having failed to retrieve any chemical weapons from the country after it was attacked? Had Russia not stepped in with its chemical weapons destruction proposal, France and the United States were ready to move in and attack Syria, a country engulfed now by a civil war, which has been infiltrated by various terrorist cells.
Over the past weekend an Al Jazeera documentary exposed the fact that many of those who advocated for the United States to attack Syria, had direct or indirect links to military hardware firms. Serious questions have to be raised about the true intentions of these advocates. Are they interested in resolving the crises in in Syria or they are simply looking for a market for weapons? I have to commend Al Jazeera for the painstaking investigative journalism they practice.
Mr Chairman, Distinguished Leadership of the Eastern Cape Province, dear Zolani Mkiva, ladies and gentlemen; I accept this award as a Champion of Africa’s Freedom because immediately I was informed I had been selected to receive it I decided to dedicate it to the hundreds who shed their blood post-independence in seeking equality for the people of our continent. May the souls of the fallen heroes, including those at Marikana, rest in perfect peace.
This is to your memory.