President Cyril Ramaphosa arriving at Maropeng Cradle of Humankind in Krugersdorp, received by Gauteng Premier Panyaza Lesufi, Minister of Sport, Arts and Culture, Zizi Kodwa and Mogale City mayor Danny Thupane, to celebrate Africa Day, under the theme ‘Deepening the AU Vision for Unity for Africa through Prosperity, Peace and Modernity for a Better Africa and a Better World' (Picture: GCIS)


Celebrating Africa Day is to remind Africans of the resilience they posses and to celebrate its unity in its pursuit to overcome even the greatest of difficulties.

As the continent celebrates Africa Day on May 25, President Cyril Ramaphosa said the day also served as a reminder of the responsibility everyone shared to bring about an Africa that is peaceful, prosperous and united.

Ramaphosa was joined by many other government and African dignitaries to celebrate Africa Day at the Cradle of Humankind , where some of the earliest human ancestors once walked.

The African leader said that they were proud of the continent’s rich history and were optimistic about the future “despite the plunder of Africa’s resources to make other countries rich”. He said Africa rose in defence of her liberty and independence and today “we are the rulers of our own lands”.

Evoking Africa’s admirable resilience, Ramaphosa said that conquest, colonialism, slavery, apartheid and the many acts of barbarism directed against Africans throughout history did not stop Africa from prevailing.

More than a hundred years ago, Pixley ka isaka Seme gave a lecture at Columbia University in New York titled “The Regeneration of Africa”.

In his words: “The ancestral greatness, the unimpaired genius, and the recuperative power of the race, its irrepressibility, which assures its permanence, constitute the African’s greatest source of inspiration.”

Ramaphosa said this recuperative power was one of the reasons Africa Day is observed.

Most recently, after the first case of Covid-19 was confirmed in Africa and South Africa had just assumed the chair of the AU in Addis Ababa in Ethiopia, the pandemic plunged the world into turmoil, but even this worst health emergency in living memory did not destroy Africa, he said. “... because Africans came together and acted as one.”

“The AU developed a continental response and implemented it with urgency across all the regions of the continent. It was the collective response to the Covid-19 pandemic that gave new momentum to the cause of African integration, he said.

“We learned as Africans that we have the means, the capacity and the political will to develop and implement solutions to Africa’s challenges. We were reminded that excellent, world-class expertise exists right here on our continent,” he said, commending the African scientists who guided and advised countries on their responses and policy-making, even those African researchers who detected new variants of the coronavirus and alerted the world.

“The greatest lesson we learned as Africa from the pandemic is to value and nurture our own capabilities,” he said.

This year marks 60 years since the Organisation of African Unity was founded on May 25, 1963.

The words of the founding charter of the OAU, which is the predecessor of the AU, are as relevant today as they were back then, Ramaphosa said.

“The charter called for the harnessing of the natural and human resources of our continent for the total advancement of Africans. It called for the building of understanding and solidarity between African countries, to build a larger unity “transcending ethnic and national differences”.

It called on African countries to safeguard and consolidate their hard-won independence, respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, and for resistance against neocolonialism in all its forms.

However, Ramaphosa said that in many parts of the continent, battles for control of Africa’s natural resources were fuelling conflict, instability and terrorism.

While some multinational companies were engaged in unscrupulous conduct that is harming human health and polluting the natural environment, instead of respect for diversity, divisions were being sown between communities in other parts of the continent.

He said that the world was also now witnessing Africa being dragged into conflicts far beyond its own borders as the continent and other countries were being threatened with penalties for pursuing an independent foreign policy and for adopting a position of non-alignment.

“As African countries, we have painful memories of a time when proxy wars were waged on the soils of Africa by foreign superpowers. We have not forgotten the terrible, brutal legacy of first having our continent carved up and colonised by European countries, only to find ourselves once more pawns on a chessboard during the Cold War. We are not going back to that period in history.

“That is why I will say it again today. South Africa has not been, and will not be, drawn into a contest between global powers. We will maintain our position on the peaceful resolution of conflict wherever those conflicts occur,” Ramaphosa said.

Guided by the lessons of our history, he said that South Africa would continue to resist calls to abandon its independent and non-aligned foreign policy.

As Africa, he said the focus remained on pursing the ideals of the founding charters of the OAU and the AU, and on giving effect to the aspirations of the AU Agenda 2063.

He also said that the Africa Continental Free Trade Area was a landmark achievement and they were greatly encouraged by progress being made towards the operationalisation of the AfCFTA.

This included the commencement of trade on a small scale in parts of east and west Africa; the training of small businesses that is taking place on new trade portals; and moves towards the operationalisation of the $10 billion (R193bn) AfCFTA Adjustment Fund.

“As South Africa we reaffirm our commitment to peace building on the continent, and to being part of efforts to resolve conflict in regions such as the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, northern Mozambique, Sudan and many other places.

“We use Africa Day to reaffirm the importance of consolidating democracy and consolidating good governance across Africa. The African Peer Review Mechanism will continue to enjoy our full support and cooperation,” he said.

He concluded that on this Africa Day, they commit themselves to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals and to pursing national policies that advance gender equality, reduce poverty, inculcate sustainability into all aspects of our lives, and mitigate the impacts of climate change.

“We are a people of many cultures, many languages and communities of many experiences. We speak different languages and have different customs, faiths and traditions. But we are bound together by the invisible thread that is our Africanness,” he said.

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