Zuma: Can Africa be stable and prosperous

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In this interview Dr Essop Pahad, a former minister in the presidency of South Africa from 1999 to 2008, speaks to President Jacob Zuma on Africa and its renaissance and asks whether the continent can be stronger, more prosperous, stable, democratic, peaceful and just
Essop Pahad (EP): Mr President, allow me first of all to congratulate you and the ANC on your overwhelming electoral victory.  In this interview, my focus is primarily on the issues and challenges facing our continent. It seems to me that there is a perception in many countries in Africa that in recent years the South African government, and yourself, are no longer deeply passionate about and committed to African unity, cohesion, growth and development, or to the African Renaissance. How do you respond to this perception?
Jacob Zuma: Africa has remained at the centre of our foreign policy. We have worked hard to strengthen support for the African Union (AU), SADC and all continental bodies whose purpose is to achieve peace and security. We have also prioritised the promotion of regional economic integration and sustainable development in the continent.
This year, we also submitted our third country report to the AU African peer review mechanism, which was well received. We also continue to support peace-making and conflict resolution. South Africa will continue to support both regional and continental processes to respond to and resolve crises, promote peace and security, significantly increase intra-Africa trade and champion infrastructure development.
Over the next five years we will continue to promote the building of a better Africa and a more just world. This will entail supporting and executing decisions of the AU as well as the promotion of the work of its structures.
EP: Do you think that Africa has a future in which it will become steadily stronger, more prosperous, stable, democratic, peaceful and just?
JZ: Yes, and it is in view of this we have continued to advocate for the strengthening of the structures of the AU to enable the continent to address the challenges of conflict and unconstitutional changes of government.
We believe the Peace and Security Council (PSC) of the AU as the organ within the African Peace and Security Architecture (Apsa) remains an effective body through which the continent responds to conflict and crisis situations. While there have been significant successes registered, there are challenges that need to be addressed as the continent strives for a conflict-free Africa. The experiences of the past 10 years since the PSC started functioning have also presented lessons learned.Advertisement

From these, opportunities for the enhancement of the work of the council can be elaborated and exploited.
EP: Does our continent have the kind of leadership at national and continental levels to bring about the Africa you have just described?
JZ: Yes, however there is a need for concerted efforts in addressing the number of conflict and crisis situations on the continent and greater attention is required on the part of the PSC to the objectives for which the council was established.
This must include the anticipation and prevention of conflicts and the promotion of peace-building and post-conflict reconstruction and development to ensure that the recurrence of conflict is curtailed. This requires the strengthening of the analytical capacity within the continental early warning system. There is a need to better analyse the political economy of conflict, paying particular attention to the security and development nexus.
Such factors as resource distribution, poverty and inequality and how these drive conflict should be considered when comprehensive and sustainable solutions to conflicts are being devised. In this regard, there is a need to exploit the policy frameworks that have been put in place, including the AU policy on post-conflict reconstruction and development.
Consistent with the principle of African solutions to African problems, AU members must be willing to contribute resources (financial, human resources and otherwise) to the peace and security efforts of the continent. One vehicle that could be used to finance these efforts is the Peace Fund which is currently underfunded.
Creative funding techniques such as raising funds from the private sector operating in Africa or introducing a peace tax should be explored. With regard to challenges of lack of implementation of decisions, a structured monitoring (from adoption to implementation and enforcement) mechanism or the creation of a new PSC subsidiary body for this purpose could be explored as a possible solution.
EP: One of the weaknesses in many African countries is the lack of mass organised formations, such as trade unions and organisations of women, rural people, students, youth and civil society. The Pan-African Parliament (PAP) and other Pan-African bodies, also lack strength and cohesion. In this context, what in your view should be done to strengthen progressive continental organisations and movements?
JZ: This realisation was indeed observed but we must categorically state efforts have been made to strengthen the involvement of civil society in all decisions that impact our continent and its people. When, for example, PAP celebrated its first decade, in March this year, we agreed that a lot has been achieved by this body and yet more needed to be done.
The PAP has not been found wanting in attending to various hot-spots affecting the continent and thereafter giving the necessary advice to the assembly of heads of state and government of the AU through their activity report and resolutions.
Agenda 2063, in its evolvement, further recognised the inalienable role that civil society formations play in the development of the continent. Various AU organs offer this platform for civil society to play a part, the African Commission on Human Peoples Rights recognises the role of civil society in the promotion and protection of human rights and so does the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights. As South Africa, we have been very strong in this regard and our cooperation with civil society organisations is well established and dates back to when we were confronted with the system of apartheid.
It is our wish to see and have a very strong civil society movement, a moral compass and guide for the continent, driven by the needs of the African continent and its people.
EP: To achieve the goals we have set for Africa and its renaissance, we need to ensure that the voices of the masses are heard and given serious consideration. How do you think we can ensure the active participation of the African masses in the economic, political, cultural and social life of each country and of the continent as a whole?
JZ: Indeed, currently there is no structure explicitly representing the voice of the people at the local level through their locally elected leaders and local authorities within the AU.
Structures do exist at the continental level, championing issues of local development, decentralisation and local government such as the AU Ministerial Conference on Decentralisation and Local Development (Amcod) and the UCLGA. However, neither of these structures is accommodated within the AU governance architecture as the direct representative of the people at the local level. Even existing organs like the Pan African Parliament and the Economic Social and Cultural Council of the AU do not at all represent the people at the local level in Africa.
As you may be aware, during the June 2014 AU Summit held in Malabo, the AU Commission tabled a report on the implementation of decision assembly on the establishment of supreme council of local communities within the framework of the AU.
The key question considered, is whether a need exists to accommodate and better structure the voice of African local authorities in the governance architecture of the AU, and if so, what form should this take.
Following the adoption by the decision assembly on the representation of local communities in the organs of the AU, the Third Extraordinary Meeting of the AU ministerial conference on decentralisation and local development (Amcod), held during September last year, in Dakar, Senegal, approved the conceptual framework for the establishment of the Supreme Council.
The conference also recommended the document should be submitted to the policy organs in January this year and the proposed high council of local authorities be established as well as the identification of a sustainable financing mechanism for its effective and efficient operation.
The primary mandate of the AU high council of local authorities should be to represent and be the unmediated voice of African people at the local level, through their local authorities and local governments within the governance architecture of the AU.
This mandate is premised on representing local interests, concerns and priorities at the continental level in a manner that complements and adds value to policy making processes at the higher levels of governance as well as to the implementation and monitoring of adopted policies.
The commission proposes that Senegal hosts the council, as the country has offered to provide a furnished and equipped building for the headquarters of the high council as well as a residence for the secretary general.
Through the report, the commission strongly believes the establishment of such a consultative organ will not only strengthen the evolving African governance architecture, which lacked local content and foundation, but it will significantly contribute to the achievement of the vision of an AU of peoples.
In light of the above, South Africa is in full support of the establishment in principle of the proposed high council of local authorities.
EP: The South African government is committed to rolling out a huge programme for the development of infrastructure, to deal with the challenges of unemployment, poverty and underdevelopment. The New partnership for Africa’s development, (Nepad) has a similar strategy for the continent. Are there any synergies between our country’s plans and the Nepad programme? If so, are there any win-win outcomes for all concerned?
JZ: Nepad is the socioeconomic blueprint for sustainable development on the African continent. This implies that since its inception, the aims, objectives and vision of Nepad were to be domesticated into the national development programmes and plans of all African governments.
The government of South Africa has ensured, over the years, that the basic pillars of Nepad that address sectoral priorities have been brought into our national development strategies. Synergies between Nepad and our national plans include a focus on bridging the infrastructure gap, specifically with regard to ICT, energy, transport,water and sanitation.
The Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa, the Presidential Infrastructure Championing Initiative, and the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme, among others, are key AU/Nepad programmes in which South Africa plays an active role. These activities are aimed at ensuring the improvement of the lives of all South Africans, as well as citizens of the SADC and Africa as a whole.
In addition, another key Nepad priority is human development, with a focus on poverty reduction, access for all children to education and dealing with health challenges specifically related to the combating of HIV-Aids, tuberculosis and malaria. This has been at the centre of government interventions.
Implementation of Nepad programmes and projects nationally, regionally and continentally have, over the past years, ensured that the development trajectory of South Africa, the SADC region and the continent has been upwards.
The involvement and support of development partners towards the implementation of Nepad has also facilitated socioeconomic development and addressed key challenges at a grass-roots level.
EP: In your view, what needs to be done to bring about greater utilisation of the African peer review mechanism and the Africa charter on democracy, elections and governance?
JZ: South Africa is a founding member of the AU and, as such, has acceded to various AU instruments that govern the conduct of democratic elections including the charter on democracy, elections and governance, which came into force in 2012 and the OAU/AU declaration on the principles governing democratic elections in Africa.
South Africa considers elections as a platform by which the nurturing of governance through the electoral processes enhances democracy and builds a solid foundation for citizens’ full participation in democratic processes.
What has been outstanding in many African countries is the domestication of these instruments. When this has been done by the continent, they will earn the respect they deserve from the populace and politicians who contest elections. It has been our intention as a country to domesticate the charter and increase its reach and effect.
EP: You have amassed a great deal of experience and understanding of the continent from the time you spent in Swaziland, Botswana, Zambia, Mozambique and Angola. Can you tell us something about your stay in these places and the way in which your experiences have influenced your expectations of the future of our continent?
JZ: I believe that many of us who spent time in exile learnt some very valuable lessons indeed, first and foremost was the lesson that we were Africans in an African continent.
Our experiences taught us that we are one united Africa, with a common destiny, as Africans we all had similar experiences with regards first to slavery and then later to colonialism and imperialism.
The majority of African countries lived through such experiences. This also said to us we have a common destiny to break down the chains of oppression and colonialism.
The neo-colonial struggles that many African countries waged also meant that we had to forge African unity in order to achieve our objectives.
Unity was central in all struggles that were waged by various liberation movements. We built bonds of friendship and struggle when we shared common camps with members of other liberation movements in the continent and the region.
These included the formation of solidarity with other like-minded liberation movements like MPLA in Angola, Swapo in Namibia, Frelimo in Mozambique, CCM in Tanzania, Zapu in Zimbabwe, Unip in Zambia and many others.
As different countries supported our country during the liberation struggle we also learnt about the importance of solidarity and comradeship. Many countries in our region were poor but they spared no effort or resources in support of our struggle. We will always value that, hence our interaction with many African countries is informed by those relations that were forged out of struggle.
Our commitment to the African agenda today was shaped by our experiences during those tough and difficult periods.
Dr Essop Pahad is a former minister in the presidency of SA from 1999 to 2008. His interview with President Zuma will appear in the coming 4th Quarter/Volume 62 of The Thinker/October 2014.