Chairperson, the few Ministers here and hon members, the speakers' list in front of you says I am going to speak in Afrikaans. I was not asked what language I was going to use here, and I want to admit my Afrikaans is as good as my Chinese. So, I am going to speak English. This year, we celebrate this important day under the theme: Celebrating African Cultural Renaissance Through Dialogue.
It has been half a century since many African countries attained independence, and yet this massive continent still faces many challenges. At the heart of Africa's problems is poverty. It is said that Africa is the second poorest inhabited continent in the world after Asia. Many countries in sub-Saharan Africa are in the World Bank's lowest gross national income category of less than US$700. This is in spite of the fact that Africa is a resource-rich continent.
In the 1950s, we saw Africa awakening to independence prospects, with many African nationalists such as Kwame Nkrumah, Jomo Kenyatta, Kenneth Kaunda, Frantz Fanon, Amilcar Cabral and many others agitating for more say in the affairs of the colonised majority. Africa in the 1960s was a continent in transition. It is during this period that at least 31 countries attained their self-rule from their European colonisers. The wind of change was indeed blowing across the continent at the time.
In the 1970s, many challenges faced the newly independent states, as many of their economies remained in limbo. Development was difficult, regional and ethnic conflicts were rampant, and the Cold War was at its worst. In the 1980s, Africa was a continent in decline. Hunger and starvation were afflicting the countries of Ethiopia, Sudan, and Somalia, and there were raging civil wars in Angola, Sudan, Mozambique and other countries. The last decade continued to pose difficulties for the continent, as the economies stagnated and deteriorated.
However, parts of this continent have made significant gains over the past few years. In fact, some African countries consist of the fastest growing economies in the world today. This current decade has been described as a period when democracy in Africa is indeed coming of age. It is during this period that lawlessness and impunity are slowly disappearing from the continent. The recent political disturbances in Mali and Guinea-Bissau have shown that the continent is ready to condemn and punish rogue states by imposing punitive measures to restore law and order. In Malawi, the recent transition from the late President Bingu wa Mutharika to Joyce Banda, who is the second female president on the continent after the Sierra Leonean president, exemplifies what this continent has achieved in the past half- century of independence.
The liberation struggle in Africa, and particularly here in Southern Africa, pitted evil political systems against the aspirations of the majority of the oppressed people. The fight against apartheid was a major uniting factor in relation to the total independence and liberation of the subregion. I was born in a country that played a critical role in the liberation struggle in Africa in general, and Southern Africa in particular. [Interjections.] I am going to tell you now.
I was born in Zambia. Zambia, the landlocked country, which was at the time led by Kenneth Kaunda, sacrificed much towards the total liberation of this subregion along with other frontline states. At the time, Kaunda's rallying call to all Zambians was, "Tiyende pamodzi ndimtima umodzi." In Nyanja, that means, "Let's move forward in unity." It is no exaggeration to say that Zambia was home to probably the largest number of African liberation movements in this region, including the ANC and the PAC of South Africa; the Zimbabwe African National Union, Zanu, and the Zimbabwe African People's Union, Zapu, of Zimbabwe; the Liberation Front of Mozambique, Frelimo; the South West Africa People's Organisation, Swapo, of South West Africa, which is Namibia now; the People's Movement for the Liberation of Angola, MPLA, and the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola, Unita, to name but a few.
Many of South Africa's liberation heroes such as Tambo, Thabo Mbeki, Alfred Nzo and many others found refuge in Lusaka at a time when this country was a pariah in the eyes of the international community. Others include the late Herbert Chitepo, for example, Robert Mugabe, Joshua Nkomo, Samora Machel, Jonas Savimbi, Agostino Neto and Holden Roberto of Angola, and the list goes on. They found refuge in that country.
Nearly 20 years after the total liberation of Southern Africa, a new sprit is emerging. Democracy has taken root, and economic development and regional integration are the buzz words. But a lot still needs to be done, particularly in Zimbabwe and Swaziland.
There is a new scramble for Africa's resources. It is a scramble which says that Africa has to feed the huge appetite for raw materials that are needed to feed the industries in China, the Far East, America and Europe. To feed this huge appetite, Africa has become a producer of commodities that are sent out of the continent unprocessed and are only sold back to the continent as finished products. It is time for this continent to begin to develop beneficiation product industries in order to create employment opportunities for the people of this continent.
This year's theme is a call for Africans to engage in peaceful resolution of their differences. It is an appeal that requires that armed confrontation should be the last resort in resolving conflicts on the continent. The current standoff between Sudan and the newly independent South Sudan, for example, is an affront to the spirit of coexistence, tolerance and the spirit of the African Renaissance. Former President Nelson Mandela said:
I dream of the realisation of the unity of Africa, whereby its leaders combine their efforts to solve the problems of this continent.
Africa is an enchanting continent. I have had the privilege of travelling across the continent, from north to south, east to west. I have marvelled at the beauty of the vastness of the Serengeti plains of Tanzania, where thousands of wildebeest, zebra and buffalo and other animals travel in their annual migration that takes them to the Masai Mara in Kenya. I have been to the Kaleni Hills in northwest Zambia, where the Zambezi River begins from a small spring to become one of Africa's biggest rivers that sustains millions of people and livestock as it travels through Angola and forms the borders between Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, and then goes on to Mozambique, to pour its contents into the Indian Ocean. At the Victoria Falls, the Zambezi River plunges thousands of metres into the precipice that prompted the people that I belong to, the Lozi-speaking people, to call it Mosi-oa-Tunya, the "Smoke that Thunders".
In North Africa, my memories of the Great Pyramids will forever remain indelibly marked in my mind. I have been to the point where the great Nile River empties its contents into the Mediterranean Sea, the body of water that separates Africa from the land of her former colonisers in Europe.
In West Africa, the Cape Coast Castle of Ghana and its dungeons are a reminder of the pain of millions of Africans who were brought there from the hinterland en route to far-off and unknown lands to start new lives as slaves. Many perished during these perilous journeys across rough seas, consumed by fatigue, sickness and even fear.
The Namib Desert is a sight that I will always behold as I see the dry and scorched dunes as they meet the sea along the Skeleton Coast, so named because of the many ships that were wrecked here and the many lives that were lost many years ago.
God's Window in Mpumalanga is an insight into the beauty, the mystery and the secrecy of God's power of creation. This is Africa; its beauty and mystery abound. This quotation by Richard Mullin, which I borrowed from the hon Koornhof of Cope - I don't see him here - sums this up and says:
The only man I envy is the man who has not yet been to Africa - for he has so much to look forward to.
The late Trevor Huddleston once prayed:
God bless Africa, guard her people, guide her leaders, and give her peace.
I thank you. [Applause.]