25 May 2015
Songs, dancing and traditional dress from various African nations was the order of the day as thousands of people from across the continent converged in Mamelodi, in eastern Pretoria, to mark Africa Day yesterday.
They were joined by ambassadors from various African countries, cabinet ministers, African Union Commission chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and President Jacob Zuma, who led the country’s Africa Day celebrations under the theme: “We are Africa – Opening the doors of learning and culture from Cape to Cairo”.
Africa Day is celebrated annually on 25 May to mark the formation of the Organisation of African Unity, now known as the African Union (AU), by 32 governments in 1963. South Africa rejoined the continental and international community in 1994 following its first democratic elections. This year, the day also celebrated 21 years since this reintegration.
Speaking at the event, Zuma said Africa Day was a celebration of African progress, but also a day to reflect on the challenges that remained. “We have a lot to celebrate and we have a lot to look forward to. Africa Day is a celebration of African unity and a reminder that we should never lose sight of that noble goal of the founding leaders of the [Organisation of African Unity].
“We also at the same time celebrate the solidarity and friendship provided by South Africans in many townships and villages to African nationals who came to settle in our country in search of opportunities even at the height of apartheid colonialism.”
He encouraged South Africans to use Africa Day to learn more about the AU, its structures, programmes and the continent in general. “We need to understand our own country’s contribution to the work of the AU in building a better Africa and in contributing to building a better world,” Zuma said.
South Africa was proud of its modest contribution to the success of the continent through its involvement in peacemaking, peacekeeping, as well as reconstruction and development, working within the AU and with other countries.
Africa was one of the fastest growing regions in the world, Zuma said. “We have a sound socio-economic development plan in the form of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development. We have clear programmes to advance infrastructure development, industrialisation and advancement in agriculture, health and other social programmes.”
The challenge, he said, was to make the growth inclusive and for it to translate into an improved quality of life for the one billion people on the continent. “We should therefore continue working in unity, to make Africa a continent of hope for the youth and future generations.
“As South Africans, we are proud of our African identity. We are proud to be part of a continent that is growing, that has a bright future.”
He also called on every school, church or community choir and individuals to practise the AU anthem and sing it at all important gatherings and celebrations. “We urge South African institutions and companies to begin flying the African Union flag together with the South African flag.
“[The] government has organised a colourful Africa Month programme taking place in various areas to celebrate our songs, dance, books, poetry, fashion, food and everything that is African about our country and culture.
“That is part of celebrating and reclaiming the African identity of our country and people, which had been suppressed by the racist minority regime of the apartheid era,” Zuma said.
In her speech, Dlamini-Zuma said South Africans needed to remember and understand that they too were African.
“I’ve been living in Ethiopia for years and I’ve never been made to feel like a foreigner or a migrant; I felt like an African. We are one continent, one people and one destiny,” she said to loud applause.
Some 60% of external tourists to South Africa were Africans, she said, adding that the country benefited from them.