Address by Minister GNM Pandor at the Annual Ubuntu Awards 2023, Cape Town International Convention Centre, Cape Town, 11 February 2023
Ministers and deputy ministers.
Your Excellencies, Ambassadors and High Commissioners.
Esteemed members of the Diplomatic Corps.
Members of Parliament,
Leaders from business,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Warm greetings to you all. I join our deputy minister in welcoming you to this one of our most important events of the year – the 2023 Ubuntu Awards. We are here to honour and celebrate men and women who play a pivotal role in promoting the interests of our country internationally. DIRCO is honoured to shine a light on South Africans who have distinguished themselves in promoting our national interests, our talents, and values around the world as ambassadors of our country.
While we are here to celebrate, we do so at a sad time for the world. We wish to express our condolences to the governments of Türkiye and Syria following the lives lost following the terrible earthquake this week. We also express sorrow at the loss of a great talent AKA Forbes tragically killed in a senseless shooting. Finally, we express our sorrow at the passing last year of our country’s poet laureate and an Ubuntu awardee Bro Don Matterra.
As everyone knows the awards celebrate excellence and are DIRCOs contribution to saying well done to various excellent South Africans. Many are ordinary South Africans, honoured here for doing extraordinary things. We are so excited to have this thrilling privilege of once again revealing the quality within South Africa to the world.
But, even more importantly, our nominees and award recipients tonight have each championed the essence of the meaning of Ubuntu- an ancient African philosophy that speaks to having compassion for others and lending your energy to uplifting communities. For those in the room who may not be familiar with this concept, Ubuntu, I would like to illustrate its meaning through a short story.
An anthropologist proposed a game to a group of African children. He put a basket of fruit near a tree and told the children that the first one to get to the tree would win all the fruit. When he told them to run, they all took each other’s hands and ran together, then sat down together to eat the fruits. The anthropologist asked them why they ran together, as one of them could have had all the fruit. “Ubuntu” how can one of us be happy if all the others are sad”?
The essence of Ubuntu is a stress on the oneness we share it reflects a humanist African philosophy that has been decimated and weakened largely by colonialism and sociology economic deprivation. It suggests community as a building block of society.
Essentially it asserts that we are all bound together in ways that may be invisible to the eye, we achieve ourselves by sharing ourselves with others and caring for those around us.
Our former President Nelson Mandela, founding president of a democratic South Africa (and released exactly 32 years ago today) was the true definition of this ideal, he practised it as he led us all to a peaceful post-apartheid transition. He did not ever display a desire to be vengeful toward his oppressors rather he practiced integrity, compassion, empathy and an understanding that example shapes humanity.
Another hero who often reflected on the meaning of Ubuntu was Archbishop Desmond Tutu. He taught so much as chair of the TRC. He once said: “we think of ourselves far too frequently as just individuals, separated from one another, whereas you are connected and what you do affects the whole world. When you do it well it spreads out, it is for the whole of humanity”.
There are many global challenges confronting all our countries and requiring our cooperation. They include gender inequality, poverty, and gross abuse of human rights. These challenges are so immense that they suggest that as leaders and communities we must do more to actively live and breathe Ubuntu. Action that is framed by justice for all people, by the practice of fairness and equality regardless of race, gender or social status. As a global community we must be joined in addressing climate change, migration, disease, human trafficking terrorism and hunger. Our help must uplift communities and not increase their vulnerability.
Ubuntu is the common thread in the UN s Sustainable Development Goals because without that level of collaboration we cannot achieve the meaningful change anticipated in the SDGs.
The rescue efforts in Türkiye and Syria indicate commitment to this joint vision. We commend all those South Africans and global citizens who are showing the spirit of Ubuntu as they offer humanitarian support. We also laud all who are contributing in many different forms of support.
For us working in the domain of international cooperation and diplomacy, I am pleased to share with South Africans that working with the countries gathered in this room we are striving to partner in addressing the difficult challenges facing South Africa.
Our efforts to transform basic education and improve the quality of education outcomes are supported by the government and people of the Netherlands, Finland, the United Kingdom and many other partners. The initiative of vaccine development in Africa that was steered by president Ramaphosa and other African leaders has been supported by France, Germany, the United Kingdom, the EU and several private sector partners.
Efforts to improve the quality of public health services, our responses to HIV, and expanded higher education in Africa are supported by the government of China, of Japan, the UK, the United States of America, Norway. Germany Switzerland and Austria are excellent collaborators in vocational and technical education and our young people are acquiring skills in Poland Russia Ukraine and Hungary. The most enduring impact of our Ubuntu based diplomatic relations is going to be in the cooperation we have agreed in pursuit of the transformation goals of South Africa and those of the African continent.
All of us have agreed in diverse fora that one of the objectives we must address for fundamental change is that of bridging the digital divide especially for developing countries. We are pleased that our partner countries, Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda, Ghana, Malawi, and others have opened their economies to our telecoms companies and thus enabled increased digital access for their communities. Of course, much more must still be done but that opening has been a major advance.
We are also together in finding ways of addressing climate change and its worst effects. The UAE Qatar and Saudi Arabia and Egypt helped us in addressing our flood disaster and its aftermath. The adoption of a Just Energy Transition Plan in South Africa is supported by several international partners, and we are pleased to note emerging cooperation on adaptation and mitigation.
We need to work together even more to ensure a robust effective fair rules based, multi-lateral approach to global governance, trade, conflict resolution, and peacekeeping. This is an agenda South Africa will continue to pursue in all international fora in which we participate, from the UN to G20, BRICS, and others. As a region SADC has been supported by partners in assisting Mozambique to repel terrorism. I hope that we will see decisive progress in Mozambique and DRC this year, working together in the spirit of Ubuntu.
South Africa is delighted to be chairing BRICS this year. Our chosen theme is: “BRICS and Africa: Partnership for Mutually Accelerated Growth, Sustainable Development, and Inclusive Multilateralism”. Our theme and priorities reflect our foreign policy focus of advancing in partnership. We cannot neglect the critical task of developing with our continent, Africa and with the global South. One of the issues which will be discussed in BRICS is how to restructure the global, political, economic and financial architecture so that it becomes more balanced, representative, inclusive, and equitable. I am certain we will also focus on accelerating Agenda 2063 and devising practical support for implementation of the AfCFTA.
Allow me to conclude by sincerely congratulating all our nominees and award winners tonight not only for being our global ambassadors through flying our flag high, but also for contributing in your specific fields for the benefit of others and making the world a better place.
Our emissaries of economic diplomacy, many of whom are here tonight, play an important role as we work hard at achieving economic growth to lift our people out of poverty. This is why we are awarding the economic diplomacy awards first 5his evening as we wish to recognise businesses that have promoted South Africa as an ideal destination for business growth and investment. These efforts will help us achieve our socio-economic goals of creating jobs and increasing trade and investment. I also wish to thank all the ambassadors here for encouraging businesses from their countries to invest in South Africa.
Our international exports go beyond goods and services. We are a country rich in arts, culture, sports, science beauty and innovation. The categories of Ubuntu awards show that successful diplomacy is an integrated effort, one that draws together different attributes sectors and capabilities.
The awards show any person can be a good ambassador for South Africa if they so wish. The very fact that you were nominated is a mark of the esteem with which you are held by your peers and that your country has chosen to recognise and honour you. You have all done our country proud.
Let us continue in the noble spirit of Ubuntu and show the world that our humanity is caught up in the humanity of others and binds us in each of us as the Arch famously said.
Thank you for being here and let’s continue to work together to build a better world.
ISSUED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND COOPERATION
OR Tambo Building
460 Soutpansberg Road