Keynote Address by Deputy President Shipokosa Paulus Mashatile at the Eighth Annual Ubuntu Awards 2024, Cape Town International Convention Centre, Cape Town, 10 February 2024
Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Dr Naledi Pandor, and Mr Pandor,
Ministers and Deputy Ministers,
Your Excellencies, Ambassadors, and High Commissioners,
Esteemed Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Members of Parliament,
Directors-General and Senior Government Officials,
Leaders of the Business Community,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Good Evening! Sanibonani! Riperile! Ndi Madekwana! Goeienaand!
I consider it a privilege to be present at this evening’s prestigious event, which acknowledges outstanding individuals in South African industries, as well as notable citizens who have made significant contributions to advancing South Africa’s national interests and values across the globe.
We used to have a by-line as part of promoting our country that says that South Africa is alive with possibilities, without suggesting that we must go back to it, I believe that this event serves as a reflection that our future is indeed bright.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
These awards take place a few days after the President of the Republic of South Africa, Mr. Cyril Matamela Ramaphosa, delivered the sixth administration’s final State of the Nation Address.
The President delivered a deeply moving address that recounted the critical path of our young democracy.
The analogy of Tintswalo resonated with many South Africans, some of whom will be honoured today.
The President’s reference to the Tintswalo solely serves as an indication of the bare minimum achievements that South Africa has achieved over the last three decades.
We are cognisant that to some, Tintswalo may appear to be an unattainable ambition for a variety of reasons; but, as the government, we want the life of Tintswalo to mirror the life of every person and the possibilities that exist for all South Africans, possibilities that exceed Tintswalo’s wildest dreams.
To achieve this, we must all come together as government, NGOs, Private sector and communities to build a society that will see everyone with equal opportunities.
The express reference to Ubuntu in the interim Constitution created hope of an equal and just society, which does not discriminate between people on the grounds of their culture, race, gender or religious beliefs
As the ANC-led government, we are committed to ensuring that South Africa maintains its position as a prominent nation in diverse sectors in the coming years, thereby effecting positive change both domestically and internationally.
We are humbled to be here today with many of you who have tirelessly worked to ensure that the Spirit of Ubuntu is a reality for a great number of South Africans.
As the Ubuntu Awards enters its 8th year of existence, these awards continue to demonstrate that our country is an important participant in the international community.
For many years South Africa did not feature positively in global discourse, however, the past three decades have seen increased recognition of South Africa’s contributions across various sectors.
While we can only recognise a few people today, we are aware that around the country, numerous people have represented South Africa in various projects in research, education and training, sports, arts and culture, and business and corporate affairs over the last year.
It is South African tradition, to honour and celebrate those among us who have distinguished themselves in their fields while championing the concept and values of Ubuntu.
We are proud as a government to know that many South Africans hold positions of influence on global platforms, and we are proud of the success stories of South Africans around the world who reflect what South Africa believes, which is firmly rooted in the notion of Ubuntu.
Ubuntu is an ancient African philosophy that is rooted in having compassion for others. It is an affirmation of our humanity, which also affirms the humanity of others. As South Africans, we firmly believe in the idea of “I am because you are.”
In reflecting on the true meaning underpinning tonight’s event, I recall the words of our great former Statesman, President Nelson Mandela, when he said – “What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.”
When our country emerged from the dark past of apartheid, where people were oppressed, and excluded because of their race, we were as a nation determined to celebrate the truly African philosophy of Ubuntu. As a compass for our journey over the past thirty years, the philosophy of Ubuntu has played a major role in the forging of a South African national consciousness and guided us throughout the process of our democratic transformation, social cohesion and nation-building.
Since 1994, the international community has looked to South Africa to play a leading role in championing the values of human rights, democracy, reconciliation, and the eradication of poverty and underdevelopment.
We believe that South Africa has risen to the challenge and continues to make a meaningful contribution in the pursuit of these goals in our region, on the continent, and globally.
South Africa’s unique perspective on global issues has found expression in the concept of Ubuntu, which informs our approach to diplomacy and shapes our vision of a better world for all.
It was the commonly shared values of Ubuntu that motivated us as a government to mobilise our sharpest legal minds to prepare a solid case to be presented to the International Court of Justice in the hopes of arresting the genocide in Gaza, which the UN Secretary-General has called an “unprecedented catastrophe.”
If Madiba were alive today, he would never have remained silent in the face of genocide, ethnic cleansing, or gross human rights abuses.
He would have moved mountains to try to end the Israeli military onslaught on the people of Gaza and to have Hamas release the civilian hostages. Taking this case to the World Court to bring about an end to this human tragedy would have been his priority, no matter the cost.
At the end of the day, what do we have, if not our principles?
We have demonstrated to the world that South Africa’s human rights-informed foreign policy did not end with Madiba. We are as committed today to the universality of human rights as we always were to the struggle for justice, freedom, and self-determination. The struggle of the Palestinians is our struggle, as it should be for all freedom-loving people in the world.
It is, however, concerning that two weeks after the Court’s ruling, Israel has continued its indiscriminate bombing of Gaza, killing hundreds of civilians, and it has failed to ensure that the civilian population receives adequate humanitarian aid and medical care, as well as the essentials required to sustain human life, such as food, water, and electricity.
We will stand hand in hand with the Palestinians until they achieve their freedom. As Martin Luther King Jr. said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Whether in conflict resolution or diplomacy, international relations work is not the exclusive domain of the government but requires input and participation by citizens. South Africa is a diverse quilt of incredibly talented people who are deeply committed to the work they do, and many have succeeded in making the nation incredibly proud.
It is thus wonderful that we have such an evening where we highlight these achievements, honour those who have made significant strides globally, and inspire others to emulate their example.
I trust that the stories we have heard here tonight have left us feeling inspired and will give us all the courage to choose the path less travelled. I would like to sincerely congratulate all our nominees and award winners tonight, not only for being global ambassadors and flying our flag high but also for contributing to your fields for the benefit of others and making our world a better place.
Our envoys for economic diplomacy play an increasingly important and prominent role, as we need to urgently stimulate economic growth if we are to lift our people out of poverty and make South Africa a better place to live in. We must recognise businesses that have contributed to South Africa’s reputation as an ideal destination to conduct business.
The Mining Indaba 2024, held over the past few days under the theme “Making South Africa a Favourable Destination for Mining Investments,” is also one of the strategic platforms for South African business to advance their interests, but also those of the nation.
Such efforts will help us achieve our socio-economic goals to create jobs, facilitate trade, and attract investment.
We are also cognisant of the fact that South Africa’s exports go beyond goods and services, as we are a country that is also rich in the arts, culture, sport, science, and ideas.
The various categories of these prestigious awards are indicative of the fact that successful diplomacy is indeed an integrated effort.
In closing, I would like to thank the Minister and Deputy Minister for their continued leadership in this sector and congratulate them on hosting this successful ceremony.
I would also like to thank all our diplomats here tonight for the sterling role they play in implementing our foreign policy and lastly thank our nominees for the part they play in making our country a success and shaping the narrative at a global stage about what it means to be South African.
I wish you all the best as you continue working towards making South Africa a prosperous country for the current and future generations to enjoy.
Issued by: The Presidency