Remarks by Deputy President Paul Mashatile on the occasion of the Ninth BRICS Parliamentary Forum, Emperors Palace, Johannesburg, South Africa, 27 September 2023
Programme Director, Secretary to Parliament, Mr Xolile George,
Your Excellency, Mme Nosiviwe Maphisa Nqakula, Speaker of the National Assembly,
Your Excellency, Ntate Lechesa Tsenoli, Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly,
The Chairperson of the NCOP, Ntate Amos Masondo,
The Deputy Chairperson of the NCOP, Mme Sylvia Lucas,
Your Excellency, Kgalema Petrus Motlanthe, former President of the Republic of South Africa,
Your Excellency, Mme Baleka Mbete, former Deputy President of the Republic of South Africa,
Your Excellency, Mr Sostenes Cavalcante, Vice President of the Chamber of Deputies, Federal Republic of Brazil,
Your Excellency, Mr Harivanash Narayan Singh, Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha Republic of India,
Your Excellency, Mr Peng Qinghua, Vice Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National Peoples Congress, of the Peoples Republic of China,
Your Excellency, Dr Hanafy Ali Gebaly, Speaker of the Egyptian House of Representatives,
Your Excellency, Mr Mohammad-Bagher Ghalibaf, President of Majles Shoraye Eslaimi of the Islamic Republic of Iran,
Your Excellencies, the Speakers and Honourable Peoples tribunes from fellow BRICS member-states,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I would like to welcome you to the ninth BRICS Parliamentary Forum (PF). It has been a long, challenging and exciting road since the historic inaugural meeting held in the Russian Federation in June 2015.
Since then, this Forum has grown from strength to strength, reflecting both the hard work of the collective leadership of the BRICS member states and, without doubt, the overwhelming desire amongst the peoples of the world to evolve a just world order which serves not just a few but also and especially the wretched of the earth.
Congratulations to our new partners: The Argentine Republic, The Arab Republic of Egypt, The Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, The Islamic Republic of Iran, The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and The United Arab Emirates. We trust that you will invigorate this promising intergovernmental organisation.
From 2015 to date, the BRICS Parliamentary Forum has identified many issues which require continuous discussion, refinement and programmatic plans of action, the better to better serve the wretched of the earth.
The issues range from:
- the sacrosanct role of the United Nations in international affairs and the consolidation of multilateral structures; the reform of the Security Council; and the fairness of the international legal system
- the transition to a multipolar world and deepening economic globalisation
- exploring new trade and investment prospects
- the promotion of international peace and security, shared economic growth, cooperation and mutually beneficial interaction amongst the peoples of the world, undergirded by a continuous dialogue among and between the world’s cultures and civilisations for the cross-pollination of knowledge and perspectives for the benefit of humanity
- deepening cooperation in a multiplicity of fields, including the promotion of cooperation in research, education, healthcare, environmental protection and sport, with a focus on the youth
- coordinating our macroeconomic policies, the reform of the international monetary system and the promotion of growth
- intensifying South-South and North-South dialogue, to
- the creation of a permanent contact group within the BRICS Parliamentary Forum which helps, among other things, to identify and guide our association on key evolving issues of international political economy and to develop a long-term strategy for the Forum.
These and many additional matters that have served on the agenda of this Forum since the inaugural session in Moscow are about moving the world towards greater social justice — in short, making sure that the wretched of the earth become, “Somebody!” So goes the as the African American parlance.
We recall that the inaugural BRICS Parliamentary Forum took place to the hour of the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II and the founding of the world’s premier intergovernmental organisation, the United Nations – our United Nations! The solemnity of the occasion was a stark reminder of the importance of history. Some of our colleagues rightly appealed that we draw appropriate lessons from history.
The quest to be Somebody is innate to every people. This is true for the developing South in as much as it is the case for the developed North. For the African continent as with parts of the developing world, the quest to be.
Somebody has been an act of resistance and defiance since at least the advent of the Atlantic Slave Trade.
In addition to the heroic anti-colonial and apartheid struggles, this led to the 1955 Bandung Conference and the formation of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) in 1961.
A consistent thread in the NAM’s work has been the promotion of the political and economic cooperation of developing countries.
This is how President Julius Nyerere of Tanzania put the matter when he addressed the opening of the preparatory meeting of the NAM in Dar es Salaam on April 13, 1970:
“The fact is that our political independence depends upon the degree of our economic independence, as well as the nature of our economic development depending upon our political independence. These things are interlinked in the modern world; and because of that interdependence, our economic relationships with one another, and individually with the great powers of the world, are matters with which the Non-Aligned conference must be concerned”.
This underscores the importance of BRICS and the cooperation it has sought to promote since its founding. BRICS is one of the institutions that holds the possibility of taking forward much of the objectives of the NAM and the South Commission which President Nyerere ably led after his voluntary retirement from public office in 1985.
There is no need to regale you with statistics about the global reach of the BRICS in terms of its economy, the combined population of its member states relative to the rest of the world and other interesting information which you know.
This Forum has the possibility to exert change on a global and unprecedented scale. For starters, BRICS has focused the imagination of the world’s population beyond the citizens of its member states. In and of itself, this is a good thing.
However, we should not be surprised when this success factor attracts negative responses from some actors in the world despite the fact that BRICS is not opposed to any state parties or groups.
Instead, we seek a peaceful and just world of equitable resource distribution.
The single most powerful instrument parliamentarians have at their disposal is their command of law-making. Through coordinated efforts, you can impact positively on more than a quarter of the world’s population by introducing far-reaching progressive legislation and repealing laws that do not improve the lives of the people.
Some lessons from history in this regard might be useful. The 13th-century Egyptian Chief Justice Ibn Khaldun insisted that law should be based on what he called “social solidarity,” which was a statement on the supremacy he placed on social cohesion. Kwame Nkrumah, on the other hand, was adamant that “The teaching of law is totally incomplete if it is not accompanied by a background of economic, social and political science and even politics, science and technology”.
He envisioned a law that is an “expression of the political, economic and social conditions of the people and of their aims for progress,” as opposed to one that is based on “a formalistic yardstick which completely disregards the material content of the law and measures justice or injustice solely by procedural rules”.
As BRICS parliamentarians who seek to change the world for the better, you have the possibility to usher in the social solidarity and development that Chief Justice Khaldun and President Nkrumah strove to achieve.
However, legislative changes alone are neither enough nor sufficient to effect change. You require a capable, civic-minded, and ethical bureaucracy which has the capacity and commitment to drive the existing legislative framework to achieve its ends.
The effervescence of the parliamentary vocation attests to the sociological truism that all societies are heterogeneous theatres in which differently disposed social actors’ battle to shape public affairs in their own image. To the extent that such intercourse will, from time to time, impact upon the institution of BRICS as national, regional and other interests, this Forum should gird its intellectual and political loins for their constructive management and resolution.
Sometimes these may be interests from outside ourselves intent on exhausting us in meaningless but tiresome distractions or otherwise pit us against each other, thus to take us completely off the rails so that we are unable to achieve our strategic objective.
Fortunately, the collective of BRICS members possess the wisdom to rise above such machinations.
Equally fortunate is that BRICS member states have come together in this rising intergovernmental institution on a shared perspective of development, to which the current global political and economic order continues to respond inadequately.
Whatever difficulties we face in the future, President Nyerere may provide a useful guide.
“Development,” he said in August 1988, “involves decisions about national and international political priorities and structures. It includes social questions and matters related to education, health human dignity, and security both personal and national. And it means adequate food clothing and shelter for the individual person.
All these matters are inextricably mixed and are all encompassed in any definition of development which is meaningful to the human beings who are now suffering from lack of it”.
Every country faces these considerations and challenges in its resource allocation and decision-making processes.
Undoubtedly, this will find expression in your discussions especially as it concerns the four broad thematic areas on your agenda, namely, climate change, energy security and just transition of coal to hydrogen energy, multilateralism, peace and security.
In July 2014, BRICS established the New Development Bank and the BRICS Contingent Reserve Arrangement.
It is increasingly clear that there are varying levels of capacity for project planning and development among member states.
As with the executive, parliamentarians are challenged to interrogate how this can be overcome.
One way of addressing this is by identifying the broad range of skills that are required to address effect development at the scale and the pace required to accelerate the impact of BRICS in all the member states.
This speaks to the technocratic capacity to which I referred earlier, and we should, in this regard and in keeping with the tradition of cooperation amongst us, adopt the slogan of the progressive trade union movement: “An injury to one is an injury to all”.
One suggestion you may want to ponder over is that we should immediately conduct a skills audit relative to the development imperatives of each member state and bring together institutions of higher learning amongst us to respond to the skills challenge.
I would like to commend the BRICS Women’s Business Alliance and their efforts in organising the BRICS-Africa WBA Trade Conference.
Africa is moving towards a single African market. All 54 countries have signed the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement. We are well on our way to creating the world’s largest single-free trade area, with 1.3 billion people and a gross domestic product of $3.4 trillion.
The implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area will improve intra-African trade, the continent’s share and participation in global trade, stimulate and improve the economy as well as contribute to lifting millions of people out of poverty.
The continent’s transport networks are largely unsatisfactory. Few roads connect the continent’s five regions, and those that do are often in poor condition and under-maintained.
As a continent, we look forward to engaging with our BRICS partners to realise the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area and thus create a win-win solution for all.
Let us seize this opportunity to strengthen the BRICS-Africa partnership and promote a rules-based approach towards a just global order.
Issued by: The Presidency