By Amukelani Chauke - SA News
South Africans need to re-define themselves as part of the continent to promote unity and root out xenophobia.
In an interview with SAnews on Saturday, Obed Bapela, the Deputy Minister in the Presidency: Performance, Monitoring and Evaluation, also said that while a lot of progress has been made in bringing about development in Africa, there are still challenges and bottlenecks that deprive the continent of peace and prosperity for its people.
Bapela said this as the continent celebrated the annual Africa Day, which also marked the 50th anniversary of the Organisation of African Union (OAU), now known as the African Union (AU).
Speaking after attending Africa Day celebrations in Mpumalanga, Bapela said the days of South Africans defining themselves as non-Africans should be a thing of the past.
“I think it is very important really for South Africans to start re-defining ourselves to as to who we are.
“We are first Africans and then South Africans. It cannot be the other way round. South Africa is a country within the continent of Africa.
“It is here, we are connected and we are part of the continent because you here when a person goes to visit either Kenya or Uganda, you hear them saying ‘I’m going to Africa’ as if he or she is not staying in African soil.
“We are part of the continent, we are part of the 54 nations of the African Union and we will forever be part of it because history, plus geography and nature [makes us part] of this continent,” he said.
Root out xenophobic attacks
Bapela said South Africans should play a central role to boot xenophobia out of the continent.
In May 2008, disturbing visuals of a Mozambican national Ernisto Nhamuave being burnt to death at the height of xenophobic attacks at the Ramaphosa informal settlement in Ekurhuleni shocked the world.
Several others also lost their lives in the attacks, that spread throuhgout the country after they reportedly started in the Alexandra township in northern Johannesburg.
Bapela said South Africans should work towards promoting solidarity.
“Let’s also talk about xenophobic attacks in our situations, what’s sparking them. What are the issues that make us not to talk as Africans because we are all Africans.
“Because the victims are only African foreign nationals, other foreign nationals from other continents such as Asia and Europe are not being affected by these xenophobic attacks.
“So let’s then begin to reflect in that redefinition of ourselves of Africans of South African origin. I think the sooner that consciousness and awareness grows amongst us, I think the environment will also be better.”
Vision 2063: Africa to develop after civil wars
Despite Africa being the second-most growing economy in the World after Asia, boasting mineral-rich soil that has attracted foreign investment, the continent challenges related to poverty and unemployment continue to strangle its people.
With South Africa emerging as a global economic player having affirmed its position within the BRICS countries, education and unemployment remains a primary concern in the country.
Other African states struggle to grow their economies due to civil wars brought about by rebellious acts from armed forces gunning to overthrow their governments.
Heads of states from 54 AU member countries are currently meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to hold the 21st Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union.
The meeting coincides with Africa Day celebrations under the theme: 2013, Year of Pan-Africanism and African Renaissance.
The AU is chaired by former Home Affairs minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.
Dlamini-Zuma told a meeting of African foreign minister in Addis Ababa that while progress has been made to bring prosperity in Africa in the past decade, this had not translated into rapid social transfortaion.
Bapela said he agreed with Dlamini-Zuma’s views.
“Definitely there are successes but still we have a lot of challenges. We are in a continent that was colonised for over 300 years.
“While the continent has now found freedom for every nation except Western Sahara, the issue of development now is the biggest challenge that is facing the continent.
“For example there is no peace as yet achieved in quite a number of African countries. We talk of Somali, we talk of the Democratic Republic of Congo, we talk of Guinea-Bissau where there was a coup d’état. So stability and peace have really been the issues that we have had to grapple with.”
Bapela said the vision of the AU Commission for the next 50 years was to rid the continent of all this problems and invest in education to deal with youth unemployment, and to invest in the continent’s infrastructure to promote inter-connectivity between African countries.
“The connectivity we are talking about will be in a form of telecommunications that includes broadband.
“It is also rail connectivity because when you look at the rail system in Africa, from the North there is rail, from the South there is rail but somewhere in the middle towards Central Africa Republic and others, those rails are not connected at all.
“Roads also are not fully connected and as a result, trade amongst states is still limited because of the infrastructure connectivity that is not there.
“The airport airlines are not yet fully connected, and we still have to travel to another country in Europe in order to connect to an African country.