My President, “I am an African” by Thabo Mbeki, Zizi… Awu Madoda…

Thabo Mbeki’s speech – I am an African


Esteemed President of the democratic Republic,

Honourable Members of the Constitutional Assembly,

Our distinguished domestic and foreign guests, Friends,

On an occasion such as this, we should, perhaps, start from the beginning.

So, let me begin.

I am an African.

I owe my being to the hills and the valleys, the mountains and the glades, the rivers, the deserts, the trees, the flowers, the seas and the ever-changing seasons that define the face of our native land.

My body has frozen in our frosts and in our latter day snows. It has thawed in the warmth of our sunshine and melted in the heat of the midday sun. The crack and the rumble of the summer thunders, lashed by startling lightening, have been a cause both of trembling and of hope.

The fragrances of nature have been as pleasant to us as the sight of the wild blooms of the citizens of the veld.

The dramatic shapes of the Drakensberg, the soil-coloured waters of the Lekoa, iGqili noThukela, and the sands of the Kgalagadi, have all been panels of the set on the natural stage on which we act out the foolish deeds of the theatre of our day.

At times, and in fear, I have wondered whether I should concede equal citizenship of our country to the leopard and the lion, the elephant and the springbok, the hyena, the black mamba and the pestilential mosquito.

A human presence among all these, a feature on the face of our native land thus defined, I know that none dare challenge me when I say – I am an African!

I owe my being to the Khoi and the San whose desolate souls haunt the great expanses of the beautiful Cape – they who fell victim to the most merciless genocide our native land has ever seen, they who were the first to lose their lives in the struggle to defend our freedom and dependence and they who, as a people, perished in the result.

Today, as a country, we keep an audible silence about these ancestors of the generations that live, fearful to admit the horror of a former deed, seeking to obliterate from our memories a cruel occurrence which, in its remembering, should teach us not and never to be inhuman again.

I am formed of the migrants who left Europe to find a new home on our native land. Whatever their own actions, they remain still, part of me.

In my veins courses the blood of the Malay slaves who came from the East. Their proud dignity informs my bearing, their culture a part of my essence. The stripes they bore on their bodies from the lash of the slave master are a reminder embossed on my consciousness of what should not be done.

I am the grandchild of the warrior men and women that Hintsa and Sekhukhune led, the patriots that Cetshwayo and Mphephu took to battle, the soldiers Moshoeshoe and Ngungunyane taught never to dishonour the cause of freedom.

My mind and my knowledge of myself is formed by the victories that are the jewels in our African crown, the victories we earned from Isandhlwana to Khartoum, as Ethiopians and as the Ashanti of Ghana, as the Berbers of the desert.

I am the grandchild who lays fresh flowers on the Boer graves at St Helena and the Bahamas, who sees in the mind’s eye and suffers the suffering of a simple peasant folk, death, concentration camps, destroyed homesteads, a dream in ruins.

I am the child of Nongqause. I am he who made it possible to trade in the world markets in diamonds, in gold, in the same food for which my stomach yearns.

I come of those who were transported from India and China, whose being resided in the fact, solely, that they were able to provide physical labour, who taught me that we could both be at home and be foreign, who taught me that human existence itself demanded that freedom was a necessary condition for that human existence.

Being part of all these people, and in the knowledge that none dare contest that assertion, I shall claim that – I am an African.

I have seen our country torn asunder as these, all of whom are my people, engaged one another in a titanic battle, the one redress a wrong that had been caused by one to another and the other, to defend the indefensible.

I have seen what happens when one person has superiority of force over another, when the stronger appropriate to themselves the prerogative even to annul the injunction that God created all men and women in His image.

I know what if signifies when race and colour are used to determine who is human and who, sub- human.

I have seen the destruction of all sense of self-esteem, the consequent striving to be what one is not, simply to acquire some of the benefits which those who had improved themselves as masters had ensured that they enjoy.

I have experience of the situation in which race and colour is used to enrich some and impoverish the rest.

I have seen the corruption of minds and souls in the pursuit of an ignoble effort to perpetrate a veritable crime against humanity.

I have seen concrete expression of the denial of the dignity of a human being emanating from the conscious, systemic and systematic oppressive and repressive activities of other human beings.

There the victims parade with no mask to hide the brutish reality – the beggars, the prostitutes, the street children, those who seek solace in substance abuse, those who have to steal to assuage hunger, those who have to lose their sanity because to be sane is to invite pain.

Perhaps the worst among these, who are my people, are those who have learnt to kill for a wage. To these the extent of death is directly proportional to their personal welfare.

And so, like pawns in the service of demented souls, they kill in furtherance of the political violence in KwaZulu-Natal. They murder the innocent in the taxi wars.

They kill slowly or quickly in order to make profits from the illegal trade in narcotics. They are available for hire when husband wants to murder wife and wife, husband.

Among us prowl the products of our immoral and amoral past – killers who have no sense of the worth of human life, rapists who have absolute disdain for the women of our country, animals who would seek to benefit from the vulnerability of the children, the disabled and the old, the rapacious who brook no obstacle in their quest for self-enrichment.

All this I know and know to be true because I am an African!

Because of that, I am also able to state this fundamental truth that I am born of a people who are heroes and heroines.

I am born of a people who would not tolerate oppression.

I am of a nation that would not allow that fear of death, torture, imprisonment, exile or persecution should result in the perpetuation of injustice.

The great masses who are our mother and father will not permit that the behaviour of the few results in the description of our country and people as barbaric.

Patient because history is on their side, these masses do not despair because today the weather is bad. Nor do they turn triumphalist when, tomorrow, the sun shines.

Whatever the circumstances they have lived through and because of that experience, they are determined to define for themselves who they are and who they should be.

We are assembled here today to mark their victory in acquiring and exercising their right to formulate their own definition of what it means to be African.

The constitution whose adoption we celebrate constitutes and unequivocal statement that we refuse to accept that our Africanness shall be defined by our race, colour, gender of historical origins.

It is a firm assertion made by ourselves that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white.

It gives concrete expression to the sentiment we share as Africans, and will defend to the death, that the people shall govern.

It recognises the fact that the dignity of the individual is both an objective which society must pursue, and is a goal which cannot be separated from the material well-being of that individual.

It seeks to create the situation in which all our people shall be free from fear, including the fear of the oppression of one national group by another, the fear of the disempowerment of one social echelon by another, the fear of the use of state power to deny anybody their fundamental human rights and the fear of tyranny.

It aims to open the doors so that those who were disadvantaged can assume their place in society as equals with their fellow human beings without regard to colour, race, gender, age or geographic dispersal.

It provides the opportunity to enable each one and all to state their views, promote them, strive for their implementation in the process of governance without fear that a contrary view will be met with repression.

It creates a law-governed society which shall be inimical to arbitrary rule.

It enables the resolution of conflicts by peaceful means rather than resort to force.

It rejoices in the diversity of our people and creates the space for all of us voluntarily to define ourselves as one people.

As an African, this is an achievement of which I am proud, proud without reservation and proud without any feeling of conceit.

Our sense of elevation at this moment also derives from the fact that this magnificent product is the unique creation of African hands and African minds.

Bit it is also constitutes a tribute to our loss of vanity that we could, despite the temptation to treat ourselves as an exceptional fragment of humanity, draw on the accumulated experience and wisdom of all humankind, to define for ourselves what we want to be.

Together with the best in the world, we too are prone to pettiness, petulance, selfishness and short- sightedness.

But it seems to have happened that we looked at ourselves and said the time had come that we make a super-human effort to be other than human, to respond to the call to create for ourselves a glorious future, to remind ourselves of the Latin saying: Gloria est consequenda – Glory must be sought after!

Today it feels good to be an African.

It feels good that I can stand here as a South African and as a foot soldier of a titanic African army, the African National Congress, to say to all the parties represented here, to the millions who made an input into the processes we are concluding, to our outstanding compatriots who have presided over the birth of our founding document, to the negotiators who pitted their wits one against the other, to the unseen stars who shone unseen as the management and administration of the Constitutional Assembly, the advisers, experts and publicists, to the mass communication media, to our friends across the globe – congratulations and well done!

I am an African.

I am born of the peoples of the continent of Africa.

The pain of the violent conflict that the peoples of Liberia, Somalia, the Sudan, Burundi and Algeria is a pain I also bear.

The dismal shame of poverty, suffering and human degradation of my continent is a blight that we share.

The blight on our happiness that derives from this and from our drift to the periphery of the ordering of human affairs leaves us in a persistent shadow of despair.

This is a savage road to which nobody should be condemned.

This thing that we have done today, in this small corner of a great continent that has contributed so decisively to the evolution of humanity says that Africa reaffirms that she is continuing her rise from the ashes.

Whatever the setbacks of the moment, nothing can stop us now! Whatever the difficulties, Africa shall be at peace!

However improbable it may sound to the sceptics, Africa will prosper!

Whoever we may be, whatever our immediate interest, however much we carry baggage from our past, however much we have been caught by the fashion of cynicism and loss of faith in the capacity of the people, let us err today and say – nothing can stop us now!

Thank you

Remain Respectful

Respect the point and time you find yourself in today because it might be the stepping stone to where and what you want to be tomorrow.

Respect the persons you cross paths with in your journey, you might find them somehow in the future to be the ones to open a gate to an entrance of what you’d think it’s your destination.

Respect and care for the little things God gives you, each minute to a day, it might happen they hold something of value… with patience and humility it will all be revealed.

Respect the shoes that takes care of the parts of your feet, no matter how many holes the sole has underneath, the shoe still takes you from one point to another, most of it all, it still gives you dignity cause what people see from a distance it’s a shoe, only you, who knows of all of it’s holes…

“If you were born poor and remain poor it’s your fault”

“If you were born poor and remain poor it’s your fault”

This is a kind of Statement you wouldn’t find from a random citizen who resides somewhere in the Valley, No, I don’t think so.

It rather suitable for a ‘Well-off’ individual. Mostly those who resides in the urban areas, whom, who seldomly go to the skirts of the country, to see how young people live in poverty, however they’re too quick to make statements like; “if you were born poor consider its your fault if you remain poor”

Such careless Statements come from people who had created a base of network, through entertainment, through politics, through family business, some through University; for those who got lucky to enter Tertiary Level.

But I say;

As much as it is anticipated that Black people are poor and we cry ‘foul play’ or accusing ‘Black People’ of laziness. A factor that is mostly ignored is that some black people are not principled, the factions that are seen in organizations are also in the society as a result;

The systems are no longer serving the course of developing communities but depriving change and youth growth.

I’m not saying nothing is being done at all, however, the rate and the level of action that has diminished.

The communities are then brainwashed by personalities, lavish lifestyles of perpetrators whom are looting stakeholders funds. Officials, had more than anything; adapted to the joy of portraying themselves as socialites, competing with celebrities, singing and shunting, enjoying the public attention.

Corruption seems to be highly endorsed, treated as a mockery in a form in which it has appeared as a norm in the society, people are no longer fighting corruption with their heart.

They talk about it; Yes! They raise issues about it; Sadly, Yes and that’s where it ends… Because they also vote for it, time and again.

So that statement just depresses me…

Quest-1: At what level does a person resembles or referred to as being poor?

Quest-2: Does the statement classify a certain individual as poor or is it a person who stays home without a job, or living on National minimum wage?

Quest-3: Or perhaps I should take a closer look at myself?

Quest-4: How poor is poor?

No! Maybe let me ask; how is being rich?

Because the most people that are rich nowadays, you’d find them mingling amongst politicians at political gatherings such as rally or manifesto not as spectators but forming part of an event with VIP seating…

Then I remember there was that Animal, they called it ‘Affirmative Action’ that now gave birth to series of black political coincidence.

Who was it against to? No one as far as I know but was for a political conscience.

What are these Political Coincidence?

An example would be; a 25 year old multimillionaire, who’s not an artist nor performer of any sort, however holding a position of an executive, only to discover that a Father or Mother is a politician, or affiliated to, yet media reports are saying no foul play…

Why all of them, their children are blossoming at the young age, when did they went to School, Graduated, secure internships or scholarships…, where did they gain experience to acquire positions.

Yet for those unknowns, brilliant student graduates struggle to get a job because of the lack of experience, when these students decides to continue with education instead of turning into crime, further down after completion of their qualification, they cannot secure jobs and are labeled as over qualified.

Futurists, Companies, Academics and Politicians are talking about CHANGE and Resistance to Change in Organizations which amongst those Changes is the coming of the fourth Industrial Revolution which requires systems that will allow young people to be skilled in such spaces like programming to equip themselves to be able to gel in the world of Artificial Intellligence, 3D, etc.

Yet these young intelligent people who are to bring change, are still lousing around in search of Jobs with their degrees of Change. Whilst their parents are captured in hard labor and their tax monies are misused to enrich minority’s, nothing is given back to their Children but Social Grants, and approval to revised poor Standards of Education.

There are still a lot of Schools with falling Structures, pupils who are receiving classes from a mud rondavel… and a huge percentage of those who get to touch a Computer at Tertiary Level, these cases will never end.

Truth is; brillance is not common, some people are good in theory while others are exceptional in ‘hand-eye coordination’… Where in a Country, For a pupil to get recognition; he/she needs to break records, in academics, in sports, or drama to be noticed, not everyone will break records, only a few. Even with those who are exceptional they need nurturing and Scouts don’t go deep the valleys to look for talents….

Now what do we do with such individuals, Deprive them a chance to be good at something else than academics?

Most business articles that cover funding, clearly states how difficult it is to obtain funding for start-ups.

Serial Entrepreneurs are dubbed as risk takers who had failed more than once till they make it. Nowadays, rich people are impatient with their monies, there are few business people who’d risk money for a fledger to fail before they can hit the mark.

Other Potential Entrepreneurs have personal bad debts to allow them a chance to apply for funding for their venture as a result they remain at work.

Talking for myself now;

If I die poor it is not that I’m a lazy thinker, or I didn’t try, it’s not that I lacked potential…

It will mean that I’m just a number of those who had played their little role in the workforce, in my community so that the young ones would learn, inspired by my means and seize the opportunity to go to school knowing for a fact that, they might end up like me in the workforce, so to be able to have a 9 to 5 job, indebted to a monthly bond, 72 Months car installment, and taking care of the daily household needs, and no excess of funds in the bank.

It is also my duty to bring to them this information, career guidances, so that they live to better the people in my generation…