Opinions

Phumla Williams: Africa can prosper by working together

There was a time in the past when the approaching hum of helicopter blades menacingly hovering over defenceless communities or the thud of boots on the ground, would inspire dread and conjure up images of death and destruction. Before South Africa’s epoch-making democratic breakthrough in 1994, many of its neighbours fell victim to this most atrocious and racist military harassment by the then apartheid government.

This ugly history of repression was characterised by random cross-border military attacks by the apartheid defence force which resulted in the brutal killing and maiming of innocent people in those countries.

The democratic South Africa has, however, since forged a new path built on the fundamental ethos of humanity, collective solidarity and hope for a better tomorrow. It embraced the posture of providing the necessary socio-economic and political support to its neighbours and the entire continent.

In August 1994, the country joined the Southern African Development Community (SADC), whose goal is to further socio-economic cooperation and integration as well as political and security cooperation. Both the African Union (AU) – a continental union comprising 55 member states – and the SADC, have led life-changing socio-economic development efforts in the continent.

Today, South Africa is proudly a member of the international community, and is constantly striving towards creating a better Africa and better world. Since 1994, South Africa has used its own experience of nation-building to assist in brokering peace in various conflicts and has sought to silence the guns as a member of the AU.

South Africa has also undertaken a number of humanitarian missions in support of its neighbours in the continent. One such memorable mission took place in 2000 when members of the South African Air Force rescued the people of Mozambique affected by devastating floods, particularly the pregnant woman who was clambering up a tree in the midst of the flood-ravaged waters.

The country again assisted its neighbours in Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe, following the devastation wrought by Intense Tropical Cyclone Idai in 2019. This force of nature impacted more than two million people and displaced hundreds of thousands of them, destroyed vast areas, cut off communications and made roads impassable for first responders.

South Africa joined other nations such as Zambia, Eswatini, Botswana and India in providing humanitarian assistance to the flood-ravaged neighbours. The South African relief mission consisted of elements of the South African National Defence Force, the South African Police Service and the South African Department of Health. In the true spirit of Ubuntu (Humanity), some South African non-profit organisations also provided humanitarian aid to countries affected by these floods.

Achieving peace in Africa remains one of the cornerstones for its prosperity and the protection of the most vulnerable members of its society such as women, children and the aged. Together with a number of other African countries such as Nigeria, Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia, South Africa forms part of seeking peace and stability in the continent by forming part of the United Nation’s Peacekeeping Force in Africa.

When South Africa assumed the chairship of the AU in 2020, for the second time, its priority was to strengthen the AU and other continental institutions such as the Pan-African Parliament and the African Peer Review Mechanism. The country remains committed to working with the structures of the AU to deepen the unity of the continent, and to advance inclusive growth and sustainable development. Such interventions can only be achieved by supporting regional integration, industrialisation, economic development, trade and investment.

Unfortunately, the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic scuppered most, if not all, these developmental programmes; consequently forcing many nations to shift their focus. This year, countries have been locked in a bitter struggle to try and contain the rapid spread of COVID-19 in their midst. Africa showed the world how to deal decisively with such a daunting challenge. South Africa achieved remarkable success with its risk-adjusted strategy to swiftly mitigate the spread of the pandemic.

Going forward, South Africa will rely on its endearing spirit of collaboration and support to revive its economy and that of the continent too. By working together as a united front, the continent can be ready to confront its challenges, which include the issue of climate change, which affects the region and the whole continent.

The threat of another Intense Tropical Cyclone Idai or something even more devastating, is a constant reminder that we must be forever vigilant and ready to respond appropriately as a united continent.

Despite our uncertainty about future phenomena, what remains important is the commitment of nations on the continent to work together for the common good. Internecine wars and flood waters may once again rise in the future, and the issue of drought remains a constant threat.

History has shown us that in the midst of the greatest adversity, the unity and sense of purpose of Africans has always been triumphant. Our mighty continent will rise again, even stronger, and better equipped to build a better tomorrow for all. The continental structures will remain committed to reducing violent conflicts that result in the loss of innocent lives. Peace!

S.A Government Cabinet Spokesperson and GCIS Director-General, Ms. Phumla Williams.

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