African Renaissance

Nelson Mandela

In the distant days of antiquity, a Roman sentenced this African city to death: Carthago delenda est; ‘Carthage must be destroyed’. And Carthage was destroyed. Today we wander among its ruins, only our imagination and historical records enable us to experience its magnificence. Only our African being makes it possible for us to hear the piteous cries of the victims of the vengeance of the Roman Empire.

And yet we can say this: that all human civilization rests on foundations such as the ruins of the African city of Carthage. These architectural remains like the pyramids of Egypt, the sculptures of the ancients kingdoms of Ghana and Mali and Benin, like the temples of Ethiopia, the Zimbabwe ruins and the rock paintings of the Kgalagadi and Namib deserts – speak of Africa’s contribution to the formation of the condition of civilization.

Carthage was destroyed. During the long interregnum, the children of Africa were carted away as slaves. Our lands became the property of other nations; our resources a source of enrichment for other peoples; our kings and queens mere servants of foreign powers.

In the end, we were held out as the outstanding example of the beneficiaries of charity, because we became the permanent victims of famine, of destructive conflicts and of the pestilence of the natural world. On our knees because history, society and nature had defeated us, we could be nothing but beggars. What the Romans had sought with the destruction of Carthage, had been achieved.

But the ancient pride of the peoples of our continent asserted itself and gave us hope in the form of giants such as Queen Regent Labotsibeni of Swaziland, Mohammed V of Morocco, Abdul Gamal Nasser of Egypt, Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Murtala Mohammed of Nigeria, Patrice Lumumba of Zaire, Amilcar Cabral of? Guinea Bissau, Aghostino Neto of Angola, Eduardo Mondlane and Samora Machel of Mozambique, Seretse Khama of Botswana, WEB Du Bois and Martin Luther King of America, Marcus Garvey of Jamaica, Albert Luthuli and Oliver Thambo of South Africa. By their deeds, by the struggles they led, these and many other patriots said to us that neither Carthage nor Africa had been destroyed. They conveyed the message that the long interregnum of humiliation was over.

The titanic effort that has brought liberation to South Africa and ensured the total liberation of Africa constitutes an act of redemption for the black people of the world. It is a gift of emancipation also to those who, because they were white, imposed on themselves the heavy burden of assuming the mantle of rulers of all humanity. It says to all who will listen and understand that, by ending the apartheid barbarity that was the offspring of European colonisation, Africa has, once more, contributed to the advance of human civilisation and further expanded the frontiers of liberty everywhere.

When the history of our struggle is written, it will tell a glorious tale of African solidarity, of African’s adherence to principles, of the sacrifices that the people of our continent made to ensure that the intolerable insult to human dignity, the apartheid crime against humanity, became a thing of the past. It will speak of the contribution to freedom – whose value is as measureless as the gold beneath the soil of our country – a contribution which all of Africa made, from the shores of the Mediterranean in the north, to the confluence of the Indian and Atlantic Oceans in the south.

Africa shed her blood and surrendered the lives of her children so that all her children could be free. She gave of her limited wealth and resources so that all of Africa should be liberated. She opened heart of hospitality and her head so full of wise counsel so that we should emerge victorious. A million times she put her hand to the plough that has now dug up the encrusted burden of oppression accumulated for centuries. The total liberation of Africa has now been achieved.

One epoch with its historic tasks has come to an end. Surely another must commence. Africa cries out for a new birth; Carthage awaits the restoration of its glory. If freedom was the crown which the fighters of liberation sought to place on the head of mother Africa, let the upliftment, the happiness, prosperity and comfort of her children be the jewel of the crown.

The fundamentals are known to all of us: Africa continues to be a net exporter of capital and suffers from deteriorating terms of trade. Our capacity for self-reliance, to find the resources to generate sustained development, remains very limited. Equally complex questions that bear on the nature and quality of governance are central to our capacity to produce the better life which our people demand and deserve. We surely must face the matter squarely that where there is something wrong in the manner in which we govern ourselves, it must be said that the fault is not in our starts, but in ourselves that we are ill governed.

Rwanda stands as a stern and severe rebuke to all of us for having failed to address these interrelated matters. As a result of that, a terrible slaughter of the innocent is taking place in front of our very eyes. Thus do we give reason to the peoples of the world to say of Africa that she will never know stability and peace, that she will never experience poverty and dehumanisation and that we shall for ever be knocking on somebody’s door pleading for a slice of bread.

We know that we have it in ourselves, as Africans, to change all this. We must assert our will to do so. We must, in action, say that there is no obstacle big enough to stop us from bringing about a new African renaissance.

It will never happen again that our country should seek to dominate another through force of arms, economic might or subversion. We are determined to remain true to the vision of a non-racial society, which asserts the ancient African values of respect for every person and commitment to human dignity, regardless of colour or race.

The objective we all pursued was the creation of a South Africa that would be a good neighbour and an equal partner with all the countries of our continent, one that would use its abilities and potential to advance the common struggle to secure Africa’s rightful place within the world economic and political system. Thus must we build on the common victory of the total emancipation of Africa to obtain new successes for our continent as a whole and prevail over the currents that originate from the past, and ensure that the interregnum of humiliation symbolized by, among other things, the destruction of Carthage, is indeed consigned to the past, never to return.

God bless Africa.