New York – Three years ago, I had the great honour to meet Nelson Mandela. I tried to thank him for all he had done, but he interrupted me. The thanks, he said, should go to the millions of men and women in South Africa and around the world who stood up for freedom and justice and liberated South Africa from the bonds of apartheid.
Madiba’s words capture the essence of what we are celebrating this year: a hundred-year struggle for the universal values of human dignity and equality. The African National Congress is more than a political party. It is a movement – a tangible expression of a vision. The commitment and sacrifice of its members led to the emancipation of a nation. The justness of its cause attracted support from around the world, from all races and religions. Overwhelmingly, people around the world, not just in South Africa, want this non-racial democracy to succeed.
Under the leadership of the ANC, the new South Africa has established firm foundations. It has built a tradition of smooth democratic transition. It has a progressive constitution that gives women one-third of the seats in parliament and enshrines rights that even developed countries have yet to guarantee. South Africa has a robust economy, and is an influential voice in continental and world affairs. Last December, it hosted the important climate change negotiations in Durban.
All these examples of progress are testament to the ANC’s success. Yet with such success also comes great responsibility. The power of the ANC lies not just in the numbers of people who vote for it, but the vision for which it stands. This has always been the movement’s strength. Today the people of South Africa and the world yearn to see the complete realization of this vision, and are relying on the ANC to achieve it.
The struggle for freedom, justice, human rights and non-discrimination is a global battle. I count on the ANC’s continued determination to defend the principles enshrined in the United Nations Charter and Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Defeating racism, tribalism, intolerance and all forms of discrimination will liberate us all.