FOUR former African leaders were in the city last night to attend the annual Thabo Mbeki Africa Day Lecture at Unisa and where the state of the continent was discussed.
Mbeki was joined by the former presidents of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo; Mozambique’s Joaquim Chissano; and former president of Cape Verde, Pedro Pires.
This year things were done somewhat differently as the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Meles Zenawi, who was to deliver the keynote address, couldn’t make it. The event was then turned into a panel discussion among the four men present.
The discussion was chaired by Professor Chris Landsberg.
Speaking with the help of a translator, Pires dwelled on independence and liberation.
He said the continent was facing a dependency syndrome. “When you achieve liberation, it means you have to rid yourself of linkages of dependency. We are still facing linkages of our dependence, upon others. To achieve liberation, we have to rid ourselves of our dependency syndrome,” he said.
Pires encouraged the people who had packed the ZK Matthews Hall to generate and produce worthwhile ideas.
Chissano asked if it was necessary for the people of the continent to fight for liberation, and if the current Africa was the one that “our forefathers would be proud of”.
“Do you think this is the Africa that our forefathers wanted to build? We should be proud of our achievements. Africa is a continent of vision; it’s not a lost continent. We need to start having confidence in ourselves and start saying we can do things for ourselves,” said Chissano.
Democracy on the continent should come with the changing of stereotypes that go hand-in-hand with culture, he said.
Obasanjo said the continent should utilise its resources and minerals to their full potential. He said the resources included academics, farmers and engineers.
“How much do we make use of all these minerals? There are resources that we have that no one should ever be able to take away from us. Our leaders must dedicate themselves entirely to seeking solutions to problems being faced by their people,” he said.
Obasanjo said one thing the continent could never have too much of was learning institutions which would help produce leaders.
Mbeki described the leaders as liberators who couldn’t be allowed to disappear into obscurity. “What is the role of these liberators? We cannot afford to lose this experience and commitment as a continent. We are very happy that we have a chance to celebrate Africa Day with you here in South Africa,” he said.
Mbeki encouraged Africans not to just celebrate Africa Day, saying as individuals, they should act according to the African consensus and live by it on a daily basis.