Naledi Pandor, Minister for International Relations and Cooperation of South Africa, addresses the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly, Saturday, Sept. 28, 2019. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

Johannesburg - International Relations Minister Naledi Pandor’s address to the UN General Assembly this weekend held particular significance, not only because it marked a quarter century into our democracy, but her grandfather addressed the UN 53 years before, in 1966.

ZK Matthews was the ANC stalwart who proposed the idea of a Freedom Charter in the 1950s, and would have been proud that generations later his granddaughter, representing the president, addressed UN member states.

“Our anniversary is due in large measure to the solidarity we enjoyed from most UN member states, and it is because of this history that South Africa is also vested in the ideal of a robust and coherent UN, as it is this organisation that has the ability to ensure that all who yearn for freedom achieve it,” Pandor said.

In a pointed reference to the commitment of the UN to the cause of freedom in South Africa, Pandor told delegates: “As early as 1946, shortly after the creation of the UN, the issue of apartheid South Africa's discriminatory policies was included as an agenda item in the first session of the UN General Assembly. We strongly believe a purposive system of multilateralism is necessary to deal with the global challenges we face.”

Pandor highlighted South Africa’s unwavering commitment to Africa.

“The leaders and the people of South Africa have consistently acknowledged the immeasurable contribution the people of Africa rendered to the Struggle and who made great sacrifices in support of the liberation movements of South Africa.”

Pandor also emphasised that South Africa has embraced millions of migrants and refugees from the continent, and is committed to overcome the challenges it faces of intolerance, division, and gender-based violence.

“The incidents of violence and looting that erupted in parts of our provinces of Gauteng and KwaZulu- Natal were regrettable and shameful for a nation with such a proud history of struggle and international solidarity support,” she said.

Pandor assured the assembly that South Africa is addressing the security lapses and intolerance that led to this violence, as well as the inadequacy of its immigration administration to curb illegal migration. She stressed that the government needs to implement development strategies to create increased economic opportunities to diminish the feelings of resentment.

Pandor also reiterated South Africa’s support for the people of Palestine, Western Sahara and Cuba.

“We know from our own experience and history that it will only be through the determined efforts of the UN family that freedom for the people of Palestine can be achieved, and only through the UN that the people of Sahrawi can enjoy freedom,” Pandor said.

“For over 70 years the people of Palestine have lived under occupation. In the past year, this occupation has worsened with continued illegal settlement activity We continue to urge for a negotiated settlement to this long-standing conflict.”

Pandor pulled no punches when she told member states that the UN remains hamstrung by the fact that it remains undemocratic and anachronistic. “We remain gravely concerned that 74 years after the founding of the UN, key decisions on peace and security are de-facto the domain of only five countries.

“Twenty years of discussions on reform of the Security Council have yielded no movement towards a more representative and inclusive Security Council. We call for Africa to obtain at least two permanent seats, as well as five non-permanent seats,” she said.

Political Bureau