Africa has what is quite possibly the most controversial history of all the continents. This controversy stems from the murk, which at some point or the other, has befallen upon every corner of the continent. Africa’s history is filled with stories of racial oppression and segregation, which in the long run, has delayed Africa’s growth and subsequently been a major cause of delaying Africa in adopting new and innovative developments adopted elsewhere throughout the world.
Notwithstanding the above, Africa’s resilience has ensured that Africa and its people overcome the oppression experienced as a result of many years of colonization and in turn has turned it around to the point where Africa is in a position to realise its renaissance. Though in order to trigger an African Renaissance, we should remain cognisant of Africa’s history and simultaneously Africa’s vision for the future. This awareness will be the fuel that drives the technological, scientific and cultural milestones envisioned by the African Renaissance.
South Africa, following the emancipation of the majority of its citizens in the 1990s and its first democratic election in 1994, has become the poster child for pioneering the African Renaissance. Since then, South Africa has made various ground-breaking developments and achievements as a country following the downfall of the brutal apartheid system. This includes successfully hosting and ultimately winning the 1996 Rugby World Cup, establishing an operational democratic state, drafting and enforcing one of the most progressive sovereign documents in the world, in the form of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa. In later years, successfully hosting the 2010 FIFA World Cup, winning the 2007 and 2019 Rugby World Cups, and implementing the world’s biggest ARV programme to fight HIV/AIDS.
Nonetheless the leaps and bounds taken by South Africa, the country’s successes remain overshadowed by the country’s glaring inequality caused by decades of oppression and slow reforms post-apartheid. These challenges, while plaguing South Africa, are not exclusive to the country, nor are they exclusive to Africa. Challenges of inequality are exhibited in all five continents with countries such as the United States of America, Brazil, Turkey and China all battling inequality.
While the challenge of inequality is not unique to South Africa, South Africa’s response to the growing needs of its indigent citizens, serves as a testament to the impressive governance exhibited by South Africa, despite its inequality it has remained a democratically governable state without having the military serve as the governing body in the country. As a direct consequence of this South Africa has experienced a resounding period of peacefulness which has had a positive impact on the ultimate growth of the country. While South Africa is a young democracy it continues to nurture its youth to take the baton from the stalwarts who established the democratic state and continue to defend the Constitution for purposes of human rights.
Former President Thabo Mbeki, in his speech aptly titled “The African Renaissance, South Africa and the World” which he delivered at the United Nations University on 9 April 1998, highlighted that the multi-party system approach adopted by the South African government served the very relevant purpose of ensuring that the country has a stable system of governance intended to serve the genuine needs of the people. The multi-party system has thus given a very practical application to the heralded notion of “the people shall govern”. Additionally, the government of South Africa has placed human rights as paramount to the country’s objectives and gone as far as enacting a Bill of Rights in the Country’s sovereign document.
In light of the process of the African Renaissance which South Africa is poised to undergo, South Africans must, as a nation ensure that the notion of democracy is entrenched so deeply within the fabric of South African society, that no South African would dare question the legitimacy of another’s rights. South Africans are therefore tasked with developing a culture that promotes inclusivity and the principles of non-sexism and non-racism. The promotion of these principles will effectively lead to the emancipation of the previously disadvantaged; and often still disadvantaged masses of the South African populous.
The rich history of South Africa includes various landmark dates that served to revolutionise South Africa. The 21st of March 1960, is one such a landmark date, which saw the black and disadvantaged communities of Sharpeville and Langa townships, as well as fellow compatriots throughout the country protest against the unjust pass laws of the time. The protests quickly became violent leading to 69 of the protestors being shot and killed by apartheid police in Sharpeville alone. This historic event was thereafter known as the Sharpeville Massacre. The Sharpeville Massacre has since become a symbol of the apartheid government's disregard for human rights.
As a result of the traumatic incidents which occurred on that fateful day, the democratically elected South African government declared the 21st of March Human Rights Day to commemorate and honour the brave South Africans who fought for the rights enjoyed by all South Africans today. Human Rights Day, as well as the Bill of Rights, are some of the measures put in place to ensure South Africa never witnesses a repeat of the Sharpeville Massacre.
Despite its history, South Africa has transformed into a country which symbolises equal human rights through the late president Nelson Mandela’s vision of a rainbow nation. This vision saw both the former oppressor and the former oppressed, put their arms down and amicably pursue a peaceful future for the country. This monumental resolution was globally commended as various other African countries which, similarly to South Africa, had been liberated from colonialism had not been able to take the path that South Africa took.
In 2002 the AU (African Union) was launched by the late former Libyan Leader, Colonel Muammar al-Gaddafi, the birth of which saw South Africa take the lead under the guidance of former president Thabo Mbeki. The main objective of the AU was for a unified Africa, which would be achieved through collaboration, global competitiveness and the consideration of human rights. The AU, therefore, has the potential to serve as the reliable body to give effect to the African Renaissance. Whilst poverty, youth unemployment, and a high disease rate continue to burden Africa, the collaborative effort envisioned by the AU may see Africa overcoming these challenges.
While it is the intention of Africa to overcome the aforementioned challenges, it has globally become synonymous with, Africa has the daunting mission of defining for itself what overcoming these challenges entails. To this effect Africa must, while not forgetting its history, determine its own future, which must be independent from that of its colonizers. South Africa has already begun this mission through the establishment of the Thabo Mbeki Presidential Library. The Thabo Mbeki Presidential Library was established to preserve the official and private papers of political leaders throughout the African continent. This serves as a direct response to the anomaly of institutions outside of Africa claiming to retain the ownership and control of documents of African leaders.
As a symbol that the rest of the African continent realises the importance of ownership of Africa’s history by Africa, the Thabo Mbeki Presidential Library was gifted with the archives of the late Dr Kwame Nkrumah. The gift was announced by former President Thabo Mbeki himself at a benefit concert held for the Thabo Mbeki Presidential Library at the Lyric Theatre on 27 November 2019. Dr Nkrumah has been credited for leading Ghana to its independence from British rule, amongst other great feats. This gift to the Thabo Mbeki Presidential Library will only serve to strengthen the idea of Africa standing tall on its own and independent from its colonizers.
As Africans, we find ourselves in a position where we have not been able to determine our own purpose, however our resilience and ingenuity have allowed us to change our destiny. In addition, we have become fortunate to live in a digital age where information is more accessible than it has ever been in human history. Our youth is beginning to challenge societal norms because they recognise themselves as global citizens, and as such they are deserving of equal treatment and of being afforded human rights that were fought for by our forefathers. Therefore, South Africa and its fellow African countries are still learning how best to enforce democracy in addition to demonstrating acts of social justice. Africa is paving its own path to the elevation and defence of all human rights as per the constitutions of various countries in Africa as well as the objectives of the AU. This shall be the flag which Africa shall use to realise the African renaissance.
Image: African Renaissance Monument, in Dakar,Senegal.
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