The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) joins millions of Africans on the continent, and in the diaspora, as we celebrate the 58th Africa Day, which is our common heritage and space for reflection on the present and future of our beloved continent. The celebration of Africa Month and Africa Day provides an opportunity to promote African unity, deeper regional integration and recommit ourselves to a common destiny. This year, we again commemorate Africa Day at a rather difficult time when all the world’s attention is focused on fighting against the COVID-19, and also on securing equitable access to safe and effectivevaccines.
African economies have been severely damaged and growth prospects are greatly diminished. Many of the continent’s developmental gains may be reversed as the fight against the pandemic takes precedence over other national priorities like poverty eradication. Although low-income countries are especially vulnerable, middle income countries like our own have also been severely hit.
During this unusual period however, we have seen how the unification of the African continent, has remained crucial to achieving sustainable development and the overarching objectives of Agenda 63. Once Africa unites, the rest of the world will have to sit up and take notice.
One of the best ways to integrate Africa’s economy, enhance inter-African trade, and gain control in setting the prices of African exports is through the use of a common currency. In the beginning of this year, the AU was finally able to launch the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCTFA), the largest free trade area in the world connecting 1.3 billion people, and if implemented successfully, has the potential to lift millions of African people out of extreme poverty. We remain hopeful that the AfCFTA will primarily benefit the African people, and in particular the youth – which constitutes sixty percent of the continental population. It is also important for us as a working class movement, to analyse what the continental trade agreement means for us as workers.
As launched by former AU Chair H.E Cyril Ramaphosa, we also welcome the 10-year continental declaration aimed at gender equality and women’s empowerment that was introduced in February 2020. This declaration, called the Decade of Women’s Financial and Economic Inclusion, sees African leaders commit to taking action for gender inclusion towards sustainable development at national, regional, and continental levels.
We are very much encouraged by the progress on gender parity, equality and empowerment by the member states, which demonstrates great commitment to the policies and frameworks they have adopted at the continental level. In fact, to see our African states among the top ten globally on matters of gender equality and empowerment shows that the efforts by our women and girls over the years have borne fruit. Having said that however, there is need to scale up actions towards the universal ratification of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa popularly known as Maputo protocol, and beyond that we are saying we need to see more action in the full implementation of the commitments we have made to advance the welfare of women and girls on the continent. As of March 2020, forty-two (42) out of fifty-five (55) Member States having ratified the Maputo Protocol on Women’s Rights, and our call to the remaining thirteen (13) Member States, is to ratify the Maputo Protocol as 2020 is the year all member states agreed to have universal ratification of the protocol.
COSATU will continue advocating and calling for immediate peace in some African countries, where war and violence continue, exacerbating the strain already placed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Taking forward a core objective of the African Union (AU), on the promotion of peace, security and stability on the continent, we urge the continental body to intervene and act decisively on the insurgent attacks and counterattacks in Cabo Delgado (Mozambique), the ongoing civil conflict in Cameroon, the turmoil in the East of the Democratic Republic of Congo; and the instability in Nigeria.
Article 4(h) of the Constitutive Act of the AU establishes the right of the Union to intervene in a member state to prevent grave violations of human rights. On this backdrop, we once again call on the AU to take a firm stance and end the silence on the human rights violations, and deteriorating political and economic situation in Zimbabwe. COSATU also continues to urge the continental body to rescind the decision to readmit Morocco into the Union. With continued systematic human rights abuses, police brutality, violations of international law and fundamental rights, the Sahrawi people of Africa’s last colony, Western Sahara, continue to endure repression at the hands of Moroccan occupying forces.
African countries should put maximum effort towards the liberation of the Western Sahara, the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic to realise the goals and the aspirants of the founding fathers of the Organisation of African Union. As we celebrate Africa Day, we celebrate the liberation of the continent and the commitment was that Africa’s independence would not be complete, unless and until all the African countries were free from colonial rule. This objective is almost achieved but has not been fully achieved because we still have Western Sahara, the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic which is still under colonial occupation. The irony of the colonial occupation, is that the occupying power is another African country, Morocco, something which was never imagined in the heyday of the African liberation struggle.
As a continent, many are the challenges that we face as a people. However, history has shown that we emerge victorious when we come together to resolve our differences and work for the benefit of all our citizens. Solidarity for regional integration is the key.
As COSATU, we take cognisance of the need to continue to push for increased regional integration, through which the challenges that we face on the continent can be best tackled. We recognise that the ideals and aspirations for ‘The Africa We Want’ will only be realised if we strongly believe that Africa is capable of achieving the vision of an integrated, prosperous and peaceful continent, driven by its own citizens. We therefore call on each and every African to play their part in shaping our continent for the better.
As we reflect on our long and hard felt journey to freedom, we also call upon the African Union to not only foster collaboration in tackling COVID-19, but to chart a development path in which accountability, transparency and inclusive governance are the norm post-COVID.
“The total liberation and unification of Africa under an All-African Socialist Government must be the primary objective of all Black revolutionaries throughout the world. It is an objective which, when achieved, will bring about the fulfillment of the aspirations of Africans and people of African descent everywhere. It will at the same time advance the triumph of the international socialist revolution, and the onward progress towards world communism, under which, every society is ordered on the principle of –from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.” — Osagyefo Kwame Nkrumah
Sonia Mabunda-Kaziboni (Cde)
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