International Relations and Cooperation Minister Lindiwe Sisulu delivered the fifth Dr Phyllis Naidoo Memorial Lecture in the Senate Chamber on UKZN’s Westville campus.
Welcoming Sisulu and guests, Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Research, Professor Deresh Ramjugernath, referred to the enormous value the University placed on the Phyllis Naidoo papers that form part of the Special Collections housed on the Westville campus.
Sisulu’s address highlighted key international relations issues facing South Africa. Referring to the Freedom Charter and the foreign policy framework developed by President Nelson Mandela, she said human rights were a cornerstone of the country’s international relations, while advancing the rights of women in Africa and around the world was another priority.
On the topical issues of the Western Sahara and Palestine, Sisulu said: ‘For as long as the people of the Western Sahara and Palestine are not free, none of us are free.’
Bucking the Trump administration’s support for Israel moving its capital to Jerusalem, South Africa withdrew its ambassador from Israel altogether, a move which must rank as the government’s most robust foreign policy posture since liberation in 1994.
The Minister pointed out that South Africa currently occupied a rotational seat on the United Nations Security Council and wanted to make that tenure meaningful. Building peace in Africa was a key concern: ‘The silencing of the guns will be a priority. Without peace, there cannot be democracy, there cannot be development,’ she said.
A series of thoughtful questions from the floor ranging from the government’s position on Lesotho, Venezuela, the Rohingya crisis and the unfolding events in Sudan and Libya were ably fielded by the minister and her team which included Deputy Minister Luwellyn Landers and deputy directors – general.
The venue was packed with diplomats from around the world, students, staff and invited guests. The delegation remained for some time afterwards to engage informally with guests at the cocktail party in the Senate foyer.
Chairperson of the Advisory Board of the Gandhi-Luthuli Documentation Centre, Advocate Zandile Qono-Reddy directed the event and laid out its context.
The annual lecture has traditionally attracted high profile speakers and participants, setting the bar fairly high for the next one.
*Anti-apartheid stalwart, lawyer and author, the late Dr Phyllis Naidoo was conferred one of the country’s highest honours, the Order of Luthuli by President Thabo Mbeki for her contributions to the struggle for democracy. An alumnus of the University of Natal, she received honorary doctorates from the University of Durban-Westville and the Durban University of Technology. Known for her indomitable spirit and commitment to the struggle, Naidoo passed away on 13 February 2013.
Words: Raylene Captain-Hasthibeer
Photograph: Albert Hirasen