Conflict not natural human state – Ramaphosa

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JOHANNESBURG, October 8 – Conflict is not a natural human state and in order to advance peace, people need to appreciate that people have not engaged in conflict without cause, President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Monday.

“It [conflict] is the product of a set of social, political, cultural and at times religious circumstances that pits brother against brother, and –admittedly to a lesser extent — sister against sister,” Ramaphosa said in a speech prepared for delivery.

“If we can address those circumstances that cause war, we reduce the potential for discord and ultimately, create conditions for the end of conflict.”

Ramaphosa was delivering the 8th Annual Desmond Tutu International Peace Lecture at the Artscape Theatre in Cape Town.

He thanked Tutu for a lifetime spent in the service of peace, understanding and social justice saying on his 87th birthday on Sunday, South Africans marvelled at the generosity of spirit, the strength of character and the love of humanity that he has exuded.

Ramaphosa said it was a great honour and great privilege to deliver the lecture, which has served as a platform for “robust engagement on the struggle we must all wage to establish a more humane and kind world”.

The lecture took place two weeks after the United Nations held a Nelson Mandela Peace Summit at its annual General Assembly in honour of late former president Nelson Mandela.

“This is an honour not only for Nelson Mandela but also for the work that two Nobel laureates Nelson Mandela and Emeritus Archbishop Desmond Tutu born of our great and beautiful country have done for the cause of peace. This is something that should fill us with enormous pride not arrogance; great humility and not pompousness as a nation,” Ramaphosa said in a speech prepared for delivery.

“As South Africans, we are privileged to be associated with these two global icons, whose extraordinary struggles earned them international recognition as torchbearers along humanity’s arduous journey towards lasting peace and stability.

“Former President Nelson Mandela and Emeritus Archbishop Desmond Tutu have been beacons of hope, not only to South Africans struggling under the yoke of racial oppression, but also to the billions of people across the world who yearn for a future that is peaceful and stable.”

Ramaphosa said that the leaders at the UN Nelson Mandela Peace Summit argued that conflict and hostility mainly had their roots in poverty, exclusion and marginalisation.

He said the summit said that peace was not possible in an unequal world.

“And no society can be at peace unless all its people have equal rights, equal opportunities and an equal quality of life. As South Africans, we know that peace is not merely the absence of war, but also the absence of injustice. There are still millions in our society who live in poverty, who are socially excluded and economically marginalised,” he said.

“We will not be able to say we have achieved freedom for all our people until we have corrected the historical injustice of accumulation by a minority on the basis of dispossession of the majority. Until we do that — until we build a South Africa in which the wealth is shared among the people and the land is shared among all who work it — we will not realise lasting peace.”

Ramaphosa said that nearly 25 years since South Africa embarked upon a long journey to peace and freedom after having brought an end to apartheid.

He said the process of truth and reconciliation will not be complete until we have acknowledged the economic and social injustices of the past, and corrected them.

“This is a responsibility that falls both to those who have been the beneficiaries of racial privilege and to those who have suffered its debilitating effects. It is a task that we need to take on together because, however divergent our respective pasts, we have a shared interest in the achievement of a just future,” Ramaphosa said.

“We have a shared interest in the fundamental transformation of our economy and our society. We have a shared interest in significantly and urgently reducing inequality and discrimination in all forms and manifestations.

“We need to reduce the massive disparity in income and opportunity in South Africa, particularly between black and white, but also between women and men.This requires nothing short of a skills revolution in which inclusive, accessible and relevant education produces quality outcomes.”

Ramaphosa said that in order to restore the dignity of South Africans and break the cycle of poverty the question of land should be addressed to ensure peace and prosperity among South Africans.

Speaking on land expropriation, he said that it would give the country a chance to heal the wounds of the past.

“It is in this context that we must understand the drive to accelerate land reform through redistribution, restitution and tenure security. It is in the interests of both social justice and economic development that we ensure that the land is shared among all those who work it and all those who need it,” he said.

Effective land reform, where emerging farmers are provided with adequate support and poor households receive well-located land for housing in urban centres, is both a moral and economic imperative. It unleashes great economic potential, not only of the land, but also of the people who work on it and live on it.” (ANA)