South African President Jacob Zuma’s call for the transformation the United Nations Security Council (UNSC)and for Africa to have permanent seats in the council, is gaining momentum, government communications reported.
In a speech delivered at the UN General Assembly on Wednesday last week, Zuma committed himself to rally the world behind South Africa’s campaign to transform the UNSC and for Africa to have permanent seats in the council.
The UNSC comprises 15 members, five of them – Britain, France, China, the United States and Russia – are permanent, while 10 are non-permanent members that serve for two years on a rotational basis without veto power. South Africa has been calling for this to change.
“Let me reiterate that the 70th anniversary of the UN next year provides an opportunity for us to seriously reflect on the need to reform this august body, moving beyond words to action, Zuma declared.
“Ten years ago, world leaders celebrating the 60th anniversary of the UN agreed on the need for reform of the United Nations Security Council in particular,” President Zuma said to rumbling applause.
In a loud and clear message to the more than 120 leaders, who converged at the UN Headquarters for the UNGA General Debate, President Zuma said the UN can no longer afford to have Africa out of the UNSC on a permanent basis.
“When we converge here next year, on the 70th year of the UN, we should be able to adopt a concrete programme that will guide us towards a strengthened UN and a reformed Security Council.”
President Zuma also noted that some “contentious aspects” of the UN system, such as the veto powers and the exclusion of regions such as Africa in the Security Council, were some of the critical matters that cannot be ignored in the quest for transformation.
The UNSC is the UN’s most powerful body. It helps to shape international law and is the first to respond to crises. This places Africa in a precarious position, considering that most issues the council has to deal with emanate from the continent.
Apart from the call to reform the UN, President Zuma’s remarks, as anticipated, focused on the progress South Africa has made in attaining its Millennium Development Goals (MGDs), whose deadline of September next year looms larger.
President Zuma continued, “South Africa has recorded impressive progress through the expansion of health infrastructure and improved access to health services for all South Africans.”
“On the reduction of child mortality, MDG 4, and the improvement of maternal health, MDG 5, significant progress has been recorded, but more work remains. In fact, more work remains worldwide to fully achieve these goals, especially in the developing world,” he said.
He said Africa had to confront those underlying root causes that continued to make it impossible for its people to have a better life.
Despite the progress that the continent has made, reports continued to show that Africa is lagging behind in terms of the attainment of some of the MDGs.
“It is for this reason that we appreciate the crafting of a post-2015 Global Development Agenda that will carry forward the unfinished business of the MDGs. The eight MDGs were adopted by the UN in 2000 and set clear targets in improving conditions in a wide range of areas, including halving extreme poverty rates to halting the spread of HIV/AIDS.
“The General Assembly has proposals to replace the MDGs with what is being referred to as the new Sustainable Development Goals, which outline 17 goals and 169 targets. This is part of the UN’s post-2015 development agenda, which aims to carry forward the work of the MDGs that have just eight goals and 21 targets.”
President Zuma said the post-2015 Global Development Agenda “will provide a frame of reference for our collective agreement on what has to be done”.
“We reiterate that developed countries should be reliable partners and meet their commitment to development goals, such as contributing 0.7% of their gross national income towards Official Development Assistance,” he asserted.
President Zuma further said the recent outbreak of Ebola, which has claimed more than 2 000 lives in some West African countries, was one example of the challenges that developing countries continue to contend with.
“We believe that Ebola would have been contained within a few days had it been an outbreak in the developed world. But it has become a pandemic that threatens the economies of affected African States.”
The outbreak had exposed the challenges of capacity, lack of infrastructure and other limited resources in Africa, he said.
South Africa would continue to provide resources to assist the people and governments of Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone to contain the virus.
Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Mhlanganyelwa Zuma was re-elected president of South Africa in 2014.
In 2007, he had won the presidency of the African National Congress, South Africa’s National Liberation Movement, which was established in 1912.
President Zuma was born in Nkandla (Natal Province), South Africa, on April 12, 1942. He had served as deputy president of South Africa from 1999 to 2005.
He was born in a part of South Africa now known as KwaZulu-Natal (once Zululand) and became politically active at a young age.
Influenced by a trade unionist family member, Zuma joined the ANC, a Liberation Movement that stood against the country’s practice of Apartheid—or racial segregation—and other discriminatory policies of the colonial era.
Forced to go underground after the 1960 bannings, the ANC, which had long been a nonviolent group, developed a militant wing in the early 1960s. Known as Umkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation), the new militant group undertook acts of sabotage against the government.
Zuma joined the group in 1962 and was arrested the next year with 45 other members and soon was convicted of conspiracy.
Zuma also joined the South African Communist Party (SACP) in 1963.
Sentenced to 10 years in prison, he served his time in the infamous Robben Island prison where Nelson Mandela, the country’s future president, was also imprisoned for many years.
Whilst imprisoned, Zuma served as a refree for prisoners’ association football games, organised by the prisoners’ own governing body, Makana Football Association.
After his release in 1973, Zuma continued working for the ANC and played an essential role in building the underground organization’s infrastructure in KwaZulu Natal.
Zuma first left South Africa in 1975 and landed in Swaziland, and then proceeded to Mozambique, where he dealt with the arrival of thousands of exiles in the wake of the Soweto Uprisings.
He was elected to the ANC’s National Executive Committee in 1977. Holding a number of ANC posts over the next decade, he established a reputation as loyal and hard working.
Zuma also served as Deputy Chief Representative of the ANC in Mozambique, a post he occupied until the signing of the Nkomati Accord between the Mozambican and South African governments in 1984.
After signing the Accord, Zuma was appointed as Chief Representative of the ANC.
He served on the ANC’s political and military council when it was formed in the mid-1980s, and was elected to the politburo of the SACP on April 1990.
And in January 1987, Zuma was forced to leave another country, this time by the government of Mozambique (due to security treats).
Zuma then moved to the ANC Head Office in Lusaka, Zambia, where he was appointed Head of Underground Structures and shortly thereafter Chief of the Intelligence Department of the ANC.
Following the end of the ban on the ANC in February 1990, Zuma was one of the first ANC leaders to return to South Africa to begin the process of negotiations.
In 1990, he was elected Chairperson of the ANC for the Southern Natal region, and took a leading role in fighting political violence in the region between members of the ANC and the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP). He was elected the Deputy Secretary General of the ANC the next year at the ANC December National Conference, and in January 1994, he was nominated as the ANC candidate for the Premiership of KwaZulu-Natal.
Zuma had experience in national leadership, as he started serving in the National Executive committee of the ANC in 1977 when the party was still a guerrilla movement. By the time he became its president he had served the ANC for thirty years. After the 1994 general election, with the ANC becoming a governing organisation but having lost KwaZulu-Natal province to the IFP, Zuma was appointed as Member of the Executive Committee (MEC) of Economic Affairs and Tourism for the KwaZulu-Natal provincial government, after stepping aside to allow Thabo Mbeki to run unopposed for deputy presidency of South Africa.
In December 1994, he was elected National Chairperson of the ANC and chairperson of the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal, and was re-elected to the latter position in 1996. He was elected Deputy President of the ANC at the National Conference held at Mafikeng in December 1997 and consequently appointed executive Deputy President of South Africa in June 1999.
In terms of party tradition, as the deputy president of the ANC, Zuma was already in line to succeed Thabo Mbeki, who by now was President of South Africa.
The ANC structures held their nominations conferences in October and November 2007, where Zuma appeared favourite for the post of ANC President, and, by implication, the President of South Africa in 2009.
With then-incumbent ANC- and South African President Thabo Mbeki as his opposition, Zuma was elected President of the ANC on 18 December 2007.
After the general election in 2009, Zuma became the President of South Africa.
And at the December 2012 National Conference, Zuma was re-elected as President of the ANC.
Zuma style of governing is hugely influenced by one of his mentors, Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s first democratically elected president.