• Honorable Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Nkoane-Mashabane,
• UNISA Vice Principal Phakeng,
• IEC Chairperson Moepya,
• Professor Gutto and Professor Teffo,
• Distinguished members of the diplomatic corps,
• Representatives of the IEC and UNISA,
• Participating election management officials from across Africa,
• Other distinguished guests. All protocol observed.
Good evening and thank you for the opportunity to inaugurate the second intake of students in this third year of UNISA’s landmark “Managing Democratic Elections in Africa” training course.
I would like to welcome the participants to this training and thank you for your willingness and desire to participate in this course. This is an unmatched opportunity for active learning and professional networking across borders in your line of work. The coming weeks that you spend here are the important first step of this experience. Your work must continue in this program—bear in mind—to when you return to your countries. We want all of you to be certificate graduates of this training course and that means you have to do your homework and turn it in to your professors on time!
I must commend all the representative Ambassadors and members of the diplomatic corps and your governments for support to these students. A special thanks to those of you who will open up your homes to your compatriots during these weeks they are here. We have seen special friendships start through this training.
I recognize the leadership of the Independent Electoral Commission and UNISA for your program vision, based on IEC’s solidarity with African elections commissions, grounded in the academic rigor for which UNISA is known, and guided by a willingness to contribute to democracy in Africa. Through your relationships and successes this program has grown to what it is today.
Honorable Minister, thank you for your support and South Africa’s role as a democratic leader in Africa. South Africa’s support to this program is an inspiring example. As President Obama said in his very recent speech in South Africa: “Africa is rising,” and this program is an outstanding example of an African solution to an African challenge.
USAID is proud to have supported this program since its infancy. We are proud to partner with the participating countries, UNISA, the IEC and the South African government to support the spread of home grown best practices in Africa.
This program is a very good investment for us. It has a proven ability to create a growing, independent, African network of practice and excellence in a critical democratic activity. Your technical foundations are outstanding and your record of credibility is impeccable. Your instinct for opportunities to grow is excellent. As it evolves, this program will impact the way elections are managed, observed and recognized throughout the continent.
Free and fair elections have stabilized countries that once knew violence; have enabled economic growth; and improved the lives of millions of people. Free and fair elections enable citizens to hold their governments accountable. Your work sits at the foundation of democracy. It must be taken seriously by all of us.
Moving forward, I ask that the students therefore take this training seriously and with a critical view to how you will use it at home. Build relationships that you will have throughout your careers. Remember that you will be alumni of this great institution, unique in your home countries and in Africa as leaders who have had the ‘UNISA experience’.
UNISA and the IEC must capture the experiences of all here. Take advantage of their presence to grow your work. Create something with these students greater than the just the sum of their prior experiences.
I also invite members of the diplomatic community to consider how, like Botswana, your countries can build on the foundation that has been built through this program. An investment in this program is a very wise one.
Thank you, again, and good luck over the next four weeks.
Last updated: May 14, 2015