Speech at The Smart Partnership Dinner at The 3rd Southern Africa International Dialogue, Victoria Falls – 1999/10/04

Victoria Falls 4 October 1999

Your Excellencies,
Distinguished participants,
Smart Partners:

“From Swakopmund to Victoria Falls”

The great difficulty we face, as we stand in front of this important meeting is to respond intelligently to the important challenge posed by this intriguing topic.

Let us begin with what all of us know to be true. Nothing is done until it is done.

We meet in Conference to answer the question – what is to be done! At the conclusion of a successful Conference we should have come to a determination as to what is to be done.

It was my sense at the conclusion of our get-together at Swakopmund that we knew what it is that we needed to do.

However, the fact that we knew what needed to be done did not mean that what we planned to do was therefore done.

Nothing is done until it is done. What we planned to do as a result of the successful interaction at Swakopmund would remain not done until it was done.

To lighten somewhat what has been a heavy day, I would like you to enjoy some poetry. Since you are all educated people, you will be familiar with the Russian and Soviet poet, Vladimir Mayakovsky. I will try and recite one his poems entitled:

CONFERENCE CRAZY

Scare night’s transformed into dawn,
With the same daily sight I’m beset:
Folks go forth to their offices-
Each to his own…

Rarely passing the establishment porter,
they’re piled with papers like snow;
Selecting some fifty- The most important!- To conference
People go

You peep in:
‘Couldn’t so-and-so see me, eh?
I’ve been coming here
God knows how long…’
‘Comrade Ivan Vanich’s gone off to confer on a merger of Theo and Gukan!’
The umptleth staircase. You’re done for, you think Yet again:
‘You’re to come in an hour.’ Damnation!
‘They’re in conference the purchase of a bottle of ink for the district co-operative association.’
In an hour
Neither secretary Nor Clerk!
Great hell!
All under 22
Blonde or dark
At a conference of the YCL

Again, perspiring, already towards dusk To the top of the seven-storey building I come.
‘Has van Vanich arrived? I ask
‘No – in session at the a-b-c-d-e-f-com.’
Enraged,
Like an avalanche in full might,
I tear in, widly cursing Gosh!
Only halves of people in sight!
‘Where are they’
I holler,
‘the halves that are missing?
Murder!
Manslaughter!
I rush about roaring,
Horrendous, the picture’s driving me nuts
Then I hear the secretary’s calmest voice: ‘Sorry,
They’re attending two conferences at once
At ten sessions daily
We have to appear,
So willy-nilly
In half we tear– Down to the waist
We’re here,
And the rest of us –
There.’
The shock brings insomnia
Yawning and yearning
I meet the dawn with a dream of bliss:
Oh, for just one more decisive conference, Concerning
The abolition of all conferences!

The first Conference we should abolish is this one. Never again should we have this Conference, especially as it imposes an obligation on heads of state to be rapporteurs!

I can see Mihaela Smith as the poet said —

“enraged, like an avalanche in full might…”

I fear thee, ancient facilitator. I fear they wrathful hand!

To make amends, let me make another suggestion and part ways with my ally, Vladimir Mayakovsky.

Having abolished this Conference, let us reinstitute it as a different Conference.

At the next session, Omar and Mihaela should report on what we decided should be done at this successful interaction at Victoria Falls – indeed so successful that many of us have not yet responded to the very correct invitation of President Mugabe to visit one of the great wonders of the world, Mosi oa Tunya or Victoria Falls.

With them have so reported, the rest of us should then all be called to account as to what we did to carry out the things that we all agreed should be done, understanding that none of them will have been done until they had been done.

The first among the political leaders to report would be ourselves, given that we were the last in our region to be exposed to the excellent idea of smart partnerships.

We could then take everybody else in alphabetical order, to avoid any accusation either of favouritism or a negative view against one country or another.

Next, we should then get reports from the business people, to be followed by the trade unions and finally the media.

The question that all of us should answer as smart partners is – since Victoria Falls, what have we done actually to implement the decisions we took to realise the perspective of smart partnership?

Clearly, the great advantage of this would be that it would spur to action those, like me, who are great talkers and poor doers.

It would also help us to learn from what other people have done, which we might not have done in our own country.

It would also helps us not to repeat mistakes that might have been made elsewhere.

It would help us to measure the progress that we are making, among other things to help those who are falling behind to catch up with the rest.

One of the serious challenges all of us face, certainly as goverments, is the question of capacity.

As we run ever faster to catch up with a world that, in some respects, is changing at breakneck speed, while battling to solve deeply entrenched problems in our countries, so does it become ever more necessary to consider time as a factor of production to which we must attach a material value.

Perhaps to declare war on the misuse of this resource, we could count the time spent on planning as a cost and the time spent doing what we had decided to do as a benefit.

Thus, if nothing is done to implement what we decided to do, we would increase the cost of the time we spent planning at Conference.

Nothing is done until it is done.

I make bold to suggest that nothing will be done until we do what has to be done – namely to ensure that we implement we reach.

The last point we would like to make is that the more we report to one another about what we are actually doing, the greater the transparency among ourselves about our practical activity, the more we will defeat rumour and prejudice and false knowledge, which, in many instances, create barriers of mistrust among ourselves.

The greater will be the urge among us in fact to act as partners, in a smart way.

Thus shall the Nicodemus’s among us be born again as the doers of the smart thing to do, to be true partners in building the better world of which the millions of our people dream – hopefully not suffocating under the frustration at the Conference Craze, against which Vladimir Mayakovsky sang with such passion.

Thank you

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