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AMBASSADOR COOVADIA Honourable Mr Vice Prime Minister Moshe Ya’alon Your Excellencies Distinguished Guests I would like to take this opportunity to welcome you all to this auspicious occasion and I would like to extend a special welcome to Vice Prime Minister Moshe Ya’alon, the official representative of the State of Israel. Once again, I would like to convey through you, on behalf of our President and the people of South Africa, congratulations on the State of Israel’s Independence Day which was celebrated last week Thursday. May I also take this opportunity to extend our sincere condolences to Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu on the passing away of his father at the age of 102. My colleagues and I are especially pleased to see our beautiful enterprising compatriots joining us today who are currently based at the Bahai Center. Thank you for your presence. A welcome note also to those compatriots visiting Tel Aviv and Israel. On Friday, 27 April 2012 South Africans commemorated 18 years of freedom and democracy. During the celebrations around the country, the events of that memorable day were remembered when the world witnessed the birth of a free, just, non-racial, non-sexist, democratic, united and prosperous South Africa for ALL her citizens, climaxing in the inauguration of President Nelson Mandela as the country’s first democratic President. This year marks the 22nd anniversary of the release of this great world leader who changed the face of South Africa. Who can forget President Mandela’s words during his inaugural message, with the world as an audience and witness, when he declared: Quote Never, never and never again shall it be that this beautiful land will again experience the oppression of one by another and suffer the indignity of being the skunk of the world. Unquote Today we honour the heroes and heroines who have lost their lives fighting for democracy in South Africa and the world and a better life for all. We salute you! This year’s theme for the Freedom Day celebrations is “Working Together to Build Unity and Prosperity for All.” It should be said from the onset that it would not be possible to achieve a unified nation and to change the lives of the ordinary citizens for the better without a strong and democratic foundation. Mr Vice Prime Minister, Ladies and Gentlemen, 1
The fiber of South Africa as a nation is cemented in the Bill of Rights as enshrined in our Constitution recognised by the international community as the most liberal. The walls of the South African democratic society (with this foundation and cornerstone as its pillars) provides for the protection of human rights for all its citizens regardless of “race, colour, sex, language, religion, political opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.” Yes, South Africa is an active member of an orchestra forming part of the African and World philharmonic orchestras by playing the melody of the promotion of peace, security, stability, human rights and the transformation of the world’s multilateral architecture, whether politically and/or economically. Ladies and Gentlemen, When we consider international relations, the following are noteworthy: Of Africa’s population of 1 billion people, SADC constitutes a population of 277 million people and of this South Africa constitutes a population of 50 million people. What a big family we belong to and potentially, what an economic force to be reckoned with! As President Zuma recently stated, “Africa is a continent of hope and opportunity – a continent emerging to be the next major global growth pole.” And as our Minister has said “Ours is essentially a quest for a better South Africa, and a better and safer Africa and world.” We are conscious that Africa and South Africa are witnessing a global rush for their resources which have changed trade patterns on the continent and the emerging economic ties like China, Russia, India, Brazil, South Korea are becoming major economic players. SADC-EAC-COMESA is an example of a tripartite formation. A classic building block for the unity and integration of our continent: An aspect of the roadmap for the functioning of the African free trade area by 2017. Last year we mentioned the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs); 2015 is the deadline for its attainment. If Africa wants to avoid failure in meeting the target, more needs to be done individually and collectively. South Africa is proud to fly, together with our brothers and sisters from Togo, the African Union flag by representing Africa as non-permanent members of the United Nations Security Council during the 2012 calendar year. I wish to reiterate South Africa’s commitment, highlighted by my Minister earlier this year on South Africa’s position as a non-permanent member of the UNSC: Quote We believe that current global events have not only tested the effectiveness and credibility of the UN Security Council on its role of maintenance of international peace and security, they have also highlighted the urgent need for the reform of this organ and the entire UN in accordance with the current geo-political realities. Unquote 2
As President of the United Nations Security Council in January 2012, South Africa focused on the strengthening of the relationship between the UN Security Council and the African Union in the maintenance of international peace and security. The rest of our tenure at the UNSC will be to promote the African Agenda and peace and security not only on the continent but also in the rest of the world. Mr Vice Prime Minister, Ladies and Gentlemen, South Africa is also placing much emphasis on the development of the agenda of the South as both a member of India, Brazil, and South Africa (IBSA) and as of early this year, also of BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), a significant block of emerging economies, whose combined economies is workth US$ 13 trillion. Two months ago in India during the 4th BRICS Summit, it was decided, inter alia, to establish a BRICS Development Bank to assist the members with infrastructure development. It is expected to be established in 2013 when South Africa hosts the 5th BRICS Summit. As have been observed, the culture of human rights and the respect for dignity of the human spirit have become the characteristics of South Africa and we, as a Nation, have been following with keen interest developments in the Middle East region which is on the global peace and security agenda, at the centre of which, is the Israel/Palestine conflict. We wish to reiterate our assurances to both parties - Israel and the Palestinian governing bodies – that the South African Government supports a two-State solution with Israel and Palestine existing side-by-side in peace within internationally recognised borders (based on the June 4, 1967 borders) with East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine. My Minister like others has expressed her concern that “the patience exercised by the people of Palestine is wearing out and there is mounting fear that hope will soon be replaced with hardened attitudes”. South Africa has offered, on several occasions its readiness to share its experiences in, inter alia, conflict resolution etc., just as we are engaging with Tunisia, Egypt and Libya our experience in transitional justice and constitution making, among others. Unlike many other countries, South Africa does not delink its political policies from policies pertaining to, amongst others, aspects such as trade, culture, etc. Political interaction between South Africa and Israel this past year witnessed a courtesy call by South African Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Mr Marius Fransman on Israel’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Danny Ayalon. Minister Livnat, Israel’s Minister of Sport and Culture during a private visit to South Africa earlier this year, also met with Mr Paul Mashatile, South African Minister of Arts and Culture. The South Africa/Israel and Israel/South Africa Chambers of Commerce are much at the forefront in promoting trade between the two countries. Total imports of products from South Africa last year was $103 million and exports to South Africa totaled $ 434 million. 3
Mention should also be made of the fact that many companies such as Investec are as of late engaged in looking at possible joint investment opportunities, especially within the energy sector. I will fail in my duties as Ambassador if I also don’t mention the constant and ever important interaction between the South African and Israeli diamond industries. Looking at National policies – an aspect This year’s celebratory theme will reinforce my Government’s 18 year drive to continue in earnest, delivery of basic services to all South Africans, including the most marginalized. Such action will ensure backlogs are addressed and basic services are improved. Of significance unlike many other countries, South Africa has as its objective a developmental and not a welfare state. Examples of phenomenal progress in the following areas since 1994 to 2011 are access to running water, sanitation, electricity, home finance etc. Subsidised housing since 1994 resulted in the delivery of 3 million houses. South Africa has been benchmarked against world’s best in providing free houses to poor citizens. In addition, human settlement development has been made possible by the Government continuing to release state land. In addition, state social grants are made available to 15 million people and now all under 18 years will qualify. Despite these successes, much more work needs to be done in order to create a better life for all in South Africa. In order to achieve the overall objective namely to work together to build unity and prosperity for all, the President has called on all South Africans to “Play his/her part” in contributing towards the development of a functioning developmental state and to ensure job creation”. Ladies and Gentlemen, Against the backdrop of global economic crisis, the Government jointly with business, labour and communities has established a three year job initiative. This is outside of the framework of the New Growth Path which objective is to create 5 million jobs in 10 years in the following areas: Infrastructure development, Agriculture, Mining and Beneficiation, Manufacturing, Green Economy, Tourism, etc. Let me begin to conclude by saying, it is not possible to work together to build unity and prosperity for all if each and every citizen in our beautiful country do not embrace non-racialism and live up to the aspirations of the 100 years old liberation movement to have all the people of South Africa live in peace and friendship. We have shown the world during the past 18 years that it is indeed possible. Finally, since the demise of apartheid, Africa has been, and will continue to be the centre piece of South Africa’s foreign policy. We shall hold hands and continue to fly the flag of our Rainbow Nation together as a proud and committed nation! 4
Allow me to acknowledge the contribution made by my staff during the past year and especially the efforts to realise today’s unforgettable arrangements. A special word of thank you should also be extended to the management and staff of The Riverside for their professional and friendly cooperation in organising today’s event. Your assistance is much appreciated. Shalom, Ma’a Salama and enjoy the afternoon with us. I thank you.
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