Director General of RIS, Prof Sachin Chaturvedi,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am honored to be addressing this distinguished audience and wish to thank the RIS for the opportunity to address you today.
I am particularly pleased that one of the first engagements we are undertaking in our Silver Jubilee celebrating 25 years of freedom is happening here in India. As the people of South Africa sought to overthrow the shackles of oppression brought to bear upon us, India, newly independent, was one of the most principled supporters of the struggle against apartheid and racial discrimination. It was India which consistently called on the international community to act on the issue of apartheid South Africa in international fora. It is not an exaggeration to say that South Africa is today able to celebrate 25 years of freedom, in no small part, due to the efforts of countries such as India. As such it is befitting for me to share our 25 years of freedom celebrations with our friends here in India.
Our ties with India, of course, can be traced further back than India’s support for the anti-apartheid struggle. The arrival of the first Indians in South Africa (over a hundred and fifty years ago), would richly contribute to our nation’s diversity and economic development for generations. This strong historical and cultural basis has linked our countries and relations leading to the timeless and deep special relationship between our nations.
We also share our two icons, the Jewel of India, Nelson Mandela, whose centenary we celebrated last year and Mahatma Gandhi, on whom our country bestowed in 2002, the Supreme Order of the Companions of O.R. Tambo in Gold. We join the Indian people in the commemoration of the 150th anniversary of his birth. The values that he lived and espoused would continue to shape our sister countries.
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is remarkable that it was only 25 years ago that South Africa assumed its rightful place in the community of nations as a free and democratic country. The achievements of our young nation in this short space of time are admirable, in my humble opinion.
In 1994 we set ourselves the task of a building of a united, democratic, non-racial, non-sexist and prosperous society including building a better Africa, in a better world. Successive governments have made strides to ensure that we realise this vision, through initiatives and programmes aimed at addressing our socio-economic challenges. While we look back on the achievements of the last 25 years, we also know that much more needs to be done to eradicate poverty, inequality and unemployment and our country’s National Developmental Plan, which is aligned to the African Union’s Agenda 2063 and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, serves as our nation’s blueprint for our socio-economic development. These intention are duly underpinned by one of the most progressive Constitutions in the world.
As we moved to transform our society in South Africa and joined the community of states as a full and equal partner, we also took strides to normalise South Africa’s relations with our partners globally and on the African continent with a special focus on the global south. Our foreign policy, over the last 25 years, has been one that sought to ensure a just and equal world, based on a rules-based order (with human rights as its guiding principle).
In this short space of time, South Africa contributed to the efforts that led to the transformation of the Organisation of African Unity to the African Union, so that it could be better placed to face the contemporary challenges by the continent. We were part of the nations that championed the establishment of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) - our continent’s developmental agenda.
South Africa has also been active in contributing to the pursuit of peace and security on the African continent. We have been involved in conflict resolution, prevention, mediation, peacekeeping and peace-building in countries including Lesotho, the DRC, Madagascar, Burundi, South Sudan, Somalia, Central Africa Republic, Mali and Libya. Our involvement has been informed by our drive to ensure an Africa’s Renaissance for all of Africa with the goal of our continent being at peace with itself. This goal is in line with our understanding that you cannot have peace without development and development without peace.
As we worked to ensure Africa’s development, we were cognisant that the development of the global South is imperative to ensuring a truly better world. It was on former President Mandela’s vision that the Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Co-operation (now IORA), articulated during a visit by Madiba here in India, was established. We are happy to note that in recent years this organisation has been revitalised. With our partners in Brazil and India we established IBSA, a grouping of the Global South which brings together three large pluralistic, multi-cultural and multi-racial societies which seek to advance the interests of the South, including the need to reform global governance structures (in order to make them more inclusive), democratic, representative, transparent and responsive to the needs of the South.
South Africa, having made its return to the United Nations and we have committed ourselves to multilateralism, pursuing a rules-based order to addresses the international challenges of peace and security, sustainable development, human rights and international law. As a nation that takes our international obligations serious and one that seeks to contribute to the democratic management of the institutions of global governance, South Africa has twice been elected to serve in the United Nations Security Council, 2007-2008 and 2011-2012 and on first this month, we will assume our seat for a third term. In addition to numerous other UN meetings which we hosted as a country, we also held the historic 17th COP of the UN Climate Change meetings in South Africa, which set the basis for the adoption of the seminal Paris Agreement.
South Africa has also been at the forefront of calling for the reform of the global financial architecture so that it can address the challenges facing humanity. South Africa having joined the BRICS formation in 2011 has assumed the chair of the BRICS on two occasions, including last year, where President Ramaphosa hosted the 10th BRICS Summit. We were delighted to have your Prime Minister attend the Summit. The BRICS has been important, not just for the BRICS states, but as an important demonstration of our various countries’ commitment and call for the global diffusion of power. Its New Development Bank, including its African Regional Center based in Johannesburg, is an important concretisation of this.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
In this period our relations with India have grown from strength to strength, from the Red Fort Declaration which was signed in 1996, the New Delhi Declaration of 2003 and the Tshwane Declaration of 2006 all of which have shaped and developed the relationship between our two countries. These reflect the depth and breadth of our bilateral relationship which covers a wide array of areas, from political to economic, scientific and multilateral cooperation. The invitation by H.E. Prime Minister Modi to our President to be the Chief Guest at your Republic Day celebrations later this month, is a testament to our enduring friendship and commitment to this strategic partnership.
The above are just some of the achievements and contributions that our young nation has been able to achieve in the last 25 years. As we look back on these accomplishments, which we believe are admirable by any standard, we also look forward to using South Africa’s global reach to address both our foreign policy goals and domestic priorities going forward.
As with all countries, South Africa’s foreign policy is aimed at addressing our domestic priorities. While our government has made considerable gains in the last 25 years we also still face a number of domestic challenges, including poverty, unemployment and inequality. These are of course challenges faced not only by South Africa but by most developing countries.
Ushering in a new dawn, President Ramaphosa has chosen as a focal point for both our domestic and foreign policy the issue of economic revival. In addition, our implementation of our foreign policy is based on current regional and global realities.
Our government has redoubled its efforts of using economic diplomacy to assist address our domestic challenges. As you might be aware South Africa set itself the goal of attracting $100 billion in investments over the next five years. In October last year, President Ramaphosa convened the inaugural Investment Conference in Johannesburg which generated announcements of investment of R290 billion. I am pleased to say that a number of Indian business people participated in the Conference and made significant investment announcements too. This for us confirmed what we have long known; South Africa remains an attractive investment destination. We invite those Indian businesses, not already invested in South Africa, to pursue the many opportunities available in our country.
We extend our commitment and vision of the economic development of our country to the rest of the region and the African continent as well.
Much like India’s ‘Neighbourhood First” policy, our foreign policy prioritises the development of our immediate neighbours in the Southern Africa region. As members of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), we are committed to pursuing regional integration and industrialisation.
It is our belief that the development of regional value chains and industrialisation in the region will not only assist in addressing the South Africa’s own domestic socio-economic challenges but those of the region as well. Our vision is that a fully integrated and industrialised and prosperous Southern African region can attract investment in our region. In order to achieve this vision, we believe that we have a trusted and committed partner in India that is prepared to join hands with us in order to bring development and prosperity to all of our people – both here in India and in South Africa.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Beyond our immediate region, South Africa remains committed to taking the African Agenda forward, including Africa’s development and its place in world affairs. South Africa has been actively involved in the efforts to reform Africa’s premier multilateral institution, the African Union in order to ensure that it is more efficient and effective and able to meet our contemporary challenges that will arise in the future. In addition, we remain committed to attaining the goals set out in Africa’s socio-economic developmental blue print, Agenda 2063. The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), which South Africa has signed unto will promote intra-Africa trade and offer an opportunity to create larger economies of scale, a bigger market and improve the prospects of the continent to attract investment.
We remain steadfast in our commitment that the interest and priorities of almost billion people are not in the periphery of global discussions and that Africa must take its rightful place in world affairs. In line with this commitment, South Africa will continue to use its foreign policy to champion Africa’s interests in all the fora that it participates in. Our chairship of the BRICS last year is a demonstration of this commitment. The theme for the BRICS Summit last year was ““BRICS in Africa: Collaboration for Inclusive Growth and Shared Prosperity in the 4th Industrial Revolution” and we continually use our participation in the G20, as the only African member to raise the concerns and issues of our continent.
Despite the creeping unilateralism and the current challenges that exist in the international order, South Africa remains committed to a rules-based multilateral system, as we believe it remains the best way to address the numerous global challenges facing our shared planet be it environmental, economic or security. In line with this, one of the major tenets of our foreign policy is that disputes can and must be resolved by peaceful means. As such we availed ourselves to serve a third term as an elected non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council for 2019-2020.
We will use our tenure to promote the maintenance of international peace and security through advocating for the peaceful settlement of disputes and inclusive dialogue. We will also build on the work we did in our first two terms of fostering cooperation between the Security Council and regional sub-regional organisations, including with the African Union Security Council. During our tenure we will also seek to ensure that the work of the UNSC mainstreams a gender perspective, including in its resolutions. Peace cannot be achieved without the participation of women peace negotiations, peacekeeping operations, post-conflict peace-building and governance
Ladies and gentlemen,
Since South Africa shed its status as a pariah state and assumed its place in the community of states as a democratic nation, we have made many progressive contributions to the global community. As we look back on these achievements in the short history of our nation, we are fully cognisant that the challenges that face our continent and indeed the whole world call on us to redouble our efforts to ensure that ours is become a just and equitable world. We believe in India we have a committed partner in achieving these goals.
In closing, I wish to once again thank the RIS for hosting this event.