During November/December 2010, the South African flag flew high in Buenos Aires, capital of Argentina, and the venue for an array of events organized by the South African Embassy in collaboration with its sponsor-partners.
The “South African Festival in Celebration of the Argentine Bicentenary” marked a high-profile end of the year, during which South Africa’s successful hosting of the FIFA 2010 Football World Cup had thrust our country front and centre in the Argentine public consciousness
The Festival, conceived by Ambassador Tony Leon and staff of the South African Embassy in Argentina, comprised a diverse and excellent offering of South African politics, sports, culture and naval power. Each event attracted capacity audiences of Argentine notables and members of the general public, thirsty for more knowledge and exposure to South Africa.
The festival kicked –off with a week-long South African Film Festival (on 10-17 November), screened at two Buenos Aires cinemas, featuring such South African movies and documentaries as “Themba: a Boy Called Hope’’; “Jerusalema”, “White Wedding”, “A Lion’s Trial” and “The 16th Man” ( the powerful documentary on Nelson Mandela’s role in the Springboks’ victory in the 1995 Rugby World Cup, and a follow-up to the movie “Invictus” which was a huge hit earlier in the year in Argentina. Two South African producers and directors Mr Kevin Fleischer and Mr Francois Verster were present in Buenos Aires to accompany the festival and forge links with the Argentine movie industry.
The next event was the opening and hosting of the Apartheid Museum Photo exhibition (on 17-28 November) of the life and times of Former President Nelson Mandela at the prestigious Museum of Fine Arts of Buenos Aires (Museo de Bellas Artes). The opening cocktail function was attended by notable Porteños (as inhabitants of Buenos Aires are called) and the exhibition was opened by Curator and Director of the Apartheid Museum, Christopher Till and Ambassador Leon. It drew large crowds during its two week exhibition.
The arrival of the South African Navy supply-ship SAS Drakensberg, fresh from the completion of its participation in the ATLASUR 8 exercises off the waters of Argentina, alongside the navies of Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay, provided a powerful projection of South African hard and soft power in the port of Buenos Aires. The Embassy was pleased to host an array of top SA National Defence Force brass, particularly Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Dr Lindiwe Sisulu MP, and Chief of the SA Navy, Vice Admiral Johannes Mudimu. The ship excelled in its role as a “grey diplomat” for South Africa, and its flight deck was used for the signing of an historic memorandum of Understanding on Defence Co-operation, inked by Minister Sisulu and her Argentine counterpart, Defence Minister Nilda Garre on 20 November 2010. The night before, the Embassy hosted a large function aboard, and the large audience of invitees were enthralled by the magnificent singing of two of South Africa’s greatest young operatic talents Pretty Yende and Given Nkosi.
Given Nkosi and Pretty Yende were the Embassy’s star attraction, as well, at a night of South African opera at the Teatro Nacional, which also attracted an audience of opera-loving Argentines.
On Sunday 21 November, rugby was the order of the day, when the Embassy in collaboration with Standard Bank of Argentina and Personal held an exhibition match “Spirit of Invictus”, between the SA Springbok Legends –comprising former Springbok greats-including two players from the 1995 Springbok World Cup team Joost van der Westhuizen and Marius Hurter- and former Argentine Pumas. The Legends Cup was, very narrowly won by Argentina by 20-19, was presented by Former South African President FW De Klerk.
Former President De Klerk, President Jacob Zuma’s Special Envoy, Mr Mac Maharaj, and Ambassador Leon, representing three elements of South Africa’s transition to democracy and reconciliation presented a public seminar to a standing-room only audience in Buenos Aires on 23 November. This proved to be a highlight of the Festival, and underlined Argentine interest in the “miracle of South Africa’s democratic journey toward constitutional democracy.” Former President de Klerk, accompanied by Ambassador, also held talks with Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, before returning to South Africa.
The grand finale of the Festival was the presence in Argentina at the end of November of 30 members of Parliament of South Africa, and support staff, on a rugby tour to play members of the Argentine Congress. The Embassy used their presence to host a dialogue between Argentine and South African politicians and, of course, the obligatory “asado” or braai which Mrs Michal Leon hosted at the official residence.
The festival is the highest profile series of events yet hosted by the Embassy in Buenos Aires, and will likely further cement ties between two vital countries of the South Atlantic.
For further information please contact Spokesperson Mr Clayson Monyela, on 082 806 7405.
ISSUED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND COOPERATION OR Tambo Building 460 Soutpansberg Road Rietondale