Statement at the Opening of the South
African Pavilion at Expo 2000, Germany, HANNOVER, 2
Commissioner General of EXPO 2000, Ms. Breuel;
Minister-President of Lower Saxony, Mr. Gabriel;
Ambassador Asheeke of the Republic of Namibia and Chairman
of the Africa Hall Committee;
Consul-General Mr. Molekane;
Regional Director Africa of Expo 2000, Mr. Sonnenberg;
Members of the South African National Stand;
Chairman of Private Sector Participation Group, Mr.
Ladies and Gentlemen
Anyone who stands today in South Africa on the eastern
side of the Krugersdorp-Hekpoort Road, some 9-12 km
north of Krugersdorp, near the summit of a low hill
to the south of the Bloubank River Valley, on the farm
Swartkrans at the Sterkfontein Caves, does so with the
knowledge that, in the light of existing evidence and
new hominid fossil finds, this is the site of among
the most important discoveries concerning the evolution
of humanity. On this South African soil there is abundant
evidence that this has been the first dwelling place
of humankind, that this is the cradle from which all
The most recent find in 1998 of a complete hominid
skeleton which may be a form of Australopithecus has
been described in the following manner by Ron Clarke
(in the South African Journal of Science, Volume 94,
Number 10, October 1998) who, together with his assistants,
made the discovery:
"No matter what kind of ape-man (this) StW 573
turns out to be, the discovery of this skull with its
skeleton provides us with a wealth of potential information
on the anatomy, locomotor behaviour and evolution of
an early hominid. It offers a fascinating taphonomic
puzzle coupled with insights into statigraphic problems
in the dolomite caves. It demonstrates the important
role that Sterkfontein and South Africa have to play
in the understanding of human ancestry."
So we ask ourselves endless questions about who these
early beings were who lived in a world very different
to the one we know now; who were they who first walked
this land and used stone tools that have also been found
in Sterkfontein and how did they live and manage to
survive with the leopard and the hyena as predators?
In this way, in these caves in South Africa, a world
journey into our past begins, as the puzzle of human
evolution unravels itself and the secrets of the first
steps in the development of human culture reveal themselves,
as we learn and find out more about the lives of our
early human ancestors.
It is not only as a great excavation site - where discoveries
are dug out of depths of dolomite rock - that our country
has come to be known.
Indeed in the picturesque mountains of the Barberton
area, South Africa is also home to 3500 million-year
old rocks, which preserve evidence of the birth of our
continents and teach us about the formation of our planet.
But it is not only because of what our landscape reveals
to us about the past of our planet and the past of humanity
that makes us proud to be South Africans.
In the last decades of the twentieth century, the people
of this country have broken free of the shackles of
the apartheid past by establishing a democracy and undertaking
the long yet fruitful tasks of transformation and reconstruction,
of bringing about an end to the inequalities and the
poverty that most South Africans have had to live with
and endure for so long.
It is this rich and resilient struggle of a people
to free themselves that we also proudly showcase to
the world; the humble achievements of our new nation
in the face of great difficulties, the political, social,
economic and cultural dynamics unique to our country
through which we strive to build our national identity
and simultaneously demonstrate our diversity as a people
and our unity in action.
Under the theme of "Humankind, Nature and Technology",
this Expo provides us with a suitable platform to present
ourselves to the world.
The staging of this significant global event, the World
Exposition 2000, here in Hannover, comes as all of us
in the global community must engage as to how we manage
our valuable resources, how we attain sustainable development,
how economic prosperity can be attained for all and
not simply the already advanced countries of the world.
As part of the world community of nations, we in South
Africa are signaling our intent to contribute constructively
to a new world order which will be responsive to the
needs of all humankind. The aim of our National Pavilion
is to create a better understanding of our country by
the mounting of this dynamic and contemporary exhibition.
I believe that our presence here in Hannover for the
next five months will reflect not only this cultural
complexity and uniqueness, but also our scientific,
technological and economic achievements and serve to
highlight all the important elements which we possess
and through which we have positioned ourselves as a
gateway to the Southern African region and the rest
of our continent.
I began by making our vantage point the seemingly lowly
summit of a low hill near Krugersdorp yet the site of
such greatness and extraordinary finds that have shaped
our understanding of our origins.
Now, in the small town of Sutherland in the semi-desert
Karoo region of our country, we are building a gigantic
African eye through which we can view the universe.
The construction of the single largest telescope in
the southern hemisphere, SALT - as it is called - will
mean that in this humble home of our earliest humans,
we are also building a vast gateway through which we
can observe our earliest stars, learn about the formation
of our galaxy and the lives of other worlds so as to
give us insights into our future.
We are proud that SALT will not only enable Southern
African scientists to undertake important research,
but also provide significant opportunities for international
collaboration and scientific partnerships with the rest
of the world.
From Sterkfontein to Sutherland, through all the vast
networks of roads connecting our country and through
the mirrors we throw onto our universe for the benefit
of the world, it should indeed be obvious to anyone
who walks our land that this is the home of breath-taking
natural beauty, of a resilient people, of eminent scientists,
of many wondrous world discoveries.
It is in this context and in the light of the immense
possibilities that lie ahead, that I open the South
African National Pavilion here today.
May I congratulate especially Ambassador Bengu on his
sterling efforts and express my thanks to each and everyone
who has contributed to the building of this truly impressive
South African pavilion and who has made the participation
of our country in this major event possible.
Thank you very much.