Address at the Paris City Hall, 18 November 2003

Your Worship, Mayor Bertrand Delanoe,
Honourable Ministers,
Your Excellencies,
Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am pleased to meet with the Mayor of the great city of Paris, a city whose rich history, cultural splendour and architectural beauty has inspired so many generations of poets, artists, writers and thinkers.

My delegation and I thank you for your kind invitation and we bring you warmest greetings from the people of South Africa.

It is furthermore a pleasure to visit this magnificent City Hall, the site of many great events in the history of France.

These hallowed halls witnessed the liberation of Paris from Nazi occupation on 25 August 1944.

Your worship, our country too has lived through momentous events in its recent history. And as we prepare to celebrate 10 years of democracy in South Africa next year, we stand back to look with pride at what we have achieved and to contemplate the task ahead.

Since the dawn of freedom in South Africa, our greatest achievement has undoubtedly been the creation of a non-racial, non-sexist democratic state, at peace with itself, its neighbours and the world. A state in which the rule of law prevails, in which human rights are valued and protected and in which freedom and dignity are deeply treasured and defended. Our people chose a peaceful transition and reconciliation over the futility of war, revenge and retribution.

Ten years ago, we set ourselves the task of creating a better life for all South Africans. Apartheid had left a devastating legacy of vast inequalities in wealth, opportunity and human development. The new democratic government implemented the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP), a framework within which we sought to meet the basic needs of our people, build the national economy, democratise the state and society, develop our human resources and set our country on the road to true nationhood.

In evaluating our progress, one of the key benchmarks must be the effective delivery of essential services to South Africans. Since 1994, state spending has been significantly increased in sectors such as education, health and social development. Driven by the twin imperatives of urban renewal and rural development, South Africa has in the past 10 years built more than 1,5 million houses; connected nine million households to clean drinking water; brought electricity to 80% of homes nationally; provided free primary health care to women and children under six and facilitated the transfer of more than two million hectares of land through land restitution and redistribution.

Your worship, it is at the local government level that service delivery can be most effective and productive, as France, with its strong tradition of municipal government, can undoubtedly testify.

In South Africa, local government has been significantly restructured and municipal boundaries inherited from the apartheid era have been redrawn to reintegrate our cities and towns. The total allocation to local government from the national budget has risen steadily to provide resources to ensure effective delivery.

Many of our municipalities have demonstrated an impressive track record in this regard, but we must frankly acknowledge that there are still serious deficits in technical and human resource capacity which inhibit our ability to deliver a better life to our people.

It is for this reason, Your Worship, that I warmly welcome your remarks about the opportunities for cooperation between Paris and Johannesburg, particularly in the areas of water and sanitation. I also welcome the willingness of French regions, departments and municipalities to undertake programmes of decentralised cooperation with South Africa's provinces, cities and towns. These longstanding partnerships, we are sure, will be of great mutual benefit.

Your worship, South Africa gained immensely from the support, cooperation and solidarity of the French people during the struggle against apartheid. New challenges now face our country and its people and I am confident that we will again be able to count on your support as we build our young democracy and work to improve the lives of South Africans.

Maxim Gorky, the Russian playwright and novelist, writes that ‘cities are a prayer to the future’. The future growth and improvement of Paris and the future growth and improvement of our cities, working together, constitute our common prayer to a better future.

We are inspired to have the Parisians as our partners.

I thank you.

Quick Links

Disclaimer | Contact Us | HomeLast Updated: 1 September, 2004 4:28 PM
This site is best viewed using 800 x 600 resolution with Internet Explorer 5.0, Netscape Communicator 4.5 or higher.
2003 Department of Foreign Affairs, Republic of South Africa