Address by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr NC Dlamini Zuma, at the Welcoming Ceremony at the Town Hall of Arceuil, 17 June 2004

Mr Mayor, Mr Daniel Brieuller,
Distinguished Councillors and Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

My delegation and I are greatly honoured to be here and wish to thank you for the kind and warm words of welcome.

We are indeed very pleased to have the opportunity to visit Arceuil and to be among longstanding friends who were with us in our hour of need.

The liberation of South Africa was as much your own victory as it was the victory of South Africans. It was indeed this town and community that welcomed Dulcie September as part of your own and as Chief Representative of the African National Congress (ANC) in France from 1984 - 1988. Arceuil opened its heart to this courageous patriot who represented the ANC with distinction until she was cowardly murdered by agents of apartheid in Paris on 29 March 1988.

It was also here in Arceuil that Marcel Trigon, Jacqueline Derens and others founded the "Rencontre Nationale Contre l'Apartheid" (National Rally Against Apartheid), which provided such unflinching support to Dulcie personally and to the struggle for national liberation in South Africa. That movement lives on in the form of RENAPAS, which continues to support South Africa in the new challenges it faces.

As we celebrate this 10th anniversary of our freedom, peace and justice and look at the challenges that lie ahead, we pay tribute to all the French men and women who gave us support and courage during our struggle. We thank you and pledge to you and the rest of the world that we shall not fail you or our people. We hope that you will be generous enough to continue to walk with us as we tackle the challenges of the 2nd decade of our democracy.

Mr Mayor, it is now 16 years since Dulcie's life was so tragically ended by the bullets of a cowardly assassin. But, the ideals and values for which she lived and died, live on in our country. Indeed, as we celebrate the 10th anniversary of democracy in South Africa this year, we are reminded that freedom came at a very high price and that we have a sacred duty to defend that freedom with our very lives.

But we also need to go further to bring about a qualitative change in the lives of our people. Apartheid's terrible legacy of injustice and inequality had to be decisively addressed if freedom was to truly mean anything to our people. Therefore, our political institutions, the public service, judiciary, education system and the economy had to be systematically and fundamentally transformed to ensure that the policies and programmes of the new democratic state are effectively implemented.

I am proud to say that the past 10 years has seen enormous and remarkable changes in South Africa. Our country today is a modern constitutional democracy, with arguably the most progressive constitution in the world. Our Bill of Rights entrenches the basic social and political rights of all citizens and specifically prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, gender, culture, language, sexual orientation or religion. In terms of social delivery, 1,6 million new houses have been built and 70% of households throughout the country have been electrified. Since 1995, nine million more South Africans have access to clean water and 63% of households now have sanitation. Free medical care for pregnant women and children has been introduced in all state hospitals. The number of state social grants allocated has doubled from 2.6 million in 1994 to more than 5 million in 2003.

We are still confronted with the challenge of poverty, unemployment and HIV/Aids. This will be our major focus during the 2nd decade of democracy.

On the international scene, South Africa continues to play an active and constructive role to end destructive conflicts, particularly on our continent, and to promote the vision of a new world order which is more equitable and responsive to the needs of the poor, who constitute the overwhelming majority of humanity. In this regard, the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) - the economic developmental programme of the African Union - constitutes a fundamentally important building block in our collective effort to construct a new and better Africa.

Mr Mayor, dear friends, South Africa has committed itself to the creation of a peaceful, just and prosperous society in which all South Africans can live in freedom, dignity and peace. These are the ideals which have inspired our movement and our people over many decades and for which men and women like Steven Bantu Biko, Ahmed Timol, Dulcie September and countless other patriots have sacrificed their lives.

We will honour their memory by continuing our historic task of building a non-racial, non-sexist and prosperous South Africa, contribute to the renewal of our beautiful Continent and work towards a better world.

I thank you.

Issued by the South African Embassy
(Paris, France)

18 June 2004

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