Statement by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of South Africa, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma at the Opening Plenary of the 2004 SA-UK Bilateral Forum, Cape Town, 25 - 26 August 2004

Foreign Secretary, Mr Jack Straw,
Distinguished Members of the UK and South African Delegations
Ladies and Gentlemen:

I am pleased to welcome you to the city of Cape Town, a town that first had its origins in the encounter between European and African more than 350 years ago.

I would like to thank you for travelling an immense distance to be with us, but of course in our modern and information age, the distance in time is not as great as it once was and the trip is not nearly as unpleasant.

A journey to the Cape for the European traveller in earlier times meant the endurance of a long sea voyage and the possibility of being swept away in what became known to sailors as the Cape of Storms. The encounter between European and African was one of coloniser and colonised, characterised not by bonds of friendship or by cultural coalescence, but by clashes between peoples and colonial imposition.

In his important work, Frontiers, Noel Mostert, the well-known historian describes this encounter as "the frontier between white and black", and "the product of two of the greatest human odysseys and endeavours, the terrestrial one of Africa and the maritime one of Europe. It was an encounter moulded by the many interwoven frontiers which affected Europeans and Africans as they came to that historical rendezvous."

Today our encounter is no longer as that of coloniser and colonised. Instead we meet here as free people of free countries. We are strengthening our relations because both our history and our present have led us to believe that we are bound to cross new frontiers together. The two human odysseys and endeavours that first characterised our relationship are no longer tied to the conflicts of the past.

Instead, in these new times it is a shared commitment to improve the lives of our people and to build a better reality that bring us together. The crossing of frontiers common to all now move us to work together and to move forward in this new world, continuously addressing and adapting our approaches to the concerns of all our people and to make progress in a desired direction to reach a common destination.

This firm friendship that now binds us together first had its foundations in the Anti-apartheid movement. We are grateful for the support that ordinary British people gave to our cause for freedom. Now in this historic year of the 10th anniversary of our freedom, we can say that the relationship between our two countries are flourishing.

This will be the 6th sitting of the Forum since its inception in 1997. I would like to extend a special welcome to those Departments that have not participated before, like Arts & Culture and Health. Their participation will serve to extend our areas of co-operation and to give more impetus to our relations.

Over the years, our Forum has developed into more than simply a gathering of Ministers and officials. As both the High Commissioners here will tell you, contact between our governments already takes place at these levels on a regular basis.

However, what is distinctive about the Bilateral Forum is that it is our chosen instrument for managing and giving strategic direction to this interaction. The Forum adds value by affording us an opportunity to take stock of our cooperation, to resolve problems that might have arisen in a previous year and to set the agenda for the coming year. This Forum also serves to coordinate our work, to tap into new possibilities and both to maintain and also to intensify the considerable momentum that has developed in this unique bilateral partnership.

In doing our work, it is also important that we take account of the priorities and approach of both the UK and SA Governments.

At the core of all SA policies and programmes is the fundamental challenge of ending poverty and underdevelopment and of creating a better life for all our people. Part of this challenge is to integrate our 'dual' economy, which as a result of apartheid and colonialism, has been divided into one which is flourishing and developing and another one which is poor and underdeveloped.

In pursuit of this, President Mbeki, in his State of the Nation address earlier this year, committed our government to the implementation of a list of detailed delivery targets, most with specific timeframes attached. All South African government departments derive their policy objectives from these priorities. Much of this agenda falls within the scope of this year's bilateral Forum. I trust that the break-away deliberations will look at how we might give further impetus to the programme of action outlined by President Mbeki.

It is also in pursuit of these same objectives that we are engaged in African development initiatives through our regional bloc and communities, through the African Union and through the new partnership for Africa's development.

The dual economy analogy can, of course, also be drawn at the international level. Next year the international community will meet to review our progress in achieving the Millennium Development Goals that we set four years ago, and to consider what measures we need to take to get back on track. As Chair of both the G8 and the expanded EU in 2005, the UK will be in a unique position to drive forward our combined efforts to address some of these economic and social challenges. We expect that this will be an important feature of our various talks on international issues today and tomorrow.

Looked at very broadly, one might say that a shift in focus is currently taking place in governance in SA. While emphasis was in large part placed on building institutions and policy development during the first decade of democracy, implementation and delivery have become the major focus for this second decade.

Consequently, there will be an increasing focus on provincial and local governments - the primary drivers of service delivery. This shift in focus needs to be reflected in co-operation between the UK and SA where appropriate. I would also like to see South Africa and the United Kingdom engaging in trilateral co-operation with other African countries to advance Nepad priorities and the Millennium Development Goals.

After Foreign Secretary Straw makes his opening remarks, we will break up, and during the course of the afternoon, six separate Ministerial bilaterals will take place. In addition to this, three senior officials level Working Groups, on Africa, on Development Cooperation and on Economic Matters will be convened both today and tomorrow morning. Thereafter at the Closing plenary, Ministers and the Chairs of the Working Groups will report back on what they have accomplished during the Forum.

As we meet, we would like the emphasis of our discussions to move towards problem-solving and to tangible outcomes, measurable goals set together and to joint projects agreed upon. Most importantly, we need follow-up actions that are to be taken between now and when we meet again next year.

Before handing over to Foreign Secretary Straw, I would like to wish everyone well in these deliberations.

May our discussions here today strengthen our friendship and be the starting point for new odysseys and endeavours that we take into the future together.

I thank you.

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2003 Department of Foreign Affairs, Republic of South Africa