Reply of the President of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki to the Toast by her Excellency, the Governor-General of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas, Dame Ivy Dumont, Atlantis Resort Hotel: Paradise Island, Bahamas, 29 December 2003

Your Excellency, Dame Ivy Leona Dumont,

Your Excellency, Mr Reginald Dumont,

Your Excellency, Prime Minister, Perry Christie,

Your Excellency, Mrs Bernadette Christie,

Distinguished guests,

Ladies and gentlemen:

My wife, my delegation and I are truly delighted to join you in the beautiful Commonwealth of the Bahamas for the festive season and thank Your Excellencies for your very gracious invitation to come here on a state visit.

We bring the warmest season’ s greetings of the government and people of South Africa to Your Excellencies, to the Prime Minister, the government and the wonderful people of the Bahamas.

May I take this opportunity to congratulate you on the 30th anniversary of your independence and to Your Excellency for being the first woman here to assume the mantle of Governor-General.

Bahamians have a long and proud tradition of cherishing freedom from the time when the indigenous Arawak were forcefully removed from their homeland by the invading Spaniards to work in the mines in Hispaniola and Cuba in the 15th century, where many of them died.

Equally, many of the African slave ancestors who came here in chains had a burning desire to attain freedom. The same goes for many pilgrims who arrived in these beautiful islands seeking refuge from religious persecution.

As South Africans and Africans, we salute Bahamians for your solidarity with our own struggle for freedom from apartheid and colonialism.

It was in Nassau that the Commonwealth Heads of Government adopted a resolution, in 1985, which established the Eminent Persons Group, agreed to ban all new loans to the former racist regime in our country, and imposed a number of sanctions.

Today, as free Africans, we rejoice that we are here to thank you and celebrate freedom with you, our true brothers and sisters.

In addition, we cannot forget that among those of our compatriots who are buried here are Boers who were deported by the British to the Bahamas as prisoners of war, during the South African (Anglo-Boer) War of 1899 – 1902.

Your Excellencies:

We are happy that there is already contact between our people, including business people from our two countries investing in our respective economies and establishing the basis for further trade between our two countries.

Indeed, Your Excellency, the possibility exists for increased cooperation in the areas of trade, education, health, tourism, sport and culture, as well as ensuring exchanges that would nurture, develop and strengthen people-to-people relations.

Furthermore, as members of CARICOM, the Commonwealth of the Bahamas is part of an important process of strengthening the relations of the people of this region with their African brothers and sisters through the African Union, the umbrella body of African countries, and its development programme, the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD).

As you know, this New Partnership is a programme aimed at the renaissance of the African continent so that together we can banish forever, the scourge of poverty and underdevelopment and move our countries to higher levels of development and prosperity.

An important part of this programme is the need to work through partnerships. Clearly, the governments and people of this country, as well as this region, through their regional body, CARICOM, are natural allies and partners of our development programme, because the inevitable outcome of this process is the defeat of poverty and underdevelopment also in the Caribbean.

Both our peoples in Africa, the Caribbean and other regions have a duty to act in solidarity, as part of the developing regions, to ensure that at all times the interests of the poor drives the global agenda.

We are therefore strengthened by the fact that all our people on the African continent and those in the Diaspora have begun to join hands, in the spirit of Bahamian national tree, the Tree of Life, Lignum Vitae, so as to achieve a better life for the poor of the world.

It is also fitting that we are gathered together at the Atlantis Resort Hotel, which is a clear and visible symbol of what could be achieved through cooperation and commitment between our entrepreneurs and our governments. We have a duty and responsibility to increase these kinds of investments in our economies.

Indeed, Your Excellency, during our visit, we look forward to strengthening these relations of co-operation and solidarity between our two countries and peoples.

We have an excellent role-model in the doyen of the international film world and a true patriotic Bahamian, Sidney Poiter, who has shown us, by example, that one can rise from the depths of poverty in Cat Island and Nassau to reach the footlights of Broadway and the acclaim of Hollywood and still have the humility and courage to defend the rights of the poorest of the earth.

We wish your Excellencies and the people of the Bahamas a prosperous and peaceful New Year and we are very excited that we will have the opportunity to participate in the Junkanoo carnival.

We would be deeply honoured to reciprocate your cordial and warm hospitality and would be delighted if your Excellencies could grace our lovely shores in the not too distant future.

Your Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen:

Please rise and join me in a toast to the good health and prosperity of their Excellencies the Governor-General of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas and Mr. Reginald Dumont. The Governor-General!

Please also join me in a toast to the Prime Minister and Mrs. Christie and to the wonderful friendship between the people of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas and South Africa. The people!

I thank you.

Issued by The Presidency: Republic of South Africa on 29 December 2003.

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