Toast by the President of South Africa, Mr Thabo Mbeki at the Official Dinner in Honour of the Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany, Gerhard Schroder, Pretoria 22 January 2004

Your Excellency, Chancellor Gerhard Schröder,
Honourable Ministers,
Esteemed Members of the German delegation,
Your Excellencies, Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Distinguished guests,
Ladies and gentlemen:

I am truly delighted to extend a very warm welcome to you, Chancellor Schröder, and the rest of the German delegation, which is visiting our country during this historic year of the 10th Anniversary of our Liberation from Apartheid.

Your important visit has given us the opportunity to re-affirm the strong bonds of friendship and solidarity that exist between our countries and peoples.

Mr Chancellor, some of our towns and localities carry German names. These include Berlin, Potsdam, Frankfort, Hamburg, Hanover, Stutterheim and Braunswich. This points to the fact of the inter-connection between the German and South African peoples.

Our contemporary relations rest on this history, which, clearly, we must probe further to determine the role of the German South Africans in the development of our country. Indeed, Mr Chancellor, at times we have referred to ourselves as a Rainbow Nation and as The World in One Country, because of the great variety of races, cultures, and nationalities that constitute our population. Germans constitute part of that rainbow. They came to us as a fragment of the German people and gave us the right to claim that we are both South African and German.

Today the largest group of tourists we receive from any of the European countries comes from Germany. Some of the most important German companies constitute a significant part of the community of the corporate citizens of South Africa.

They continue to make a critical contribution to the growth, modernisation and international competitiveness of our economy and the transformation of our country into a stable and prosperous non-racial and non-sexist democracy.

To cite a little-known example of what some of the German corporations are doing to help us realise these goals, Continental Tyres has implemented an exciting and far-reaching black economic empowerment programme that may very well serve as an example to the entirety of the South African corporate world.

Leaders of German business serve on two important Presidential Advisory Councils. These are the Investment Council, which helps us to respond correctly and speedily to the evolving domestic and international economic situation, and the Task Force on Information Society and Development, which has made it possible for us to keep close enough to the cutting edge of the evolution of the opportunities opened up by the rapid development of information and communication technologies.

We are indeed very inspired by our cooperation in the field of science and technology. This includes such areas as marine science and conservation, the HESS telescope facility in Namibia, the SALT large telescope in our Northern Cape Province, the Antarctic, biodiversity, the education for our youth and teachers, the strengthening of our research capacity and the development of the automobile industry.
There is much more I can say Mr Chancellor about the cooperation between Germany and ourselves in all areas of human activity. This fully justifies the definition given to this cooperation by your Foreign Minister and Vice-Chancellor, Joschka Fischer, as a "Strategic Partnership of Hope".

I am very pleased that your visit to Africa includes a number of countries. This is consistent with your concern to support our continent to meet its political economic and social goals, centred on the strengthening of democracy and the defeat of poverty and underdevelopment, and represented by the African Union and NEPAD.

In pursuing these objectives, we have taken to heart the words of Johann Wolfgang Goethe, who wrote that the "greater part of mischief in the world arises from the fact that men do not sufficiently understand their own aims. They have undertaken to build a tower, and spend no more labour on the foundation than would be necessary to erect a hut."

Neither can we fail, Mr Chancellor, to express our gratitude for your contribution to the good quality of our cooperation with such important bodies as the European Union and the G8. The similarly high quality of our bilateral relations has made it possible for us to adopt the same positions on the major issues facing the international community.

In this regard, we pay tribute to the work done by the Binational Commission, under the joint chairpersonship of the Vice-Chancellor and our Deputy President. Under its leadership, I am certain that our relations will grow from strength to strength.

In this context, we look forward to the German Cultural Weeks later this year, which will expose our people to the extraordinary wealth of German Culture.

Today, Mr Chancellor, many South Africans across the length and breadth of our country will raise their glasses and say - Gesundheit! - as they celebrate the knowledge that Germany fully supports our bid to host the 2010 Soccer World Cup.

Ladies and gentlemen:

Please rise and raise your glasses in a toast to His Excellency, Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and to friendship between the people of Germany and South Africa. Freundschaft!

Thank you.

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