Toast Remarks by the President of South
Africa, Thabo Mbeki, on the Occasion of a State Visit
to Tunisia, 12 October 2004
Your Excellencies, President Zanial Abidin Ben Ali
and Mrs Ali,
Ladies and Gentlemen:
It is a great pleasure and honour for me, my wife and
the entire South African delegation to visit the Republic
of Tunisia and be hosted in this beautiful and ancient
city of Tunis.
Your Excellency, we, the people of South Africa, are
indebted to the people of this country for the unwavering
support you gave us during the long and bitter struggle
against apartheid. We recall with fond memories that
symbolising that support, the Government of Tunisia
issued a passport to that great son of South Africa,
former President of the African National Congress (ANC)
Oliver Tambo, when the country of his birth had denied
Accordingly, today when we celebrate a decade of democracy
in our country, we recognise and appreciate the invaluable
contribution of the people of Tunisia in helping us
to attain our freedom.
Our state visit to this sister African country follows
the successful meeting of our Joint Bilateral Commission
in July of this year. I am particularly happy that our
two governments have addressed not only the positive
aspects of our bilateral relations, but have also identified
solutions to areas in which we have not made the necessary
We are very happy that tomorrow we will sign a number
of important agreements. These are the Programme of
co-operation on Public Health and Medical Services,
Programme of co-operation on Arts and Culture and the
Memorandum of Understanding on Employment. Our businesspeople
will sign agreements between the Johannesburg Chamber
of Commerce and Tunis Chamber of Commerce, Tshwane Trade
Point and Tunis Trade Point and a Memorandum of Understanding
between our national chambers of commerce.
Clearly, these agreements are important for our citizens
because they will ensure that we work together, utilising
our resources, to improve our health services; learn
from our diverse and rich cultures; share experiences
so that we deal effectively with the challenges of employment
and collaborate to improve the flow of trade between
Indeed, we need this close cooperation in these and
other fields so that we can use our various capacities
to build a prosperous future for our peoples and expedite
the renaissance of our continent.
Among other things, both our countries have important
archaeological sites and remains that remind us of our
glorious past and the great civilisations such as those
of Carthage here in Tunisia and Mapungubwe in South
Africa. This afternoon we had the great privilege to
admire the treasures at the Bardo National Museum.
We have come to Tunisia on the eve of your national
elections. I would like to take this opportunity to
wish all the people of this country free, fair and peaceful
elections that would strengthen the democratic order
not only in this country but on the entire African continent
as well. Indeed, it is from the strength of democracy
at the national level that the recently launched Pan
African Parliament derives its mandate. In this regard,
your democracy in this country is an important building
block for peace, stability and democracy on the continent.
Your Excellency, we are strengthening our bilateral
relations for the benefit of our citizens. At the same
time, given our geographic locations, we have an opportunity
to create a continental axis that unites the rest of
the continent through practical projects, working within
the framework of the developmental programme of the
African Union, the New Partnership for Africa's Development
(NEPAD) to make our contribution in ensuring a better
life for all the people of Africa.
Undoubtedly, many Africans derive strength and courage
from the shining example of Tunisians' commitment to
democracy, peace and stability on the continent. The
deployment of Tunisian troops in areas such as the DRC
and Burundi is a practical demonstration that, as Africans,
we are ready and prepared to work for peace and stability
for the benefit of all Africans.
Again, we share the vision of your government to find
a lasting solution to the Palestine-Israel conflict.
Like you, we too are distressed by the on-going deaths
and destruction in Palestine and Israel. Like you, we
too are ready to make the necessary contributions to
ensure that we achieve the objective of a free and independent
state of Palestine co-exiting peacefully, side by side,
with the state of Israel. Similarly, we both seek a
peaceful Iraq, with its people enjoying full sovereignty.
Your Excellency, our countries share the view that
we have to accelerate the process of reform of multilateral
institutions, including the United Nations. As we are
aware, this matter will soon reach finality with the
report of the High Level Panel appointed by the Secretary-General
of the United Nations, Kofi Annan.
I am confident that we will continue to work together
to ensure that indeed this reform process achieve the
objective of making the United Nations more representative
of the nations of the world as well as better positioned
to respond to the pressing challenges facing poor nations.
Equally important are the urgent reforms of the Bretton
Woods Institutions so that through these institutions,
the international community would be better able to
contribute effectively to the eradication of poverty,
ensure sustainable development and help to bring about
equitable global economic order.
The challenges facing our two countries and peoples
are vast and numerous. I would like to assure you, Your
Excellency, that in South Africa, Tunisia has a true
partner in striving for a just and equitable world order.
It gives us immense pleasure once again to visit your
beautiful country and I thank you for the warm reception
accorded to me and my delegation.
Ladies and Gentlemen: Please join me in wishing good
health to His Excellency, President Zanial Abidin Ben
Ali and Mrs Ali, the people of Tunisia and wishing continued
economic growth, socio-political stability to the Republic
of Tunisia as well as everlasting friendship between
Issued by: Ronnie Mamoepa 082 990 4853
Department of Foreign Affairs, Private Bag X152,
13 October 2004