Toast of the President of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki in honour
of the Prime Minister of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, His Excellency, Phan
Van Khai, at the Presidential Guest House, Tshwane: 24 November 2004
Excellency, Prime Minister Phan Van Khai,
Honourable Ministers and Deputy
Ambassadors and business leaders,
Ladies and gentlemen:
I am delighted to extend a very warm welcome to you
and your delegation on this historic first visit by a Vietnamese leader to South
Africa and the first at Africa after three decades. We thank you humbly for paying
us a visit.
Vietnam is blessed with magnificent beauty and a charming
and resilient people. It was this resilience that ensured that the Vietnamese
were able to defend their country from the invasion by two of the most powerful
global forces of the day, France and the USA. Prime Minister, we were greatly
moved by the sacrifices that Vietnam made to secure its liberation and unity,
and did what we could to act in solidarity with heroic Vietnam.
During our own struggle against apartheid, we gained strength from your own heroism
and steadfastness. As you know, Your Excellency, both our peoples learned a great
deal from each other to bring freedom to our respective countries.
As we celebrate our decade of liberation, we are honoured that you have graced
our shores to give us the opportunity to thank you and the wonderful people of
Vietnam for your unwavering solidarity with the masses of the people of South
Africa, which enabled us to attain our freedom.
Today, Vietnam and
South Africa are poised to build strong bridges and partnerships across the Indian
The Long Bien (Doumer) Bridge across the ancient Red River
in your capital, Hanoi, has stood defiantly since 1902 as a mighty symbol of strength
and courage. Even when damaged during over 200 sorties by US bombers, the Vietnamese
people displayed courage and determination by repairing the bridge, succeeding
to keep it open.
Since their liberation, both Vietnamese and Africans
have been preoccupied with matters of development, fighting poverty and rebuilding
our nations. This day marks a new chapter in building partnerships that should
help us overcome our common challenges.
Indeed, I am very pleased
that, during your visit, our two governments have signed important agreements
through which we can work together to improve the life conditions of the people
of Vietnam and South Africa. These agreements are:
* A Joint Declaration
on Co-operation and Development;
* An Agreement Concerning the Establishment
of a Partnership Forum for Economic, Scientific, Technical and Cultural Co-operation;
* An Agreement on Visa Exemption for Holders of Diplomatic and Official Passports.
* An Announcement on the Establishment of the Vietnam-South Africa Joint
I am very pleased that since 1998, our bilateral
trade has increased substantially to over R800 million. Clearly, through the Joint
Trade Committee we have an opportunity further to strengthen and enhance the trade
and economic opportunities between our two countries.
I wish to
take this opportunity to welcome the large Vietnamese business delegation which
has accompanied you and trust that they have been able to forge the necessary
links with their South African counterparts for the benefit of our countries.
Your Excellency, ladies and gentlemen:
Our partnership is, of course,
much broader than trade and encompasses our vision to regenerate our continents,
Asia and Africa.
Quite correctly, we are united in our quest to
eradicate poverty and underdevelopment on our continents. There are opportunities
for Vietnam to be one of our partners in the New Partnership for Africa's Development
and to play a key role in the Africa Asia Sub-Regional Organisations Conference
In this regard, I am very pleased that Vietnam is one
of the leaders in Asia, actively building bridges across the vast distance between
our continents. I would like to congratulate you, Your Excellency, on your hosting
of the successful Africa Conference in Hanoi last year. It is through such initiatives
that we can fulfil our aim to build a strong Africa-Asia Strategic Partnership.
It is also very inspiring to see that Vietnam is at the forefront of South-South
Co-operation and, together with the Food and Agricultural Organisation, you have
provided agricultural expertise to many African and other developing countries.
Tomorrow, the 25th, is the Vietnamese festival of Ooc-om-bok and I wish all the
Vietnamese peoples good luck, happiness, good weather and a bountiful harvest.
May the bright lights and hearts of South Africans shine up your visit so that
the blessings of Ooc-om-bok may remove the poverty, disease, underdevelopment
from our countries. May we live to see the day when each and every citizen can
enjoy com dep (sticky rice) each and every day.
I am truly delighted to welcome you to your home from home and salute all those
who made it possible for Hanoi and Tshwane Metropolitan Council to become twinned
cities. This augurs well for our partnership.
Ladies and gentlemen:
Please rise and join me in a toast to the good health and prosperity of His Excellency,
Prime Minister Phan Van Khai and to the wonderful friendship between the peoples
of South Africa and Vietnam.
For enquiries please contact Bheki Khumalo 083 256 9133.
Issued by The Presidency