Address by Deputy President Jacob Zuma, at the Opening Ceremony of the 6th Session of the South Africa-Nigeria Binational Commission, Durban, 9 September 2004

Your Excellency, My Dear Brother, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, Vice-President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,
Your Excellencies, South African and Nigeria Ministers and Deputy Ministers,
Your Excellencies the Nigerian State Governor,
Your Excellencies the Nigerian Commissioner to South Africa and South African High Commissioner to Nigeria,
Members of the Business Community,
Distinguished guests,
Representatives of the media.

My delegation and I are honoured and pleased to welcome you to one of the jewels of the South African tourism industry, the Province of KwaZulu-Natal, and to its principal commercial port city.

It is always a pleasure to host you, My Dear Brother, and to preside jointly with you over the deliberations of this Bi-National Commission, which was founded on very strong and solid foundations in 1999.

Since its inception, our Bi-National Commission has become the symbol of the special nature of the relationship between our two countries. It is therefore with a profound sense of satisfaction that we can meet today, to look back at the achievements we have made since the establishment of the Commission, and also since the fifth session that took place in Lagos last December.

The South Africa-Nigerian Bi-National Commission was established because it was recognised that ours is a special relationship and partnership that we should continue to deepen and broaden. The fact that we are this year celebrating the fifth anniversary of the Commission, and are holding the sixth session, indicates the seriousness with which both sides take this important bilateral mechanism of enhancing co-operation.

From our side, our deep-seated commitment to this Bi-National Commission in indicative of the seriousness with which we regard our special relationship with the Republic of Nigeria.

Our relationship manifests itself in various arenas, political economic and social. We work together closely in concrete efforts to promote peace and stability sustainable development and co-operation not only on the African continent, but in promoting the greater development agenda of the developing world.

There can be no doubt that in the affairs of the continent, the united voices of South Africa and Nigeria ring with authority, giving the continent confidence. Our relationship is therefore, Your Excellency, solid and deep-rooted, and this Bi-National Commission session is poised to take it even to greater heights.

This is evident in the work done so far by the working groups through which the Commission operates. Preliminary reports indicate that the working groups are making progress in the areas of Social and Technical co-operation, Trade, Industry and Finance, Agriculture, Water Resources and Environment, Foreign Affairs Cooperation, Public Enterprises, Infrastructure, Minerals and Energy as well as Defence.

We trust that their deliberations are also focusing on the challenges of implementation and monitoring, which both sides agree need attention.

Your Excellency, please allow me to use this opportunity to convey to you, and to the government and people of Nigeria, the best wishes of the government and people of South Africa, on the key international role being played by Nigeria, as the current chair of the African Union as well as the Chair of the African Union as well as the Chair-in-office of the Commonwealth of Nations.

This role is very appropriate as our deliberations take place when the international community is grappling with serious challenges, such as the conflicts in the Middle East, in parts of our continent as well as other parts of Europe, for Example the recent hostage tragedy in the Russian Federation.

All peace loving nations of the world need to work together to promote peaceful resolution of disputes, and condemn the indiscriminate use of violence which results in the death and injury to innocent civilians.

During these turbulent times, South Africa has resolutely stood by its support for the principles of multilateralism, which we view as the key to the resolution of international disputes.

We are dedicated to working hard to revive the influence and central role of the United Nations in international governance, and regard the reform of the UN system as being crucial and urgent.

We are convinced that the government and people of Nigeria share this view, and trust that our combined efforts as the African continent will contribute to the restoration of the United Nations to its rightful place on the international stage.

This will require determination and commitment on our side as Africans to speak with one voice and act in unison. The Federal Republic of Nigeria and South Africa can play a leading role in promoting this unity of purpose and action.

Your Excellency, we are in agreement that the founding of the African Union and the development of the NEPAD programme present us with an appropriate framework, for the achievement of peace and stability, democracy and good governance in the continent.

In NEPAD we have the blueprint for responding effectively, to the challenges of poverty, underdevelopment, and economic marginalisation, and already a number of projects are in the implementation phase to achieve these goals.

Heads of State have been meeting in Burkina Faso this week, in the 3rd African Union Extraordinary Summit on Employment Creation and Poverty Alleviation, another key intervention aimed at advancing this continent further towards an improvement in the quality of life.

It is also our hope that the operationalisation of the Peace and Security Council will give the continent the added impetus to address conflict situations early and decisively. The situation in Darfur is a case in point. We acknowledge the key and leading role being played by President Obasanjo and the Federal Republic of Nigeria in resolving this crisis.

As you are aware, South Africa continues to play its modest role in conflict resolution, as we believe that peace in the world is an achievable goal. This week, President Mbeki hosted a delegation from the governing Likud Party of Israel, and discussed a wide range of issues, particularly the Israel-Palestinian conflict. We regard this dialogue as being crucial because peace in the Middle East, will contribute immensely to global peace and stability.

Our contribution to peacemaking and peacekeeping in our continent also continues.

A lot of progress has been made in Burundi, although some challenges still remain. We welcome the recent appointment of an Independent Electoral Commission in that sister country. It is a step in the right direction, towards the conducting of national elections that would usher in democracy.

However, despite the significant progress made, we are concerned that there are those who continue to pursue their objectives through violence, as witnessed by the recent massacre of civilians at a United Nations refugee camp in Gatumba, Burundi.

The urgent response of the African Union and the United Nations to the massacre is commendable, and sends a clear message to the perpetrators of violence that their actions will not be tolerated.

A positive development, Dear Colleague, is that Africa is addressing such problems, which we acknowledge as African problems, and that the AU now offers us the prospect of seeking solutions within an African context.

Your Excellency, the positive results of our regular consultations on various issues are ample proof of the suitability of the Bi-National Commission as a vehicle for co-operation.

At an economic level, we continue to witness the increase in the level of bilateral trade and investment between our two countries. During 2003 our total two-way trade with Nigeria totalled R4, 9 billion, with South Africa's export share of that amount totalling 2,3 billion.

We look forward to a further consolidation of this positive trend, and believe that there is a lot we still do to enhance business-to-business linkages between our two countries.

We also, at the same time we urge sister nations within the African continent to seriously look at increasing intra-African economic activity and trade.

We are pleased that the South Africa-Nigeria Chamber of Commerce and Industry is meeting on the sidelines of this Commission, as it seeks to achieve this goal between our two countries.

The levels of trade between African states have remained too low for too long. With the emergence of the African Union and NEPAD programmes, we have the opportunity to give concerted attention to addressing this aspect of our continental relations.

Mr Vice President, let me once again welcome you and your delegation to KwaZulu-Natal. I must reiterate that we view the warm and strong relations between our two countries as very critical, not only for mutual bilateral gain, but also in terms of advancing the African agenda internationally.

I wish all delegates fruitful discussions and trust that the working groups will work tirelessly to ensure an outcome that will further consolidate the partnership between our two countries.

I thank you.

Issued by: The Presidency
9 September 2004

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