Reply by the President of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki, to the Toast Remarks by his Excellency the President of Chile, President Ricardo Lagos Escobar, on the occasion of the State Banquet, at the Palacio de la Moneda, Santiago, Chile: 7 June 2005

Your Excellency, President Ricardo Lagos,
First Lady, Luisa Dura´n de Lagos,
Honourable Ministers,
Your Excellencies, Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Distinguished guests,
Ladies and gentlemen:

My wife, my entire delegation and I are delighted to have been invited to Chile when you are so proudly and fearlessly writing new pages in the history of your journey along the challenging road of democracy, freedom and development.

Your Excellency, we thank you for your gracious hospitality. I am very pleased to convey the warmest greetings of the Government and people of the Republic of South Africa to Your Excellencies, the Government and people of Chile.

The Palacio de la Moneda was the symbol of triumph in 1970, of tragedy and murder in 1973, and yet victory once again in the 21st century. Here, we cannot but humbly salute the memory of one of Chile's greatest sons, Salvador Allende. We too in our quest for freedom were to find as much inspiration in what he stood for as did all freedom loving people of the world. The world must never be allowed to forget the heroic and tragic circumstances of his life and death.

We are here also to thank you Mr. President and the people of Chile for your steadfast and unwavering solidarity with the masses of the people of South Africa, which enabled us to gain our freedom from apartheid, colonialism, oppression and racial subjugation. Indeed, we thank Chileans for inspiring us to heal the trauma of our own past with the idea of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission. In this, you were our lodestar. Your experiences emboldened us, in securing victory against huge odds, to seek not only truth about an evil past but reconciliation for a common future for all our people.

Senora de Lagos, may I congratulate you on your recent appointment as an ambassador to the Hans Christian Andersen Bicentenary celebrations, which brings full circle the anniversaries of two literary icons, Pablo Neruda in 2004 and Hans Christian Andersen in 2005. How appropriate this step is! It is indeed a fitting tribute to Chilean women who too, have fought tirelessly for human rights, dignity and freedom.

Your Excellency, may I also offer our sincere condolences on the passing away of your mother, Emma Escovar Morales, who died in April at the grand old age of 108. We convey too our sympathies to the families of all the courageous soldiers who perished tragically on the Andes a few weeks ago.

Your Excellency, we are here to pay homage to you in the twilight year of your Presidency. You have witnessed and steered, most admirably, the re-birth of your beloved Chile, just as we too our own South Africa, imbued with a shared vision to eradicate poverty and underdevelopment.

Today, fittingly in this new millennium of hope, we meet here in this majestic building, once the House of Money - The Mint. I am very pleased indeed that we have a business delegation from South Africa on this visit. I am sure that they and their counterparts from Chile will find even more innovative ways to strengthen further the warm economic relationships existing between our two countries.

These essentially private initiatives, will also create investment and economic opportunities which will be of mutual benefit to the masses of the people of Chile and South Africa.

Such initiatives should be given impetus by the fact that currently, shared pursuits such as in mining, tourism, fishing, retail and agricultural trade have indeed grown since 1994. We trust that our on-going bilateral efforts will strengthen the bond between our countries, perhaps even stronger than the South African steel used in the construction of the tunnels and bridges on your Trans Santiago state highways.

After all, it was you, Your Excellency who on 26 May 2005, prior to the signing of the Trans-Pacific Economic Agreement, proclaimed:

"[In] these first years of the twenty-first century, neighboring countries have learned to see each other in terms of an increasingly globalized and interdependent world, in which the Pacific Ocean ends up forming a bridge linking two shores."

Indeed our bonds are eternal and closer than we think. Your shores on the Pacific belie the fact that Chile, the southern most country in the world, is actually our next door neighbour. Yet, even with your lowest latitude at 55 degrees, and ours at 35 degrees, the vast Atlantic Ocean waves link our two countries from the Cape Agulhas and our magnificent vineyards to the Cape Horn and the Casablanca Valley vines, glistening in the dusky twilight en route to the revered Isla Negra, the resting place of Pablo Neruda.

The ocean has served humanity since time immemorial and is, as Neruda says in his prose poem, The Key, a metaphor for humanity's evolution. As our lives ebb and flow, we know in our hearts the tide is truly turning for both Chile and South Africa.

The ocean waves have brought the keys to both our nations - the keys to our liberation, the keys to our neighbourly cooperation and partnership and the keys to make our nations and our continents truly peaceful and prosperous.

Your Excellency, let us not forget too the golden "keys", the "golden mask" of and indeed, the golden bridge over the vast Atlantic Ocean. Together, we can move forward in transforming the global village in the spirit of human solidarity and sustainable development.

In October, South Africans will await with great anticipation your arrival in our beautiful land and indeed, your wisdom at the Progressive Governance Summit so that we may all jointly redefine the true meaning of freedom, human dignity and democracy.

Once more thank you very much for your hospitality.

Ladies and gentlemen:

Please rise and join me in a toast to the good health and prosperity of their Excellencies, President Ricardo Lagos and Senora de Lagos, and to the eternal bond of friendship between the wonderful people of Chile and South Africa. To good friendship! Salud! Cheers!

I thank you.

Issued by Department of Foreign Affairs
Private Bag X152

8 June 2005

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