Opening Remarks by the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ms Sue van der Merwe, at the Breakfast Meeting Organised by the Monique and Kallie Strydom Trust for the Tsunami Disaster Volunteers of the Department of Foreign Affairs, 28 January 2005

  • I would like to begin by thanking you all for taking time out from your usual tasks and for coming to this breakfast.
  • A special thanks goes to the Monique and Kallie Strydom Trust for arranging this opportunity to make a gesture to our volunteers and in support of the people of South East Asia, Africa and the South Africans who lost their loved ones in this disaster.
  • Another such gesture is this wonderful breakfast provided by the Sheraton Hotel as part of the effort of so many South Africans to help in assisting the victims of the dreadful Tsunami disaster.
  • We would also like to thank Revlon for the gifts provided and to Montpellier wines for their gift of wine.
  • Through all your efforts you have managed to show this nation of ours that you truly care about the lives of others, that you are not simply paying lip-service to the suffering of others, but rather that you are reaching out in a very real away to alleviate the plights of others.
  • You have given a lending hand; and, in this way, you have demonstrated in a very tangible way a real solidarity with our fellow South Africans who were caught up in the disaster and especially our families who lost relatives as result of tsunamis.
  • Yesterday I spoke at a fund-raising dinner of the Independent Halaal Trust in Lenasia of how in the midst of our holiday season, when the news of the devastation left by the tsunamis came to our country, our hearts went out to all those people in Asia and in Africa who had been affected by the floods.

  • That benefit dinner was yet another expression of human solidarity from one community in South Africa to another community on the other side of the world.
  • Our hearts went out to those who had survived the tragedy and those who were bereaved and also to the children who had experienced such great devastation in such a short space of time and whose lives would forever be changed as a result.
  • For those of who you volunteered to be on duty during this period, you had to play simultaneously a number of roles: you had to be an official, yet also a counsellor of sorts, you had to give emotional support and yet not lose your cool in the process.
  • You had to break news that was difficult and offer consolation as well as lifting the spirits of those who had survived and wanted to come home. You were also the source of information for all who called in and wanted to know what was happening as well as attempting to put various pieces of information together to begin to create a coherent picture of what had unfolded.

  • And even though you were caught up with all these almost conflicting demands, you still had to be a South African official, a civil servant who is going beyond the call of duty to serve the people.
  • I think that in going beyond your duty, you were acting in the spirit of our new country - for as people of South Africa, Africa and the South we have taken it upon ourselves to show solidarity with our brothers and sisters who are suffering in the wider world. In this way we are making a small and humble contribution to a more people-centred and caring world.
  • In this way you extend the possibilities of friendship and great solidarity - you become part of a truly national and international project of building a better country, continent and world.
  • I think it would be timely to mention that we do have a history of giving assistance - in recent years we have assisted with flood relief to our neighbours in the region especially Mozambique. Some years ago we gave assistance to survivors of the earthquake in Turkey, among other interventions.

  • But these gestures are more than that - it is really about building a better South Africa in a better Africa and in a better world.
  • The Ministry and Department of Foreign Affairs will continue in its efforts to help end the plight of the suffering people in the world wherever they may be.
  • With regard to South Africans caught up in the tsunami disaster, now only 4 are still unaccounted for and our Consular Services in Thailand and Pretoria will continue to work closely with Interpol to trace these missing people. They are in our prayers.
  • Let us continue to work together to do all we can to assist people and countries in times of disaster and to encourage the private sector to form partnerships and to donate their services and finances to these causes.

    Issued by Ronnie Mamoepa on 082 - 990 4853
    C/o Department of Foreign Affairs
    Private Bagx152
    28 January 2004

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