Congratulatory Remarks by the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ms Sue van der Merwe, on the Occasion of Zimbabwe's 25th Anniversary Celebration, Pretoria, 18 April 2005

Your Excellency, Ambassador Moyo
Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

On behalf of the Government and the people of the Republic of South Africa, it gives me great pleasure to join the Government and the people of the Republic of Zimbabwe in celebrating 25 years of independence. The 18th of April 1980 marked a milestone in the history not only of Zimbabwe, but also that of the entire continent.

The attainment of freedom in Zimbabwe carried enormous significance for us in South Africa. Zimbabwe and South Africa, as immediate neighbours, are tied together by history, language, culture and a similar legacy. Our peoples cross our common border back and forth, maintaining family ties, to engage in trade and commerce, and are inextricably linked to each other and share a common destiny.

Your attainment of independence and leadership of the Frontline States instilled in us a sense of hope during our darkest moments. The people and the government of Zimbabwe never wavered in their support for the liberation of the South African people from the yoke of oppression. Our sisters and brothers from Zimbabwe sacrificed their own lives and enjoyment of their newly attained freedoms and liberties so that we could also enjoy the same rights.

Without a doubt, the transition from Southern Rhodesia to Zimbabwe was not an easy one, but you and your countrymen and women stood resolute in your commitment for a free Zimbabwe and ultimately it was a price worth paying. Since Zimbabwe gained its independence, a great number of changes have taken place on the continent in general and Zimbabwe in particular. Today, we face even more challenges than before, which require our collective efforts to overcome. To safeguard the legacy of our common struggle and at the same time safeguard the future of the children of Africa we now, more than ever, need to act in unison to overcome these challenges.

The 25th Anniversary celebrations take place immediately after the people of Zimbabwe have elected a new government through the elections on 31 March 2005. We congratulate the people of Zimbabwe and encourage them in their tireless efforts to contribute to the continental drive to bring about democracy in Africa as well as contributing to an equal and just world.

Within the region we have together transformed the former Southern African Development Co-ordinating Conference, of which Zimbabwe was a founder member, to the Southern African Development Community. We have just concluded the restructuring of SADC and believe that our systems are now more aligned to carry forth the mandate of the transformation of our region to focus on our developmental goals, so that we are able to attain our continent vision of Consolidating the African Agenda.

As a founder member of the African Union, Zimbabwe remains a critical player to the rebirth of the continent and we will support the efforts of the Zimbabwean people to regain its position as one of the leading economies in Africa. Zimbabwe, like all of us in this sub-region, and indeed throughout our continent, has to respond to the massive challenges of working towards our common goals of a better life for all.

On the continent we have taken a bold step to declare this an African century, and as such, we need to harness our collective experience to create a better Africa and a better world.

In his 1961 speech entitled I speak of freedom, Kwame Nkrumah spoke about how for for centuries, Europeans dominated the African continent robbing it of valuable opportunities to develop and attain the same standards of living for its people. While acknowledging the tragedy of the colonial years, we must be prepared to bury the past with its unpleasant memories and look to the future. It is thus clear that we must find an African solution to our problems, and this can only be found in African unity.

It perhaps also worth noting that Zimbabwe's 25th Anniversary coincides with key global governance reform processes. The Millenium Review Summit, the reform of the United Nations, the 10 year review of the Beijing Platform of Action, the 50th anniversary of the Bandung conference, which laid the foundation for the formation of the Non-Aligned Movement, amongst other, all present us with the ideal opportunity to lay the foundations for the African century.

May I once again reiterate that South Africa is happy to celebrate together with Zimbabwe her silver jubilee, and express her commitment to work for consolidating the relations between both countries.

As you celebrate your 25th Anniversary, the Government and the people of South Africa salute and congratulate you on your achievements. An occasion like this reminds us to take stock on how far we have come and ensure that our people reap the fruits of their struggle for liberation, peace and development.

I thank you.

For further details contact Vincent Hlongwane - 082 385 1169

Department of Foreign Affairs
Private Bag X152

18 April 2005

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