Remarks by the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of South Africa, the honourable Ms Sue van der Merwe, on the occasion of the Farewell Function in honour of High Commissioner Akbar Zeb of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan - 6 June, 2005

Your Excellency, High Commissioner Zeb
Distinguished Guests
Ladies and Gentlemen

It is a pleasure for me to host this farewell function in honour of High Commissioner Zeb who has unfortunately been recalled to undertake new challenges.

I also wish to pass on the greetings of Deputy Minister Pahad. He deeply regrets that he is unable to be here this evening and asked that I pass on his best wishes to you High Commissioner.

Your Excellency, I note that you were only accredited to South Africa on 17 February 2004, which makes your stay in our country a rather short one! However, we understand that your departure is a result of your hard work and experience, which your country is now desirous to use to full effect in a sister country that is facing challenges of its own. We therefore congratulate you on your appointment and wish you all the success in your new assignment.

Yet I have no doubt that will not forget the mountains, rivers, landscapes and seascapes of our beautiful country - from the temperate South west coast to the tropical east coast and further afield to the harsh and rugged beauty of the hinterland. And certainly you will not forget our people and the friendships you have made in this short time.
As you move to a different landscape and vantage point, please continue to fix your eyes on the Southern tip of the African continent - for clearly our two continents and countries need to work closely together, need to envision a better future for the South, for Asia and Africa and for the developing world. And it is only through making dreams come true that wherever we are located we can make a difference in the lives of others.

Yet, on a different note, I must mention that, although your stay in South Africa has not been that long, Your Excellency you will be remembered for the fact that you have been at the helm of Pakistan's affairs in South Africa during an evolving period, resulting in a new promise in our bilateral relations. We are now looking forward to strengthening our relations with Pakistan. An important step in this regard, is the holding of the first session of our Joint Commission in Islamabad, scheduled for 25-27 July this year.

Today as we bid farewell to High Commissioner Zeb, let us be reminded of milestones we have achieved together as two countries of two continents.

South Africa and Pakistan have enjoyed diplomatic relations since April 1994 but even before then Pakistan was a friend to our liberation movement, and was outspoken in its criticism of Apartheid.

Pakistan has played an important role in the international community with its membership of the ASEAN Regional Forum, the Organisation of Islamic Conference, its membership of the South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation, as well as in its active role in UN peace-keeping activities inter alia in Africa. We also note that Pakistan has played a leading role as an ally in the global campaign against terrorism.

In the period since 1994 both former President Mandela as well as the late Foreign Minister Alfred Nzo visited Pakistan and a number of bilateral agreements have been signed. These include an Agreement on Defence and Defence Equipment, an Agreement on Peace-time Co-operation between Navies, an Agreement on the Avoidance of Double Taxation and Prevention of Fiscal Evasion, an Agreement on Scientific and Technical Co-operation, An Air Services Agreement and a Letter of Understanding on the Establishment of a Joint Commission.

Agreements which it is hoped will soon be finalised are a Bilateral Trade Agreement, an Agreement on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters, An Agreement on Co-operation in the Field of Arts and Culture, an Agreement on the Promotion and Reciprocal Protection of Investments, an Extradition Treaty and an Agreement regarding the Employment of Dependants of Diplomatic and Consular Personnel.

The forthcoming first session of the Joint Commission, I believe, will go a long way to further cementing our bilateral relations and will serve as a forum in which we can identify further areas for co-operation. The Joint Commission will, I believe, help to give further impetus to our bilateral relations, especially our political, trade and economic relations

We share a history of colonialism and both our countries come from continents that have experienced amongst the highest levels of conflict and underdevelopment and poverty in the world. However, we also share a common vision for the futures of our countries and continents. Key to this for us is bringing stability through the resolution of conflicts so as to create the necessary conditions for sustained social and economic development to happen. In this regard, Pakistan has played a very important role in the international anti-terror coalition and seized the opportunity to make a meaningful contribution to the peace efforts in its region.
South Africa has also taken note of domestic developments in Pakistan and recognises that President Musharraf has taken a number of important steps in the direction of entrenching democracy in Pakistan. We are aware of the considerable challenges that Pakistan faces in the completion of this objective.

Pakistan's continued and notable presence, for the past ten plus years, at the South African International Trade Exhibitions (SAITEXs), as well as at a number of sports clothes- and footwear exhibitions, carried with it the clear message that Pakistan has great potential as a trading partner for South Africa.

As regards our economic ties, we realise that we have barely scratched the surface of bilateral economic and business potential. Furthermore, we have followed with interest the fact that Pakistan's economy has shown a growth for the second year in a row with real GDP growing by 6.4%. This is quite an achievement and we can learn a great deal from you.

Your Excellency, as you and Mrs Zeb leave South Africa, I would like, on behalf of the South African Government, to pay tribute to the personal legacy you will leave behind, your always good-natured, impeccably professional and gracious style of diplomacy that has made a great impression on all that you interacted with - and will assure you a warm welcome if you wish to return in the future.

We would like to offer our congratulations to you, Your Excellency, on your appointment to the challenging post of High Commissioner to Kabul, Afghanistan. The challenges that you will encounter in your new position are great but I am confident that as a representative of your country, you will make a significant contribution to bring about a better life for Afghanistan and its people.

We look forward to co-operating with your successor to ensure that the work that you have begun, during your tenure in South Africa, will continue.

May I in closing state that you and Mrs Zeb have been worthy representatives of your country and as you leave we wish you God speed and everything of the very best for the future.

Remember our landscapes and our seascapes that have inspired an entire nation to fight for its freedom and to be victorious. Remember our forests and flowers and this Southern vantage point form which we view the world and from which we will watch you in your new role. Remember the South African people and continue to strengthen your ties with us in the future. Let this place be one of the many homes you acquire on life's journey and may you return to visit us not as a stranger but as a fellow traveler towards a common destiny of development.

I am pleased on behalf of the South African Government to present you with a small token of our appreciation and I ask you, ladies and gentlemen, to join me in drinking a toast to the High Commissioner.

I thank you.

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