Remarks by the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ms Sue van der Merwe, at the Farewell Function in Honour of the Departing Ambassador of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, His Excellency Sadafa Mohamed Bahia, Pretoria, 15 September 2005

Your Excellency, Ambassador Sadafa Mohamed Bahia
Excellencies and Colleagues
Distinguished Guests
Ladies and Gentlemen

It is a sad occasion for me to bid you farewell today, particularly after you have spent such a short stay in our country. Yet in that brief time, you have made a difference and you have served your country with such distinction. At the same time, I wish you well in your next posting, which enables you to continue the good work you are doing to represent your country and to contribute to the advancement of the cause of your movement and your people.

Our relationship dates back to the days of the liberation struggles of our people. It is this common history of struggle against colonialism and for all our peoples' freedom that will always bind us together. It is the hopes of the South and of the developing nations that we carry with us. It is the dream of a better world, a more inclusive world society characterised by common goals of peace, stability and bringing to an end to poverty that we share and the prosperity of all our people that we strive for.

Therefore I am pleased to note that we meet here today not only to bid you farewell but also mark a critical moment in our relations, because on this day, exactly one-year ago, our government officially announced its recognition of the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic.

Our recognition of the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic was in line with keeping the promise made by our former President Mandela in 1995, but which was kept on hold to give the Baker Plan a chance. It was believed then that our recognition would seriously undermine ongoing negotiations. However, it increasingly became clear to us that not recognising the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic would be tantamount to being an accessory to denying the people of Western Sahara their right to self-determination. It is in this spirit that we see the current relationship between our two countries and will work even to strengthen this relationship in the years to come. We look forward to your successor and hope that he will take over where you left off and build on our historical relationship.

Your Excellency, please allow me to present you with a memento of this glorious occasion, which was graced by the presence of your Minister of Foreign Affairs, His Excellency Mohamed Salem Ould Salek. This is a picture that was taken of both our Foreign Ministers on the occasion of the recognition of the Sahrawi Arab Republic and we would like to present you with this picture as a token of our friendship and a symbol of what we stand for together - and that is the right of all people to be free and to determine their own future. A slogan of our struggle echoes this statement. It says: we are our own liberators.

In conclusion, may I extend my sincere gratitude to you on behalf of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for the good work you have done, the solid foundation you have laid, and for the role you have played in fostering warm relations between our countries. Ambassador, we wish you all of the best for your future endeavours and we know that South Africa will always have a true friend in you.

Excellencies, Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen, please join me in a toast to His Excellency, Sadafa Mohamed Bahia!

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