Toast Remarks by the President of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki, on the occasion of the State Visit to the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, Hanoi

Your Excellency, President Nguyen Minh Triet and Madam Tran Thi Kim Chi,
Your Excellency, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung and Madam Tran Thanh Kiem,
Your Excellencies, Deputy Prime Ministers,
Your Excellencies, Ministers and Deputy Ministers,
Your Excellencies, Ambassadors,
Distinguished guests,
Ladies and gentlemen

My wife, my entire delegation and I are honoured and very delighted to pay a state visit to your beautiful country and would like to express our gratitude for the warm hospitality extended to us by the Government and the sister people of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.

On behalf of our delegation, I would like to convey the warmest greetings of the Government and people of South Africa to you, Your Excellency and to the Government and the people of Vietnam.

Your Excellency, let me take this opportunity, during this historic visit, the first by a South African President, to thank the leadership and the people of this country for teaching many liberation movements, including our own, the importance of valour, discipline, resilience and steadfastness in the face of some of the most formidable and brutal forces of colonialism and apartheid.

From the indefatigable Uncle Ho to General Giap we learnt the importance of tactics and strategies as we prosecuted a people's war, but equally and importantly, we understood very well that our struggle was aimed at restoring humanity to those regarded by their oppressors as sub-human as well as to the same oppressors who falsely believed that their birth-mark bestowed unto them, the title of super human-beings.

Indeed, few among those who fought for their freedom can claim that the heroic struggle of the people of this country did not impact positively on their own struggles. When, during the long and difficult struggle against apartheid, the morale of some of us was low, when some thought that the struggle was too tough and the oppressor too strong to be defeated, we cast our eyes to the east and drew strength and courage from the resilience of the people of this country.

Your Excellency, I am conveying the sincere sentiments of the people of South Africa when I say: thank you for helping us believe that no matter how strong and formidable the oppressors are, those on the side of truth will always be victorious.

Your Excellency, you may recall that in 1978 the African National Congress visited Vietnam and the leadership of both our countries committed themselves to a collaboration that would strengthen the independence and reconstruction of Vietnam as well as to the struggle against apartheid that culminated in the liberation of South Africa in 1994.

Today, we have returned to you, our friends and comrades, to strengthen a new collaboration against poverty, underdevelopment and addressing the marginalisation of our countries and regions from the political economy of the world.

Your Excellency, we are here to strengthen and further confirm our commitment to our political and economic relations. Our presence here is, among others to build-on the 'Vietnam-South Africa Joint Statement on the Partnership for Co-operation and Development' which I signed with Prime Minister Phan Van Khai during his visit to South Africa in November 2004.

We are therefore very happy that we have signed the Minute of the First Session of the Vietnam-South Africa Partnership Forum; the Agreement on Co-operation between our Foreign Ministries and the Agreement on the Exemption of Visas for Holders of Diplomatic and Official Passports.

I am sure you would agree with me, Your Excellency, that our two-way trade, which is $155 million, is very low and that our close political relations should also be reflected in our substantially improved and strengthened economic bonds.

Accordingly, we strongly encourage business-to-business interaction and we are, on this visit, accompanied by a business delegation and would like to urge, in this regard, that concrete partnerships should be forged between Vietnamese and South African business.

In addition, we welcome the possibility for further strengthening our economic relations through such important processes as:

· the establishment of formal co-operation between government departments dealing with areas such as minerals, energy, water, trade and agriculture
· the collaboration between state institutions such as Petro-SA and Petro-Vietnam, Mintek of South Africa and the Vietnamese mining company, Vinacomin, and others
· the Joint Trade Committee meeting to be held here in Vietnam in the next few months and
· seminars and investment promotion missions that will be conducted in our respective countries.

Your Excellency, we should move with the necessary speed to make real the co-operation on education, science and technology as well as arts and culture and ensure that exchanges of students, researchers and experts in these fields should help to consolidate people-people relations.

I am proud to congratulate the government and people of this country for the impressive all-round achievements in the last 20 years of 'Doi moi'(Renovation) and I am confident that our co-operation will greatly benefit our people as we engage our own programme of reconstruction and development. Your Excellency, all of us appreciate the role that Vietnam is playing in the context of South-South relations, within the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), the New Asia-Africa Strategic Partnership (NAASP) as well as in other multilateral organisations.

As Africans we are really strengthened by your collaboration with other partners on our continent on the many initiatives that you have undertaken to help Africa overcome poverty and underdevelopment. These initiatives are a direct positive response by the Vietnamese Government and the entire Vietnamese society to work together with the African continent within the programme of the New Partnership for Africa's Development (Nepad).

Your Excellency, South Africa fully supports the possibility of Vietnam becoming a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council and I am confident that together we will co-operate, as we have done in the past, to advance the agenda of the countries of the South.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Please rise and join me in a toast to the good health and prosperity of His Excellency, President Nguyen Minh Triet, Madam Tran Thi Kim Chi and to the friendship between the peoples of Vietnam and South Africa.

To friendship!

Xin Com on! Thank you.

Issued by: The Presidency
24 May 2007

Source: The Presidency (http://www.thepresidency.gov.za)


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