Press Comments made by South African Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka and Bolivial Vice President Alvaro Garcia Linera, Presidential Guesthouse, Pretoria, Wednesday 11 April 2007

Deputy President Mlambo-Ngcuka

We are indeed very honoured to host my Bolivian counterpart Vice President Alvaro Garcia Linera in South Africa who is paying a working visit to South Africa.

The area on which we focused discussions is the constitutional development process that is currently underway in Bolivia. Bolivia is, in many ways, going through similar experiences as we did in South Africa with regard to our constituent assembly.

This is not the first contact we have had with Bolivia in this regard. You will be aware that we hosted President Evo Morales in January last year, a South African delegation led by Minister Essop Pahad visited Bolivia in June 2006 in addition to the Speaker of Parliament Baleka Mbete and Minister Jeff Radebe in 2006. We have therefore had very intense communication.

Some of the issues with which Bolivia is dealing regarding the establishment of a constitutional state are similar to those we in South Africa faced. We have therefore decided to make our own government and parliamentary experts and those from the broader academic community available to the Bolivian government to assist them in overcoming some of these challenges.

We will also invite a delegation of Bolivian experts to South Africa to meet the broader South African community and experts during which experiences will be shared, lessons learnt from the South African constitution building experience those that followed.

We are dealing with very strict timeframes since the Bolivian government would like to finalise this process by the middle of 2007.

We also had an opportunity to hear that the government of Bolivia intends to open an Embassy in South Africa that will serve to further enhance our very strong diplomatic relations.

There is also a working relationship between our economic ministries especially with the Departments of Minerals and Energy and Trade and Industry. We intend to strengthen these to the extent that we can work collaboratively on issues on human resource development since Bolivia faces the same challenges as South Africa in the areas we regard as "scarce skills." We will also exchange experiences in how we are dealing with this matter.

It may not be possible to have a student exchange programme due to the language barrier but we will attempt to share our experiences in this regard.

Vice President Alvaro Garcia Linera

I am very pleased to be here in South Africa and bring greetings from President Morales to the government of South Africa.

South Africa and Bolivia are separated by a vast distance of approximately 9000 km but both countries are very similar in that they seek equitable and just societies.

After 180 years, Bolivians are experiencing the challenges of integration through the processes of democratisation.

The democratic way is to choose to establish a constitutional system that will integrate groups who have always been excluded.

Accordingly, the South African experience will be very valuable to us in Bolivia.

President Morales did visit South Africa as a South African delegation visited Bolivia in 2006.

We are interested in discussing the concurrence of powers at various societal levels, inter alia, national, provincial, etc.

We also want to understand how the new constitution should address issues of wealth sharing in Bolivia including, land distribution.

Questions and answers

Question Deputy President could you kindly elaborate on the South African delegation that will visit Bolivia?

Answer The administrative details of this visit must still be finalised. I can confirm that this delegation will include parliamentarians, academics, constitutional experts, representatives from civil society including government officials.

Question Vice President Garcia, (in Spanish)

Answer The question of the redistribution of wealth is a serious one. We want to learn from the South African experience in this regard.

Question Vice President Garcia, you want to learn from the South African experience in terms of wealth redistribution. Your country has just begun a process of nationalization of the oil and gas sector. (inaudible)

Answer The main economic growth for Bolivia will come from oil and natural gas reserves.


Question Deputy President, were energy related issued discussed seeing that the Minister of Minerals and Energy is present?

Answer Yes, such issues were discussed, although this is not the first time we have had such discussions. The Minister of Minerals and Energy has had discussions with her Bolivian counterpart in Bolivia in this regard. We are focusing on the exchange of experiences in the regulation of both industries, the co-operation between both institutions and issues of capacity building. The intention of these discussions is to ultimately strengthen economic and trade relations. We would also want to ensure that PetroSA develops a relationship with its counterpart in Bolivia as well as all business sectors and small and medium enterprises developing business linkages with counterparts in Bolivia.

Concluding remarks by Deputy President Mlambo-Ngcuka

Thank you for being here. We are indeed excited that we will be able to consolidate relations with our cousins in Bolivia. There will be much work to do in the forthcoming days and months, including shuttling between both countries. This will involve not only the government but political parties who have already established relations with Bolivia. We will encourage the continuation of such activities.

Issued by Department of Foreign Affairs
Private Bag X152

11 April 2007

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