Toast Remarks of the President of the Republic of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki, at the State Banquet in honour of the President of the Republic of Indonesia, Dr Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono: Tshwane, 17 March 2008.

Your Excellency, President of the Republic of Indonesia, Dr Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Madame Yudhoyono,
You Excellency, Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka,
Your Excellencies, Ministers and Deputy Ministers,
Your Excellencies, Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Our religious and business leaders,
Distinguished guests,
Ladies and gentlemen:

On behalf of the government and the people of South Africa, my wife and I are truly honoured to welcome you, Your Excellency, Madame Yudhoyono and your esteemed delegation to our country on this auspicious occasion and wish you a fruitful and enjoyable stay in South Africa.

Your Excellency, relations between South Africa and Indonesia, defined by historical, blood and cultural ties, date back to the 17th century. During the days of slavery about 3 000 Indonesians were brought to South Africa from the Island of Java. Descendants of former slaves, exiles such as Susanna and Catherine Paliacatt and the Mardyckers of Amboina brought to the Cape in order to provide labour to the colonialists, and freedom fighters such as Sheik Yusuf, are as South African as all of us and have contributed to the successes of our country.

We feel highly honoured, Your Excellency, that you visited the Kramat of the great hero, Sheik Yusuf, at our own Macassar in Cape Town. As you know, Mr President, in 2005 we honoured this gallant freedom fighter by admitting him into the ranks of the esteemed members of the Order of the Companions of OR Tambo. What made that award ceremony particularly moving for us was the presence of an Indonesian delegation led by your Vice President.

Yet another defining moment in our relations came as part of the birth and development of the Afro-Asian People''s Solidarity Movement in the 1950s, as Africa and Asia entered the period of decolonisation. It was in this context that leaders of our liberation movement, Moses Kotane and Maulvi Cachalia were warmly received by the Government and people of Indonesia when they attended the historic 1955 Bandung Conference.

The South African liberation movement is proud have participated in a Conference which our esteemed leader, Oliver Tambo, said constituted "a step in the direction of meeting the aspirations of the vast majority of mankind, particularly the oppressed people of Asia and Africa". Of course Bandung led directly to the establishment of the Non-Aligned Movement in1961, which stood firmly on our side as we fought to liberate ourselves from the apartheid crime against humanity.

In this context we must also express our sincere appreciation of Indonesia''s solidarity with us. In 1991, in recognition and acknowledgement of Indonesia''s unwavering support, President Nelson Mandela paid his first visit to Indonesia after his release from prison. In 1992 and 1993 he visited Indonesia again to assist in the resolution of the Timor-Leste issue. In 1997, he paid the first ever State Visit by a South African Head of State to Indonesia.

The next memorable phase in our relations came with the establishment of diplomatic ties between our countries in 1994.

Mr President, we are indeed very delighted that you have decided to visit us, as your presence among us confirms the strong relations that our countries have built since South Africa attained its freedom in 1994, and will serve to give further impetus to these relations.

South Africa attaches great importance to the friendship and cooperation which have developed between our peoples, positively affecting our relations on bilateral and multilateral levels.

Your Excellency will recall that during my own visit to your country in 2005 we identified priority areas of cooperation, such as trade and investment, science and technology, agriculture, education and people-to-people contact.

Subsequently, the Joint Commission, at the level of officials identified further areas such as banking, tourism, arts and culture, security, fisheries, minerals and energy, transport and communication, bio-technology, investment and institutional cooperation involving our chambers of commerce, special economic zones, and other areas of common interest.

The Bandung Spirit as enshrined in the 1955 Declaration focuses on the cultivation of cooperation based on mutual benefit and the improvement of the welfare of the peoples of Asia and Africa.

We have a long tradition of working and living together and recognise in each other a common humanity and common destiny. This imposes a duty and obligation on us to champion the cause of a more equitable global order for the development and advancement of the peoples of both our continents.

Accordingly, the Asia-Africa Summit of April 2005 held in Jakarta and Bandung provided a solid base for the re-invigoration of the Bandung Spirit and gave us a framework for a common programme of action.

The establishment of the New Asia Africa Strategic Partnership (NAASP) was a milestone, which must be realised through the implementation of the programme.

Your Excellency, as co-chairs of the forum, South Africa and Indonesia must provide a solid foundation for the successors after the 2009 Summit which we are looking forward to hosting. We must create mutual trust and commitment from both sides of the Indian Ocean, which will lead to an increase in political solidarity, economic cooperation and socio-cultural relations.

Of importance, the signing of the MoU between the Government of the Republic of South Africa and the Government of the Republic of Indonesia on 23 March 2004 regarding the Establishment of a Joint Commission for Bilateral Cooperation provided a strong foundation for the attainment of our shared objectives, and has resulted in the successful First Meeting of the Joint Commission between the Republic of South Africa and the Republic of Indonesia on Batam Island last month.

I am also pleased that today, among others, we signed the Joint Declaration on a Strategic Partnership for a Peaceful and Prosperous Future.

These important developments underline our shared determination further to strengthen our relations in many areas of human activity. As we have agreed, we will do everything we can to give practical effect to these agreements, to ensure that our economic and other relations reach the level of excellence we have attained at the political level.

I would also like to take this opportunity, to express our sincere appreciation for our equally excellent cooperation at the UN Security Council and other multilateral organisations. We are also very pleased, Your Excellency, that you took the initiative to unite the countries of Asia and Africa to assist the sister people of Palestine to build the capacity they need to govern themselves.

Mr President, let me again thank you for visiting our shores. I was glad to hear that you were able to make contact with South Africans of Indonesian descent during your visit and warmly welcome the possibility you have offered for our citizens to spend time in Indonesia learning the Indonesian language and familiarising themselves with your rich culture.

I am also pleased to inform Your Excellency that, recalling the immense disaster caused by the 2004 undersea earthquake and Tsunami and other natural disasters that have visited the sister people of Indonesia since then, we will, tomorrow, hand over a small contribution to your reconstruction fund as an expression of the friendship and solidarity of the people of South Africa for their Indonesian brothers and sisters.

May I, your Excellency, also wish you and the people of Indonesia peaceful and successful elections in 2009, as both our countries will be going to the polls in the continued pursuit of the ideals of democracy.

Ladies and gentlemen, please rise and join me in a toast to the good health and prosperity of His Excellency, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Madame Yudhoyono and to the friendship between the peoples of Indonesia and South Africa.

To peace, friendship and solidarity!

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