Transcript Copy: Joint Press Conference on Conclusion of Discussions between Presidents Thabo Mbeki and Hugo Chavez, 2 September 2008, Media Centre, Union Buildings

President Mbeki

Let me start by saying once again a very warm welcome to President Hugo Chavez and the important delegation that accompanied him here.  We have been looking forward to the President’s visit for some time.  And I’m very glad that indeed he has been able to make it.

We have agreed with President Chavez that the relationship between South Africa and Venezuela should indeed assume a strategic character.  The President has insisted that the agreements that we reach and the work that we do should be informed by real, actual and practical attention to strengthen this relationship.  And I think you can see that from the documents that have been signed which include a global agreement, then various matters that have to do with energy and various elements of the energy.

We’ve also agreed that we must conclude another agreement before the end of this year which deals with economic cooperation across the field.  We’ve also agreed that we should negotiate another agreement which deals with matters of telecommunication broadcasting, information technology and so on, as well as an agreement to deal with issues of cooperation in the area of arts and culture.

So as you can see, this is a relationship that is built so that it relates to all elements of humanity.  We’ll work on it in a way that seeks to achieve practical results. 

Our discussions also gave us the possibility to look beyond the bilateral relations - the situation in South America, the situation in the continent and the situation globally.  We agreed that it is critically important that as we build this partnership between ourselves, we should also do it in the context of further strengthening South-South cooperation.

Let me say that we are indeed pleased that the President could come.  We are very pleased with the outcomes of the discussions which indeed confirm that we have this possibility as these two countries to build a relationship that will be mutually beneficial.  But also a relationship that would make an impact in terms of the further empowerment of the countries of the South.

President Chavez

Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. Good afternoon Mr President, Ministers, Minister of Foreign Affairs and representatives of the media.

From here I would like to greet from the bottom of my heart all the people of South Africa, and all the people of Africa.

When we arrived in Africa, Mr President, from Venezuela, from the Caribbean, from South America, I want you to know Mr President that we are fully aware of the fact that we are visiting a mother because for us Africa is a mother; a good and a great mother. In Latin America we believe – and fortunately more and more everyday believe – that it is essential to pave our true path towards the future; to come here in order to meet again with out true roots. Simón Bolívar, our liberator and our father said so in 1819 in the Angostura speech.

He said the following: “Allow me to call your attention, members of Congress, on a subject that might be vital. Let us be aware of the fact that our people are not the European or North American people, rather it is a mix of Africa; and America and not just a result of the Europe because even Spain stopped being European because of its African blood; for its institutions and its character”.

So this awareness dates back to those years that we are precisely what Bolivar said in the sentence.

We are a mix of Africa and America; of our America; the Indian America; the Afro America. That is why we greet from the bottom of our hearts the mother Africa.

I would like to thank you for your invitation, members of Cabinet, and thank you for your hospitality; thank you for your words that guide us; and South Africa has always been this – a guiding line; a source of inspiration. The struggle for liberation in Latin America has always been inspired by the struggle for liberation conducted in South Africa and Africa. And I would like to take this opportunity to express our greetings; the greetings of the whole of Venezuela and our warm feeling of thanks and gratitude to this father; this leader; an impeccable fighter with a long, long life; a liberator, Nelson Mandela, to express our admiration – an example of those who are struggling for their dignity and liberation.

When Mandela visited Cuba, on the day of heroic celebrations in Havana and in our America, Nelson Mandela arrived in Havana on an historical visit and Fidel Castro said these words: “If we want to have an example of an integral man, a worthy man, this man, this example is precisely Mandela. If we want to have the example of a man of unwavering firmness; a courageous man; a heroic man; a serine man, intelligent, capable, that example and that man is precisely Mandela.

You Mr President and your people follow in the footsteps of this man, Mandela, so our gratitude to these heroic people.

Here we are with our hands to convey our willingness to strengthen the relations and further cooperation between the two countries. I suggested Mr President, and according to our conversation this morning, we want these relations to attain a strategic level; a profoundly strategic level. It was high time. The world is moving. The world’s dynamics are forcing us; it is posing us with a few challenges.

Fortunately the attempt to impose on the world hegemony and uni-polar world has failed. In the horizon we can see rising a multi-polar world, and that is precisely the world we need. The bi-polar was terrible to the third world. The short uni-polar world was even worse to the whole world. Today we are in the midst of a terrible crisis all over the world – a financial crisis; an economic crisis; a food crisis; an energy crisis; an ecological crisis and a moral crisis. It is a systematic, a general crisis.

So it is indispensable; it is urgent; we cannot waste a single second more. It is essential to unite the people of the South to get together in the manner South Africa and Venezuela are doing today in order to devise a new strategic agenda; to conduct a true strategic change in international relations; in order to achieve a new liberation that is currently underway. In South America and Latin America a true process of liberation is currently underway – a true liberation is underway. It is no longer a revolution of rifles; no longer the guerrillas’, that 40 or 50 years ago were all around our hemisphere. Today we are millions, women and men, workers, the youth, students, Blacks, Indians and mixed-bloods. The people have awakened and a peaceful revolution is underway today – a democratic revolution, but it is a revolution. This is part of the world dynamics.

Likewise in Africa several movements have started; projects of unity; of liberation – only united we might be free and only free we can develop fully. Therefore for those reasons and many others Mr President, this is a very happy day for all of us; a very beautiful day; a historic day.

We have started to device a strategic agenda; a framework of cooperation; energy and oil cooperation agreements, and all these agreements should be implemented as soon as possible.

PetroSA should immediately go to Venezuela to start working with us to exploit the resources in the Orinoco Heavy Oil Belt that has the largest oil reserves in the world. So in the same manner as hundred years ago that Venezuela started to send oil to the United States especially and to all the developed countries it was high time that Venezuela starts sending oil to the countries of the South, to the developing countries.

It is a matter of justice. There is a wide range of possibilities for cooperation that is just opening today. Let us analyse the geographical location of South Africa for instance; its strategic location. Not too far away from here Venezuelan tankers pass by – for years passing by, especially since five years ago we started to pave the way towards Asia, China and other countries.

It will be a wonderful day when the first Venezuelan tanker stops by to leave oil for South Africa and to use the huge storage capacity that you have – 45 million barrels of storage capacity and to expand the refining capacity of 500 000 barrels a day, which is a good capacity. This could and should expand if we use state-of-the-art technology.

President Mbeki, the former Soviet Union left behind in Cuba a cemetery of refining infrastructure. After the fall of the Soviet Union all that was over. When Mandela went to Cuba and we came after that we met there after I left jail in 1994, Cuba invited me to visit Havana. There was not a single vehicle in the streets, only Fidel’s car and they had to push it for it to move. Cuba was smothering because of the blockage that was trying to destroy Cuba and that is other worthy and heroic people.

Allow me from here to greet Fidel – commander and friend, father. We are here and we love you so much. Our people remember the cooperation of Cuba with Africa, not only with doctors and medicines but also with the blood of shed by those soldiers – we cannot forget that. Cuban blood was also shed during the liberation of Angola and also in South Africa.

As part of his address in Cuba, Mandela said in 1991 – when I was just leaving jail – this is Mandela thanking the people of Cuba on behalf of South Africa: “The defeat of the apartheid army was a source of inspiration for the combatant people of South Africa. Without the defeat being inflicted in Cuito Cuanavale our organisation would have never been legalised. The defeat of the racist army in Cuito Cuanavale made it possible for me to be here with you today. Cuito Cuanavale is the turning point of the liberation of South Africa.”

So this is part of this endeavour; of this struggle and we are here to take it back Mr President, to start widening the path. And we are here with a strong will to walk together the path of the future – South Africa and Venezuela; Africa and Latin America.

In Cuba that refinery was a cemetery; it was abandoned. Between Cuba and Venezuela we have revamped it and today it is refining 70 000 barrels a day and we are working on a second refinery in Cuba. Also in Ecuador we went to do the groundwork for a refinery there. We also went to Nicaragua for the construction of another refinery there. A year or so ago we went with [President Lula da Silva] for a refinery also in Brazil. There are plans to extend the refinery in Jamaica and a new refinery in the eastern Caribbean.

So this is a strategic change that has occurred. Venezuela used to be a colony of the West but now we have liberated and now we are turning our sight to the South. Today our North is the South, and now we are in the southern most part of the South in South Africa.

These are our hands Mr President, our hands men and women of South Africa, in this great blaze, in this great fire. The fire, the blaze of a brand new era. Thank you very much


Question: President Mbeki, what do you think of the Venezuelan social and political process?  What assistance do you think Venezuela could give South Africa, especially in the field of education?

Answer: (President Mbeki) We follow very closely what is happening in Venezuela because the message and example that has come out of Venezuela is that we must truly take our destiny in our own hands.

You’ve just heard President Chavez talk about the past when Venezuela was a colony of the north.  So when Venezuela says today, we must take our future into our own hands, decide our own destiny, decide our own place in the world, that is an important message for us.  And that includes the message that Venezuela needs to use her own resources to raise the quality of life of the Venezuelan people, to ensure the dignity of the Venezuelan people.  So that’s a process that we obviously very keenly study. 

We spoke about a strategic partnership.  That strategic partnership means among other things that we would learn from each other, we would draw on each other’s strengths and weaknesses.  Therefore, with regard to all of these processes that you talked about, social processes, education and so on the way we would want to approach all these processes is that we act in partnership to make a positive impact on the peoples of both countries.

Question: President Chavez, I would like to know your opinion about what we can learn from South Africa.  Venezuela, Latin America, Brazil and Cuba have many historical links.  The question is what can we learn from this particular relationship?

Answer: (President Chavez) As Mr Mbeki said, we are here in order to learn from each other, to cooperate between the two countries.  The importance of Africa is really huge, it is important for the whole world.  Africa is indeed the cradle of civilisation.  When Europe was just a hostile land, there already was human civilisation in Africa.  There were no traces of Homo sapiens in North America, but here in Africa we already had civilisation and towns.  This clearly demonstrates the importance of Africa for history for today and the future.

Africa resisted what in my view is the greatest genocide ever committed in history and that creates paternal links because that genocide also occurred in our hemisphere.  President, when the conquerors arrived to our America, we had close to 80 million inhabitants.  We had from the north to the south a very vast civilisation.  Africa also had a very vast civilisation.  200 years later, only 2 million Indians remain.  They were exterminated.  The same thing happened in Africa.  We cannot forget this.

The countries that led that genocide have not asked for forgiveness yet.  And some of them are even upset because we remember this.  We have an obligation to remember this.  It is our duty to tell what happened to the current and future generations.  People talk about the Jewish holocaust and we join our voice to condemn that holocaust.  But we also then condemn and urge the world to condemn the holocaust, the genocide that occurred in Africa, in Latin America.

Africa is so important to us. It is a moral reference of this fact, this anti-imperialist resistance, anti-colonialist fight, this quest for a better world.

Regarding the specific part of your question, I think we have already mentioned this, the importance of South Africa.  Apart from the geo-strategic location in the whole of Africa, the country with 50 million inhabitants, one million two-hundred square kilometres, vast mining riches, huge agricultural potential, industrial potential, and human potential – this is a very important country.

I was telling the President in our private conversation that South Africa and Venezuela, this concept of nations of the Third World; we are two countries of those countries.  Unfortunately not all these countries could say the same.  Unfortunately both South Africa and Venezuela we are countries, as Mao Ze Dung used to say, who can walk with their own feet.  So we have to strengthen our feet.  We have to strengthen our life, our body, our eyes, our minds of our countries.  Not only in favour of our people but because we have the responsibility to help all the countries that have not been able and cannot stand with their own feet.

Many countries have many responsibilities in succeeding in the integration of the South.  Thanks God we are not the only ones.  I think that South Africa and Venezuela have the duty to take the vanguard of the integration of the peoples of the South.

Question: President Chavez, you spoke about the importance of sharing the oil commodity, but it is also a commodity that will not last forever.  Do you foresee cooperation between South Africa and Venezuela on the search and research for the alternative forms of energy, as well as in terms of skills training which is a problem in South Africa?

Answer: (President Chavez) Although this topic has not been raised today and is not enshrined in the document that we’ve signed, it is no doubt one of the most important topics of the world of today.  Alternative energy as you’ve rightly called them and it is worth for me to make a short reference to these energies.

We must introduce this topic into the agenda that we are devising for our two countries.  Venezuela as a vast oil producing country and fully aware of the fact that we are going to run out of oil very soon, we have to get ready for a post-oil world.  We have a research centre and there we are working on projects.  We have signed agreements with different countries in order to advance in different programmes and studies.  Taking advantage of research that has yielded very good results with countries such as Portugal for instance, in Spain also where they’ve achieved a high level of expertise in wind energy for instance.  With Cuba with solar energy and the use of the wave force to harness that energy.

It is a crucial matter indeed and Mr President I think that we can use this opportunity to insert this subject into the discussions to be held in the future.  Energy is vital and we need to address this in a very thorough manner.  And we need to raise awareness about this because people are squandering energy in the world today.

That projector is very useful for this conference but it is consuming a lot of energy.  In Caracas I’m always troubled because you find lights on in the middle of the day, wasting all that energy, or lights that remain on the whole night even in empty buildings.  So we need to raise awareness about this.

Fidel proposed a plan, many plans that we are implementing, to change the bulbs by fluorescent bulbs.  And you cannot any longer find these fluorescent bulbs because Fidel has brought them all.  In Cuba they changed all the light bulbs.  In Venezuela we have already changed 60 million bulbs and we have already saved 2000 megawatts just by changing the light bulbs.  They consumed 20percent of the normal bulbs.  So this is indeed a very important topic and thank you very much for raising it.
Training also is crucial for the development of the industry, the manufacturing and the arts.  Today we have signed a framework agreement for cooperation.  This is a framework under the first agreement.  So instead of asking a question you are making a recommendation.  So we’ll take this recommendation of alternative energy and the training, skills in the manufacturing. 

Yesterday we kicked off a programme to build 200 socialism factories in Venezuela.  Since we have chosen the path of constructing socialism, however we respect ofcourse the paths chosen by other countries.  Argentina, which is not a socialist country, has an advanced industrialist fabric and they are helping us to build our own factories.  And that includes training, technology transfers.  One of the factories is meant to build tractors, agricultural machinery.  With Vietnam also working on manufacturing cement and construction materials, those are factories to build factories, to develop the country.

So our two countries could work together in that sense that could be useful, the Minister of mines and the Minister of energy.  The President has just said that they manufacture here all the machinery required for construction, infrastructure machinery.  So we want the same thing, we want to build our own machines in Venezuela.

We are starting with Belarus to build a factory to build these large trucks for mining purposes, with China a factory to manufacture oil rigs.  Those rigs are very scarce, they are all busy.  With Vietnam, in order to snatch the hegemony of Fidel in those bulbs, we are going to build a factory to build those fluorescent lights. 

So dear journalist I don’t have your name with me but thank you very much for raising this question.  This should become a very good recommendation.

Question: President Mbeki, could you tell us whether you’ve reached any agreement with President Chavez for buying Venezuelan oil at a below-market-price, and if not, if you could give some idea of how the agreements will benefit the man on the street in South Africa.

Answer: (President Mbeki) The agreements we have signed provide for further detailed discussions and further detailed work to enlarge this cooperation in this field, starting with oil.

One of the purposes of the agreements is to cut out the intermediaries so you have direct state to state relations in this area.  That obviously removes an element of cost and price which derives from the fact of an intermediary.  We will discuss all of that to come to some finality about how that’s expressed.  You will also have heard that the agreement relates in part to the exploitation of macrofills and also relate to the matter of drilling to extract oil in new fields.  Those obviously mean different cost structures so these are all matters of detail that we are going to work on.  The objective would indeed be to assist the process of reducing energy with a positive impact on the country and the lives of the people.

Issued by Department of Foreign Affairs
Private Bag X152

2 September 2008

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