Opening Remarks by Deputy Minister Aziz Pahad at the First South Africa-Switzerland High Level Consultations, 27 May 2008, Berne Switzerland

HE State Secretary Micheal Ambuhl
HE Ambassador Konji Sebati
HE Ambassador Viktor Christen
South African and Swiss Delegations

It is a real pleasure for our delegation once again to be in this beautiful city of Berne. On behalf of our delegation, I wish to thank State Secretary Ambuhl and the Government of Switzerland for hosting our 2008 annual consultations. Our bilateral relations are, warm, friendly and personal.

This is the first High Level Consultations following the Memorandum of Understanding on Co-operation signed by our two Ministers. This memorandum underlines the strategic nature of our relationship.

State Secretary,

South Africa, during the last few months, has experienced some VERY challenging and difficult times. Firstly, the Eskom Energy Crises has caused us some serious problems. The factors leading to the energy crisis were numerous. However, broadly speaking the main elements was based largely on substantial development within the country. South Africa was historically noted for low cost, high efficiency electricity supplies, however this came at a long term cost, rapid growth and expansive development placed increased pressure on our power grids. This was further complicated by some management weaknesses and mistakes.

We have taken measures to deal with the problem however our energy programme will only be fully operational by 2012 but we believe that the measures we have taken, including energy saving, should enable us to deal with the crisis. We are also encouraging independent power suppliers and increasingly utilising alternative sources of energy such as wind and solar; I know that this area offers opportunities for partnerships as was discussed during the JEC meeting and Minister Mpahlwa’s visit, we look forward to this developing further.

A few days ago we celebrated Africa Day; it was a day we marked with sadness. You would have no doubt heard of the recent criminal attacks  on migrants under the umbrella of xenophobia.
 
President Mbeki, speaking to the nation on Africa Day, said:
Sadly, here in South Africa, we mark Africa day with our heads bowed. The shameful actions of a few have blemished the name of South Africa through criminal acts against our African brothers and sisters from other parts of the continent, as well as other foreign residents especially from Asia.

Never since the birth of our democracy, have we witnessed such callousness. As part of the reflection that Africa Day requires of all of us, we must acknowledge the events of the past two weeks as an absolute disgrace.

The violence and criminality we have seen perpetrated by a few South Africans is opposed to everything that our freedom from apartheid represents.

The actions of these few individuals do not reflect the values of our people who for decades have lived together with their fellow African brothers and sisters – whom they accept, without question, truly as their own!

We must never forget that our economy was built by the combined labour of Africans drawn from all countries of our region, many of whom died in our mines together with their fellow South African workers.

Neither should we forget that many people from other African countries helped to build our liberation movement, while many in our region died because of apartheid aggression as they supported us in the struggle to defeat apartheid.

We must also sustain the understanding that our own progress and prosperity is dependent on the progress and prosperity of our neighbours and other African countries.

An injury to one is an injury to all.

For this reason, many of our communities have rallied together to defeat the senseless agitation of the few seeking to mount attacks on people from other parts of the continent.

Many of our people, black and white, have come out to condemn this barbarity, offering food, shelter and clothing to those affected. We commend and thank all these patriots and appeal to them to continue their good work, to reject and isolate the criminals in our midst and extend a hand of friendship to our foreign guests who are nothing more than our fellow-human beings.

Our National Disaster Management Centre has been working with all the relevant government departments, business, religious and humanitarian organisations, as well as the United Nations High Commission for Refugees urgently to respond to the humanitarian requirements of those who have been displaced.

While government seeks, always, to address people’s concerns, nobody will be allowed to pervert those concerns by targeting vulnerable people from other countries.

Whatever concerns exist, including those about housing, jobs and so on, these can and must be addressed in a manner that is consistent with the dignified, humane and caring characteristics that define the majority of our people – not through criminal means. They must be addressed through the structures of our democratic system.

Humanity, democracy and protection of the law are indivisible. What begins as attacks on people from other countries also involves, as we have seen, the killing, rape and looting of property belonging to fellow South African citizens.

Everything possible will be done to bring the perpetrators to justice. We approved the deployment of units of the South African National Defence Force immediately after we received this request from the Ministry of Safety and Security and the South African Police Service.

We have issued the necessary instructions to these forces and other law-enforcement bodies to do everything necessary to stop and apprehend the killers.

Working together with the South African National Defence Force, the Police have already apprehended more than 250 alleged perpetrators. The police will continue to do their job and will root out of our communities the criminal elements who deserve to be nowhere else but in jail!

Nobody should be left in doubt about the seriousness with which the entire government views this matter. No one should doubt the capacity of the State to deal firmly and decisively with criminal elements.

Communities should remain ever vigilant, making it forever impossible for anyone to manipulate their concerns and aspirations for criminal purposes.

We also urge all our people to convey any information they may have about the planned activities of the criminal elements.

We must all assist one another to understand the phenomenon of migration, its global nature, its causes and how others elsewhere in the world manage it, avoiding its mismanagement.

Community, political, religious, civil society, media and other leaders of our people to act together against the manipulation of our people by criminal elements. This is the time for unity.

An Inter-Departmental Task Team to investigate all possible causes of the attacks and to make recommendations about action that needs to be taken. 

It would be wrong to isolate and segregate our foreign guests in special camps. Instead, we must build on the tradition of many decades of integrating our foreign guests within our communities.

Government, popular organisations and communities will have to create the conditions conducive to good neighbourly relations.

While government will do everything in its power to address our people’s concerns, we will never accept violence and the destruction and looting the property of any person.

The recent developments in SA further strengthen our resolve to consolidate our relations at all levels.

I must commend our delegations for the very good work done since our last meeting. This is especially true in relation to our trilateral co-operation in the DRC and I am also happy that since our last meeting, the Science and Technology Agreement have been signed and the First Meeting of the Joint Economic Committee has been held.

Secretary of State,

In the current stage in international relations where challenges to political and economic stability, tensions over scarce resources, and the unpredictable shifts in the equilibrium of globalisation have led to increased challenges and opportunity toward the acquisition of peace, security and sustainable economic development the world over. In our current stage of global dialogue, South Africa remains convinced that among the nations of the world, particularly within the developed world, Switzerland stands ready as among our more valued friends to work together toward achieving a better, more fulfilled life for all the peoples of the world.

We have a strategic partnership because both our national and foreign policies are driven by the same fundamental values. These include:

  • Freedom
  • Equality
  • Solidarity
  • Tolerance, dialogue and peaceful resolution of conflicts
  • Respect for nature and sustainable development
  • Shared Responsibilities

Sadly, since our last meeting, these values have still not impacted on the process of globalisation.

Latest reports continue to indicate that despite the fact that some African countries are showing positive growth rates, the vast majority of African countries will not meet many of the MDGs. The situation is compounded by recent international economic and financial crises and unprecedented oil prices.

This is not sustainable because  it will result in increasing conflicts, spread of infectious diseases such as HIV/Aids, tuberculosis and malaria, environmental degradation and climate change impacting on food security, terrorism and migration.

We must therefore re-double our efforts bilaterally and through multilateral organisations to ensure that the developed countries manifest the political will to use their exclusive economic resources to fight poverty and under-development on the African continent.

In this respect, it is encouraging to note that our common will to engage each other is clearly intensifying. We have invested much energy, time and resources to strengthen and co-ordinate our relations. Switzerland has identified South Africa as a strategic partner. Through concrete activities you have indicated that this is simply not a paper commitment.

In December 2007, the agreement on Science and Technology Cooperation was concluded. This is led by the University of Basel in Switzerland and the CSIR in South Africa. This was followed in March by the visit of our Foreign Minister, Dr Dlamini Zuma, where an MoU on Bilateral Cooperation was entered into,  shortly after this, our Minister of Trade and Industry, Minister Mpahlwa visited with a business delegation, the visit being just two weeks ago. A Joint Economic Committee (JEC) was formally launched during the visit with the aim more frequent meetings between our two countries to address Trade, Investment and development issues. In addition to the various high level visits, numerous official delegations have visited Switzerland to mobilise intensified collaboration in the areas of development, skills and education cooperation.

Our joint efforts have led to the establishment of the office of the Assistant of the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Women in Africa. A South African, Ms Kgomo is presently serving in the post; after 2 years Switzerland will take over this post.

I have been informed of developments around the Euro 08 Soccer event being hosted by Switzerland and Austria next month, I must congratulate Switzerland in advance and express South Africa’s warmest appreciation at Switzerland’s selfless support for the preparations toward Africa’s 2010 World Cup, to be hosted by South Africa. I have been informed that Switzerland will host 61 South African officials from Government, Host Cities and the Local Organising Committee who will participate and share experiences with their Swiss counterparts in sport event management during the Euro 08 event. Our organisers at home are feeling very confident and well prepared, however, we must agree, that we can never have enough preparation, as they say in the good sport practice, practice, practice. This unique opportunity offered by the Euro 08 allows our organisers to share with other experts through exchanging ideas and notes to ensure 100% perfect Soccer World Cup Event.

I am satisfied to note that the concept of friendship between our two countries is really showing concrete and specific outcomes. I’m encouraged that our relations cover a wide and diverse spectrum of topics, we have very impressive trade and investment figures, through the mutual interests of our business people, we have well established people to people ties which spans business, tourism, culture and just plain social interactions. Our views on development are well aligned, and this has found expression in our trilateral projects in Africa, and Switzerland’s involvement in South Africa’s development agenda through capital investments and technical support, e.g. the SSACI projects in South Africa.

However as with all friendships there are areas in which we might want to share our views more rigorously, the issues around Food Security, the WTO Doha Round issues of Human Rights, and the UN Security Council deliberations on International Peace, Security and Stability. Furthermore issues of mutual importance on the environment, energy and food security are areas generally would require greater discussion.

African Issues:

  • African Government
  • Conflict areas
  • Zimbabwe
  • Post-conflict reconstruction

To close  I must also thank you, State Secretary Ambuhl serving both countries mutual benefit as an equal partner, for working with commitment for Africa’s development agenda, striving together with us toward a for a better world for all the people who live in it. During our ongoing discussions today, I’m confident that we will be in a position to further cement the work which we set out to do every day in our jobs. Finally I must take time to, acknowledge our Ambassador, who has led our Mission in Bern well, in further strengthening this partnership and more importantly friendship with Switzerland and similarly, the Ambassador of Switzerland in South Africa.

Issued by Department of Foreign Affairs
Private Bag X152
Pretoria
0001

27 May 2008

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