Opening Remarks for Deputy Minister Ebrahim Ebrahim at the Second Annual SA – Switzerland Consultation, Pretoria, 7 December 2009
Your Excellency, Mr Michael Ambühl, State Secretary for Foreign Affairs of the Swiss Confederation;
Ambassador Rudolf Baerfuss, Swiss Ambassador to the Republic of South Africa
Ambassador George Johannes, South African Ambassador to the Swiss Confederation;
Members of the Swiss Delegation;
Members of the South African Delegation;
Ladies and Gentlemen;
It is an honour for me to welcome you, Mr. Michael Ambuhl, and your esteemed delegation to South Africa. I trust that you will have an enjoyable stay in our country. It is indeed an honour for us to host this Second session of the Annual High Level Consultations. The South African delegation fondly remembers the fruitful 1st Annual High Level Consultations held in Bern on 27 May 2008 and especially the exceptional hospitality with which the Swiss received the South African delegation. I am sure you will agree with me that that session certainly contributed to placing our bilateral relationship on the solid foundation it stands on at present. My delegation joins me in looking forward to our deliberations today to review the many major events that shaped and influence the world especially to explore possibilities for further co-operation at both the bilateral and multilateral levels.
During our last consultations in Bern on 27 May 2008, we reaffirmed the strong partnership between South Africa and Switzerland and our shared commitment to the values of democracy, good governance, peace and security and development on the African continent, especially with regards to South Sudan and the DRC. We reviewed our bilateral relations and expressed ourselves satisfied that relations between our countries and people continue to strengthen and grow in all areas.
Apart from the substantive talks at political level, our engagements have been enhanced by the discussions that held between the various technical departments from South Africa and Switzerland. To date, the Department of Science and Technology has met with the Swiss in August 2009, with the view of strengthening their cooperation and launching relevant joint projects which could add value to our bilateral relations and the Small Claims Court Project is well underway.
I would like to suggest that we engage seriously at this year’s Consultations to determine whether; and to what extent we fulfilled this commitment we had made; to measure honestly what concrete progress has been made in the undertakings we gave last year, and if this has not been satisfactory in every way, what is it that we can do to improve performance even further. The conclusion we reached last year that relations can benefit from further high-level visits remain valid. Importantly, we expressed our common commitment to make special efforts to increase the level of implementation of the undertakings given during last year’s Annual Consultations.
Your Excellency, South Africa has proposed to the Swiss authorities a draft agreement to reciprocally waiver visa requirements for diplomatic and official passports. This is intended precisely to encourage official visits to each other’s countries as we build bilateral relationship.
Your Excellency, on 22 April 2009, South Africans went to polls in the fourth multi-party democratic elections. Seventy seven percent of registered South African voters turned up to cast their votes in this election. This was a glowing endorsement of democratic governance in South Africa and has shown that as a nation we have matured. The African National Congress (ANC) was returned to power, with President Jacob Zuma having been inaugurated as South Africa’s fourth democratically elected President.
The ideal of a better life for all has led the incoming administration to identify new priorities that would guide its strategy to deliver on the new mandate. These priorities are cross-cutting and should permeate all government departments and direct their operations. Not in any order of importance, these are;
- Creation of Decent work and sustainable livelihoods
- Rural Development, Food Security and Land Reform
- Fight against Crime and Corruption
The assistance of the Swiss are already aligned to these priorities. The South African Government appreciates these activities and perhaps what needs to be done is to refine the activities so that they are in line with expected deliverables envisaged by the new Administration.
Before I conclude, I would like to touch on the FIFA World Cup due to be staged by South Africa in 2010. It would be our great pleasure to welcome the Swiss National Soccer Team and many of its supporters to our beautiful country. As the slogan says “Ke Nako” Its Time.
Your Excellency, once again, welcome to South Africa and it is my sincere hope that our discussions today will yield the desired outcomes for both our countries. Let us dedicate ourselves to using this platform in ensuring that the proposals and agreements which emanate from this 2nd Annual High Level Consultations between South Africa and Switzerland will be implemented fully and effectively.
I thank you
Issued by Department of International Relations and Cooperation
Private Bag X152
07 December 2009