Farewell Remarks by Deputy Minister Sue van der Merwe on the occasion of the farewell lunch in honour of Ambassador Eric Bost of the United States of America, Tuesday 13 January 2009
Dean of the Diplomatic Corps
Ladies and Gentlemen
It is an honour to be able to host you all here today to bid farewell to departing fellow member of the Diplomatic Corps, Ambassador Eric Bost, who has come to the end his tour of duty in South Africa. I have the pleasure of conveying the sincere gratitude of the Government and the people of South Africa for his contribution during his tour of duty in South Africa.
Most Ambassadors when they are accredited to start serving their countries in a foreign destination, face the challenge of ensuring a thriving relationship between their home country and their host nation, and in making a difference during their tenure which extends beyond merely managing current relations. Successfully meeting that challenge requires continued efforts to enhance meaningful cooperation and to improve the basis for strengthening the relationship, even beyond the Ambassador’s tenure. In other words, Ambassadors become the dependable links between countries.
Ambassador Bost, I therefore take this opportunity to thank you for the work that you have done during your time in South Africa. Looking back, I am sure you will agree with me, Ambassador, that today the relationship between South Africa and the United States is a strong and mature one - having overcome many challenges and shared significant successes. While differences of opinion on foreign policy issues have arisen on occasion, as they do in the course of any such relationship, ours has endured. I believe that it has been our joint commitment to addressing these challenges that has consolidated the relationship to one that is premised on mutual respect and understanding, and that is characterised by shared and common interests.
During your term of office in South Africa you have energetically pursued the interests of your country but you have also promoted our shared vision of a better world for all.
Your work in South Africa was characterised by your attempts to bridge the gaps that existed in our relationship. We observed with appreciation your efforts to engage with civil society. Our view is that an active, engaged populace is essential for a healthy democratic society, and will continue to jointly support civil society engagement through the mutual promotion of people-to-people relations. We value your strong commitment to the promotion of a sustained relationship between our countries and we are proud to say that during your tenure, partnerships between American and South African institutions have blossomed with more community and institutional partnerships forged between local governments, universities, businesses, professional associations, and other non-governmental organizations. Many of these partnerships continue in one form or another because those involved find them mutually beneficial and value the strong personal connections that have resulted. South Africans see institutional partnerships as a key component to ensure continuity. Even as individuals come and go, the institutional partnership will continue, adapting to new sets of role players and circumstances. Consequently, we will continue the work we did with you to support institutional pairing at governmental, academic and community levels.
Programmes that facilitate new linkages between American and South African businesspeople continue to create new opportunities for both countries. We are indeed pleased with the strong positive growth we have seen in all aspects of our economic relations. In light of the financial and economic crises faced by all of us, we will continue to seek from the US a stable and reliable partnership, especially through these most difficult times. We are very pleased that some of our leading private sector partners have joined us here today. We would like them, in particular, to take note of the excellent example you have set by having travelled abroad several times to promote investment and draw business to South Africa. We thank you for this and hope that you will continue to be an advocate, and dare I say, ‘Ambassador’ for South Africa.
Ambassador, the recent election results in the USA and the historic inauguration that will take place shortly should also remind us of our own growth as nations, through change. Now, more than ever, there is an opportunity to collectively pool our energies and resources to face the many crises and challenges that face the planet and all that live on it.
We are confident in our hope that even as you depart, you have consolidated the firm foundations for greater cooperation between the United States of America and South Africa, as well as for the African Continent as a whole. We in South Africa, and in Africa as a whole, are all bound by a clear vision and common commitment towards sustainable development on our continent that goes beyond the diversified strategies dictated by circumstance and will invite your successor to continue to prioritise this cornerstone of our foreign policy and to work with us towards the realisation of Africa’s dreams and aspirations. I am convinced that the good that unites our peoples will continue to prosper and strengthen in the coming years.
Ambassador, as we bid you Bon Voyage today, hopefully the spinning wheels of diplomatic life will turn and make it possible for us to meet again soon. We will remember your extensive skill of naming cross streets and land marks in South Africa, and in all the countries you have visited and your enthusiasm as an avid runner. But most importantly, your appreciation of positive contributions made by human beings. We will particularly remember the passion and commitment int eh area of HIV and Aids support. You visited tiny South African villages in the promotion of this programme and in the process some half a million South Africans have benefited.
I wish you the very best for the future and am sure that you will continue to watch the growth in our bilateral relations with positive enthusiasm and interest.
And now, Excellency, it is with great pleasure that I present you with this gift as a token of our appreciation for your friendship and for your valued contribution to the relations between our two countries. We hope that it will fondly remind you of your time in South Africa and of our sincere regard.
May I now invite you, ladies and gentlemen, to raise your glasses and join me in proposing a toast to the good health, personal well-being and prosperity of His Excellency, Ambassador Eric Bost.
I thank you.