Statement delivered by Deputy Minister Sue van der Merwe at the 49th National Day Celebration of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Friday 26 June 2009
Your Excellency, Ambassador and Mrs Bene M’poko
Your Excellencies, Ambassadors and High Commissioners
Mesdames et Messieurs
On this important occasion celebrating the National Day of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), it is my honour to extend through Your Excellency, to the Government and the Peoples of the DRC, the warmest greetings and sincere congratulations, on behalf of the Government and fellow Peoples of the Republic of South Africa.
It is on days like these that we celebrate, together with our brothers and sisters form the Democratic Republic of Congo, the achievements of this great country. Let us not forget that the Congolese People made a deliberate decision to take their destiny in hand through their landmark 2006 elections and thus engaging the process to become a vibrant democratic and free society. The Congolese People have indeed attained what Franklin D. Roosevelt had in mind when he said that “in the truest sense, freedom cannot be bestowed: it must be achieved”.
We salute and congratulate you, Your Excellency, and the people of your country for the giant and bold strides you have embarked upon to achieve your freedom after more than 40 years of oppression and dictatorship.
Occasions such as these also allow us to reflect on the state of our bilateral relations and on how we can work together to overcome the shackles of under-development, poverty and disease as the challenges of achieving sustainable economic growth, job creation and poverty reduction remain formidable.
Our governments launched the South Africa/DRC Bi-National Commission (BNC) in August 2004, to facilitate our bilateral cooperation. Today this cooperation is very visible through our bilateral agreements which pave the way for the implementation of a number of projects that stem from them. Our efforts to assist the DRC with its Post Conflict Reconstruction and Development programme remain steadfast, despite the global economic crisis.
South Africa will continue its partnership with the Government and people of the Democratic Republic of Congo as they respond to the challenges facing the country. We have realised the need for the closer co-ordination of our activities so that it can reply in an appropriate way to the rallying call made by President Kabila when he identified his cinq chantiers of development. A number of South African government departments are involved in capacity building projects aimed at reinforcing the civil service and security sector of the country. We also believe that our soldiers forming part of the UN peacekeeping force, MONUC, are making an important contribution to the security situation in the DRC.
We have a duty, among other things, to further strengthen our economic relations by enhancing co-operation among our business people and increase trade and investment between our countries. There are indeed positive signs of high-level business interaction between our peoples. The continued expansion of our business ties is another mechanism that will strengthen our bilateral relations. It is therefore an area that we should continue to focus on.
The DRC has an important role in the development of regional projects as is the case with the Westcor Project. The fact that this project was conceived by five SADC countries, namely the DRC, South Africa, Botswana, Namibia and Angola, makes it a truly regional project. As such it will play a crucial role in providing the region and the Southern African Power Pool with much required electricity capacity. At the same time it will be a cornerstone for the further industrialization of the region which would stimulate growth and increase employment opportunities.
Together with other SADC countries, our two countries are also making an important contribution in addressing both the political and development issues of our region. South Africa is very grateful for the support it has received from the DRC during its tenure as Chair of the SADC. We will continue to cooperate closely with the DRC as the incoming Chair of the SADC in addressing the challenges that collectively face us. Our Congolese friends are indeed well equipped to steer our organisation to even greater heights.
South Africa shares the concern of the Congolese Government on the ongoing conflict in the eastern DRC which has led to the displacement of more than half a million people. In close cooperation with the Office of the World Food Programme in Kinshasa, South Africa has made a donation in relief aid to the Haute Uele district in the north eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. We sincerely hope that this modest contribution has made a difference to the lives of the suffering.
We have noted with interest and appreciation the statesmanship demonstrated by the Honourable President Kabila and his Government in engaging with the neighbouring countries in the region as part of the untiring efforts of the Honourable President to bring peace to the eastern DRC, from which the entire region would benefit. It is very important that the DRC be supported in this regard as the ongoing conflict in the east not only causes human suffering, but also impedes the overall economic development of the country and the region at large. We encourage our Congolese friends to continue with their efforts to overcome all these obstacles so as to truly reap the fruits of their freedom.
During her recent budget speech to the National Assembly, the Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Ms Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, also referred to the DRC in the context of South Africa’s support for peace, security, stability and post-conflict reconstruction initiatives. She said that South Africa knows from its own experience that the achievement of peace and stability can be a painstaking effort requiring patience and perseverance. However, South Africa also knows the dividends that come with peace which are economic growth and development. Our Congolese friends can therefore count on our continued support for their efforts to take their country forward.
Ambassador, once again, please accept our hearty congratulations to the people of the Democratic Republic of Congo on this august event. We wish you all the best with your current and future endeavours.
Mesdames et Messieurs, join me as we propose a toast of well being, peace and property to President and people of the Democratic Republic of Congo and to the friendship between our two countries.