Remarks by Deputy Minister Ebrahim I Ebrahim on the occasion of Freedom Day Celebration, Damascus, Syria, 27th April 2010
Ministers, Vice-Minister, Deputy Ministers, Your Excellencies, Distinguished Guests:
It is a pleasure to address you on the occasion of our sixteenth Freedom Day celebration. This year’s event is made even more significant as it forms part of the 20th anniversary of former President Nelson Mandela’s release from prison. It is of course also the year in which South Africa will be hosting the 2010 World Cup, the first time in the history of World Football that this tournament is hosted on African soil - hence our decision that this will be an African World Cup.
On this day we pay tribute to ordinary South Africans from all walks of life who became our heroes and heroines because they sacrificed so much to ensure freedom for all of us. As we celebrate our freedom, we also salute the sacrifices and selflessness of the people of the African continent and friends across the world. It is through their solidarity and support that we defeated apartheid, a crime against humanity.
Despite our past, I am proud to say that South Africa has made great strides over the past sixteen years: our economy is growing and offers an attractive investment environment; our numerous and diverse tourism sites are world-renowned and we continue to be amongst the leaders in tourism growth figures.
Since 1994, the successive democratic governments of South Africa have taken steps to achieve a better life for all our people. Accordingly, the current administration has identified key priorities that will guide us in our engagement with strategic partners. These priorities include education and skills development, health, rural development and land reform, combating crime and creating decent work. It is for this reason that we are encouraged by the signing of the Agreement on Co-operation in the Field of Higher Education in November 2009 with Syria. The aim of this Agreement is, inter alia, to establish a programme for African studies in Syria and a programme for Middle Eastern studies in South Africa, supported by academic institutions of both countries. We will further strive to strengthen our bilateral relations and to mirror the excellence that has been achieved on the political level in the economic field as well in order to maximise the mutual benefit of our people.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Let me also take this opportunity to inform you of the recent decision of the Summit of the African Union (AU) in Ethiopia to endorse South Africa’s candidature for a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council (UNSC) for the period 2011-2012. Our membership of the UNSC will enable us to contribute to achieving peace and stability in our continent and all regions of the world. In putting our candidature forward, we recognise the importance of continuing to work together with all members of the AU and UN, and to rally around progressive forces, in pursuit of effective global political and economic governance.
As we celebrate our Freedom as a nation, we have not forgotten that Syrian nationals of the Golan Heights are as yet to be free, and will not be free until the Israeli occupation comes to an end and the Golan Heights is returned to its rightful owner. We are equally aware of the plight of the Palestinians, especially the refugees of whom half a million are hosted by Syria. The right of return of refugees need to be addressed. We will continue to urge for political unity in Palestine as a prerequisite for the advancement of the peace process. The linkage between a viable Palestinian State based on a just solution and broader issues of global peace and security commits us and many other like-minded countries to remain engaged with the peace process, notwithstanding its many difficulties.
In conclusion, we invite you to celebrate this historic day with us, to celebrate what we have overcome and our many achievements. Let us celebrate the warm relations between the peoples of South Africa and Syria. We hope to welcome many of you to South Africa during the World Cup to share with us our humanity, heritage and the beauty of our country.
Shukran – wa Illa Li-Qaa (Thank you – until we meet again)
Issued by the Department International Relations and Cooperation
O.R. Tambo Building
460 Soutpansberg Road
27 April 2010