Keynote Address by His Excellency Jacob Zuma, President of the Republic of South Africa, to British Parliamentarians; Palace of Westminster, London, 4 March 2010
Ladies and gentlemen;
I feel greatly privileged to address members of Parliament during our State visit to the United Kingdom.
This special honour speaks to the extent and the warmth of the relations between our two peoples.
Our visit provides a valuable opportunity for South Africa and the United Kingdom to deepen bilateral relations and advance common positions on the broader challenge of building a peaceful, stable and more equitable world.
It is heartening that in a space of just 16 years, the relations between South Africa and the UK have grown so dramatically in almost every area, from the economy to diplomacy, from education to sport.
One of the main drivers of these relations has been the South Africa-United Kingdom Bilateral Forum, established in 1997, which has yielded significant results.
Total trade between the UK and South Africa has increased tremendously, by 173% between 1998 and 2008. The UK is our South Africa’s largest foreign investor, as well as highest international patron of our tourism industry.
This picture is the same in almost every sphere of interaction. This is a sure sign of confidence in our relationship, and the value that we attach to our partnership.
With you indulgence, distinguished guests, I wish to quote some excerpts from the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee’s ‘Inquiry into South Africa’ published in 2004.
“…given what we have seen and heard during this inquiry, we feel confident to conclude that the relationship is indeed a special one.
“The co-operation that we witnessed at all levels of government; the very significant flows of trade, investment and tourism between the two nations; the shared values and aspirations, on both a continental and global scale; the large diasporas of expatriates in both countries; and perhaps even the shared admiration for the talents of sporting heroes such as David Beckham.
“All of these point to a mature, honest and many-layered understanding, with both nations able to work together in a spirit of equality and mutual trust, and a relationship that is well able to weather the ‘turbulence’ of occasional disagreements.”
That is as true today as it was six years’ ago.
This special relationship is made visible in Parliament Square, where statues of two South African leaders are to be found among the statues of British Prime Ministers, dating back to the 19th century.
I am referring to the democratic South Africa’s first president, Nelson Mandela, and General Jan Smuts, one of the co-founders of the League of Nations.
Fifty years ago, President Mandela and the late ANC President, Oliver Tambo joked that one day their statues might be in Parliament Square. Little did they realise how prophetic that idea was.
There is much in the history of our two countries that brings us together.
The challenges and opportunities of the future strongly encourage us to remain together in pursuit of common goals and shared interests.
Ladies and Gentlemen;
In just two decades, South Africa has been able to make a decisive break with a past characterised by racial discrimination and conflict.
We are one nation, diverse in language, culture and history. Since the dawn of democracy we have worked hard to establish a common nationhood.
We have always understood that this cannot be achieved by symbolic gestures alone. Instead, this common nationhood can be realised only through the political, social and economic empowerment of all South Africans.
It can only be realised once we have overcome the inequalities that continue to separate blacks from whites, women from men, urban dwellers from rural.
That is why, for the past 16 years, we have adopted economic and social policies that both tackle the legacy of apartheid and ensure a sustainable and prosperous future for all.
We can point to many successes. We have achieved a level of macroeconomic stability and sustained a pace of growth not seen in South Africa for many years.
Until the onset of the global economic crisis, we had managed to accelerate the pace of job creation, and had even achieved a budget surplus.
Our social policies have also made a big impact on the lives of the poor. Our social grants programme has expanded rapidly, providing an income to the poorest and most vulnerable. The provision of nearly 3 million subsidised homes to the poor, together with mass water and electrification programmes, have visibly improved many people’s lives.
Thanks to our economic policies, a sound regulatory environment, and a massive investment in infrastructure, the prospects for our economic recovery are promising.
The challenge we face is not only to ensure that growth is accelerated and sustained, but also to ensure that it leads to greater employment creation.
We have brought along to the United Kingdom, 216 businesspeople representing various sectors. This indicates our interest to take our economic relations forward, as we are determined to improve investments and the creation of decent jobs.
South Africa provides an excellent destination for investments in all sectors, from manufacturing, agriculture, tourism to mining and others.
Some United Kingdom potential investors have enquired about our policy on the ownership of mineral resources.
Let me use this opportunity to state that South African law does not provide for the nationalization of mineral resources, and there is no discussion within government about the nationalization of mines.
Our Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act gives effect to the notion of State custodianship of mineral rights.
The law recognises the mineral wealth as a national asset, a common heritage that belongs to all in South Africa and pronounces the State as the custodian thereof.
Lord Speaker we are also pleased that our policy of Broad Based Black Economic Empowerment (BBBEE) has not been identified by UK companies that have invested in South Africa as a barrier to doing business.
This means that UK companies are fully aware of the strategic importance of ensuring that the ownership and management of the South African economy should be broadened, especially to ensure that the participation of black people, women, youth and people with disabilities.
We have established a Broad-based Black Economic Empowerment Council to advise government on the implementation of this policy.
Lord Speaker, for us to achieve the economic growth we envisage and create decent jobs, we need to address the challenge of skills development.
We have therefore put education at the centre of our priorities for the five years of this administration. We are putting in place measures to improve the quality of our education outcomes, and to expand the skills base of our workforce.
We should mention at this point, the support that the British government has provided over the years to the development of our education sector. It is but one of the areas of assistance for which we remain truly grateful.
It demonstrates to us the clear determination of the United Kingdom to invest in the long-term development of the South African people.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
A similar determination is evident in the UK’s commitment to assisting Africa in meeting the challenges it faces. In recent years, the UK government has consistently championed Africa’s cause in multilateral institutions and in forums like the G8.
Its direct assistance to African countries is significant, and has done much to help the continent towards the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.
The UK’s commitment to reach and maintain the aid target of 0.7 percent of GDP is an impressive example to other developed countries. As we welcome this commitment of assistance, we also acknowledge that we Africans must bear primary responsibility for the fortunes of our continent.
The people of Africa are determined to act in concert to address the common and separate challenges we face. We remain convinced that the unity of the African continent is its greatest strength. Yet, in our history it has often proved elusive.
That is why we are firmly committed to strengthening the African Union and its organs, and to establish them as the primary vehicles for the advancement of peace, security, democracy, growth and development on the continent.
There is much cause for hope. Twenty years ago there were said to be just eight democratically elected governments in Africa. Today, there are 32. In the last ten years, economic growth in sub-Saharan Africa has increased from an average of 2.4 percent to an average in 2008 of 5.5%.
Even as the global economic crisis took hold, African economies have continued to grow. While there is certainly much reason to be optimistic about Africa’s future, we must recognise that its problems are many and its challenges substantial.
Conflicts continue in many parts of the continent, undermining efforts at development, and leaving millions of people in conditions of misery and destitution.
Many democracies are fragile, governance weak, and human rights all too frequently violated. Many economies, particularly those heavily dependent on commodity exports, are vulnerable to even the slightest drop in world demand.
Though its earth is rich, Africa’s people are poor. To change this – to ensure that Africa’s people benefit from its wealth – we need to develop the continent’s infrastructure and invest in its industry.
We need to foster regional integration, as a first step to continental integration. Africans must trade with each other, share skills with each other, access each other’s markets, and invest in each other’s economies.
We need to improve governance, tackle corruption, align standards and regulations, and ensure the consistent application of the rule of law.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The support of the United Kingdom to efforts to consolidate peace and democracy in Africa cannot be understated.
South Africa and the United Kingdom share a common desire for the peaceful resolution of conflict and the achievement of the right of all peoples to self-determination.
A country where, I believe, we share such a determination is in Zimbabwe.
It is a determination, I believe, that is shared by all the leaders and parties in Zimbabwe itself.
Those of us who share this view, should welcome the progress represented by the Global Political Agreement and by the work already done by the Inclusive Government.
But we should understand that obstacles still remain.
We should also understand that the political and economic reality of Zimbabwe requires an inclusive solution.
Though some may suggest otherwise, there is no lasting solution in Zimbabwe that excludes Zanu-PF, just as there is no solution that excludes the MDC.
That is why, as South Africa, as the Southern African Development Community, and as the African Union, we have expended great effort to ensure that the parties in Zimbabwe reach agreement on the most critical issues facing the country.
South Africa is greatly affected by the crisis in Zimbabwe. The influx of economic refugees from Zimbabwe places a significant strain on our capacity and resources.
That is why we have consistently sought to follow the path that holds out the greatest prospect of success.
The people of Zimbabwe must determine their own future. That is why all parties within the country, on the continent, and in the broader international community, must do what they can to ensure the attainment of conditions for free and fair elections.
Ladies and gentlemen;
South Africa and the United Kingdom share a firm determination to respond boldly and decisively to the challenge of climate change.
It is a matter on which we have engaged on numerous occasions and in many forums, and on which we share many common positions.
We went to the Copenhagen Climate Change Summit hoping that the leaders of the world would agree on an ambitious, legally-binding agreement. From an African perspective, such an agreement is critical. Though we do not bear responsibility for climate change, we are among the regions of the world most vulnerable to its effects.
We need to agree on emission reduction targets that are in line with what is required to constrain increases in global temperatures. We must acknowledge that developing countries require substantial financial assistance to compensate for the effects of climate change, and to develop their capacity to reduce their own emissions.
The Copenhagen Accord is a step in the right direction, but there is a great deal more that needs to be done. As we prepare for next climate change summit, in Mexico in December, we must intensify efforts to find agreement on these extremely complex matters.
We are hopeful that, as the United Kingdom and South Africa, we can do much to advance the effort towards such an agreement. There are a number of international matters on which we can, should and do cooperate. One of our international policy priorities is to strive for significant reform in global governance, particularly in respect of multilateral financial institutions.
There is a need to broaden Africa’s representation in the IMF and World Bank. In forums like the G20 we remain fervent critics of protectionism, strong advocates of reform, and committed proponents of a greater voice for countries of the South.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
In a few months time, South Africa will be hosting the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
Our preparations are almost complete. The progress we have made, we have not made entirely on our own. We have received assistance, guidance and support from other countries.
Our stadiums have been completed. Our airports and transport links have been upgraded. Ticketing, transport and other logistical arrangements are in place. We have also heightened preparations around safety and security to ensure that fans, tourists and indeed our own citizens are able to enjoy themselves unhindered.
The people of South Africa are preparing to welcome the world to our shores.
We look forward, in particular, to welcoming football fans from this country. We have worked hard to make the tournament succeed. We will continue working non-stop to ensure that everything goes according to plan.
Honourable members, ours is a partnership that we continue to value, and which we shall continue to nurture, confident that it will endure and prosper for many years to come.
Let me thank you for your continued support of our country and Africa.
I thank you.