Opening Remarks by His Excellency Jacob Zuma, President of the Republic of South Africa at the Heads of State and Government Meeting of the Southern African Customs Union Countries

Venue: Presidential Guest House 
Date : 16 July 2010, Pretoria, South Africa

Your Majesty, King Mswati III
Your Excellency President Lieutenant General Seretse Khama Ian Khama
Your Excellency President Hifikepunye Pohamba
Your Excellency the Right Honourable Prime Minister Phakalitha Mosisili
Chairperson of the SACU Council
Honourable Ministers
Executive Secretary
Senior Officials
Distinguished -delegates

  1. May I take this opportunity to welcome Your Excellencies, the SACU Heads of State and Government, and your delegations to this meeting of the SACU Heads of State and Government. It is indeed a great honour and privilege for me to preside over this meeting, focussing on providing strategic direction to our Organisation. Let me also take this opportunity to express my sincere gratitude, to you all, for having found time in your busy schedules to be here today. This is testimony to the importance we all attach to this Organisation and its continued good standing as a leading regional organisation.

  2. Your Excellencies, at our meeting on the 22nd of April 2010 in Windhoek, Namibia, in addition to launching the centenary celebrations of SACU, we also recognised that recent developments at the regional level have necessitated the need to establish a SACU Vision and Strategy to help position the Organisation moving forward. In this regard we acknowledged the positive role which SACU has played in the past one hundred years and the important role it can play in promoting regional integration and the economic development of all its Member States. We therefore adopted a new SACU Vision and Mission, which seeks to construct a position for SACU within the plethora of integration initiatives currently being pursued within the region and defines a future form for the Organisation moving forward. The Vision articulates a future state for the organisation that transcends the customs union and is consistent with other regional and continental integrations agendas  and sets Member States’ ambitions at a higher level of economic integration, that of an Economic Community.

  3. Your Excellencies, our meeting today provides us an opportunity to continue the discussions we initiated in Windhoek and the follow up discussions we held over dinner last night. During our dinner we discussed at length the challenges facing SACU and possible strategies for addressing them. Let me assure you all that our engagement last night was guided by the spirit of trying to preserve the good elements of our arrangement and to ensure that it remains a viable entity well into the future. In this process, some critical elements of the operations of the Customs Union were considered as well as its relations with third parties. We will later provide an update of the discussions held over dinner.

  4. Your Excellencies, as we engage on the challenges facing the organisation and strategies for positioning SACU within the changing regional economic landscape, it is useful to bear in mind the developments at the global level. Whilst we are all pleased with the initial signs of recovery from the global economic crisis we now have to worry about the sovereign debt situation in some European countries which threatens to affect the stability of the overall global economy. Whilst the debt problems are currently most acute in Greece, real fears persist that this may spread over to other European economies. We therefore need to monitor these developments closely and put in place strategies to mitigate the effects of this external crisis on our region.

  5. It is clear that given the current state of the global economy and developments at the regional level, SACU is at a critical juncture in its life as an integration arrangement. There is a need to critically reflect on our common destiny as a region. Some of the solutions that we come up with may not be popular amongst all of us but are necessary for the prosperity of not only the current SACU membership but for the entire region. As leaders, we will have to take bold decisions which we will have to commit to in order to secure the long term economic health of our region.

  6. In conclusion, let me take this opportunity to thank you all for the support extended during the hosting of the World Cup. This event highlighted the success that can be achieved when we stand together as Africans, but more importantly what we can realize with the “can-do” attitude. I am hopeful that this same spirit will guide us as we pursue the new Vision and Mission of our organisation and seek to respond to the challenges it currently faces.

  7. With these few remarks, I would like to reiterate my profound gratitude for having you all at this venue and wish you successful deliberations.

 I thank you,

 Jacob Zuma
 President of the Republic of South Africa

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