Opening Remarks by Minister Nkoana-Mashabane and British Foreign Secretary William Hague at the start of the 9th United Kingdom – South Africa Bilateral Forum, Lancaster House, London, Thursday, 09 June 2011

The Right Honourable William Hague; Foreign Secretary of the United Kingdom,

Honourable South African and British Ministers,

Excellencies,

High Commissioners Nicola Brewer and Zola Skweyiya,

Distinguished members of both delegations,

Representatives of the media,

Dear Ladies and Gentlemen:

Mr. Foreign Secretary, allow me to thank the Government and the people of the United Kingdom for the warm reception extended to me and the South African delegation.

As is globally experienced amongst friends, the best part of the friendship is always the coming together and sharing in the company of each other – especially by sharing ideas and experiences.  Your hospitality always manages to make us feel welcomed and at ease – thank you sincerely

Honourable Secretary,

Our two countries share a longstanding and multifaceted relationship, and it is with great pleasure that I have been able to witness the evolution of this relationship that has produced a mutually beneficial mechanism, such as the United Kingdom-South Africa Forum.

Since its inception, this Bilateral Forum has proven to be an important vehicle for the consolidation and expansion of relations between our countries.  Our continued diplomatic relations, highlighted by the recent State visit of President Jacob Zuma and the working visit of Deputy President Motlanthe, during 2010, reinforces our resolve to continue to count on the UK as a valued friend and historic partner.

The commitment of the UK to this relationship has also been demonstrated through the number of high-level visits and people-to-people interaction that continues to grow.  I would like to use the opportunity provided by this platform to renew my invitation for you to visit my country as soon as our diaries permit.

This not only augurs well for our relationship but also serves to strengthen our commitment to improving the lives of our people and the global community. In the ever increasing interconnected world, it is relationships like ours that will bring us closer to our mutual desire to create a better world that is just, equal and moves us closer to the realisation of the objectives of the Millennium Development Goals.

Honourable Secretary,

The year 2010 was a historic milestone for both my country and the African Continent. Around this time last year, we were anticipating the kick-off the 2010 FIFA World Cup – an event that we have successfully hosted. Let me reiterate my country’s appreciate for the assistance and support your Government provided to us during the hosting of this event, this is much appreciated and contributed to the event being an even bigger success.

As you prepare to host the 2012 Olympics, we wish you well in achieving a successful outcome.  My country stands ready to provide you with any necessary assistance and support as and when requested.

Honourable Secretary,

During President Jacob Zuma’s State visit to the United Kingdom in 2010, our relations took on a higher level stature - culminating in the Joint Declaration.  The Joint Declaration between our two countries has given our governments fresh impetus to work together to realise the ideals expressed therein. It is not by coincidence that today we have a Joint Strategy Document that will, henceforth,  serve as a blueprint for enhancing the our already excellent relations. It is my strong desire that this strategy will define the specific areas of co-operation that will further assist us in achieving our political mandates.

Honourable Secretary,

It is my pleasure to inform you that I am accompanied by my cabinet colleagues to this Bilateral Forum to engage their counterparts in defining the deliverables that we can achieve within specified time frames - as identified by the tabled strategy document. In addition, it is envisaged that our respective teams of experts will pursue discussions on progress on  UK-SA partnerships to promote, among others, the mainstreaming of the G20 development agenda, the reform of international financial institutions; affording Sub-Saharan Africa a better voice in the governance of the IMF, increased international commitment to achieving the MDGs, and effective co-operation between the South Africa Development Partnership Agency (SADPA)  and  the Department for International Development (DFID) – thereby contributing to growth, development, stability, peace and human security in totality.

Through this Bilateral Forum, we hope to strengthen co-operation between our two countries so that we promote increased access to affordable clean energy technology, a successful outcome at COP17/CMP7 which we have the honour of hosting and presiding over later in this year.

We also hope that improved energy infrastructure across eight Sub-Saharan countries and further cooperation in energy; including technology and skills exchanges will be part of our talks today.

The UK-SA partnerships, defined in this Bilateral Forum, will seek to promote freer trade, including; through tangible commitment for increased intra-regional trade through the establishment of at least two one-stop border posts between South Africa and our neighbouring countries, and progress of the SADC, COMESA, and EAC Tripartite Free Trade Areas.

We shall continue to work together to double UK-SA trade by, amongst others the envisaged establishment of a UK-SA business Forum and enhanced employability of young South Africans through the establishment of a UK-SA Young Entrepreneurs Forum.

Today, I also look forward to our discussions on our co-operation and concrete progress in a wide range of other sectors including health, environment and sustainable development, sports and culture, investment, education, defence, migration and the combating of transnational crime.  This is just a reflection of the width and depth of our excellent continued and growing relations.

Honourable Secretary,

Our discussions at this 9th meeting of the Bilateral Forum should also deliberate on the advancement of the African Agenda.   Many countries in Africa are stabilising, they are instituting and upholding democratic governance, enhancing economic expansion, and poverty reduction are becoming the order of the day. In the same vein, some countries are still plagued by problems. We hope to discuss all of this in a friendly but very frank manner.  In fact, the benefits of democracy and economic stabilisation have become increasingly visible within the last few years, in most countries, compared to the last thirty years.  But of course, as I say, in some specific cases progress seems to be lacking and we would like the UK and the European Union to continue to work with us, to try and assist - where assistance is needed - and to ensure that the rest of the continent experiences positive economic growth, the deepening of democracy, and, indeed, a future where all our people on our continent can look towards a better life.

Honourable Secretary,

This 9th meeting of our Bilateral Forum offers us a further opportunity to discuss our co-operation on the multilateral front as well. I welcome, with pleasure, the news that the discussions between parties from both our countries on, among others, the reform of the UNSC, African issues on the  UN Security Council’s agenda, disarmament, and counter proliferation went well yesterday, we shall continue today to further explore the same issues.

I further hope that at the end of this Bilateral Forum, other areas of co-operation will also be identified.

To re-state my earlier sentiments, mutually beneficial relations, such as ours, are intrinsically important to our interconnect world. 

As we work to enhance this relationship let me again thank you and your Government for the commitment to this working relationship, thus far, and your continued investment in our friendship and the development of the African continent and its people.

It is now my pleasure to wish the participants in this Bilateral Forum, the best of everything in their deliberations.

Thank you.

ISSUED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND COOPERATION

OR Tambo Building
460 Soutpansberg Road
Rietondale
Pretoria

10 June 2011


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