Remarks by Deputy Minister Marius Fransman on the occasion of receiving the Order of Vasco Nunes de Balboa, under the Great Cross Degree, Cape Town, 19 April 2012

His Excellency, Deputy Minister Alvarez de Soto,
Ambassador Chiari and delegation,
Ladies and gentlemen,

On behalf of the Government and the people of South Africa, I would like to accept this Award with much humility.

I am extremely humbled to have been nominated for an award of such a high standing, which I am told is one of the highest a foreign citizen can receive from the Republic of Panama.

This Award has been bestowed on leaders of much greater stature, standing and statesmanship such as President Nelson Mandela, President Jimmy Carter amongst others, and today Archbishop Tutu.

Therefore, this Award is not so much in recognition of my own humble contribution in the field of international diplomacy, and human solidarity but a recognition of the struggles of the people of South Africa, Africa and millions across the world that have contributed  towards a better, safer and more equitable world.

The free and democratic State that we created in 1994 after the demise of the Apartheid regime, is a product of the struggles of the South African people, African people and millions of anti-apartheid activists across the world i.e. a product of international solidarity as well.

 I therefore want to dedicate this award to the generations that have fought against Colonialism and Apartheid. It was these generations many of whom who were not lucky enough to experience the dawn of democracy and the fruits of these sacrifices. Leaders such OR Tambo, Chris Hani, Ashley Kriel, Anton Fransch, Soloman Mahlangu, Steve Biko, Ahmed Timol, and Imam Haroun, to mention but few.

It was because of their spirit of self-sacrifice that today we can proudly place South Africa amongst the international community not as a pariah but as a shining example of a country where we can help to make this world a more equal and a more better place. One based upon the principles of equality, non-racialism, non-sexism, human solidarity and social justice.

As I receive this reward I do so humbly in the hope that we can continue with the legacy of these leaders and in particular Cde Chris Hani who was brutally gunned down and assassinated by the Apartheid regime during our negotiation period by the right wing in the hope that it would have derailed the negotiation process.

Ironically the result of this tragedy had the exact opposite effect in that it sped up the fall of Apartheid and the dawn of our democracy.

Today as I receive this award I am reminded of what Cde Chris said i.e. "Our struggle does not end when we become a democracy and bring down Apartheid. Our struggle for transformation will be about changing the power relations" in order to build a just, non-racial non-sexist and equitable society.

Within this context I hope that our two countries will now strengthen our relations at a political, social, cultural and economic relations that seeks to benefit our two countries where it matters most, the poorest of the poor- using international economic diplomacy to change the power relations of our people.

This is the least we can do to honour the memory of Comrade Chris as in the words of President Nelson Mandela at the funeral of Comrade Chris where he said "We all owe you a debt that can only be repaid through the achievement of the liberation of our people, which was the passion of your life".

Finally, this Award comes in a year when we are celebrating the centenary of the African National Congress, which is the oldest liberation movement in Africa. It is this movement that has from it outset in 1912 laid the foundations for our international diplomacy as a tool and pillar to build a better South Africa, Africa and World. These principles are what still guide our foreign policy as we balance our foreign policy of principled political diplomacy based upon international human rights and international human solidarity with the principles of economic diplomacy where all people and most importantly the poorest of the poor can begin to benefit from international diplomacy, as well as bilateral and multilateral relations. In this regard, this award is a tribute to the culture and tradition of international diplomacy developed by this movement.

In conclusion, Your Excellency, Deputy Minister Alvarez de Soto, please convey my gratitude as well as the gratitude of our President, the South African Government and the people of South Africa to President Ricardo Martinelli Berrocal, as well as to the Government and people of Panama.

Finally I want to extend my gratitude to the organizers of today's event, the Panama Embassy and His Excellency Mr Ricardo Chiari, Ambassador of the Republic of Panama to South Africa, in particular.

I thank you.

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2003 Department of Foreign Affairs, Republic of South Africa