Address by President JG Zuma at the Official Opening of the South Africa-Botswana Business Seminar on the margins of the President’s State Visit to Botswana Gaborone, Botswana

His Excellency President Lieutenant General Seretse Khama Ian Khama, the President of the Republic of Botswana, Honourable Ministers, Deputy Ministers, Excellencies High Commissioners, Businessmen and women from the two countries and beyond, Ladies and gentlemen, We thank you for this opportunity to meet with the South Africa-Botswana Business Forum on the margins of the State Visit to the beautiful sister Republic Botswana.

This forum is helpful as it enables a more focused attention on boosting economic ties between the two countries.

The business community has a conducive environment to work in, as South Africa and Botswana share a very rich history, dating back to even before the birth of our two countries as they are known today.

As a result, the historical, social, cultural and political relations between the two countries and people extend much further than our mere borders.

Basically, the people of Botswana are not only our neighbours. They are also our brothers and sisters, our family.

More importantly, our relations were cemented in selfless struggles against colonialism, racism and apartheid.

The support and solidarity we received from the people of Botswana during our struggle for liberation is immeasurable.

All ANC leaders who went into exile passed through Botswana over many years.

It was our reliable and only entry and exit point for many years.

On his first visit outside the country in 1962 to obtain support for the ANC, President Nelson Mandela travelled through Botswana, and so did President Oliver Tambo, JB Marks, Moses Kotane, Moses Mabhida and many of our leaders.

The solidarity angered the brutal apartheid state and it responded with harassment and cross-border raids in its desperation to prolong its existence.

Many citizens of this country lost their lives in the raids. Their deaths forever remind us of the deep ties that bind our two countries and peoples.

Now that we are free from political bondage, the era of freedom and democracy enjoins us to work together to build a better and more prosperous Africa for our children and their children.

Informed by the African agenda which requires of all of us to prioritise the regeneration of the continent, we urge you as the business sector to partner with us in building a united and prosperous Africa.

We want to see an Africa free of inequalities, poverty, unemployment, disease and deprivation.

We know that the task of achieving economic transformation and the renewal of our continent will not happen overnight, and that the attainment of freedom in 1994, actually meant the beginning of a new struggle.

We have had to work twice as hard to reverse the legacy of three centuries of colonialism and apartheid in all spheres, political, economic and social.

One of the founding fathers of the African continent, Kwame Nkrumah, warned us about the challenges of a free Africa in May 1963.

He said; "On this continent, it has not taken us long to discover that the struggle against colonialism does not end with the attainment of national independence. Independence is only the prelude to a new and more involved struggle for the right to conduct our own economic and social affairs; " (and) to construct our society according to our aspirations, unhampered by crushing and humiliating neo-colonialist controls and interference''.

Fortunately, we have sufficient resources in the continent to be able to take Africa on a growth path that would reverse the impacts of colonialism, colonialism of a special type and apartheid.

For example, Africa dominates the world's supply of precious metals and minerals. The continent is the top producer of platinum. It is also among the leading producers of diamonds and gold. These minerals must fuel African economic growth and development.

There have been encouraging improvements in the mining sector since the year 2000, owing largely to a global resource boom which has propelled prices of some minerals to record levels.

This is however unsustainable in the long run as the sector depletes assets that are non-renewable.

Each ton extracted is not replaced and is lost for good, leaving countries with a once-off opportunity.

This motivated the African Union in 2009 to adopt an Africa Mining Vision to develop the continents' mineral resources in line with the goals of sustainable growth and socio-economic development.

The Mining Vision also underlines the importance of value addition or beneficiation. We want to be able to transform our minerals into a higher value product which can be consumed locally or exported.

Ladies and gentlemen, As we meet, the South African mining sector is in international news for wrong reasons, as you would be aware.

We are going through a painful period, after the shocking incident in which 44 people were killed in just one week in Marikana in the North West province.

The incidents have shocked and deeply saddened all South Africans. The killings were shocking because we have a progressive Constitution and laws which provide adequately for worker rights as well as rights of freedom of expression, assembly and protest.

We have asked South Africans and the world to avoid apportioning blame and to provide space for the Judicial Commission of Inquiry into the Marikana Tragedy to establish the facts.

We trust that all who have information about what happened in Marikana will make it immediately available to the Commission to assist the process.

It is really unfortunate that industrial action could degenerate into such a tragedy.

We value our mining sector immensely as it has been the backbone of our economy for more than a century.

Our mining assets are valued at about two point five trillion US dollars, excluding energy commodities such as coal and uranium.

Our country continues to host significant known reserves of mineral commodities, with almost 60 minerals being actively mined.

Mining provides just below half a million direct jobs and a further half a million indirect jobs. As a result of this significance, the South African people are very much aware of the importance of the mining sector in the national economy and the role it can play in advancing socio-economic empowerment and development.

That is why as the private sector, labour and government we work closely to maximise the benefits of this sector for all parties, including especially the workers who produce these precious commodities, under difficult conditions.

Working together we produced a Mining Charter that clarifies the responsibilities of all parties.

I am briefing you on this as businesspeople, because we want to continue attracting investments into our mining sector, which is so key to the achievement of our development goals.

Our Mining Charter takes into account the fact that we have has a particular history, as a people who were subjugated by colonialists and later by racial supremacists for many decades for three centuries.

As a result, companies intending to invest in mining in South Africa must understand that they are, in terms of the law, expected to redress past imbalances in the mining industry.

These past imbalances are related to the failure of the colonial system to invest in the labour force and the local economy and to protect the environment.

Therefore, our legislation requires investors to commit to the Mining Charter, the Social and Labour Plan, and sound environmental management.

Investors perfectly understand the reasons for this framework and have cooperated with government in this regard.

In terms of the Mining Charter, mining companies are required to address matters related to the housing and living conditions of workers, skills development, employment equity and ownership as well as local community development.

In practical terms, companies have to meet certain targets for the conversion and upgrading of single sex hostels formerly used by migrant labourers into family units by 2014.

For workers who do not have families, the target is to attain an occupancy rate of one person per room. Companies are also expected to facilitate home ownership by 2014.

It is necessary to create humane living conditions to ensure the dignity of workers who produce such precious metals that keep our economy strong and vibrant.

Given the existence of the Charter and legislation, the investors know what is required of them with regards to re-investing in the economy and in social development to ensure the sustainability of the sector.

We invite domestic and foreign investors to continue taking up opportunities in South African mining and help us create jobs and a better life for all our people.

We stand ready as government to provide the necessary support. As we speak, government, through an Inter-Ministerial Committee established for Marikana, is assisting the families of the victims of the tragedy with logistical as well as psycho-social support.

On the other hand, our Minister of Labour is working with the miners and the affected company to find ways of resolving the impasse so that we can revert to a semblance of normality in Marikana.

Government will continue playing a constructive role to help in finding a solution that will be agreeable to all parties.

We have been able to resolve disputes that looked insurmountable before as South Africans. We are confident that those experiences will enable us to overcome and restore normalcy in Marikana.

Ladies and gentlemen, I am pleased that there is already strong cooperation between South Africa and Botswana covering a wide range of areas.

These include, among others, energy, transport, trade and investment, transport, health, education, water and environmental affairs, science and technology, agriculture and security.

We urge the business sector in the two countries to strengthen cooperation in these sectors and explore new avenues of trade.

You would also be aware of the goals of the continent to promote intra-African trade through removing existing barriers.

The first barrier to regional integration is the lack of integration of systems that allow the movement of people, goods and services across borders.

To deal with such challenges, the African Union formed the African Presidential Infrastructure Championing Initiative, and in particular in our case, the North South Corridor which is championed by South Africa, of which Botswana is of course an integral part.

The initiative is working effectively to improve the functioning of regional borders and develop some model border crossings in Africa.

The second barrier is poor infrastructure in the continent.

The road, rail, ports and the bridges are often substandard. This encourages coastal African countries to import items from Europe and other continents than purchase from their neighbours. This defeats the goal of promoting intra-African trade.

Fortunately there are massive infrastructure projects underway already within the continent. Through the NEPAD infrastructure programme, work is continuing to develop or renew infrastructure in various regions.

At a domestic level, South Africa has embarked on a 400 billion US dollars infrastructure programme to redress the infrastructure inadequacies.

We are busy with the construction of dams, roads, power stations, bridges, schools, hospitals, universities and other infrastructure. We urge business to explore opportunities in our infrastructure development programme.

There are also opportunities in projects linking our two countries.

Projects such as Mmamabula power project and the Trans Kalahari Railway line can unlock economic development.

Ladies and gentlemen, before concluding allow me to reiterate our deepest condolences to the African people in general across the continent, and especially to the people of the Federal Republic of Ethiopia on the passing on of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi.

We join his people as they mourn for their beloved leader.

Ladies and gentlemen, We invite you to continue exploring new opportunities in the two countries.

We wish the business forum successful deliberations.

I thank you.

Issued by: THE PRESIDENCY
29 AUGUST 2012

 

 

 

 

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