Remarks by President Jacob Zuma on the occasion of the presentation of credentials by Heads of Mission accredited to South Africa, 6 June 2013
Your Excellencies, High Commissioners and Ambassadors;
Members of the Diplomatic Corps;
Men and Women of the media;
Ladies and gentlemen
On behalf of the people, and the Government of South Africa, please allow me, Your Excellencies, to extend a warm welcome to you all.
In the past few years, our country has witnessed an increasing number of diplomatic representations by our partners from all corners of the world.
Today we are honoured that Your Excellencies can be counted amongst formidable diplomats who have graced our shores, and indeed found a home away from home in South Africa Pretoria.
It is not by historical accident that today’s ceremony coincides with a number of significant events in the history of our struggle for liberation – ours is a friendship bound by history.
This year we are celebrating the 50th anniversary of the OAU/AU. The year 2014 will mark the 20th anniversary of our young, but strong democracy.
We are also in the middle of the penultimate year before we go to our National Elections in 2014. In short, this is a year for us to reflect on the journey we have travelled since the dawn of our young democracy 19 years ago.
We are therefore pleased that you have graced our shores to share these reflections with us.
In the conduct of our foreign policy engagements, the strength of our partnerships always found expression in the theme “working together we can do more”. This is a theme that has – over the years - inspired and shaped our present day foreign policy.
Today, inspired by the same spirit, we reaffirm our continued commitment in working closer with Your Excellencies, and your esteemed countries. Today, it is the very spirit that propels us to recommit ourselves to continue deepening and strengthening our bilateral economic and political relations.
We do so because of our belief that our prosperity and developmental aspirations are inextricably linked.
My delegation and I have just returned from the 50th anniversary celebrations of the OAU/AU. I think it is befitting that I share with you some of the major highlights and outcomes of these celebrations in order to put into context an Africa we wish to build with you.
These celebrations were held on the sidelines of the 21st Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union in Addis Ababa on 26 and 27 May 2013, one month earlier than usual, and the theme of the Summit was “Pan-Africanism and the African Renaissance”.
This theme was a continuation of the January 2013 AU Summit theme. The theme captured the history of Pan-Africanism and the road we have travelled over the last fifty years, as well as what needs to be done now and into the future for the renewal of our continent.
This, however, Your Excellencies, is a journey we cannot begin to undertake without a strong partnership with your esteemed countries. For us to complete this journey, we need to move side by side with Poland, France, Malawi, Saudi Arabia and Kenya.
One of the historic decisions of the Summit was to set in motion the process towards the development of Vision 2063. In the next 50 years, towards the centenary of the OAU/AU in 2063, we have committed ourselves to striving for “an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and taking its place in the global arena”.
Vision 2063 will promote and define the Pan-African agenda and values that will underpin the African Agenda over the next five decades, inspiring new generations of Pan-Africanists.
The Summit also adopted a Solemn Declaration on the 50th Anniversary of the OAU/AU, which was signed by all the Heads of State and Government present. This Solemn Declaration is the outcome of wide consultations amongst African member states, civil society, women, youth, intellectuals, the private sector and the Diaspora on the theme. The Solemn Declaration recalls the achievements of the OAU/AU since its founding in 1963 - in particular the quest for self-determination and the fight against apartheid - and the drive for development and integration following the establishment of the AU in 2002.
Because of the role that the OAU/AU has played in our struggle for liberation, today, South Africa is different from what it was twenty years ago. We have kept our promise to create a better life for all. We have changed the quality of lives of our people.
We have created more employment, reduced the levels of poverty and unemployment. But this we did not achieve alone, Your Excellencies. Your countries also were there every step of the way as we marched forward in search of greater opportunities for our people.
Our country has come a long way with its partners the world over.
Within a period of 19 years, we have managed to move from being a pariah state, to a great nation with a visionary foreign policy that promotes relations with other countries.
In this regard, we have made a call to our missions abroad to strengthen efforts in pursuing strategies for our economic diplomacy engagements.
Let us work together to create a better future for our people. In us, you can be assured that you have a solid partnership.
Allow me to wish you well in your various assignments here in South Africa. In your demanding schedules, please take some time out to enjoy the hospitality that our country has to offer.
I thank you.