Toast Remarks by His Excellency, President Jacob Zuma, on the occasion of the State Banquet hosted in honour of H E President Francois Hollande of France, Sefako Makgatho Presidential Guest House, Pretoria, 14 October 2013
Your Excellency President Francois Hollande and your dear spouse, Valerie,
Your Excellency Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe and partner Ms Mtshali,
Honourable Speaker of the National Assembly Mr Max Sisulu,
Honourable Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces, Mr Mninawa Mahlangu,
The Chief Justice of the Republic, Honourable Mogoeng Mogoeng,
Honourable Ministers and Deputy Ministers,
The Premier of Gauteng, Ms Nomvula Mokonyane,
Executive Mayor of Tshwane Metropolitan Council, Councillor Ramokgopa,
Excellencies Ambassadors and High Commissioners,
Members of the business community,
Good evening to you all.
Let me once again extend our warmest welcome to you, Your Excellency President Hollande, your dear spouse and your esteemed delegation.
I thank you for accepting my invitation to undertake this State Visit to our country and trust that the visit has so far been enjoyable.
This visit has been successful and has taken our bilateral relations to a higher level. This is not surprising as our two countries share a strong democratic value system.
We share with the people of France the vision and commitment to create strong and prosperous societies.
We share the belief in a vibrant democracy, the rule of law and respect for basic human rights. We share the belief in liberty, equality and fraternity.
We are happy, therefore, that this state visit takes place so close to the celebration of 20 years of freedom and democracy in our country.
We will be celebrating the fact that working together as South Africans, we have made this country a much better place to live in now than it was before 1994, during the period of apartheid colonialism.
In this regard, we extend our gratitude to our development partners. We appreciate the development cooperation assistance extended by France since the dawn of freedom and democracy in 1994.
It has made a meaningful impact in improving the living conditions of our people. We look forward to continued cooperation and support, as consolidated during this visit.
Our substantive and wide-ranging discussions earlier today and the important agreements that were signed have reaffirmed our mutual determination to deepen our strategic partnership.
We look forward to heightened cooperation in areas such as manufacturing, agriculture, infrastructure, science and technology, energy as well as arts and culture.
We also welcome the successful meeting of the South Africa-France Business Forum earlier today. The outcome should impact positively on both trade and investment, and further improve the balance, depth and scope of bilateral trade.
Further, Your Excellency, we have agreed to work together to promote people-to-people contact, through cultural, scientific and educational exchanges, as well as by promoting two-way tourism.
In 2012, more than 120 000 French tourists visited South Africa, an increase of 16% compared to 2011. This shows great potential, which we will continue to harness.
Already we have a powerful instrument in the South Africa-France Seasons of Culture project.
The French Season in South Africa ran from June to November last year in Johannesburg. The South African Season in France began in May this year and will run until December 2013.
Let me take this opportunity to thank you for availing your most prestigious and iconic symbol, the Eiffel Tower to promoting South Africa in France. We were truly excited that the Tower was wrapped in the colours of the South African flag!
We are also happy that the exhibition entitled, "Mandela from Prisoner to President" was part of this project and attracted thousands of visitors.
In another project, eight children from the Winnie Ngwekazi Primary School in Soweto represented South Africa in the Children’s Parliament in Paris. We were delighted to hear that the South African speaker, 12 year old Miss Nokubonga Ndlovu, received a standing ovation.
She spoke on the topic “the understanding of liberty, equality and unity: the South African Perspective”.
The joint Seasons project will significantly contribute towards greater people-to-people contact and increase reciprocal visits.
We also welcome the fact that we can draw on the store of excellent scholarship that resides within the French Republic, to train our own people especially in the important areas of science, technology and engineering.
Beyond our borders, we have agreed to continue working together closely on peace and security especially in the African continent.
South Africa believes that to comprehensively address this challenge of peace and security on the continent, there is a need for closer cooperation between the United Nations Peace and Security Council and the African Union Peace and Security Council.
In this regard we count on France’s support in ensuring the effective implementation of the United Nations Resolution 2033, which provides for closer coordination between the Security Council and the AU Peace and Security Council.
The resolution accords the AU a leading role in facilitating the resolution of conflicts on the continent with the support of the United Nations.
At a multilateral level there is a need for us to further intensify our collaboration and partnership.
This we should do, among others, to encourage faster reform of the United Nations, especially the Security Council, so that this important world body can become a truly democratic forum, reflecting the political and other realities of the 21st century.
We will discuss these matters further at the peace and security summit that you have kindly invited us to attend in December.
We interact at more than just the governmental level.
The fraternal organisations that we both lead, the ANC and the Socialist Party, provide another platform for us to engage. The relations between the two countries can therefore only grow from strength to strength from now onwards.
Let me once again thank you, Your Excellency, for accepting my invitation to undertake this historic State Visit to our country.
Ladies and gentlemen,
May I request you to rise and join me in a toast to the good health and success of His Excellency President Hollande and to stronger bilateral ties and friendship between the people of the South African and French Republics.
To friendship, good health, success and prosperity!
I thank you.
Issued by: The Presidency