Keynote Address by the Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, H. E. Ms Maite Nkoana-Mashabane on the occasion of the 20 Years Anniversary of Freedom and Celebration of 20 Years of Diplomatic Relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran, Tehran, Iran, 16th June 2014

Dr Hadi Soleimanpoor, Head of the Centre for International Studies and Research and Former Deputy Minister for Africa
Distinguished Guests and Delegates
Friends of South Africa
Ladies and Gentleman

I would like to take a moment to express my sincere gratitude and appreciation to the Government and people of the Islamic Republic of Iran for the warm and cordial reception accorded to me and my delegation, we truly feel that we are amongst friends. We are also grateful to the Centre for International Studies and Research, for co-hosting this august occasion with the South African Embassy here in Tehran.

Today in South Africa we celebrate Youth Day.  We commemorate our youth who paid the ultimate sacrifice for the cause of our freedom on June 16th, 1976.

I kindly request the seminar to observe a moment of silence in recognition of those who perished.


Thank you.

Today, 38 years after the 1976 student’s uprisings, youth in South Africa are not recruited for another uprising, but are called upon, to participate in the full democratic processes and governance of South Africa and to take the country to greater heights.

This year’s youth day coincides with the celebration of the 20th anniversary of our freedom and 20 years of diplomatic relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran.  As we celebrate 20 years of our country’s freedom and democracy, we must also acknowledge the solidarity of the anti-apartheid movement across the world including in far away countries such as Iran, who didn’t see our struggle as too far away but took on the unjust system of apartheid, today, we can stand here proud to represent a free and democratic nation.

It is therefore befitting for us to stand here today and celebrate with you 20 years of freedom and democracy.

In the 20 years of our diplomatic relations we have built the strong bonds of friendship between our peoples.  This is an opportunity to consolidate these relations.

It is the 1979 revolution led by the late Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomenei which laid the foundation for our diplomatic relations.

South African freedom cannot be discussed without paying tribute to its founders. Amongst many liberation stalwarts and veterans, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela is universally recognized as the architect and the inspiration for the formation of the new South African nation.

Chairperson and participants,

The year 2014 truly presents a momentous occasion for us as a unified nation to reflect on how our freedom and democracy were achieved, the progress we have made thus far, and how we as South Africans are going to work together to implement Vision 2030. We are indeed a country that is better off today since our first democratic elections in 1994.

A few weeks ago, South Africans reaffirmed their commitment to consolidating our democracy by holding a successful election, reelecting President Jacob Zuma for another five years.

The benefits of the fruits of freedom that we are today currently enjoying have been built on the back of tumultuous struggles conducted by all sectors of South African society.  Black and white, young and old, abled and disabled, urban and rural - who all participated to ensure that South Africa emerges as a nation, appreciative of the costs of the sacrifices, past and present generations made in order to fulfill their quest for national liberation and democracy.

What have we achieved in the past 20 years?

South Africa has a Constitution that is the envy of democracies throughout the world and is acknowledged world wide for the manner in which it was adopted.  Enshrined in the Constitution is the Bill of rights.

The focus of the first 20 years has been on the improvement of the livelihoods of the dispossessed and poorest of the poor.  Key policy positions were undertaken to address the basic needs of the majority (Black Africans). This involved the establishment of the Reconstruction and Development Plan under the administration of the late former President Mandela.  The focus was on the provision of social amenities such as water, sanitation, housing, basic education, health and infrastructure.

There was much emphasis on job creation and the improvement of livelihoods of peri-urban and rural communities.

South Africa recognized the need to build institutions to sustain the democracy.  These include Chapter 9 institutions such as the Gender Commission, which would act as the bedrock for the enhancement of the new democracy.

We embarked on a transformative programme to address past injustices in the institutional arrangement of the State that involved the reform of the civil service and the introduction of the Batho-Pele Principles – put people first in order to ensure more effective service delivery in a community sensitive based approach to development.

Programme Director,

“Freedom cannot be achieved unless women have been emancipated from all forms of oppression... Our endeavours must be about the liberation of the woman, the emancipation of the man and the liberty of the child."
                                                                                                            - Nelson Mandela

Women in our country have been in the forefront of the resistance struggle against apartheid.  During the month of August, South Africa celebrates and commemorates the role of women in the struggle for a free, non-racial, and non-sexist South Africa. We do this by paying tribute to the heroic contribution of women in the struggle against the oppressive laws of colonialism and apartheid, highlighted by the historic march by women of all races to the Union Buildings on 9 August 1956.

In appreciation of women as equal partners in the transformation of our society we have legislation to ensure women’s representation at the highest decision making levels.  In its Polokwane National Conference held in 2007, the African National Congress (ANC) adopted the 50/50 representation. This increased the representation of women to 44% in Parliament and 42% in Cabinet under President Jacob Zuma. Chairperson, the progress our nation is making is mainly due to the commitment of the African National Congress to women empowerment and gender equality.

Progress has been noted in many areas in particular addressing the economic empowerment of women through establishment and creation of women cooperatives, support of women in agriculture and farming, in energy particularly in green economy projects and solar energy, mining, Expanded Public Works Programmes and grants and funds through the Departments of Trade and Industry, Economic Development, Rural Development and Land Reform, Industrial Development Corporation, Small Enterprise Development Agency, and other agencies.

The protection of women’s rights is central in the National Constitution and its Bill of Rights.  It seeks to promote and protect women’s rights in their homes, in the community and in the work place.  It is for this reason that South Africa receives such high international acclaim for legislation that seeks to protect the rights of women.

Our country has also seen a growing number of young ambitious business women who continue to make a mark in some predominantly male business sectors.

Chairperson and participants,

The Inauguration of a fifth democratic administration after the successful and smooth elections of May, 7th gave further mandate to President Zuma and the ruling party, the African National Congress, to continue along the path pursued over the last 20 years.

While we accept with humility our enormous achievements of the last two decades we however recognized that our collective efforts for overcoming the triple challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality must be escalated and intensified over the next five years.

We have developed a National Development Plan which is our 30-year transformation programme to address these challenges.  It is a multifaceted, integrated and holistic approach.

Chairperson and participants,

South Africa reentered the international community and participates effectively as a Member of the United Nations where it advocates a reformed, inclusive and democratic global order.

At the center of South Africa’s Foreign Policy is the promotion of the interests of the African continent in political, economic and social spheres.  Africa seeks equitable partnerships with the rest of the world.  In pursuance of this objective we have been in the forefront of the promotion of a strong Continental Organization, which is the African Union. 

Africa’s core challenges are development, peace and security and strengthening our democracy.

On peace and security, we believe in finding solutions to Africa’s problems in places such as Mali, South Sudan, Somalia and Libya.

At a regional level, South Africa continues to contribute to mediation efforts on the African continent in countries that have found themselves embroiled in civil wars and conflict.  Our sons and daughters are currently serving in a number of peace missions across the continent.

Over the years, we have built and maintained relations with countries of the South both bilaterally and multilaterally. We did this and continue on this path through our membership of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), the Group of 77 (G77) plus China, IBSA, BRICS and other important structures. Our relations with Iran are in the framework of our South-South cooperation.

These relations date back to pre-1994 and to a period when the Islamic Republic supported the Liberation Movement by severing relations with the racist regime in 1979 and imposing the trade boycott against the apartheid regime.  In January 1994 in recognition of South Africa’s move towards an inclusive future, the Islamic Republic of Iran lifted all trade and economic sanctions against South Africa and re-established diplomatic relations on 10 May 1994.  This ushered in a period of prolific trade between our two countries which was unfortunately interrupted by the imposition of sanctions against the Islamic Republic Iran.

Our relationship with Iran is anchored by the words spoken by the late former President Mandela in 1996 who said (and I quote)

As we rebuild our country we also seek to strengthen bonds with those who stood by us during the darkest of times.  After the triumph of the 1979 Revolution Iran sacrificed much in support of our cause.  It refused to oil the system which the world regarded as a crime against humanity.  That approach informed your policy towards South Africa until apartheid was dismantled. Although we conveyed our gratitude through your high-powered delegation at the inauguration of our Government, I still feel obliged to say once more to the people of Iran: “Thank you.

South Africa recognizes that the Islamic Republic of Iran is a pivotal and influential player in this region, as well as internationally.  Your country has a rich history and a vibrant culture.  It has a large and growing economy and possesses skills and expertise that could influence the countries around it – and even beyond – in a very positive manner.  Iran is also one of the world’s largest sources of energy, be this crude oil or gas.  South Africa attaches great significance to its bilateral relations with Iran and to this end the Joint Commission between the two countries remains a dynamic structured bilateral mechanism, which accorded a very successful eleventh session last year.

The 11th Joint Commission is a prelude to the resuscitation of historical ties between our two countries and is now being followed up by the visit of a business delegation from South Africa to promote partnerships between companies of our two countries.  It will also usher in greater cooperation between various line departments of the two countries.  It will lead into interaction which will be indicative of the prospective upsurge of bilateral relations between Tehran and Pretoria.  This gathering provides for learning and sharing of experiences and consolidating the relations established by our forbearers two decades ago.

Chairperson and participants,

His Excellency, President Mr Jacob Zuma, has requested me to convey to you his deepest appreciation of the support given to South Africa during the difficult periods of the national liberation struggle post 1994.  He reiterates the continued good diplomatic relations that exists between our two countries that are informed by the similarities of our struggle and emphasizes the need to consolidate these relations.

South Africa has always stood fastidiously against unilateral sanctions imposed on the Islamic Republic of Iran and has encouraged negotiations to resolve the issue of Iran’s right to peaceful nuclear development.  In my discussion with Foreign Minister Dr Zarif I am encouraged to learn of the ongoing negotiations between your Government and the P5 + 1.  We hope that the final outcome will be a fair and just to the people of Iran.

During my meeting with my colleague, Foreign Minister Dr Zarif, we touched upon areas of conflict in our particular regions.  We arrived at a consensus that most of the conflicts currently occurring, which are not created by us, affect the developing world.  Given these circumstances we are of the opinion that a mechanism needs to be examined to address these current threats to our societies.  Through a consultative process we would be able to identify a local or regional solution to these societal threats i.e. South-South dialogue initiatives.

South Africa is appreciative of the role that Iran continues to play in international organizations and in particular its role as current Chair of the Non Alignment Movement.  It is only appropriate that one of the founders of the NAM is currently chairing the organization.  We are confident that you will continue to providing luminary leadership to this lustrous organization.

In conclusion, in South Africa, as we approach the next phase of our transformation geared towards the upliftment of our people and the ending of poverty, we are reminded of the sacrifices that will still confront us in order to create a society that is equitable, free of poverty and focused on the people as the custodians of our democracy. 

We are reminded of the words of the late former President Nelson Mandela who said that the past 20 years have come about as a result of the unimaginable sacrifices of thousands of people:


whose suffering and courage can never be counted or repaid.  I felt that day, as I have on so many other days that I was simply the sum of all those African patriots who had gone before me.  That long and noble line ended and now began again with me. I was pained that I was not able to thank them and that they were not able to see what their sacrifices had wrought.”


I thank you

For more information, please contact Mr Clayson Monyela, 082 884 5974


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