Opening Remarks by Deputy Minister Landers: Discussion Forum with GRULAC missions

Mr Fadl Nacerodien, Chairperson of the Discussion Forum on Engagement with GRULAC Missions
Your Excellency, Ambassador Carlos Sersale, Dean of the GRULAC Group
Excellencies, Ambassadors and High Commissioners
Esteemed members of the Diplomatic Corps
Representatives of regional organisations
Colleagues, friends and compatriots

It is an honour for me to address this important gathering on an initiative which is long outstanding.  As DIRCO, we have been looking at different mechanisms of engaging more closely with our Esteemed Colleagues of the GRULAC region, and I am delighted to see that this has come to fruition.

Our thanks to Mr Nacerodien and the PRAU team for making this possible.

We are gathered here today against the backdrop of an historic visit to our country of the Cuban Five heroes.  The ruling party and its Alliance partners have welcomed Cuba’s National Heroes in South Africa in celebration of their release from incarceration in the USA.  As South Africa we also owe a huge debt to these brave revolutionaries who fought side-by-side with South Africa’s liberation forces against the Apartheid army in Southern Angola.  Their sacrifices and commitment to fighting oppression in all its guises was a direct contributor to the freedom that all South Africans enjoy today.  Pivotal amongst this was the battle of Cuito Cuanavale in southern Angola in 1988 that paved the way for the independence of Namibia in 1990 and South Africa in 1994.

I had the distinct pleasure of undertaking a visit to the region in March 2015 when I travelled to Uruguay, Chile and Colombia.  The visit gave me the opportunity to actively engage with my GRULAC counterparts, I found to be extremely productive on numerous levels.  South Africa, and the rest of Africa’s burgeoning partnership with your Region is on an upward trajectory that we are following very closely.

I am pleased to inform you that I will be undertaking a visit to five Caribbean countries, from 29 June to 10 July, to further strengthen our relations and to identify and pursue more areas of collaboration.

There have been a number of fruitful bilateral engagements with individual GRULAC countries over the past year or two, DDG Maya will elaborate on during her presentation later.

Ladies and gentlemen, my Department places significant value on cooperation between South Africa and Africa and countries of the South.

It is worth noting that in 1990, the economies of the South accounted for only 30% of global GDP but by 2017 they are expected to account for 54% of the global economy. This trend has been accompanied by a progressive integration of Southern economies via various regional integration initiatives as well as across regions.

The growth in South-South trade between emerging economies and the rise of Africa as the new growth frontier has counterbalanced the relative decline of the economies of the developed North.

I believe that we should be skillfully harnessing the trend towards greater trade among countries of the South to meet our countries’ domestic priorities and to drive our development agenda, in particular, industrialisation, regional integration, trade capacitation, skills development and sustainable development.

Your Excellencies, we are gathered here today precisely to unlock the vast potential that exist between the GRULAC Region and Africa.  This notion is also wholeheartedly supported by our Principals, for example, during President Zuma’s address to the meeting of the Heads of State of BRICS and South American States (the UNASUR) in Brasilia in July 2014, he acknowledged the positive political, economic and social changes underway in the GRULAC region, especially relating to the reduction of poverty and the promotion of regional solidarity, integration and cooperation.  These are the goals and objectives that we have set ourselves to collaboratively work towards. 

President Zuma also affirmed South Africa’s commitment to the principle of regional solidarity and cooperation with South America in particular and the greater Latin America and the Caribbean in general.

We are cognisant of the historical and cultural ties that exist between our respective regions and we note and appreciate the contribution of the African diaspora in the development of the GRULAC region.

We already benefit from our Africa-South America Partnership which provides our respective continents with an opportunity to ensure sustainable economic growth and development.  It is thus with anticipation that we note that Ecuador will host the 4th Africa – South America Summit in 2016.

Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen, on 26th June we will be celebrating 60 years since the Freedom Charter was adopted. As you will be aware, the Freedom Charter is a unique document (drafted by the masses of our people in 1955) in that for the first time ever, the people were actively involved in formulating their own vision of an alternative society.

“There shall be peace and friendship” - a clause contained in the Charter, has been guiding our foreign policy since 1994.

It is in this context as well as in the context of our country’s historic ties with Cuba that the Cuban Five heroes are visiting South Africa from 21 June to 3 July 2015.  

The African continent has expressed itself on the type of Africa we want by 2063 in terms of political and socio-economic development, human welfare, governance, peace and security, as well as the continent taking its rightful place in the world. To achieve our goals we have to continue to build strong partnerships with the South. We should therefore deepen our dialogue.  Agenda 2063 remains our key road map for the attainment of social and economic transformation.

Both GRULAC and Africa share the challenges of under-development, low economic growth and the fight against inequality.  We must therefore continue to promote political and economic relations, enhancing trade and cultural relations and collaborate on global issues for a better world.

The purpose of our Discussion Forum today is to reflect on the state of existing relations as well as explore ways to improve these relations, including within the context of groupings such as MERCOSUR, the Pacific Alliance, CARICOM, CELAC, ALBA countries and other regional groupings in South America.

We are looking forward to the presentations of GRULAC Ambassadors on developments within their respective sub-regions and how such developments could potentially strengthen our mutual relations.  We also anticipate valuable contributions by academics and other experts, including representatives from the business community.

I hope that today will represent the first of many similar opportunities to meet and that today’s discussion will be constructive and beneficial to all attendees.

I therefore declare the discussion forum open for successful and fruitful discussions.

Thank you!  Muchas gracias!  Muito obrigado!  Merci beaucoup!


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