Speech delivered by the Minister of International Relations & Cooperation, H.E. Ms Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, on the occasion of the opening of the South Africa–China High Level Dialogue, Pretoria, OR Tambo Building
25 April 2017
Vice Premier Liu Yandong,
Ministers and Deputy Ministers,
Members of the Diplomatic Corps
Senior Government Officials and Distinguished Members of the delegations from China and South Africa,
Distinguished Panellists, Academics and Civil Society Leaders,
Representatives of the Youth from China, South Africa and other countries across Africa
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am truly honoured and privileged to welcome the Vice Premier of the People's Republic of China, Her Excellency Liu Yandong and all of our distinguished guests and panellists to this High-Level Dialogue. This momentous High-Level Dialogue takes place within the context of the launch of the South Africa – China People to People Exchange Mechanism.
We are meeting at a very befitting time, when South Africans are celebrating the centenary of the birth of our finest diplomat and a great proponent and an ardent promoter of people to people relations, OR Tambo. Thus as you may be aware President Zuma declared the year 2017 an OR Tambo year in order to pay homage to this great son of African soil.
President Tambo became a link between the oppressed masses of our people and democracy as well as peace loving people of the world. In essence, our public diplomacy was shaped by OR who sought and maintained international support for our struggle throughout the world.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Our relations and people to people interaction with the people of China dates back to our struggle time and has grown over various epochs of history. We are further cultivating the seeds sown by leaders such as OR Tambo who worked tirelessly to shape our relations with China during a difficult period. The Chinese people on the other hand identified themselves with our struggle as South Africans and the plight of African people across the continent. At the height of a repressive government, through his visits to China in 1963, 1975 and 1983 he sought counsel and support that would contribute to our struggle for freedom.
In this regard, former President Nelson Mandela expressed our profound appreciation for the support we have received not only from the Chines people but from the international solidarity movements worldwide. He stated in his address at the International Solidarity Conference in February 1993 that:
“There are certain moments that capture the essence of life. Today is such a moment for me. For you are the friends from five continents who kept hope alive. You took the plight of our people, our hopes, our dreams and our struggles to your hearts and made it your own. You have forged bonds of friendships that are unbreakable. You refused to let the world ignore the tragedy wreaked by apartheid.”
Your Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,
The launch of the South Africa – China People to People Exchange Mechanism is therefore a testimony of unbreakable bonds of friendship that exists between our people. We have therefore gathered here to reflect on how best we could nurture and further strengthen our already existing people to people relations. This Dialogue is fittingly themed:
“Resonance between the concept of a community of shared future for mankind and the philosophy of Ubuntu in international relations”.
I would not like to pre-empt the outcomes of discussions and what our panellists wish to share with us today. Suffice to state that we will emerge from this dialogue with a far better comprehension of the philosophical underpinnings that inform and shape our interactions as nations and peoples
Permit me however, to briefly locate this People to People Exchange Mechanism within our foreign policy outlook. It finds expression in our foreign policy thrust that is predicated on the values of Ubuntu. In its simplest narration Ubuntu is a philosophy that means “compassion and humanity” in dealing with one another as people.
It is a humanist philosophy that emphasises the interconnectedness of the whole of humanity and the shared responsibility that all people have towards each other. It is based on an African belief in our inter- connectedness and that each individual has a unique role to play to ensure that the community can function harmoniously.
Moreover, it moves foreign policy from an abstract form to something tangible that our people can see and benefit from. As such, today’s session will provide an important platform to share ideas with our experts to look at how China and South Africa can cooperate to contribute to stronger bilateral relations as well as contributing to the current global discourse which is experiencing significant political dynamics and uncertainty. Additionally, it will contribute to the foundations of creating mutual development for our people and the world in which future generations will benefit.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Therefore this gathering is also a testimony of the importance our current leadership that is their Excellencies, President Zuma and President Xi Jinping, attach human relations and enhanced people to people collaboration.
It is within this context that President Zuma reiterated our commitment to active citizenry in diplomacy during his state visit to China in 2014, when he said:
“We want to see tourism and people to people exchanges further expanding”
This desire and vision was realised when President Zuma hosted President Xi Jinping in December 2015 during the China State Visit to South Africa. On this occasion, our Heads of State and Government agreed to establish this People to People Exchange Mechanism a platform to further strengthen our already flourishing relations.
Ladies and gentlemen
It is therefore imperative that we create a conducive environment for our people to share innovative ideas, knowledge and skills in various fields such culture, education, communications, health, technology, sports, tourism, women advancement and the youth among others.
These areas of focus will enable various sectors of our society to contribute directly towards the realisation of our domestic imperatives in a mutually beneficially manner. It’s a well-known fact that the people of China continue to contribute towards the betterment of the lives of our people and the realisation of Africa’s development agenda.
I therefore wish to underscore that our international relations engagements seek to address the triple challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality as identified in our National Development Plan. This mechanism will enable us to bolster economic growth with a view to create jobs and absorb our young people into the mainstream economy.
I have no doubt that our government and people share this resolve and commitment which has been infused in our relations with the government and the people of China. As you may be aware, the launch of this mechanism coincides with South Africa’s hosting of the 2ND Africa-China Youth Festival under the theme “Unity, Responsibility For Common Prosperity”.
Ladies and gentlemen
We are therefore launching an initiative which seeks to address critical areas of socio economic development and consequently leverage on the continent’s youth bulge. In order to have a sharpened focus on the plight of our youth and the role that can play in developing the continent the African Union has declared 2017 as the year for “Harnessing the demographic dividend through investment in youth”.
At national level I wish to reiterate our commitment to invest in our youth who have the responsibility to lead our country and people in future. We are therefore conscious that for us to have a brighter future as a nation our investment should be firmly located in the youth. It is through our young entrepreneurs, scientists etc. that we look to for innovation and creative breakthroughs.
We live in an interconnected world wherein our youth are no longer divided by geographic incompatibilities due to the development of new technologies and new age media. It has become much easier for the youth in particular and people in general to communicate and share ideas in order to enhance their knowledge capabilities. They are thus key in leveraging the opportunities that are provided by the fourth industrial revolution and shall be better placed to manage the inherent complexities thereof.
I am happy that we are joined by so many young representatives of the youth who are here with us today, as we seek to broaden and deepen our relations. There cannot be a stronger basis for our relations than the mutual development of our youth and well-being of our people.
Vice Premier Liu Yandong,
We are conscious that our endeavours can be realised within a stable global environment, which will promote cooperation and mutual prosperity between ourselves as well as our other international partners.
I therefore wish our experts and panellists the best of luck as they explore and share constructive ideas that will contribute to further strengthening bridges between South Africa and China. We believe that this is an opportune time to build on the foundations laid by OR Tambo so many years ago.
I thank you!!
ISSUED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND COOPERATION
O.R. Tambo Building
460 Soutpansberg Road