Opening Remarks by President Cyril Ramaphosa at the Official Talks with King Willem-Alexander on the occasion of the Netherlands State Visit, Union Buildings, Pretoria, 19 October 2023
Your Majesties King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima of the Netherlands,
Honourable Ministers of the Netherlands and South Africa,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is my privilege to welcome you, Your Majesties, on this, your first state visit to South Africa.
South Africa and the Netherlands have long-established historical ties going back to the arrival of the first Dutch settlers in the Cape in 1652.
In the post-colonial era, the Netherlands played an important role in the anti-apartheid struggle with active and committed anti-apartheid organisations.
More than 200 years since the Dutch ceded sovereignty of the Cape, there are a number of Dutch influences that still play an important part in the cultural and linguistic life of many South African communities.
The Afrikaans language has much of its origins in Dutch and is the third most widely spoken national language of South Africa. Our country’s Muslim community can trace its origins to the arrival in 1658 of free labourers and political exiles from the-then Dutch East Indies. There are distinct Dutch influences in the cuisine and customs of our country.
The strength of our bilateral relations today and the bonds between our respective peoples reflect a commitment to acknowledge and confront the injustices of our past.
We are determined to forge a new path for our respective countries based on shared values, and a common commitment to human rights, equality, development and prosperity for all.
We are determined to build the bridges of tolerance and understanding in pursuit of a better future and better world.
In this regard, Your Majesty, I wish to acknowledge the apology that you have made for your country’s role in the slave trade, including in South Africa. This was an important step towards promoting reconciliation, restoration and healing old wounds.
We are meeting at a time when our resolve to build a peaceful, equal future is being sorely tested, and where reconciliation and healing is most sorely needed.
The ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine and the devastating events unfolding in Israel and Palestine have left many of us saddened. They have left us fearful for the future of international cooperation and for our common aspiration to realise a world free of conflict.
As South Africa we have reiterated that there should be an immediate cessation of hostilities between the warring parties, that the tenets of international law should be upheld, and that the international community has a responsibility to help bring about favourable conditions for negotiation and dialogue.
As a country that chose the path of reconciliation over conflict, and peace over war, we believe it is indeed possible for adversaries, even those that share bitter histories, to come together for the sake of peace. We believe change can never come too late, and that it is indeed possible.
The relationship between our two countries is testament to this. The Netherlands is a former colonial power but is now supporting development and economic growth across the developing world, including in former Dutch colonies.
We are grateful to the Netherlands for its support during the COVID-19 pandemic. This included the provision of personal protective equipment and a substantial contribution to our Solidarity Fund.
As South Africa, we derive great benefit from our relationship with the Netherlands. This is something I underscored in my engagement with Prime Minister Rutte during his visit a few months ago.
Our countries have been able to collaborate in international fora on the promotion of democratic values, human rights, and the role of women in peace and security. I have been fortunate to engage Her Majesty the Queen on our shared interest in the promotion of financial inclusion for women on the African continent.
The Netherlands is one of our major trading partners. Our total trade has doubled between 2019 and 2022 and the Netherlands remains one of the most important investors in this country. South Africa is also a leading destination for Dutch tourists.
You are accompanied by a large business delegation, and I am confident they will have constructive engagements with their South African counterparts.
Our bilateral relationship spans agriculture, education and skills development, transport and logistics, science and innovation, water management and others.
Our energy cooperation is increasing, notably in the fields of green hydrogen and renewable energy.
I understand that our Foreign Ministers held a successful meeting of our Joint Commission yesterday and we look forward to receiving their report.
I am pleased to note that your delegation includes a large academic component, because cooperation between our universities has shown great growth since the advent of democracy in our country.
Ours is a strategic partnership that we can be proud of. It has evolved, matured and is increasingly of mutual benefit. May our shared values and common commitment to development guide us as we write a new history for South Africa-Dutch relations.
We look forward to expanding the horizons of this relationship well into the future.
I now invite you, Your Majesty, to make your opening statement.
I thank you.
Issued by: The Presidency