SPEECH ON THE OCCASION OF THE CELEBRATION OF NATIONAL FREEDOM DAY
26 APRIL 2018
AMBASSADOR RS MOLEKANE
Ambassadors and Permanent Delegates to UNESCO
Colleagues, Friends and Comrades
Welcome to the 24th year of our mighty country’s Freedom Day Celebrations. We celebrate this year’s Freedom Day under the theme “The year of Nelson Mandela: Towards the full realisation of our freedom through radical socio-economic transformation”.
This year has been designated to mark the enormous and courageous contributions and exemplary leadership of our liberation icons; mama Albertina Sisulu and Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela who, had they been alive, would be marking their 100th birthdays. These are two of the outstanding beacons of selfless and servant leadership with high ethical standards to be produced by our revolution, and today we celebrate them as we continuously seek to emulate and follow their example and multiply ourselves in their footsteps, and sustain their legacy.
We gather here today to also celebrate the enormous strides that have been made since 1994 and acknowledge that our country is a far better society than it was under the brutal and murderous apartheid regime. This time also calls on us to reflect on what else needs to be done collectively towards the goal of building a non-racial, non-sexist and prosperous united country and improving the quality of the lives of all our people.
This year also marks the 30th anniversary since the brutal murder and assassination of Dulcie September, here in France; a leader and activist whose life and times may be compared to that of both Mandela and Mama Sisulu. We would like to use this opportunity to once again call on the French government to re-open the Dulcie investigation to expose and find her murderers here in France and their collaborators in apartheid South Africa. It is an open secret that France collaborated with apartheid South Africa to undermine and break the international sanctions and arms embargo on the racist apartheid regime and Comrade Dulcie was murdered because of her work to expose this.
In the past 24 years, our country has made great strides in transforming the apartheid state which was meant to serve a few, replacing it with a state that is caring and responsive, which is created to serve all our people; both black and white. We have a constitutional democracy with one of the best constitutions in the world; which provides for the rule of law and protection and promotion of human rights. We have all important institutions in place that are fully independent and play their role without fear or favour, which makes our democracy to flourish.
The biggest challenge that our country faces today is in the area of socio-economic development and the roll out of these rights to the poor black majority of our people. The three evils of poverty, unemployment and inequality has propelled our government to adopt the theme of “radical socio-economic transformation” and this is what is contained in our National Development Plan, which is aligned to the 2063 Agenda of the African Union and Agenda 2030 on the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
Since the election of our new President, H.E Cyril Ramaphosa earlier this year, after the smooth transition that we witnessed, a positive mood and euphoria has once again gripped our country. We have seen a renewed attention and positive mood from the global community towards our country. This is in recognition of the manner that the new leadership is showing commitment to fighting against the demon and cancer of bad governance, corruption and undermining the rule of law.
It is also in recognition that this leadership is committed to the ethical, selfless and servant traits espoused by both Mandela and mama Sisulu. It is also in recognising that the programme of radical socio-economic transformation is irreversible and an important imperative for the success of democracy in our country. Radical Economic Transformation will be implemented in a responsible and inclusive manner. This includes land expropriation without compensation and other programmes to rapidly restore the dignity and humanity of the poor and marginalised in our society.
The spirit of renewal, unity and hope that has gripped our country and the world’s attention has to translate into a massive investment by both local and international investor communities into our economy. To this extent, President Cyril Ramaphosa has appointed four investment envoys and will also host an investment conference later this year. South Africa is indeed open for business. Opportunities are abound in our country in all areas of the economy such as; agriculture, mining, textile, manufacturing, automobile, ICT, infrastructure and transport etc. The country has established a one-stop investor assistant office within the Department of Trade and Industry to deal with all issues pertinent to investment like permits, incentives and regulations under one roof.
We are mindful as a country that our development and growth is linked with our region SADC, our continent; Africa and the world. We cannot be an island of success and prosperity in a sea of poverty, instability and strife. It is in this context that as the current chair of SADC we continuously engage our neighbours and region to find collective solutions to our challenges. We are seized with the worrying developments in some of our neighbours and are constantly engaging within the institutions of SADC to find lasting solutions. We believe that dialogue and engagement are the best mechanisms to resolving our inclusive differences and that war and conflict lead only to misery and destruction.
We are working very hard to speed up the process of Regional economic Integration and implementing the common market of SADC which is the building bloc towards our eventual aim of continental integration and African unity as detailed in Agenda 2063; The Africa We Want. Step by step this objective and dream of our fore-fathers and mothers is being realised. The African common market, the African common currency, the African common passport etc. are slowly but surely being unpacked and on the way to being realised and achieved.
We continue to discharge our responsibilities as a responsible member of the International Community as evidenced by our active role in UNESCO and other multilateral bodies. We believe in and embrace multilateralism and argue that the United Nations remains the premium body that espouses the interest of all countries. We however believe that some of its organs need an urgent review and reform especially the Security Council which has not changed since the middle of the 20th century. It is with this belief that the UNSC must be reformed that we have thrown our country’s name as a candidate for the non-permanent membership of this body. We believe that if elected we will push for the reform agenda and represent the agenda of the South.
We have observed with alarm and disquiet, some of the P5 members who publicly profess to be multilateralists but undermine this by acting unilaterally and convening parallel initiatives in contempt of established UN bodies and agencies. This is a regrettable step and should be discouraged and condemned.
South Africa and France enjoy cordial and warm relations. These are interspersed by reciprocal, high-level visits and sharing of information in all areas of human endeavour. Our trade and economic relations are also on a sound footing. We cooperate and manage our bilateral relations through the Forum for Political Dialogue which held its latest meeting here in Paris last month. This forum unpacks and discusses all areas of our bilateral relations. The latest decision is to elevate this Forum to be chaired by our Ministers of International Relations and to bring under its roof all other dialogues that have been running on their own; like the Joint Economic Commission, Defence and Security Dialogue etc... It is envisaged that the restructured and elevated Forum for Political dialogue will be inaugurated by our Ministers shortly.
While we are satisfied with the trade and economic relations we believe that much more can be done. There is room for improvement especially to close the trade imbalance which is in favour of France. We believe that France can do more to assist South African small and medium sized enterprises to enter the French market. Currently there are over 350 French companies in South Africa and no more than 25 South African companies in France, this is unacceptable. France exports 20 billion worth of goods and services to us and we only export 10 billion worth of goods and services to France. As we prepare ourselves for the 4th industrial revolution, it is important that this gap is closed and innovative and fair, balanced trade is encouraged.
Our priorities as we Chair BRICS and will be hosting its Summit later this year and marketing its 10th year of existence are firstly to strengthen and expand the BRICS development bank and among others to leverage the BRICS economic partnership towards the pursuit of inclusive growth and advancing the 4th industrial revolution. The BRICS Summit will be held under the theme BRICS in Africa; collaboration for inclusive growth and shared prosperity in the 4th industrial revolution. As has become tradition now, there will be sessions between BRICS and other emerging or Global South formations’ leaders in addition to the Africa outreach session.
We are also at the helm of the Indian Ocean Rim Association, which we have pledged to utilise to expand our relationship to achieve our objectives of the ocean or blue economy. There is great potential that we have not yet explored in the blue economy which through our leadership of IORA we hope to exploit for the benefit of all the members while protecting the use and safety of the ocean, and its benefits.
As we mark the centenary of Nelson Mandela and Albertina Sisulu, we hope that the world will join us and assist our country and continent to enter the 4th industrial revolution and be responsive and responsible global players. We must avoid the threats of WAR either by protectionism, nationalistic and outright racist tendencies that are rearing their ugly narrow heads especially here in Europe. We have one planet, one globe and our future is intertwined. Let us find the Madiba spirit in us and make the world a better place for all.