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29. April 2014

Freedom Day Celebrations 2014

The Embassy of the Republic of South Africa celebrated Freedom Day and twenty years of Democracy on 25 April 2014. His Excellency Ambassador Makhenkesi Stofile greeted South Africans, as well as friends and partners of South Africa, reminding everyone  that:  “April 1994 was a historic breakthrough in the struggle for democracy. A consequence of active support to the cause of democracy by the mass of our people and a cumulative result of decades of a protracted struggle. This victory of 1994 signified a decisive departure from a colonial system that spanned over 3 centauries. The election results of 1994 did not mean just a change of parties in the political office. It meant a revolutionary break with the past.”  (full speech see below)

State Secretary of the German Foreign Office, Dr. Markus Ederer, talked about the great partnership Germany shares with South Africa and indicated that the lively exchange will be strengthened at the Bi-National Commission that will take place in South Africa in fall 2014. The BNC was established by former President Nelson Mandela and former Chancellor Helmut Kohl during a visit of Mandela to Germany in 1996.

The two national anthems were sung by South African Berlin based opera singer July Zuma, and against splendid weather, a typical South African Braai was enjoyed on the Embassy premises.

The following is the full text of the speech held by H E Rev Dr Stofile, Ambassador of the Republic of South Africa to Germany:

State Secretary of the Federal Foreign Ministry, Dr Markus Ederer
Chief of Protocol, Ambassador Jürgen Christian Mertens
State Secretary Mr Christian Gaebler
Director General Mr Dieter Haller
Excellencies, Ambassadors and members of the Diplomatic Corps
Honourable members of the Bundestag
Consul General, Ms Nkosi
Honorary Consuls of the Republic of South Africa
Members of the Business Fraternity
Partners and Friends of South Africa
Fellow South Africans

Guten Tag!


Freedom Day - 2014

On 27 April 1994, millions of South Africans of 18 years old and above joined long lines that led to ballot boxes; in cities, villages and on farms. Our country was having its first non-racial and non-sexist national elections. Some 90 year olds were voting for the first time in their lives. Obviously, all black people were voting for the first time for the government of our country. South Africa was making a break with apartheid, racism and colonialism.

April 1994 was a historic breakthrough in the struggle for democracy. A consequence of active support to the cause of democracy by the mass of our people and a cumulative result of decades of a protracted struggle. This victory of 1994 signified a decisive departure from a colonial system that spanned over 3 centauries. The election results of 1994 did not mean just a change of parties in the political office. It meant a revolutionary break with the past. A qualitative element of the National Democratic Revolution (NDR) had been accomplished. But this was only the inauguration of the process to dismantle white domination.

Wise people advise that “it is not given to every generation that it be present during, and participate in the act of creation.” Our parents and our generation participated in the destruction of apartheid and in the creation of democracy for our country. We must count ourselves a privileged generation. We defeated apartheid and our children must build the democratic, non-racial, non-sexist and prosperous South Africa of our dreams! They should not fail us in this their historic task. Of course we are still there to guide those who go astray and are still prepared to listen.

This year, this event also serves to mark 20 years of freedom for all our people. Yes, not all have accessed prosperity yet but all are free. As such we must take time to reflect on the feats and sacrifices of all who led our struggle for freedom. Great sons and daughters of our country and of other progressive countries of the world. The late Welemtsha Alan Madolwana (Francis Meli – nom de guerre), an ANC intellectual, states that there were many people that played a role in forming the resistance/movement led by the ANC. But he also quickly avers that the formation of the ANC was a result of the people ´s experience and the leaders were responding to the people ´s demands.

This demand for equality and human rights for all made sense to a lot of people but to very few governments of the world. So the attainment of freedom through the leadership of the ANC was a collective triumph of all progressive forces, both nationally and internationally, who spared no effort in fighting and defeating the apartheid system.

Today we salute these friends of our liberation who hosted us in their countries, trained our soldiers and professionals and provided us with logistical and moral support. Without their solidarity that braved all forms of terrorism and intimidation, our protracted war and struggle would still be our lot. Thank you to one and all.

But economic emancipation and access to prosperity for all continues to escape our people. The leader of the Long Road to Freedom, President Rolihlahla Nelson Mandela passed on last December (05/12/13). Our own comrade Eric Singh also took leave of us on 11 February this year. In fact only 3 of the 10 people sentenced at the Rivonia trial in April 1964 (Andrew Mlangeni, Ahmed Kathrada,  and Denis Goldberg are alive today. All agreed that the Long Road had still not come to an end. Many more hills must still be climbed (to paraphrase Madiba). As such, our old allies must not abandon us now. Our new friends must also roll up their sleeves and join us as we combat the legacy of over 300 years of colonialism and apartheid racism! They must accompany us, as we strive to achieve a fully prosperous and just society.

South Africa – Germany partnership

South Africa and Germany share common values of democracy, respect for human rights and social justice for all. Our solidarity on these principles has grown over the last 20 years into an important strategic partnership of equals. This partnership is strongly entrenched in South Africa ´s Foreign Policy Vision Statement of a better Africa and a better world that offers prosperity and peace for all.

Our partnership with Germany is anchored by political, economic and cultural cooperation between our governments and among our people and institutions.

1. To this end the 8th session of the South Africa – Germany Bi-national Commission with its joint committees in the areas of economy, trade and investment, science and technology, development co-operation, defence and security, environment, energy, culture, social and labour affairs will take place in Pretoria, South Africa in September this year. Several Cabinet Ministers and Senior Government Officials as well as business delegations will be part of the activities of the Bi-national Commission.

2. On the international front, South Africa and Germany continue to consult on issues of climate change, democratization of the UNSC and the Brettonwood institutions (IMF and the World Bank). We continue to co-operate in post-conflict programmes that are designed to bring stability, peace and development to some African countries.

South Africa and Germany are two autonomous countries. As such we will not agree on everything, especially on strategies and tactics. But we are both committed to resolving issues around the table with mutual trust and integrity. That way the “eye-level” partnership is developed and observed. We are a constitutional democracy that rigorously promotes and protects human rights. This does not mean we are perfect. No nation has as yet attained the state of perfection. We believe in multilateralism. The African Union is our regional coordinating structure. As an African country we prohibit, reject and condemn unconstitutional change of government in any member state. Such changes are a serious threat to stability, peace, security and development wherever they occur. We have yet to attend a conference that encourages mobocracy and technocracy as substitutes for democracy. We probably will oppose such new heirs to democracy and the rule of law.

South Africa is considered an emerging market owing much of this ranking to its flourishing economy and its competitiveness in international markets. We are considered a middle income country with an abundant supply of natural resources, well developed financial, legal, communications and energy institutions. Our Stock Exchange is ranked 18th largest in the world. In fact, South Africa ´s banking system environment has led to a number of foreign banks such as HBSC, Deutsche Bank, Commerz Bank etc. to establish branches in South Africa. Our economy possesses the necessary dynamism to position the country as a competitive player in a difficult global economic environment.

But South Africa continues to be two nations: One white and rich and the other one black and poor. During the last 20 years we have made some inroads in the de-racialising of the economy and society but this is obviously never an easy thing to do. After more than 100 years of emancipation, some great countries have not achieved this. We continue to work at it. Unfortunately, this is overshadowed by stories of greed, corruption and cronyism. The good stories never hit the headlines.

Our county has registered success in integrating its economy into the world markets after 1994. But we must concede that this global competitiveness has not been translated into a growth that is shared by the large majority of our population. Our National Development Plan clearly points out at the acuteness of inequalities in income and wealth, in health and education – yes, between affluence and poverty.

On The Home Front

South Africa is indeed a much better society than it was before 1994, when we inherited a country from the apartheid government that was both morally and financially bankrupt. A brief review of our achievements in the past 20 years reveals, amongst others, that since 1994:

Our education reflects a great increase in primary and secondary schools enrolment rates, the Matriculation pass rate, adult literacy rate, the percentage of people with a tertiary education, the learner-to-teacher ratio and the number of learners benefitting from the no-fee policy have all significantly increased.

The national access to clean and safe drinking water in 2011/2012 was at 95% - up from only 60% in 1994. As a country we have set ourselves a target of 100% access.

85% of households had access to sanitation in 2012/13 – up from 50% in 1994.

The national average of access to electricity in 2013/2014 is at least 86%.

More than R100 billion has been invested in providing housing. This way 12,5 million people have a place to call home for the first time in their lives.

South Africa ´s life expectancy is on an upward trend from 52,7 years in 2002 to 59,6 years in 2013.

The South African economy has been completely overhauled through prudent macro-economic policy and sound fiscal management.

Inflation remains within the target range of 3 – 6%, which has allowed the South African Reserve Bank to keep interest rates relatively low.

Infrastructure Development received a boost in 2010 when South Africa successfully hosted the FIFA World Cup. The implementation of several strategic integrated projects continues, which will fast-track the transformation of our economy, create a significant number of new jobs and strengthen the delivery of basic services.

60% of households surveyed in the Victims of Crime Survey were satisfied with the way the police and courts are doing their work.

Global rankings of the percentage of women parliamentarians in national parliaments put South Africa in the top 10 of 188 countries, ahead of many developed countries.

As Africans we have long recognized the fact that we would not achieve our cherished goal or eradicating poverty and underdevelopment if we did not transform ourselves and our continent into a continent of democracy and people ´s rule (no anarchy/mobocracy). We have recognized 2 centuries ago the primacy of quality education in our development. This has been repeated over the last 20 years with a sense of urgency. Many meetings have expressed appreciation of the Dual System of Education of this country. No more words are needed. The blood of our martyrs calls for action.

Today young people comprise the bulk of our population. Many of them have degrees and diplomas but are unemployed because they do not possess the skills needed by the economy and the markets. We must convert this “youth buldge” into a “demographic dividend”. We should not try to just make them job-seekers. They should be equipped to participate in the economy, add value to our raw materials and create jobs. The agricultural sector should be given attention to recover its dignity and to be modernized.

This is old news to established commercial farmers but we are here talking of the unskilled and unemployed youth. The pace of land distribution must improve. We appreciate the interest of young South Africans in farming. We encourage German companies like the Deulers to partner us in this skills transfer project. German science and technology must partner our NGOs and institutions on this path to food security and prosperity.

South Africa has developed our 2030 Plan for the development of our people. The NDP, the National Infrastructure Plan and the Industrial Policy Action Plan will assist and promote inclusive job creating and development.

The South Africa of 2014 is a different country to the one of 1992 and 1993. It is different to any epoch since 1652- 1910 or since 1948 and 1994. It has changed for the better. This is not a sound bite for journalists. It is an empirical, historical fact which is there for all to examine.

But we must do more.

Our challenge going forward is to display great ability, wisdom and will to build the nation of our dreams.

A South Africa that builds an economy with a human face.
An economy whose benefits come not just to the individual but to the whole community.

Such a form of economy will bring us very close to the much-talked about African traditional values of UBUNTU. To paraphrase the famous French philosopher Voltaire in Candide: We must first cultivate our own garden before we worry about changing the world.

Marching together with our fellow Africans and world partners like Germany, we should conquer the challenges that lie ahead.

Nkosi Sikelel iAfrica

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