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Decoration Ceremony for Ambassadors Victor Zazeraj and Billy Modise - 12 April 2012

Pictured (l-r) Ambassador Modise, Mrs Modise, Ambassador Marambio, Mrs Pamela Crichton,
Ambassador Zazeraj and Mrs Zazeraj

Speech by Ambassador Francisco Marambio of Chile to South Africa
12 April 2012


·    First of all I should like to thank each and every one of you, colleagues and friends, for being here this evening in this the home of Chile. As we say back in Chile Bienvenidos amigos.

·    This evening you will share a very happy occasion with me, as Ambassador of Chile, and with Ambassadors Victor  Zazeraj  and Billy Modise as the recipients of the Decoration of the Great Cross in the Order of Bernardo O’Higgins, which has been granted to these two gentlemen by the Government of the Republic of Chile.

Please allow me to tell you a little about this Order:

·    The Order of Bernardo O’Higgins holds a sentimental place in the hearts of Chilean Citizens, since Bernardo O’Higgins is our national hero.  The Order of Bernardo O'Higgins is the highest State Award that is granted by the Government of Chile only to foreign citizens. This award was established in 1965 and named after one of the founders of the Chilean State, General Bernardo O'Higgins, who was also the leader in the struggle for independence by the Spanish colonies in America in 1810-1826.

Now Dear Friends,

Permit me to briefly mention the reasons why the Council of the Order of Bernardo O’Higgins took into consideration to honour Ambassador  Zazeraj  and Ambassador Modise with the Decoration.

·    Ambassador  Zazeraj   has a very long history as a career diplomat.  He joined the Department of Foreign Affairs in 1974 and his Curriculum Vitae  reflects that he  held very important positions in South Africa as well as abroad.  His last post was as South African Ambassador to Chile between 2004 and 2008. During that period of time he really got involved in strengthening and deepening ties of friendship and cooperation between the two countries. He played an active role in developing commercial, political, and cultural ties with Chile. He also had the privilege of organizing the state visit, to my country, by former president Thabo Mbeki.  I must acknowledge that,
for an Ambassador, a visit by the president of the country you represent is the biggest challenge faced as Head of Mission during a posting.  I speak from personal experience and as a former Chief of Protocol in the Chilean Ministry of Foreign Affairs.   I was in fact personally involved with president Mbeki’s trip to Santiago and know just how seriously Ambassador  Zazeraj   took on all of his responsibilities.

·    The official visit was in June 2005 and was the occasion on which President Thabo Mbeki  met with President Ricardo Lagos;  delivered a historic speech to the two houses of the Chilean Parliament and visited the President of the Supreme Court of Justice.  The practical outcomes of this visit were the signing of several collaboration agreements between the two countries; the conclusion of the text of an Agreement to Avoid Double Taxation between South Africa and Chile, and the commencement of the study of an Agreement in the Field of Mining and Energy.  Ambassador  Zazeraj  was in Chile organizing and taking care of all the details of president Mbeki’s state visit.  Since that time a firm friendship has emerged and Ambassador Zazeraj  continues to work with me on several projects to the mutual benefit of both countries.   

·    It was during this visit to Chile that I had the privilege and honour of meeting a great man and someone who later became a close friend. I am talking about Ambassador Billy Modise.

·    Ambassador Modise’s curriculum vitae also is very large and impressive.  Abroad he served as South Africa High Commissioner in Canada and then he became Head of Protocol.  A very tough and demanding job. His absolute dedication to his work made him a much respected diplomat, not only within the diplomatic corps in South Africa, but also abroad.  

·    During his trip to Chile I recognized that Ambassador Modise was a professional in the protocol business. He took care of every detail of President and Mrs. Mbeki’s programmes.   Even if he was not present when the actual presidential activities were taking place, he was monitoring each and every detail.   I am saying this because my dear friend Billy had a medical problem during the visit to Chile.  He was taken to hospital and at his bedside we kept him informed on what was happening.   We were all worried about his health and went with President and Mrs. Mbeki to the Hospital to visit the Chief of Protocol. The following day he was travelling on board the presidential plane back to South Africa!

·    Ambassador Modise was so touched by the concerned warmth with which he was treated in Chile during his hospitalisation, that he has reciprocated as a true friend of Chile and made every effort, wherever he can, to promote bilateral relations between the two countries.  He has been a pillar of strength to the Embassy of Chile in many, many ways. Billy, your ongoing co-operation is sincerely appreciated.

·    Dear Billy and Victor, as I have said before, the Order Bernardo O’Higgins represents one of Chile’s most valued distinctions. It was created to pay tribute to foreign friends of Chile, who have distinguished themselves in the promotion of a better understanding  among foreign countries and Chile, or who are eminent in science, in altruism and in international cooperation. You two gentlemen fulfil all the requisites, set by the Council of the Order, to earn this tribute to you.

·    In the presence of these distinguished guests, your wives, your families and your friends, allow me -on behalf of the Government of Chile- the pleasure and high honour of bestowing upon you la Orden Bernardo O’Higgins en el Grado de Gran Cruz. Together with paying tribute to you, please accept my warm, deepest and most sincere congratulations.



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