South Africa and Liberia are Natural Strategic Partners

Ambassador Prof Iqbal Jhazbhay of South Africa with Dr. George Manneh Weah, President of the Republic of Liberia at the Presentation Ceremony of his Letter of Credence

19 May 2022

Speech by Ambassador Prof Iqbal Jhazbhay of South Africa, at the Presentation Ceremony of his Letter of Credence to H.E. Dr. George Manneh Weah, President of the Republic of Liberia on 17 May 2022

Your Excellency Respected President Dr George Manneh Weah Sr.,

Today, I have the honour to present to Your Excellency the Letter of Credence from His Excellency President Cyril Ramaphosa of the Republic of South Africa by which His Excellency appoints me as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of South Africa to the Republic of Liberia. I also present the letter of recall of my late predecessor, Comrade Ambassador Zindziswa Nobutho Mandela, the loved daughter of our revered statesman, Tata President Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela.

First of all, please allow me to take this opportunity to convey to Your Excellency the cordial greetings of His Excellency President Cyril Ramaphosa and extend, on behalf of the South Africa Government and its people, the best wishes to the Government and people of Liberia

Excellency Mr. President,

Liberia has a time-honoured history as the oldest African Republic (circa1822-). It stands tall in its outstanding and resilient contribution to the independence and liberation of African states from the ugly, racist, colonial past. I am honoured to be here today in this historic city of Monrovia, on the equally historically-known Africa month. The esteemed pan-African Monrovia Group placed the international law principles of independent statehood, non-interference and national sovereignty at the heart of Africa’s national interests. South Africans are appreciative of the role Liberia played in the anti-apartheid struggle via many mass national and international movements. We note with appreciation and admiration that many South African leaders, such as the late ANC President OR Tambo, visited Monrovia and were recipients of the Liberian principles of pan-Africanism and international solidarity.

Former President Nelson Mandela visited Liberia in 1962 and received support and funds from former President William V.S Tubman. In 1960, Liberia and Ethiopia brought litigation against apartheid South Africa in the International Court of Justice to end its illegal occupation of Namibia.

Your Excellency Dr. George Manneh Weah, extended an invitation to His Excellency President Matamela Ramaphosa to attend the Official Bicentennial Opening Ceremony on 14 February 2022 in Monrovia, Republic of Liberia. President Ramaphosa was scheduled to be decorated with one of Liberia’s highest honours during the event, for His role in ‘supporting black leadership and championing the freedoms and aspirations of Africans regionally and globally.’

It is unfortunate that my President was unable to honour Your kind invitation to visit Liberia on the occasion of Your historic Bicentennial celebrations, owing to scheduling difficulties.

My President correctly observed recently: ‘We would not have achieved our liberation without the support of our brothers and sisters on the continent.’ (C.M. Ramaphosa, 28 April 2022).

On 28 June 2018, the Government of South Africa bestowed on Liberia, one of the highest South African National Orders - the Supreme Companion of O.R. Tambo in Gold.

In this respect, Mr President, may I quote Your wise words on the late Archbishop Desmond Tutu:
‘I fondly recall his emotional messages of peace and equal justice which he delivered to congregations in South Africa, but that became central themes around the world for the fight against human rights abuses everywhere. The personable but resolute clergyman had come to be known as a "rabblerouser for peace" around the world, including in Liberia, when he spoke against the abuse of children during the war.’ (December 26, 2021 Monrovia, Liberia)

Today, we witness the outstanding efforts of ECOWAS and the Mano River Basin organisation to build and strengthen West African development and integration. We have witnessed how under the challenging and dangerous moments, our African Union leaders were able to overcome and develop credible African institutions, such as the African Medical Agency and the Centre for Disease Control (CDC).

As You are aware, my President was mandated by African Union Heads of State to champion for vaccine development and the TRIPS waiver of vaccine production on our beloved and beautiful Continent. Many limited advances have been reported in this regard, including South Africa’s Aspen Institute vaccine plant, which is the largest supplier of the Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine to the global market.

‘Africa’s recovery depends on more of our people getting vaccinated against COVID-19. It is therefore all the more urgent that African countries cooperate to manufacture our own vaccines, and that we strengthen our health systems so that these vaccines reach the people who need them most.’ (C.M. Ramaphosa, 28 April 2022)

The continent has progressed and developed the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA). ‘South Africa is the main intra-Africa exporter and importer; (accounting for 32% of intra-Africa exports and 13% of intra-Africa imports).’

South Africa is a proud member of the African Union’s Peace and Security Council architecture and the UN Peacebuilding Commission; and looks forward to playing its role in Liberia’s ‘long walk to freedom’ (Nelson Mandela), peacebuilding, nation-building, youth development and economic development.

South Africa relies on fifty percent of its oil products from West Africa. In this context, my President visited four regional states of West Africa in early December 2021 and; South Africa shall host this Year no less than three incoming visits of West African Heads of State, as part of our ongoing efforts to strengthen South African-West African relations.

South Africa is glad to see South African business companies investing in Liberia with their fellow Liberian partners. We look forward to supporting more South African business entities, like MTN, DSTV and Nedbank. The Nedbank-ECOBANK Alliance is the largest banking network in Africa with substantial analysis of LocalKnowlegeAfrica™ systems. The required bi-lateral development into Your key priority domains of Infrastructure, Agriculture, Mining, Health, Sports academy development, Fisheries, Waste processing, Diaspora investment and joint Science programmes is a promising initiative. We support Your government’s further investment in the Pro-Poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development (PAPD).

Liberia’s stability and her interrelated economic ties with South Africa makes the country a natural strategic partner for South Africa. We support Your leadership and South Africa avails itself as a close partner of Liberia.

Your Excellency, Mr. President, I feel at this juncture of history deeply delighted to be appointed Ambassador of the Republic of South Africa to Liberia. I am fully aware of my heavy diplomatic responsibilities in this fast-changing, geo-political climate amidst the challenge of Covid-19 variants, the up-coming Liberian democratic presidential elections and Your commendable pro-poor policies of Your government.

His Excellency President Cyril Ramaphosa has mandated me during my tenure as Ambassador to exert all possible creative ingenuity to expand and deepen the mutually-beneficial cooperation, enhance the mutual understanding and friendship between the governments and peoples, and bring South Africa-Liberia relations to a new high. I firmly believe that, in carrying out this important mission and mandate, I shall have the friendly cooperation and full support from Your Excellency and Your Government.

With this in mind, I have the honour to most respectfully present my Letter of Credence.

I can assure Your Excellency that I shall to the best of my ability work to intensify the contacts at all levels and in a wide range of pressing areas for continued strong co-operation between our countries.

May the Republic of Liberia enjoy prosperity and its people well-ness! May Your Excellency enjoy good health!

Long Live the People of Liberia! Long live the Republic of Liberia!!! Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika! Lord Bless Africa. Amandla!

I thank You, Mr. President.

-TDS