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Reflecting on relations between South Africa and Madagascar

07 October 2015

Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Mr Luwellyn Landers, has concluded a successful visit to the Republic of Madagascar.  During the visit, the Deputy Minister held bilateral discussions with Madagascar’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, HE Ms Beatrice Atallah. Deputy Minister Landers and Minister Atallah exchanged views on various political and economic matters. The Deputy Minister expressed South Africa’s support to the Malagasy people for their ongoing initiatives towards the implementation of an inclusive and comprehensive national reconciliation process. 

Photo: Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Mr Luwellyn Landers  paying a courtesy call on Madagascar Prime Minister Brigadier General Jean Ravelonarivo



South Africa strongly supports the national reconciliation process in Madagascar, both from a bilateral point of view and as well as within the context of South Africa as former Chair of SADC's Organ on Politics, Defence and Security.  While in Madagascar, Deputy Minister Landers addressed a seminar on " Madagascar and South Africa Relations: The Past, Present and Future". The seminar sought to further strengthen the existing warm bilateral relations between the two countries.

Photo: Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Mr Luwellyn Landers  paying a courtesy call on Madagascar President Hery Rajaonarimampianina.

The Deputy Minister concluded his visit by paying courtesy visits to the President of the Republic of Madagascar, HE Mr Hery Rajaonarimampianina, and Prime Minister Brigadier- General Jean Ravelonarivo.








Your Excellency, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ms Beatrice Atallah,
Members of Cabinet,
Excellencies, Ambassadors and Representatives of International Organisations,
Members of government,
Ladies and gentlemen,                                  

I am privileged and honoured to pay the first Ministerial official bilateral visit to Madagascar, following the successful 2013 presidential, the 2014 legislative and the 2015 local elections.  It gives me great pleasure to preside, jointly with the Honourable Minister, over this important and timely seminar. The theme of the seminar which is "Madagascar-South Africa relations, past, present and future," provides a broader scope to deeply reflect on our relations.

Photo: Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Mr Luwellyn Landers with Foreign Minister of the Republic of  Madagascar Ms Beatrice Jeanine Atallah during the seminar on “Madagascar and South Africa Relations: The Past, Present and Future”

This visit takes place during an important month in the history of our people. October is the month during which we celebrate the legacy of one of the founding fathers of our democracy, Oliver Regional Tambo.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Madagascar is South Africa’s important cooperation partner, among others. We are encouraged by the restoration of constitutional normalcy in this beautiful country. The successful conduct of the elections, which I have already alluded to, is a positive step towards nation building and reconciliation. I wish to reiterate our congratulations to President Hery Rajaonarimampianina for his inauguration on 25 January 2014 and the subsequent formation of a democratic government in April 2014.

Honourable Minister,

Allow me from the onset, in line with the theme, to briefly reflect on our longstanding historical ties and commonalities. Our shared history could be traced back to the days of slave trade. The Dutch East Indian Company which settled in South Africa in 1652 unashamedly traded in slaves. Larger imports of slaves were taken from Madagascar and Indonesia.

In this regard, we remember the gallant Malagasy fighters who fought to free themselves en route to the Cape Colony in 1766.  They were being transported from their native land by one of the slave ships owned by the Dutch East India Company called Meermin. Their defiance resulted in a well-documented Meermin Slave Mutiny which claimed the lives of approximately 30 Malagasy people.

This was at a time when South Africans were also fighting for their freedom from the white settler colonial oppression. The people’s resistance against forced removals from their traditional land led to conflict and bloodshed. The colonisers had superior weapons and were always determined to utilise them.  

Ladies and gentlemen,

The people of Madagascar contributed significantly to South Africa’s liberation. Some representatives of the Africa National Congress, were hosted in this country. Madagascar availed its broadcasting system to inform the world about the apartheid injustices and the inhuman treatment of peace loving South Africans. This selfless and generous gesture of solidarity and support   by the Malagasy people will always be cherished by our people.

Honourable Minister,

The stakes were very high. The Malagasy people risked a possible aggression by supporting our struggle. The Apartheid regime adopted a policy to destabilise countries in the region, particularly where our liberation movements were hosted. Former President Nelson Mandela once said “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear”. Together, we have conquered fear!!

Democratic South Africa undertook to reverse the impact of this regional destabilisation policy. We committed ourselves to contribute towards regional peace, stability and prosperity. South Africa established diplomatic missions in the region, the continent and across the globe to pursue the African Agenda of peace.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Madagascar is one of the first countries with whom we established diplomatic relations. This was just in the eve of our democracy in January 1994. It is against this background that South Africa collectively and individually remains ready to assist the Malagasy in their quest for lasting peace and prosperity.

We have provided substantive assistance during the 2006 and 2013 Malagasy elections respectively. The financial support we provided to the Malagasy people in their efforts to address the devastating consequences of recent cyclone disasters bears testimony to the existing friendly ties between our two countries.

The Republic of South Africa has been part of the SADC and African Union (AU) initiatives which assisted the people of Madagascar in addressing their political and socio-economic challenges. We are encouraged by the recent positive political developments in Madagascar. International partners should be commended for supporting these regional and continental efforts.  

Ladies and gentlemen,

I also wish to commend the political leadership and the people of Madagascar for the gains attained thus far. The people of Madagascar were faced with a choice - either reconcile and forgive or plunge the country into war and sufferance. You chose to reconcile in order to heal the nation!!

South Africa remains ready to work with the people of Madagascar to safeguard these achievements. We would like to continue sharing our experiences in nation building and reconciliation.

The Malagasy people from all sectors of society shall remain seized with efforts to constructively and peacefully strengthen their institutions. Governance institutions should be strengthened to manage economic transformation and build a resilient economy. Similarly, sustained peace and stability is important for entrenchment of democracy, good governance and economic development. These endeavours should be aimed at achieving a better life for all 22 million Malagasy people.

South Africa and Madagascar are both committed to the political and economic integration of the African continent within the framework of the SADC and AU. We share the same determination on the implementation of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) as the socio-economic plan of the continent. South Africa welcomed and congratulated Madagascar during its readmission to SADC in 2005 and to the AU collective in 2014.

On 29 January 2014, at the SADC Double Troika Plus Troop Contributing Countries Summit, held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, SADC’s political principals reiterated the regional body’s commitment to continue to support the democratically elected government and the Malagasy people. We welcomed the appointment of the former President of Mozambique, H.E Joaquim Chissano as SADC Special Envoy to Madagascar. His leadership and support will assist Madagascar to rebuild its economy and heal the divisions of the past through a national reconciliation process.

Honourable Minister,

Since the restoration of constitutional normalcy in Madagascar, efforts have been underway to rekindle bilateral relations between our two countries for mutual benefit. President Rajaonarimampianina’s attendance of the inauguration of President Jacob Zuma in May 2014, provided the two Heads of State an opportunity to reflect on our bilateral relations. The two Presidents also met on the margins of the SADC Summit in August 2015 in Gaborone where a working visit by President Zuma to Madagascar was proposed.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The South African State-owned enterprises and private sector continue to explore economic opportunities in Madagascar. There are numerous Agreements and Memorandums of Understanding which will be finalised in the near future. Let me briefly reflect on some of the ongoing bilateral cooperation initiatives between the two countries which include:

-           South Africa continues to support the Government and the Malagasy people on the important national reconciliation process;
-          In the area of Science and Technology, the two countries have finalised negotiations on an agreement for cooperation and it is expected to be signed before the end of October 2015;
-          Madagascar is an important partner with South Africa in the sophisticated and exciting Square Kilometre Array Telescope project. This project is envisaged to bolster the continent’s scientific excellence. A number of Malagasy students have been offered post graduate bursaries in SA related to this major project;
-          The Development Bank of Southern Africa has recently signed an agreement with the Malagasy Ministry of Finance for cooperation in physical infrastructure development, particularly the roads network;
-          In fact, as we speak, our two governments and private sectors are discussing a number of very exciting projects in the air services, transport, tourism and infrastructure sectors; and
-          In March 2014, the two countries, jointly launched a Madagascar-South Africa Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MASACCI), here in Antananarivo. MASCCI will serve as a coordinating platform for cooperation in businesses.

Ladies and gentlemen,

These ongoing initiatives have in part contributed to a growing stream of delegations from South Africa to Madagascar. Government delegations, came from various departments and entities such as the Department of International Relations and Cooperation, Department of Trade and Industry;  the Department of Science and Technology;  the SA Export Credit Insurance Corporation; the Industrial Development Corporation; the Development Bank of Southern Africa; and Transnet to name but a few . All returned to South Africa with positive messages regarding the opportunities and potential for the further strengthening of  bilateral economic cooperation. On the private sector side, the delegations were far too numerous to mention.  

Honourable Minister,  

The initiatives I reflected on, demonstrate our commitment to increase trade between our two countries. According to the 2014 statistics of the South African Department of Trade and Industry,  South African exports to Madagascar  were valued at almost R1,7 billion, mainly consisting of minerals; prepared foodstuffs and beverages; machinery and mechanical appliances; vehicles, aircraft, vessels and associated transport equipment; base metals, chemicals and allied industries, to mention just a few.

On the other hand, Madagascar exports to South Africa in the same year amounted to almost R1,4bn, consisting of products such as, textiles; mineral products; base metals; products of chemical and allied industries; vegetable products; machinery and mechanical appliances; wood and articles.

The most encouraging fact is that the total trade has doubled  from R1,46 Billion in 2010 to R 3,1 Billion  in 2014 .Even more encouraging , from a Malagasy perspective is that Malagasy exports to SA ,grew from  R 160 Million  ( 35.3 billion AA ) in 2010 to R 1,4 Billion in 2014( 304 billion AA ). This is a massive increase which augers well for bolstering our future economic and trade relations.

We have the potential and the courage to do more!!

In this regard, our Embassy here in Antananarivo, in close cooperation with the Malagasy government and private sector, has identified a number of attractive economic opportunities in this country. These opportunities are in sectors such as infrastructure development, namely transport, energy production and distribution, mining and mineral resources beneficiation, science and technology, agriculture and agri-food processing, as well as tourism and hospitality industry.  

Ladies and gentlemen,

This seminar also provides us with an opportunity to jointly explore synergies and opportunities offered by growing our Ocean Economies. South Africa’s Operation Phakisa, has identified priority markets such marine manufacturing and transport, aquaculture, offshore oil and gas exploration to grow the economy. These areas are also important to Madagascar and other Indian Ocean countries. South Africa would like to explore  areas of cooperation with Madagascar and other countries in the Indian Ocean Rim for mutual benefit.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The establishment of Regular Diplomatic Consultations mechanisms will formally institutionalise our bilateral economic interactions. We therefore await the response from the Malagasy Government pursuant to the South Africa Government proposal in this regard.

My delegation and I unequivocally believe that this seminar will contribute towards further consolidation and strengthening of bilateral cooperation between South Africa and Madagascar. In fact, we have entered into an exciting phase of closer friendship and cooperation.

I take this opportunity to wish you a very productive exchange of views, ideas and experiences.  The Honourable Minister and I are particularly looking forward to receiving your feedback and concrete proposals on how best to take our growing fraternal relations to even greater heights.


Photos: Jacoline Schoonees



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