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Freedom Day in Beijing, China

4 May 2018

Ambassador Dolana Msimang of South Africa in China hosted an event to celebrate Freedom Day in Beijing. Pictures By Sibusiso Rueben Bakana

Speech by Ambassador Msimang

I welcome you all tonight and thank you for affording the Embassy an opportunity to spend quality time with compatriots, colleagues, family and friends in the celebration of South Africa’s 24th Freedom Day.
Dear Friends whilst we have a lot to celebrate this year, we mourn the loss of some great South Africans this year:
•    Prof Willy Khotsisile a renowned author and poet and a father to one of our students;
•    Bra Hugh Masekela a great trumpeter of all times;
•    uMama Winnie Mandela liberation activist often referred to as “Mother of the Nation”
•    Amb Zola Skweyiya, former Minister, and High Commissioner to UK
May their souls rest in Peace! They have made their contribution to SA so should we!  


Distinguished guests and Dear Friends, this year’s Freedom Day is unique in many ways:
1st it dedicated exclusively to South Africans and our Chinese colleagues in South African entities. Often when National Days are celebrated the focus is on diplomats, government official and the business sector. A limited number of South Africans is therefore able to attend. The embassy thus took a decision to exclusively target our compatriots this year.

2nd it is dedicated to and coincides with the celebration of the centenary of the birth of our icon, Tata Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, a visionary leader who played an integral role in the liberation of South Africa.

In recognizing the significance of this milestone our government has designated 2018 as “the year of Nelson Mandela”. Throughout the year, South Africans at home and abroad will commemorate the Mandela centenary in various ways as we are doing today.

3rd This year also marks 20 years of the establishment of diplomatic relations between South Africa and China. It is most fitting that we celebrate our 20 year anniversary together with Madiba’s centenary as he is the main architect who built, shaped and nurtured our relations with China. South Africa and China have since forged an outstanding partnership that has grown immensely over two decades.

Fellow Compatriots! Madiba dedicated his entire life to the pursuit of equality and justice for all South Africans and was one of the key founding fathers of South Africa’s liberation and constitutional democracy. It is almost 5 years since Madiba’s passing and I urge all of us to continue in his footsteps, as we build and strengthen our relationship with China.
To remind us of what really needs to be done I will quote from Madiba’s speech during his inauguration in 1994 where he said, “Our daily deeds as ordinary South Africans must produce an actual South African reality that will reinforce humanity's belief in justice, strengthen its confidence in the nobility of the human soul and sustain all our hopes for glorious life for all”.

Madiba shares this centenary with one his closest allies, Umama Albertina Sisulu who has also contributed immensely in the liberation of our country and was in the forefront in fighting for Women’s rights.  This is indeed a very rich historical year deserving of a family celebration, like we are doing today.
Distinguished Guests, Fellow South Africans, our friendship and collaboration with China has profusely strengthened and deepened in the past two decades. We share common interests in numerous global affairs enabling us to cooperate and strengthen the voice of developing countries in our goal of achieving a balanced political and economic global order.

In the twenty years of our relations, we probably have one the youngest relationships with China, BUT I am proud to say that we have a very good story to tell that exceeds many who have been here a lot longer. Here are some of the landmarks:
•    In 1998 SA opened an Embassy in Beijing (where we are all gathered today) and followed with a Consulate General in Shanghai in 2003.
•    Bilateral relations escalated progressively from a Partnership in the year 2000, to a Strategic Partnership in 2004, and to the highest level of a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership in 2010 – one of only a few countries and the only African country to have such a relationship with China;
•    SA joined BRICS and attended the first Summit as a full member here in China in Sanya in 2012. SA will host and the 10th BRICS Summit in July 2018. We are proud of our contribution to BRICS, particularly the launching of the African Regional Centre (ARC) of the New Development Bank in Johannesburg, last year 2017.  The ARC serves as a channel to fast track infrastructure and development programs on the African continent
•    SA has co-chaired FOCAC with China since 2012 and hosted a successful FOCAC Summit in December 2015 (the first Summit on African soil). As co-chair of FOCAC South Africa has worked closely with African countries and China to ensure that the action plan dovetail with our National Plans, Regional Plans and the African Union’s Agenda 2063
•    A High Level People-to-People Exchange Mechanism (PPEM) focusing on culture, education, health, women, youth, sports, and tourism was established between China and South Africa in April 2017 – making SA the 2nd developing country after Indonesia, and the only African country to have such a relationship with China. China will host the 2nd High Level People-to-People Exchange Mechanism (PPEM) in Beijing later this year.
•    Last year, the Beijing Foreign Studies University introduced the Zulu language course at their campus. We are greatly honored by this initiative which is a great milestone in the history of South Africa-China cultural relations.
•    Our economic relations have also grown exponentially to a point where China has become South Africa’s number one trading partner for the past nine years, whilst South Africa is China’s largest trading partner in Africa. Trade has increased from only R1.8 billion in 1994 to R318 billion in 2017 and Two-way investment increased astronomically from ZAR245 million in 2003 to ZAR66 billion in 2014. We however believe that it is still modest, considering the economic potential of both countries.
•    We have seen significant investment from Chinese enterprises and a number of South African companies cutting across a variety of sectors have also heavily invested in China. Some joint ventures have also developed between Chinese and South African firms
•    The number Chinese of tourist travelling to SA has increased dramatically over the past few years, and there is scope to more than double the numbers as we have only scratched the surface in comparison to the overall number Chinese Tourist travelling abroad.
•    Hence we have opened nine VISA Facilitation Centers throughout China and will be increasing them to eleven this year, to facilitate easier travel to South Africa
South African activity in general has escalated in China with more than 2000 SA students throughout China and the number of teachers growing day by day.

The image of SA business in China is outstanding. Some of them have even extended an outreach program for our students and I urge you to continue leaving that admirable footprint in China; I must thank the teachers for doing their part in contributing to the dream.

I salute our students, the future of our country, for their bravery and dedication in leaving their families and confronting the formidable challenges of studying abroad in a country, where language and culture make it very difficult for one to cope as a student.
Our spouses and partners must be commended immensely for their support in every way possible, in order for us to survive and succeed in a country so far away from home. You are indeed our “Rock of Ages”

Distinguished guests, Fellow Compatriots
The challenges to transform South Africa from oppression and subjugation, into a non-racial, just, prosperous and democratic nation have been immense but we remain resolute in addressing social and economic problems.
AND whilst we have made remarkable advances challenges remain. We still face the triple challenges of poverty, inequality, and unemployment.  We believe that working together with business, students, teachers and civil society here in China, we can increase efforts to ensure that we contribute positively to our country.

Our President Cyril Ramaphosa during his maiden State of the Nation Address in February 2018, called on all South Africans to commit to the “thuma mina or send me” principle. This was a clarion call for all of us to become appreciative of the importance of self-sacrifice, individual responsibility, and the willingness to be the change you want to see in our country.
Let us all attach our names to the Thuma Mina course in all our various portfolios and positions.  Being here in China, in whatever capacity, affords us the opportunity to acquire knowledge and experience that can, and will benefit our country if fully utilised.

To our students; you are our hope, the future building blocks of our country. You are blessed with the privilege of being able to study in a country that has made enormous strides in both economic and social development. Learn as much as you can and use your time and knowledge appropriately to benefit your country.  

Last but not least, I wish to thank the Embassy staff and their spouses for their tireless efforts to make this day a success. Siyabonga kakhulu! Ningadinwa nangomuso!
Compatriots, Colleagues and dear friends, Thanks for sharing this historical day with us.

Siyabulela! Ndaa! Realeboga! Baie Dankie! Xie Xi




February/March 2020








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