Press Statement by South African President Mr Thabo Mbeki on
the Conclusion of the Meeting with Italian Republic President Carlo Ciampi, Rome,
My wife Zanele and I wish to thank you and Mrs
Ciampi most sincerely for the generous hospitality you have given us in this truly
magnificent Quirinale Palace.
Having just emerged from an involved local
government election campaign ourselves, we are grateful to you and your compatriots
for taking time off your busy schedules to be with us during your equally involved
We are particularly honoured, Mr President, that ours is
the last incoming State Visit you receive in your current term as President of
the Italian Republic.
The visit commences on South Africa's Human Rights
Day, a particularly historic day in our country. As you are aware, Mr President,
21 March 1960 was a watershed moment in the history of South Africa, which was
when 69 people were killed in a cold blooded way by the apartheid police for protesting
against the dehumanising pass laws. From their peculiar vantage point, the apartheid
government thought that their brutality at Sharpeville would crush the people's
spirit of resistance. Instead, and as part of that process of change, March 21
served to mobilise the people and pricked the conscience of the world. As a result,
today marks the 10th anniversary of the adoption of the new Constitution of our
President Ciampi's memorable Visit to South Africa in 2002, gave
further impetus in the relationship between our two countries. Amongst the most
critical areas of our relations include the areas of health, arts and culture,
and science and technology.
We have taken this opportunity to express our
gratitude to President Ciampi for his personal interest and encouragement of bilateral
cooperation especially through direct assistance to our Health and Education sectors.
Our meeting today has given us the opportunity to take our relations a
step further with renewed focus on the promotion of our economic ties. Accordingly,
we will be engaging Confindustria to explore practical steps on the further development
of trade and investment opportunities between our countries.
We will take
advantage of that meeting to highlight major economic growth interventions in
which our government is currently engaged. These include initiatives around South
Africa's hosting of the Soccer World Cup in 2010 and the Accelerated and Shared
Growth Initiative for South Africa, which will see a public investment drive in
the local economy over the next five years. We believe that these have the potential
to open up many areas of interest to the Italian business community.
meeting with the President also gave us an opportunity to speak about the challenges
and developments on the African continent.
Those include, amongst others,
the need to support institutions of the African Union, the New Partnership for
Africa's Development and the promotion of good political and economic governance.
In this regard, I wish to again thank you, Mr President, for the consistent support
you have provided, particularly since we started engaging on these issues, on
the eve and during the G8 Summit in Genoa. We are confident that the Government
and people of Italy will forever be ready to lend a hand whenever their fellow
human beings on the African continent require support on issues of development,
peace and democracy.
We would like to reiterate our commitment, like Italy,
to multilateralism and to the United Nations to ensure the resolution of international
problems through peaceful means.
Mr President, as you come to the end of
your term, I would like to repeat as I said at the meeting that we indeed very
pleased that we could come to Italy before you ended your mandate and wish you,
Mr President, success in your future endeavours. Our people, Mr President, hold
you and Mrs Ciampi in high regard; we are very fond of you. I would like to say
that whenever you want to come, as many times as you want to come, you are welcome
back to South Africa.
I thank you.
For more information, please
Cell: 082 300 3447
Issued by: Department
of Foreign Affairs
21 March 2006