Remarks of Foreign Affairs Minister Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma upon assuming the Chair of the SADC Council of Ministers, 14 August 2008, Sandton Convention Centre
Honourable outgoing Chairperson of the Council,
Honourable Ministers and Deputy Ministers,
Your Excellencies Ambassadors and High Commissioners,
Senior Officials and distinguished guests,
Members of the media,
Ladies and gentlemen.
It is indeed a pleasure for me to extend on behalf of the government and people of our country, on behalf of our President and on my own behalf, a proudly South African welcome to you all.
The people of our country feel particularly honoured and privileged to be afforded the opportunity to host this gathering and indeed to assume the leadership of this regional organization at this rather critical historic conjuncture.
Accordingly, allow me this opportunity to pay tribute to the outgoing Chairperson of Council and to our sister country Zambia for the sterling leadership of our regional organisation, SADC, over the past year. As a consequence of their sterling leadership, we are going to be taking a critical step of launching the FTA of SADC and we are going to be adopting, among other things, the gender protocol. Before the end of the year we are going to be attending the Tripartite meeting that will bring together COMESA, ECA and SADC. And all these are but a few of the achievements that Zambia has scored for all of us. And for that I think I will be talking on all of our behalf that they have done a sterling job and they need an applause.
May I humbly take this opportunity and again certain that also I speak on behalf of us all in wishing a speedy recovery to the great African patriot, His Excellency President Mwanawasa who led our organisation during these challenging times.
As we assume the Chair of this regional organization, we commit ourselves, our country and our people to do everything in our power to ensure the deepening of the regional economic integration, whilst intensifying the regional infrastructure development and restoration and strengthening of our regional political unity and cohesion.
As our colleague has said, there are challenges that remain and no organization can exist without challenges. We are having challenges with respect to the political and economic situation in Zimbabwe in particular.
I think we can all agree that the DRC and Lesotho are settling, so that is also an achievement. But the developments around the EPA negotiations with the EU, needles to say, have created some tensions amongst us. I’m sure these are not insurmountable. We will be able to overcome them.
It is going to be important, as our colleague has mentioned, that all of us should guard the unity and cohesion of SADC jealously. We should not allow any situation, no matter how difficult, to threaten that unity and cohesion.
Our region is strong simply because we have been united and have worked very closely together. If we let that unity and cohesion go, I think we will also be gone. I don’t think we will be killed but we will be very much weaker, if we lose that cohesion and unity.
SADC welcomes the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding between the Zimbabwean political parties, facilitated by the President of South Africa, as laying a firm foundation for an advance to a lasting solution to the country’s political and economic challenges.
As SADC we will continue to render whatever assistance and support necessary to the Zimbabwean people moving from the premise that only the people of Zimbabwe themselves can author their destiny.
As SADC, we indeed continue to support the post-conflict reconstruction efforts in the DRC. We will also support Sir Ketumile Masire to support the people of Lesotho.
While these difficulties remain, we humbly submit that the people of our country are ready to undertake these tasks in the best interests of the region as part of our regional collective efforts to create a better life and sustainable development in our region.
In this regard, South Africa is of the firm belief that SADC is an organization whose time has arrived and remains our only hope to the current state of affairs in the global economy. Its purpose and objectives are even more relevant in the context of the collapsed Doha development round. The collapse of the Doha talks must necessarily communicate a message to all of us as countries of the region and indeed of the south to some strong partnerships and strategic alliances that would unlock the vast resources and economic opportunities within and between our countries and regions.
Accordingly, the principal task facing our region is to ensure that as a region we collectively work more robustly towards our regional economic integration process, particularly in terms of the consolidation of the FTA which will be launched on SADC Day 17 August 2008. This ofcourse must be followed by an accelerated infrastructure development programme which will eventually lead to the Customs Union.
Let us take this moment to extend our best wishes to all our athletes competing in Beijing and express the hope that they will represent our countries with dignity and honour and bring some glory to our countries and our region. Whilst congratulating the People’s Republic of China on the spectacular opening ceremony.
May I also take this opportunity to welcome you to South Africa and express hope that the humble facilities we have put at your disposal will indeed allow you to conduct the deliberations in a conducive atmosphere. We would like to apologise for any inconveniences that may occur or have occurred during your stay due to our oversight in the arrangements. We remain at your disposal to assist in remedying whatever situation once it is brought to our attention.
In conclusion, let me just say that the 9th of August in South Africa is a public holiday celebrating and honouring women and it is called Women’s Day. Equally, the month of August in South Africa is Women’s Month. So may I take this opportunity to wish all the women Happy Women’s Month. I thank you.
Issued by Department of Foreign Affairs
Private Bag X152
14 August 2008