Remarks by Deputy Minister Sue Van Der Merwe at the official opening of the High Commission of New Zealand’s new chancery, Monday, 21 June 2010 Pretoria
Your Excellency Honourable John Key, Prime Minister of New Zealand,
Excellency, High Commissioner Randal
High Commissioners, Ambassadors, Members of the Diplomatic Corps
Honoured guests, ladies and gentlemen
It is indeed a great honour for me to be present here today to represent the Government of the Republic of South Africa at the opening of this beautiful new chancery of New Zealand.
It is a particularly happy confluence of occasions that we meet here today, for the opening of the chancery but also to welcome you and the all whites to the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Our countries share strong bonds of friendship and rivalry on the sporting field and we are delighted that this time it is the beautiful game that brings the New Zealand Team and fans here.
The vibrant rivalry between our teams from respective sporting disciplines continues to form an important component of the friendship that characterises our relations. At this very moment we are all caught up in the excitement of the soccer. May I use this opportunity to congratulate New Zealand on qualifying for this great event. The All Whites have not disappointed; they have shown in their opening game against Slovakia when they scored an equaliser in the 90th minute that they have all the characteristics of New Zealand sporting teams that we have come to appreciate: a never-say-die attitude and an uncompromising commitment to fair play. Our wish is that that this tournament will open new avenues of sporting engagement between South Africa and New Zealand as an addition to rugby and cricket.
South Africa and New Zealand share a long history together not only in sport but also a history characterized by the fierce solidarity of your countrymen and women in support of the anti-apartheid struggle.
Since 1994, bilateral relations have continued to deepen and today various instruments are in place to facilitate structured meetings in areas of mutual interest. Every year is witness to a very successful Senior Officials Meeting, the most recent having taken place in Wellington in November last year.
New Zealand has of course maintained a resident High Commission in South Africa since 1996 – soon after our democratic freedom was won. After a period with only a non-resident representation we are delighted that South Africa now has a resident High Commission and a new chancery in downtown Wellington, a site – I am told – with a truly stunning view over the harbour of your Capital City. The State Insurance Tower, which houses our new Chancery, was officially opened by former Prime Minister David Lange in August 1984, the very same month when apartheid South Africa was forced to close its consulate-general in Wellington. It is fitting that this has become the diplomatic home in New Zealand of our free and democratic South Africa.
Although South Africa’s trade relations with New Zealand have not yet attained the levels we desire, our bilateral engagement is based on a firm foundation of friendship. Our co-operation in the multilateral arena, for instance in disarmament and non-proliferation, the Antarctic, environment and marine issues, the exchange of scientific observers, agriculture and the Cairns Group, as well as in people-to-people relations is very good. We are particularly grateful for the contribution New Zealand is making toward the development of skills in South Africa and the region through the New Zealand Development Scholarship and Commonwealth Scholarship programmes.
It is in this spirit of friendship and sporting competition that we in South Africa are eagerly looking forward to next year’s Rugby World Cup in New Zealand. Of course we are holding thumbs that the Springboks will be able to successfully defend their World Cup Title and there will no doubt be many South African rugby supporters there. This we hope will provide an opportunity for a “birthday party” for our new chancery in Wellington!
In conclusion, allow me to congratulate you on the opening of the New Zealand High Commission’s new chancery in Pretoria. We hope symbolism of this event find expression in the deepening of bilateral relations between our two countries.
Prime Minister I can’t promise that the winner will be your team or ours but we all look forward to watching and participating in these great games and wish everyone a happy successful World Cup tournament.
I thank you.