Remarks by Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Ms Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, on the occasion of the OR Tambo Dinner during the Heads of Mission Conference, Velmore Conference Center, 14 July 2011.
Honourable Deputy Ministers Ebrahim Ebrahim and Marius Fransman,
Our Director – General, Ambassor Jerry Matjila,
Your Excellencies, High Commissioners and Ambassadors,
Senior Government Officials from DIRCO and Partner Departments and Agencies,
Our partners from the private sector
Ladies and Gentlemen.
Tonight’s dinner is the conclusion of what has been a hectic five-day programme for our Heads of Mission. The discussions at the Heads of Mission Conference have been intense, engaging, and frank enough to help us look at ourselves in the mirror in order to continue to improve how we conduct our foreign policy; and how this foreign policy must speak to our national interests, including our national priorities.
I wish to commend our Excellencies – our Ambassadors, High Commissioners, and Consuls-General – for their commitment and dedication to their work during this five-day grueling programme. Thank you for carrying our flag high! Thank you for representing our country with Ubuntu – our core value! Thank you for playing your part in the renewal of our continent; for promoting partnerships with all across the globe – both in the South and in the North. Thank you for continuing to work for just global order. You are the true embodiment of our vision for a Better Africa and a Better World! You have given meaning to our belief that Working Together, We Can Do More!
I must also recognize the contribution made by our private sector towards the success of our Heads of Mission Conference. Their generosity made it possible for the Excellencies to enjoy their stay here at our headquarters.
More importantly, however, is the chemistry that has developed between our Heads of Mission and our private sector. We have been saying that Africa is a new frontier for economic opportunities; and that some of our African countries are playing a big part in the recovery from the global economic crisis. It is the private sector – working with our governments and people – that contributes to this positive story of our continent. We thank them for being in the frontline of the fight against afro-pessimism.
Tonight we are also celebrating the legacy of Oliver Reginald Tambo. We celebrate, yet again, the life of an outstanding patriot whose name has become synonymous with our struggle for freedom, justice, human rights and human dignity. South Africa recognizes OR Tambo as one of the country’s pioneering diplomats whose work in the global arena was pivotal in the attainment of a democratic South Africa – it is for this reason that we have decided to honour him by naming our headquarters after him.
Ladies and gentlemen,
In order to ensure that his legacy lives on, we further took a collective initiative to launch the OR Tambo “I am a South African Diplomat” campaign. In launching this campaign, we were inspired by his work, especially hoping that this will also inspire others to aspire to be diplomats of note in every sense of the word, based on the positive attributes that OR Tambo espoused.
In essence, this campaign seeks to instill in others at home and abroad what OR Tambo espoused – that is: patriotism, integrity, passion and humanity.
In our view, all of us should be inspired by these elements that have shaped and influenced our diplomacy. It is therefore befitting that we celebrate his life and work as a constant reminder that sometime in our life time there lived a true diplomat in letter and spirit.
This evening becomes more special, relevant and exciting because we gather here just a few days before we celebrate the 93rd birthday of yet another true diplomat whose values were inextricably linked to those espoused by OR Tambo - Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela. It is by no historical coincidence that the UN has declared the 18 July as Nelson Mandela International Day. To us as a people of South Africa, this day marks the birth of one of the most powerful symbols of our freedom against apartheid.
If OR Tambo was alive today, he could have agreed without any shadow of doubt with the resounding message that our campaign “I am a South African Diplomat” seeks to achieve for he would understand better the intricacies and underlying characteristics of true diplomat and what makes one. It is therefore critical that our diplomats are sensitized and use the opportunity presented by this campaign to add value to their work. In so doing, they will be claiming their stake and space as the rightful beneficiaries of OR Tambo’s legacy.
Both OR and Madiba were products of a movement that will be a hundred years old next year on January the 8th. This movement is the African National Congress. When we celebrate the ANC’s centenary next year, we will also be celebrating Pan-Africanism (that we are part of this continent whose renewal we all aspire for) and Internationalism (that we are part of progressive forces globally working for a better and just world order).
South Africa, true to its convictions, continues to play a role of a bridge builder with the aim of strengthening relations with other nations. We will continue utilizing our strategic dialogue with our partners to promote the legacy of OR Tambo.
I would like to take this opportunity to laud our Heads of Missions, for ensuring that the department responds to the government’s national priorities. I thank you for your excellent efforts and encourage you to work harder in helping South Africans realise its vision of a Better Africa and a Better World.
I thank you for your attention.