Opening remarks by the Deputy President, Kgalema Motlanthe, on the occasion of a Working Visit to Tunisia
14 April 2010Your Excellency, Prime Minister Ghannouchi;
Your Excellencies, Ambassadors and Representatives;
Ladies and gentlemen:
It is a great honour for me and the members of the South African delegation to visit the Republic of Tunisia and to enjoy the generous hospitality of the Government of Tunisia and the kind people of this beautiful city of Tunis.
Our countries represent the Northern and the Southern poles of our beloved continent, Africa. We share a history of colonialism and also a vision of African renewal.
Our friendship dates back to the time when Tunisia was a newly independent country and when the liberation movement in South Africa continued to struggle for liberation.
Tunisia’s generous support in those days contributed in reaching our goal of bringing democracy to South Africa in 1994 when our leader Nelson Mandela was elected and since then we have shared strong bonds of friendship and mutual cooperation.
Over the past sixteen years South Africans of all backgrounds have worked hard to bring about a peaceful, prosperous and unified society in our country.
While we have registered much progress in improving the quality of life for all of our people, many challenges remain.
In order to address these challenges and to build a unified and cohesive society, the South African government is currently focusing on five (5) apex priority areas.
• Creation of decent jobs
• Fight against crime and corruption
• Rural development and land reform as well as
Therefore, our visit today takes place within the context of addressing these priorities. Tunisia is a shining example of a developing country that has changed for the better the lives of its citizens.
It is our desire to learn and share experiences from these established benchmarks and to see how the various strategies could be applied to our situation in South Africa.
In 1996 we established a Joint Bilateral Commission (JBC) to formalise our relations. Since then we have had five (5) meetings at the level of Foreign Minister and witnessed a growing friendship and a deepening of cooperation in many fields.
In the field of health we now have more than 80 Tunisian medical doctors working in rural areas of South Africa where the need is the greatest.
It is our hope that this programme will be expanded in the foreseeable future and that Tunisian doctors will continue to benefit from the clinical experience they are gaining in South Africa.
Since 1997 over 1,300 patients in poor, rural areas of South Africa have had their sight restored following cataract operations performed by the Tunisian charity Nadi El Bassar. These operations are performed free of charge.
We wish to thank the doctors and members of staff at Nadi El Bassar for their unselfish work and to wish them all the best for their work in the future.
Although we have so far concluded twenty (20) agreements on cooperation in areas of mutual interest, we continue to explore new areas of cooperation.
Several draft agreements on scientific and technological cooperation, information and telecommunications technology (ICTs), vocational training, arts and culture and youth development cooperation are being finalised.
We are also pleased about the defence cooperation that exists between our two countries. Tunisia and South Africa both make an important contribution to peace-keeping operations on the African Continent.
The South African Defence Force is benefiting from desert orientation training provided by the Tunisian armed forces, which has assisted South African troops deployed in desert conditions greatly.
It has also been an honour to receive Tunisian officers for training in South Africa. We hope that this collaboration will continue to our mutual advantage.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Tunisia and South Africa are in a position to contribute to the development of the African continent through bilateral action, but also through the mechanism of the African Union’s New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD).
We share a desire to find a lasting solution to the challenges of conflict of the Western Sahara, Sudan as well as the Palestine-Israeli conflict.
We are distressed by the on-going violence and destruction and express the hope that the Palestinian people will unite so that they may continue to work towards the establishment of an independent state.
South Africa stands ready to support efforts in attaining this goal.
It is also South Africa’s view that we should, as South Africa and Tunisia, lead by example. There are many areas of agreement where we can achieve more.
Finally, Your Excellency, South Africa is ready to host the FIFA 2010 World Cup in the world in less than two (2) months’ time.
While we regret that the Tunisian national team, the Eagles of Carthage, did not qualify this time, nevertheless we are pleased that several Tunisian volunteers will be participating in the hosting of the Wold Cup in various cities in South Africa.
We want to extend a warm invitation to our Tunisian brothers and sisters to come to South Africa to experience this spectacular event..
It is the first time that this event is taking place on the African continent and it will not be the last. We are certain that in future countries such as Tunisia will have the opportunity to host such event as the World Cup.
Please accept again my heartfelt thanks for your generous hospitality and brotherly collaboration.
And we believe that this meeting should be a turning-point in dynamising cooperation in areas that are catalystic for stronger future cooperation.
We look forward to the continuation of these joint efforts to improve the lives of our people, to uplift the people of our continent and to contribute to a better world.
I thank you.