ADDRESS BY PRESIDENT OF SOUTH AFRICA, H.E. THABO MBEKI, AT THE OPENING SESSION OF SOUTH AFRICA-ALGERIA BI-NATIONAL COMMISSION, Algiers, 22 September 2000
Your Excellency, President Bouteflika,
Your Excellencies Ministers,
Honourable Members of Parliament,
Your Worships of Mayors here present,
Business people from Algeria and South Africa,
Ladies and Gentlemen.
On behalf of the government and people of South Africa, I am indeed happy to be in this historic city to re-affirm and reconfirm a relationship born, many years ago, out of the struggle to free our peoples from colonial rule.
This colonial rule which used the same logic whether here in the northern most part of our common continent, or in the southern tip of the same continent, is aptly captured by Edward Behr, in his book, "The Algerian Problem", quoting a report by Jules Ferry, who helped to establish France as a colonial power:
"It is difficult to try and convince the European settler that there are rights other than his own in Arab country and that the native is not a race to be taxed and exploited to the utmost limits. The settlers proclaim that (the conquered Arabs) are totally incorrigible and utterly incapable of education, without ever having attempted, over the past thirty years, to do anything to drag them out of their moral and intellectual misery."
It was this attitude of colonial arrogance, disregard for the religious independence and cultures of the people of Africa that unified our countries in the struggle against colonialism.
The belief that we were, as Behr observed in his book, uncivilised people who obviously needed some education from the colonialists was repeated in a different way by Lord Shaftersbury about South Africa in a meeting called by the Lord Mayor at the Mansion House in London late in the nineteenth century.
"It will be that, by God's blessing.... (that), civil and religious liberty shall prevail among all the tribes of South Africa, to the end that they may become civilized nations, vying with us all in the exercise of the gifts that God has bestowed upon them."
It is on the basis of this common colonial legacy, and the need for our peoples to reclaim their culture, their civilisation and the right to determine their destiny that when Nelson Mandela sought all-round assistance in the struggle against apartheid, it was natural that he turned to the Algerian people.
This assistance was given with selfless commitment by the government and people of Algeria who firmly believed in the liberation not just of South Africa, but also of the entire continent.
Furthermore, this solidarity, in the form of moral, political and material support for our struggle, was once again eloquently demonstrated by the role played by Algeria in the expulsion of apartheid South Africa from the United Nations. This was during your Presidency, Mr. President, of the United Nations General Assembly in 1974.
It is therefore very significant and a great pleasure for me to pay homage to the people and government of Algeria while reiterating our appreciation for the steadfast solidarity on behalf of the government and peoples of South Africa.
The establishment of the Bi-National Commission at Presidential level is a natural continuation of the close ties between our countries and a recognition of the importance of translating these into structured and concrete economic, trade, scientific and other programmes that will have a positive impact on the standard of living of our citizens while strengthening intra regional cooperation.
Ten Technical Working Groups (TWGs) led by Ministers and comprised of senior officials from both governments have been meeting to determine areas of co-operation and look at the possibility of signing additional agreements. Each TWG has been dealing with a cluster of issues. These are:
*Science, Technology, Culture, Arts and Education;
*Trade and Finance;
*Energy, Hydrocarbons and Mines;
*Agriculture, Fisheries, Water, Forestry and Environment:
*Information and Technology, Telecommunications and Communication;
*Justice and Home Affairs;
*Tourism, Youth, Sports, Women Empowerment and Handicraft;
*Industry, SMME, Privatization and Pharmaceutical Industry; and
*Security and Military.
Much work has already been done in a number of areas such as construction, education, defence and the industrial sectors of minerals and hydrocarbons. Strengthening co-operation and bilateral relations in these and other areas such as telecommunications, broadcasting, manufacturing and the production of value added goods are just some of the practical ways we can contribute to the reconstruction and rebirth of the African continent.
I am very pleased that our delegation is accompanied by a large group of South African business people. They will interact with their Algerian counterparts to strengthen relations amongst business people of our two countries and hopefully agree on common business projects.
I am sure that most of us are aware that President Bouteflika, while he was the Chair of the OAU, and myself as Chief of the NAM, were given the responsibility by the OAU to engage leaders of the North, including the Bretton Woods Institutions, on the issue pertaining to the struggle to end underdevelopment and poverty, including the issue of the need for immediate and effective alleviation of the debt burden for Highly Indebted Poor Countries, particularly those on the African continent. Our colleague, President Obasanjo, was also assigned to this same task by the G-77 at the last South Summit.
Since then the three of us, on the authority of the OAU, have begun a process that would soon culminate in a plan or a strategy that we believe should be used as a platform for our engagement with the developed countries so that together we can collaborate in the development of our continent.
Our Bi-National Commission must, through the programme that we will adopt, add to the realization of the dream of the African Renaissance, ensure that we together entrench democracy and that we create vibrant economies that should benefit all our people rather than few individuals.
I am confident that Algeria and South Africa will be able to play a significant role in helping our people to move our common continent forward.
I thank you.
Issued by: The Presidency, 22 September 2000