Monday, 07 June 2021
Later this week, I will be travelling to the United Kingdom to attend the G7 Leaders Summit. We have been invited as a guest country together with South Korea, Australia and India.
The summit will discuss how to promote future prosperity through free and fair trade, championing shared values and tackling climate change, but the global recovery from COVID-19 is likely to dominate the agenda.
In extending the invitation, the G7 group of countries acknowledge South Africa’s role in driving the continental response to COVID during our AU chairship, and the contribution it can make to global progress.
Much as we are a developing economy and despite facing considerable challenges given rise to by the pandemic on our society, we have done and will continue to do our best.
South Africa can hold its head high among the community of nations because we remain a country that is free and united and determined to succeed.
Gatherings such as the G7 are important opportunities for South Africa to promote its view of a fairer and more peaceful world. They are also an opportunity to promote our country as a destination in which to invest and do business, as a partner for development, and as an ally in resolving the most pressing social and political issues facing humankind. These gatherings also give us an opportunity to promote our continent as a destination for investment.
Our delegation to the G7 Summit will be able to talk about the progress we are making in overcoming the pandemic and the measures we have taken towards our national recovery that are slowly but steadily yielding results.
We will be able to talk about the green shoots of economic progress I spoke of in the Presidency Budget vote in Parliament last week. Among them are the tangible results of commitments made by this administration to resolve challenges that have long hindered our economic growth.
I will be presenting the clear signals that our country is emerging from the devastation wrought by the pandemic. These signals include a strengthening currency, a record trade surplus, and growth in mining, financial services and manufacturing. We can also talk about the lifechanging opportunities being provided to our people through the Presidential Employment Stimulus, which has directly benefited nearly 700,000 people since it was launched eight months ago. We can reflect that there is progress towards greater policy and regulatory certainty in important economic sectors such as energy and telecommunications.
The G7 Leaders Summit is an opportunity to seek broader support for the struggle we are waging alongside India and more than 100 other countries to achieve a temporary waiver of the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property agreement at the WTO to ensure equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines. This will enable countries to manufacture their own vaccines and pave the way for the development of a local pharmaceutical manufacturing industry in our own country and on the continent.
The message I will be taking to the G7 Summit will be one of hope about the prospects for our country’s recovery, and indeed the global recovery.
But not everyone in this country is ready for that message.
When times are tough, it is easy to be pessimistic.
It is understandable that citizens may be frustrated by the slow pace of change, and feel that our problems appear to be intractable. Our high rate of unemployment, for example, has not improved since the global financial crisis more than a decade ago and was made much worse by the pandemic.
But sometimes we are so absorbed by our shortcomings, that we often fail to acknowledge what we are doing right and where things are improving.
We are making progress in resolving many of our challenges, from corruption to energy shortages to the obstacles that discourage investment. The pace of reform is picking up.
We do not take the patience and resilience of the South African people for granted. We acknowledge our shortcomings as a government and are working to remedy them.
Optimism is the foundation of progress and hope is the companion of development.
Cynical though some among us may be, let the progress we are making in overcoming the immediate crisis motivate us to do even better.
Our democracy was founded in hope where there seemingly was none. We emerged from a desperate situation that threatened to engulf us and built a new nation. Over the last year and a half, we rallied together to fight the pandemic, united in the belief that better days would come.
Throughout the course of our history we have had setbacks and false starts. But our resilient nature allowed us to weather many storms. It is this drive and determination that must continue to propel us forward as our country recovers socially, politically and economically.
Let us look ahead and move forward. Let us nurture the green shoots of progress. Let us not only hope for better days, but let us work even harder to achieve them.
With best regards,
Honourable Ministers and Deputy Ministers,
Your Excellencies Ambassadors,
Members of the media,
President Macron and I have just concluded official talks as part of his first state visit to South Africa.
Our discussions focused on the grave challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, global peace and security and relations between our two countries.
The severe impact of the pandemic on human health, on society and on economies has demonstrated the need for international solidarity and strengthened multilateralism in addressing global challenges.
South Africa and France have a shared interest in ensuring that multilateral efforts are effective in ending the pandemic, resuming international travel and commerce, accelerating economic recovery and strengthening public health systems.
This pandemic has shown that disasters of this scale respect no borders and that no one is safe until all of us are safe.
It is for this reason that we must accelerate our collective efforts to ensure that vaccines become a global public good and are made accessible to all countries in the shortest possible time.
As part of these efforts, Africa is working to develop its own vaccine production capabilities and capacity to ensure security of supply.
While funding is key, it needs to be complemented by the transfer of technology and a commitment by international procurement agencies to buy vaccines made in Africa.
President Macron and I share a commitment to make the knowledge related to COVID-19 health technologies and products a global public good.
President Macron and I have further agreed to work towards expanding research, innovation and production beyond COVID-19 to promote public health security in Africa.
South Africa and France enjoy an in-depth, diverse, dynamic and strategic partnership that delivers important benefits for both our nations.
We therefore reaffirmed the importance and the strength of our bilateral trade and investment relationship, and will continue working together to remove obstacles to bilateral and regional trade and investment.
Both countries agreed to work together towards the implementation of the EU-SADC Partnership Agreement and the success of the African Continental Free Trade Area.
We have recognised the crucial importance of building businesses and entrepreneurs and providing education and skills for the future.
We look forward to France’s continued involvement in the Square Kilometre Array intergovernmental radio telescope project, and its related fields of research and development.
We recognise that the climate change threat, the loss of biological diversity and other global environmental challenges must be addressed with urgency and ambition.
South Africa and France are fully committed to the progressive development of a multilateral response to global environmental challenges, guided by science and the principles of fairness and equality.
We agreed to continue working together towards a prosperous, secure and peaceful future for the African continent.
We re-affirmed the bonds of friendship and solidarity that exist between our two countries, and we look forward to continued collaboration for the benefit of our peoples, our countries, our respective regions and the world.
I thank you.
21 May 2021
His Excellency President Cyril Ramaphosa will on Friday, 28 May 2021, host His Excellency President Emmanuel Macron of the Republic of France on a State Visit at the Union Buildings in Pretoria.
President Macron’s first visit to South Africa is at the invitation of President Ramaphosa.
The visit is aimed at strengthening the Strategic Partnership between the two countries, which is substantiated by a number of bilateral agreements in various areas of cooperation.
The two countries are committed to advocating for world peace and security, strengthening multilateral and regional cooperation and responding to climate change.
The visit will focus on issues pertaining to the global response to Covid-19 and the economic, health, research and manufacturing responses to the current pandemic and beyond.
The leaders will also discuss the expansion of mutually beneficial trade and investment opportunities. South Africa is France’s largest trading partner in Africa while France is South Africa’s second-largest trading partner within the European Union (EU) trading bloc. Approximately 400 French companies are represented in South Africa. During the 2019 South Africa Investment Conference, French companies pledged R20 billion of investment into South Africa.
Issued by: The Presidency
Today is the anniversary of an event in our history that most South Africans would rather not remember.
Sixty years ago, on 31 May 1961, apartheid South Africa become a republic, cutting its ties with the British Empire. But while a ‘republic’ is generally defined as state in which supreme power is held by the people and their elected representatives, this was not the case in South Africa.
The Constitution of the apartheid republic pledged allegiance to God, “who gathered our forebears together from many lands and gave them this as their own.”
It was a Constitution written by and for a racial minority, and it used faith to justify tyranny. It outlined the administration of government, providing that only white people were eligible to vote and serve as public representatives. It contained no Bill of Rights.
The country’s majority was relegated to a footnote towards the end of its 121 provisions, in a section titled ‘Administration of Bantu Affairs, etc.’.
In a televised message from the Prime Minister’s residence, now known as Mahlamba Ndlopfu, Prime Minister HF Verwoerd said: “We seek the gradual development of each of our groups in a certain direction. Here the solution is openly sought by retaining the white man’s guiding hand.”
“We are very happy to be a united people,” he declared to the world.
But the reality was that we were not a united people.
We were inhabitants of a country where one’s rights, prospects and life expectancy was determined by one’s race. For two decades, the Republic of South Africa Constitution Act of 1961 was the legal impetus for the repression of nearly ninety per cent of the South African population. It provided legal cover for discrimination, dispossession and exploitation.
This unhappy anniversary takes place in the same month that we celebrate the 25th anniversary of the adoption by the Constitutional Assembly of our new democratic Constitution, which became the birth certificate of a real united nation.
Now we have one law for one nation.
Together, we have chosen for ourselves a system of government that gives true meaning to the concept of a republic.
We have said that in our democratic republic, everyone is equal before the law and has the right to equal protection and benefit of the law.
South Africa today is a country where the administration of justice is vested in independent courts and a judiciary that is subject only to the Constitution. We live in a country where everyone has the right to approach the courts for the fulfillment of their rights.
We live in a country where communities can stake a legal claim on land they were forcefully moved from, and where individuals or families are protected against arbitrary eviction from their homes.
We live in a country where everyone is permitted to freely practice their culture and traditions. It is a country where anyone can freely protest in support of social, political and other causes anywhere.
Our constitutional dispensation is premised on accountable government, where the Executive is answerable to the people and where Parliament is representative of the people. It is a country where the law applies equally to any citizen. We now have a government of the people, for the people, and by the people.
We share a common responsibility, as both the state and citizens, to respect, protect, promote and fulfill the Bill of Rights.
As elected officials we have a responsibility to uphold our oaths of office, and to not steal from the state, engage in corruption, or mismanage resources meant for the benefit of our citizens.
When the apartheid regime triumphantly paraded its racist constitution to the world 60 years ago, it had misplaced confidence that it would endure.
In an unanswered letter to Verwoerd a month before the Republic was declared, Nelson Mandela affirmed the liberation movement’s rejection of the forcibly imposed white republic. He said that no constitution or form of government decided without the participation of the African people would enjoy moral validity.
Indeed no system that entrenches the systematic denial of people’s rights can be sustained. Though it would be over three decades before the demands of the liberation movement were met, we eventually won our freedom.
In relegating the apartheid constitution to the dustbin of history, we committed ourselves to a new constitution and a new set of values.
When I addressed the Constitutional Assembly 25 years ago, I said our Constitution must become more than words on a page; it must become a reality in the lives of our people. Unless we do so, this progressive and revolutionary document will be rendered irrelevant and meaningless.
We have long decided what kind of society we want to be. It is a society rooted in human dignity, equality, freedom and non-discrimination.
For a quarter of a century we have worked to build such a society. We have made undeniable progress, but we still have many challenges and there is much work still to be done.
As we mark the anniversary of the adoption of our democratic Constitution, let us remember what a decisive break it was with the system underpinned by racism, exploitation, dispossession and oppression that had come before. Let us also remember that it is up to us to make the vision contained in our Constitution a reality.
For it is only by ensuring that all South Africans are able to freely and fully exercise their constitutional rights, that we will truly become a united people.
With best regards,
Monday, 24 May 2021
Last week media around the world carried heart-rending images of a young boy adrift off the coast of the Spanish enclave of Ceuta. He was clinging to a makeshift buoy made of plastic bottles and desperately trying to make it to shore.
Over the years we have become accustomed to seeing images of African men, women and children crammed into boats and makeshift rafts trying to reach Europe. According to relief organisations more than 20,000 people have lost their lives trying to cross the Mediterranean since 2014.
As we observe Africa Day tomorrow, these tragic stories remind us of the huge task we have to build a better life for all the people of Africa.
While we celebrate the progress we have made towards building a peaceful and prosperous continent, events in faraway North Africa show that we still have a long way to go.
Life is so difficult for millions of people on our continent and opportunities so few that they would risk their lives crossing the sea in pursuit of a better future.
The COVID-19 pandemic has made people already suffering from the effects of conflict, under-development and poverty even more vulnerable.
African economies have been severely damaged and growth prospects are greatly diminished. Many of the continent’s developmental gains may be reversed as the fight against the pandemic takes precedence over other national priorities like poverty eradication. Although low-income countries are especially vulnerable, middle income countries like our own have also been severely hit.
To support the continent’s economic recovery, African governments have been working through the African Union (AU) to mobilise significant financing to meet their developmental goals.
Last week, I joined several African leaders at a summit in Paris hosted by French President Emmanuel Macron on the financing of African economies in the post-COVID-19 era.
South Africa reiterated its support for a comprehensive and robust economic stimulus package for Africa to aid the recovery. But we said this should not be a substitute for official development aid.
We welcomed the steps taken by financial institutions like the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) to support low- and middle-income countries, and called for further measures to support vulnerable countries. This would include an allocation by the IMF of what are known as Special Drawing Rights, where on the basis of membership quotas, around $33 billion will be released to increase the reserves of African countries. African leaders have however argued that an amount of $33 billion, while welcome, is not sufficient to meet the challenges that the continent faces. As the more developed economies are set to receive much of the $650 billion of Special Drawing Rights to be issued, we believe that 25% (which equates to $162.5 billion) should be made available to African countries.
Other measures would include increased concessional financing by international institutions and development agencies, and additional measures led by the G20 countries to provide African countries with debt relief.
In what was described as a New Deal for Africa, leaders and international organisations recognised that we share a collective responsibility to implement financial relief measures for African countries in distress.
The international experience with COVID-19 has been a lesson in the importance of collaboration between African countries and with our international partners. Our gains as a continent have been because we have both drawn on our own capabilities and worked with the international community.
As African countries, we want to help ourselves and not be told what is good for us. The principle of ‘nothing about us without us’ should be applied. It is important that we affirm our sovereignty as free and independent states capable of determining the destiny of our continent.
While countries have immediate financing needs, a sustainable economic recovery can only be assured if we increase levels of investment on the continent. Investing in African economies will contribute to making Africa the next champion of global growth.
The African Continental Free Trade Area will play a key role in the continental recovery. We also envisage a greater role for the continental network of African public development banks to mobilise funding to support key projects in health, education, infrastructure, green growth and other sectors.
African leaders acknowledge the centrality of good governance, public debt management, financial integrity and creating a more favourable climate for private sector investment in their economies.
The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in unprecedented levels of unity and cooperation between African countries. It has seen the continent strengthen its ties with the broader international community and global institutions.
As we observe Africa Day, let us deepen our efforts to achieve a sustainable and lasting social and economic recovery for the citizens of Africa. Ours must become a continent that is thriving and prosperous, not one from which its people are dying in an attempt to leave.
As a country, we are part of Africa and Africa is part of us. What happens in one part of our continent affects us all, and so we must work together to recover from this crisis, and to ensure that our continent grows and thrives.
I wish you all a happy Africa Day.
With best regards,