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Thenjiwe Ethel Mtintso, the Ambassador of the Republic of South Africa to Romania: “Advances made by South Africa since 1994: Celebrating the Third Decade of Freedom through accelerating radical economic transformation”

2015 marks 60 years of a historic moment in South Africa’s history when people from all walks of life adopted the Freedom Charter in 1955 in Kliptown outside SOWETO. The participants at that Conference adopted the Preamble of the Freedom Charter that, amongst others, states that “We the people of South Africa declare for all our country and people to know that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white, and that no government can justly claim authority unless it is based on the will of all the people”. That was a powerful, visionary and reconciliatory statement that set the basis for the Preamble of our Constitution which reads “We, the people of South Africa, honour those who suffered for justice and freedom in our land, respect those who have worked to build and develop our country and believe that South Africa belongs to all who live in it united in our diversity”. It sets the tone for a united, democratic, non-racial, non-sexist and prosperous South Africa that we have established in 1994 whose 21st anniversary we are celebrating on the 27th April 2015.

2015 also marks 25 years since the release of President Nelson Mandela from Robben Island prison and the unbanning of all political organisations that were engaged in freedom struggle.  This marked a giant leap in the long walk to freedom for the peoples of South Africa and dealt a fatal blow to apartheid and colonialism.  We continue to be inspired and draw lessons from Madiba’s legacy as we build our country to create a better world for all.

For the majority of South African people, 1994 signified the first steps towards freedom and democracy and gave hope for a better, prosperous future.  A better life for all was premised on the restoration of human dignity, respect for human life, creation of decent jobs, building of houses, opening the doors of education and the provision of basic services.

South Africa is now a much better place to live in than before 1994 and it has become a well-functioning democracy.  We have made significant progress in building a democratic nation founded on the values of human dignity, non-racialism and non-sexism and the rule of law and universal adult suffrage is enshrined in the Constitution.  Great progress has been made in lifting disadvantaged out of poverty with access to water, healthcare, education, housing and many other basic needs which they did not have before 1994. We are all proud of the progress we have made in the past 21 years.

We are proud of progress we have made in forging a common national identity that is built on mutual respect, tolerance and acceptance as well as recognition of our diversity. We have gone far in breaking down the artificial barriers of culture, race and religion that divided us. However, a lot still needs to be done in making every South African an  agent of transformation that work for a society free from racial, social and economic class barriers.

South Africa has come a long way in addressing the economic, social and cultural challenges created under apartheid. Over the last two decades the South Africans have worked hard to construct a society that serves its entire people. The year 2015 ushers the beginning of the third decade of democracy and freedom and accelerating radical economic transformation is the immediate and urgent agenda.

Our economy has become more inclusive and continues to show steady growth.  In the State of the Nation address on 12 February, President Zuma unveiled a nine-point plan to ignite economic growth and create jobs. He has called on everyone to work together to ensure radical economic transformation by confronting economic injustice, inequality, poverty and unemployment. “Our Government will not rest until all South Africans enjoy a decent and better quality of life and benefit from our rich natural, economic, cultural and social resources” He said.

Government initiatives have ensured that more learners attend and succeed in school, with the matric pass rate steadily increasing over the past 20 years from 53.4% in 1995 to 78.2% in 2013. Highlighting the successes in improving access to free education, President Zuma stated: “Over 8 million school children are now benefitting from no-fee policies. This has contributed to an increase in secondary school enrolment from 51% in 1994 to around 80% currently. About 9 million children are benefitting from the school feeding scheme and this has ensured that learners no longer have to study on an empty stomach.”

Following are some interesting statistics to show developments in some of the key areas to address poverty, joblessness and inequality identified as challenges that South Africa still faces.

  • 15.3 million – people employed in South Africa for the last quarter of 2014.
  • 203 000 – the growth in the number of jobs.
  • 30 000 – work opportunities created by environmental programmes
  • 3.5% – the gross domestic growth forecasts for global economic growth in 2015.
  • 32 – Number of renewable energy projects completed.
  • 48 000 – megawatts of clean hydro-electricity to be generated from the Grand Inga Hydro-electrical Project, in partnership with the Democratic Republic of Congo.
  • 9 600 – megawatts nuclear build programme
  • 152 – Number of countries that South Africa’s world-class auto sector exports to.
  • 103 billion Rand (8 billion euro) – value of exports from automotives and components in 2013.
  • 24.5 billion  Rand (2 billion euro) – a private-sector investment in the Automotive Investment Scheme

 

South Africa has become one of the most popular and interesting destinations for all kinds of tourism. 14 447 598 foreign visitors arrived in South Africa in 2014.  South Africa is famous for its natural beauty, wildlife, political history with landmarks such as Robben Island, cultural diversity, highly developed infrastructure and hospitality industry, game reserves, picturesque drives like the Garden route and the world renowned wines.  In 1994 Cape Town was voted by Travelstart as the 10th most beautiful city of the World. The underlying principles and values of Ubuntu afford the visitor a taste of our hospitality.

The Romanian – South African bilateral relations date as far back as 1991.  We have a lot in common including our friendliness and hospitality. Our two countries enjoy an active, rewarding relationship supported by political, economic and commercial pillars but ore can still e done.  Both Embassies are working hard to strengthen the relations especially in relation to trade and investment as well as marketing and popularizing the image of South Africa in Romania and vice versa.   Our countries have recently found each other, now sharing information, exchanging skills and learn from one another.  We have our work cut-out for us and we are fully cognisant that “There is no short-cut to making South Africa the country of our dreams”, as our Former President Mandela reminded us.   The two countries will soon be signing an MOU as a framework for our political and economic relations. Other agreements on Bilateral Relations, Education, Culture, and Science and technology have been drafted. We also hope to have an agreement between the Durban and Constanta Ports which are gateways to Africa and to Europe respectively.  Happily, beginning o with the first concert by South African artists (pianist Schoeman and baritone Madlala) to perform at our national Day, on April 27 at Promenada Mall, we are launching an aggressive programme to market our rich, beautiful and diverse culture in Romania. The United Nations has declared 18 July, Mandela’s birthday, as an International Mandela Day during which everyone in the World should spend at least 67 minutes doing community work as a contribution to assist those living in the periphery of society or with difficulties and contributing to building a Better World. This year Mandela Day will be celebrated in Bucharest, Oradea, Cluj and Timisoara.  Besides the community work, a Mandela statue will be unveiled in Oradea and in Cluj. The Mission hopes that other counties and cities will take up the clarion call in memory of Mandela. One of South Africa’s great women poets will perform in Romania in September, in celebration of the combined Women (August) and Heritage (September) months.

Despite the large geographical distances between South Africa and Romania, significant direct and indirect investment has taken place in Romania, in parallel with a vast increase in bilateral trade between the two countries. Romania’s exports to South Africa showed an increase of 38, 12% from 133.19 mil Euro in 2013 to 183, 7 mil Euro in 2014, while the imports from South Africa increased from 31.97 mil EUR in 2013 to 33.97 million Euro in 2014: a slight increase of only 6.25 percent.

There are currently a number of South African businesses with interests in Romania as well as a number of leading management positions held by South African executives, and this trend is most definitely on the increase. A number of these companies have already established prominent positions across the complete spectrum of the local business environment and continue to grow from strength to strength; namely NEPI, SAB Miller, Blue Projects, Metair Group – Rombat, Bistrita Nasaud, Naspers – Emag, Theranova an Oradea based NGO providing Prosthetic amputee rehabilitation, and the recent Steinhoff Group acquisition of Austrian furniture retailer Kika – Leiner including its Romanian operations.

To further accelerate our economic transformation, the Romanian South African Business Association (ROSABA) was established last year to develop and increase trade and investment between the two countries. The EU remains South Africa’s single most important trading partner, and likewise South Africa is the EU’s largest trading partner in Africa, and therefore enormous opportunities exist for Romanian and South African businesses.

ROSABA’s vision is to be the leading representative for South African companies doing business in Romania, and for Romanian business planning to expand to South Africa. ROSABA has launched a number of initiatives to increase collaboration between its current members and is planning a number of trade visits to South Africa to encourage investors in the potential opportunities that exist in Romania becoming a gateway to Europe for South African Investors, and subsequently South Africa being a gateway into Africa for Romanian Investors.

“Despite the current tough economic climates that prevail in Romania, the Euro Zone and the global market, ROSABA’s members and their organizations continue to post great results, and as such we are collectively positive as we look forward into 2015”, stated Neal Barber Managing Partner at Blue Projects and President of ROSABA for 9’o Clock.

 

 

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