On 27 April 2019, South Africa celebrated 25 years since the date it won its democracy. 1994 was the year the country emerged from the dark shadows of international isolation and took its rightful place among the community of nations.
This day of 26 June is also a very significant day for South Africans, as it is on this day that the Freedom Charter was adopted in 1955.
In the past 25 years considerable progress has been made in improving the material conditions of South Africans. As we enter the next 25 years of freedom we do so with a renewed determination to realise for all South Africans the promise of the democratic breakthrough of 1994. We enter the new phase in the life of our nation determined to build an economy that serves all, to create the jobs that our people need, to develop the skills and talents that the future demands and to build stable, safe and thriving communities.
On 8 May 2019 millions of South Africans again exercised their hard-won right to vote. The elections provided South Africans with an opportunity for rejuvenation and recommitment to speeding up the journey towards the South Africa for which we all yearn. The ruling African National Congress party was once again given a further mandate to lead in governing the affairs of the country.
The South African Government continues to cherish cordial relations between our country and Romania.
The South African Embassy’s delegation has had the opportunity of visiting some counties since our last Freedom Day celebration in 2018 and met, among others, with the representatives of the Chambers of Commerce of Dolj, Olt, Prahova, Timiş, Mureş, Maramureş, Suceava and Iaşi.
During these visits the representatives of the Chambers of Commerce and the South African delegation made it clear that both countries’ business captains need to come closer to each other and work together for the betterment of their countries’ citizens and for ensuring win-win results on all economic and commercial fronts. These visits also served the purpose of discussing with Mayors on possible twinning arrangements between cities of similar character. This will assist in deepening relations at the local government level and providing opportunities for exchanges of best practice models.
The South African Government and Business, following the election of President Cyril Ramaphosa early in 2018, identified through the Public Private Growth Initiative, inhibitors that had constrained the economy over the past nine years. Consequently, 18 sectors with the potential to create jobs were identified, including manufacturing, aerospace, mining, energy, tourism and automotive sector to mention but a few. To this may be added some of the business environment successes in South Africa in the form of National Special Economic Zones which until 2018 have attracted R16.8 billion (USD 1.289 billion equivalent) in investments and have attracted 115 Operational investors. This is also an opportunity to be explored and taken advantage of by Romanian business people in the same manner that some Western European countries have done.
Let us not let the distance between continents deter us from economic and commercial successes. Technological advancements make it possible for relations to be carried out, cutting across vast distances.
Some of the lessons that South Africa continues to learn from Romania is the manner in which Romania preserves its historical and cultural heritages.
Tourism, as a backbone of any country’s economy, also constitutes an important vehicle for deepening relations between South Africa and Romania. The progress registered in our relations in this economic field has become obvious. More and more Romanian tour operators are showing interest in discovering South Africa as one of the destinations of their choice. More and more Romanian visitors descend on our ports of entry to enjoy, among others, South Africa’s hospitality, scenic beauty, culture and lifestyle.
Progress has been made on the education front. Some Romanian Universities in collaboration with their South African counterparts are putting into practise the deepening of relations between South Africa and Romania by honouring their inter-university Agreements. Cases in point in this regard are West University of Timişoara and Babeş Bolyai University of Cluj Napoca that cooperate on research and exchange both countries’ students at masters and PhD levels on regular basis.
On the political front, a bilateral mechanism in the form of Agreement on Cooperation between South Africa and Romania signed on the margins of the United Nation’s General Assembly in September 2016 is yet to bear fruit. All that remains now is to concretise actions that will further deepen our relations. The visits to South Africa from February to March this year by the State Secretary, Ms Maria Magdalena Grigore, by then Vice Prime Minister for Strategic Partnerships Implementation, Ms Ana Birchall and by the Ambassador at Large, Mrs Daniela Gitman have added further impetus to our relations.
In June 2018, the members of the Romanian – South African Friendship Group paid an official visit to South Africa and met with members of South African Parliament. The leader of the delegation made an assurance regarding bilateral relations that the group will play a role in ensuring that trade relations between Romania and South Africa are prioritised. He also acknowledged the critical role South Africa can place in making sure that Romania establishes a strong trade and investment footprint in Sub-Saharan Africa.
South Africa highly values the existing cooperation on the international front displayed by South Africa and Romania. Most of the candidacy requests for support that have been made on both sides have been treated with cordiality and reciprocity.
On our national day we reflect on South Africa – Romania strong friendship and look ahead to forging even deeper bilateral relationship between our countries.