This year we mark the 20th anniversary of South Africa’s freedom and democracy. The democratic break through that led to the birth of a new, non-racial non-sexist and democratic South Africa marked the dawn of a new era in our history. The rays of this new day lit the skylight of the entire universe as South Africa and the world heralded a new age of hope filled with optimism.
The fifth general elections of 7 May 2014 will represent the consolidation of democracy in South Africa and demonstrate the strength of our institutions, the robustness of our political environment and most importantly the interest of our people in shaping the country’s political future.
As we celebrate our achievements over the last 20 years and gear ourselves up for the next two decades and beyond, we remember our founding President, the late Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela. Adored by millions the world over, Mandela was the epitome of humility and compassion. He exuded warmth and kindness and was a powerful symbol of the triumph of good over evil, hope over despair. He used the power of forgiveness and reconciliation to heal the wounds of the past and build a new nation. After his death, Nelson Mandela continues to inspire humanity with his steadfast conviction in freedom, democracy, justice, equality. His legacy will endure forever.
Twenty years on, we can proclaim that South Africa is a better place to live in. As President Jacob Zuma said in his State of the Nation Address in February this year, “we have a good story to tell.” The 2011 Census figures tell a story of a country that is making rapid progress with increased income levels, a dramatic improvement in the roll-out of social services and amenities such as water, sanitation and electricity, as well as increased levels of access to basic and higher education.
Despite the global recession which claimed a million jobs, the economy has grown at 3,2% annually from 1994 to 2012. This is largely due to strong macro-economic fundamentals and sound economic management. We now have 15 million people with jobs in the country, the highest number ever recorded in the country’s history.
These and numerous other achievements would not have been possible without the generous support and cooperation from Belgium, Luxembourg and the European Union (EU).
Over the past 20 years, we have benefited tremendously from our bilateral relations with our partners. The EU remains a major destination for our exports, and our exports to Belgium have increased exponentially over the last 20 years. We continue to receive large sums in development assistance from the EU and Belgium, which have gone a long way in complementing our own efforts in the provision of the public good. The cooperation we enjoy with our partners has enabled us to access technology and develop skills in various technical fields, contributing to the gradual realisation of our ambition to build a developmental state.
As part of our 20th anniversary celebrations, we have organised a wide-range of activities and events in Belgium and Luxembourg. These include the National Day Reception in Luxembourg on 29 April followed by the Hugh Masekela Music Concert that will take place on 22 May 2014 in Brussels and National Day Celebrations on 6 June 2014 in Brussels. A Nelson Mandela lecture scheduled to take place in September/October 2014, will be followed by the inauguration of the Nelson Mandela Statue later in the year.
We invite you to join us in sharing this special moment with us, a moment to rededicate ourselves to the struggle for peace, justice and equality.
Ambassador of South Africa”