Programme Director, KZN Director-General, Mr Nhlanhla Ngidi,
The Honourable Premier of KwaZulu-Natal, Dr Zweli Mkhize,
His Majesty King Goodwill Zwelithini, Isilo Samabandla
Minister of Finance, Mr Pravin Gordhan
Minister of Overseas Indian Affairs, Mr Vayalar Ravi
Deputy Minister of State for Human Resources Development in India, Mrs D Purandeshwari
Deputy Minister of Public Service Administration, Mr Roy Padayachee
Namaste and Good Evening to all of you!
It is my great pleasure to extend a heartfelt welcome to all guests and visitors to our country. We are honoured to host the first meeting of the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas in Africa.
During September we mark Heritage Month and it is fitting that you convene during the period when we honour our different cultures and traditions. The Indian community in South Africa is part and parcel of the rich heritage that our nation is endowed with.
That you have gathered here when we mark the 150th anniversary of the arrival of Indians in South Africa is also most appropriate.
Given the long and prolific history between South Africa and India, I am glad that you have gathered here under the theme of “India and Africa: Building Bridges.”
The struggle for freedom of the Indian and South African peoples is intertwined with each other and has a common denominator as we are both home to one of the world’s greatest icons, Mahatma Gandhi.
His philosophies remain as relevant today as they were during their formulation and practice during his lifetime. It is these beliefs that have ensured the continuity of our relations over the years and led to the strengthening of political, economic and social ties between our two nations.
I am therefore glad to address this meeting of the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas as it strengthens relations not only between the Indian Diaspora but also between our two countries and communities.
Honourable Ministers and distinguished guests,
It was on the 16th of November 1860 that the first group of indentured Indian labourers arrived in South Africa. The Indian community joined hands with other South Africans in the struggle for freedom and democracy.
Together they fought against the twin evils of colonialism and apartheid.
India was among the first countries in the world to oppose the apartheid system. It spearheaded the international campaign to end this obnoxious system and provided support to the liberation movement.
Since the advent of democracy ties between our two countries have gone from strength to strength.
This relationship between South Africa and India has grown tremendously over the years. This can be attributed to the fact that the two countries have a lot in common such as the vision of an impartial, just, peaceful and prosperous world order aimed at bringing an end to centuries of poverty and marginalisation.
Together the two countries cooperate in several multi-lateral forums such as the United Nations, the Non Aligned Movement, World Trade Organisation, G-20, Commonwealth, IBSA and the Brazil-South Africa-India-China (BASIC) groupings.
We also share a common approach on a number of global issues including reform of the United Nations, the future of multilateralism, climate change, South-South Cooperation and multilateral trade negotiations.
This has led to fruitful cooperation in the Commonwealth, International Atomic Energy Agency and the New Asian-African Strategic Partnership (NAASP).
Our entwined history has meant that we share similar beliefs and values. Without a doubt this was largely due to the influence of one of the great luminaries of the last century, Mohandas Mahatma Gandhi.
He walks through our histories leaving imprints that still direct the paths of both India and South Africa.
No one would question the relevance of the ideas and beliefs that Mahatma Gandhi once promoted in the world today.
But his ideology on empathy, respect for one another irrespective of race, appreciation of one another and each other’s beliefs, and understanding has to be relevant and will always be relevant in any society. In fact these qualities have been the foundation of most countries constitutions.
Non violence is as relevant today as are the positive attitudes of Respect, Understanding, Appreciation and Compassion. Gandhi’s assertion that “An eye for an eye will make the whole world blind,” is as relevant today as when it was first uttered.
It is these principles and beliefs that are the foundation upon which the relationship between our two countries and peoples has been built.
Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to touch on business opportunities between our two countries.
In June this year we were honoured to undertake a State Visit to India. India is an integral partner of South Africa, politically, socially and economically and it is for this reason that we would like to improve on the already existing relations we have with India.
South Africa is also the gateway to the one billion strong African market. Like India this market has weathered the recent economic storm rather well, with many African countries experiencing positive growth rates. It is time that India turned her attention to the sleeping giant that is the African continent. Unleashing this potential will be beneficial to both our countries.
South Africa recognizes the fact that in order to strengthen the South African brand globally, it is imperative to invest all our efforts as a country in making sure that the environment remains conducive for investments and potential investors.
The World Bank Group’s Annual Doing Business Report for 2010 compared global regulation in 183 countries, from these global economies, South Africa ranked 34th for ease of doing business.
In terms of overall competitiveness, South Africa was ranked 45th ahead of countries such as Poland and Mexico.
South Africa was also ranked the 18th most attractive Foreign direct investment destination world-wide, according to the 2007 Foreign Direct Investment Confidence Index compiled by the global management consulting firm, AT Kearney.
The economic potential of South Africa is clearly evident, especially when one looks at the diversity of our sectors and industries.
Our trade and investment opportunities for the Indian business sector lie in environmental technologies, ICT, transport equipment, capital equipments, creative industries and financial services.
India and South Africa have large youthful populations. Harnessing the youth’s potential is vital to our economic growth and social harmony.
South Africa has endorsed a wide range of social measures to improve the lives of our youth. Education lies at the centre of our efforts. Earlier this week we welcomed a one hundred and twenty three million Euros pledge from the European Union to improve primary education in South Africa.
This will go a long way to ensuring that our youth are geared towards meeting the challenges of the twenty first century.
Ladies and gentlemen,
As said, September marked Heritage Month in South Africa. The Indian community maintains a rich cultural heritage and strong identity with India. This deep commitment to cultural identity is evident in all spheres of their lives from their beliefs to their practices. This is greatly admirable, at a time when cultures and traditions worldwide have been undermined.
The Indian community has contributed a great deal to our country, politically, socially and economically. Many have made their marks in the political sphere, commerce, legal field, media and a host of others.
The contribution of the Indian community to our country’s liberation struggle cannot go unmentioned. There are many outstanding leaders of our struggle emanating from this community, such as Monty Naicker, Dr Yusuf Dadoo and many others.
We are pleased too, that while this community remains distinctly Indian, they are still proudly South African. They are as committed to this country as those whose cultural roots are indigenous.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Earlier this year we hosted the first and I might add, very successful FIFA 2010 World Cup on African soil. If ever there was proof of our country’s ability to deliver then that was it.
I take this opportunity to wish India well on the hosting of the Commonwealth Games which starts tomorrow. Like India we faced the naysayers who doubted our ability to host a successful tournament. Prove them wrong as we did.
Let the developing South show the world that we are capable of hosting events of this magnitude successfully.
I hope that you are enjoying your stay in our beautiful country. We are proud to host you.
We trust that this interaction will not only strengthen the ties that bind us, but also ensure that we continue to work together as the peoples of both countries, to improve the lives and living conditions of the poorest of the poor.
Working together we can indeed do more!
I thank you.