REMARKS BY DEPUTY MINISTER OF COOPERATIVE GOVERNANCE AND TRADITIONAL AFFAIRS,
HON: OBED BAPELA, MP
NATIONAL ITALY DAY, 01 JUNE 2016
Dean of the Diplomatic Corps
Your Excellency, Ambassador Donnici
Excellencies, Ambassadors and High Commissioners
Members of the Diplomatic Community
Ladies and Gentlemen
It gives me great pleasure to convey, on behalf of the Government and the people of the Republic of South Africa, our congratulations to the Government and people of the Republic of Italy on this very auspicious and special occasion of celebrating Italy’s National Day. The spirit of the forefathers of the South African democracy Nelson Mandela and Oliver Tambo, lives on in the city of Reggio Emilia.
Minister Nkoana-Mashabane, in the year 2015, inaugurated the South Africa Week project in Milan, with the unveiling of the Nelson Mandela statue, located in the Chancery, which will form part of the city’s national heritage.
South Africa and Italy enjoy constructive bilateral relations based on a shared commitment to the values of freedom, democracy and a similar approach to a broad range of international issues.
This is due, in part, to the strong cultural links and long-standing diplomatic relations between the two countries underpinned by a dynamic, well-integrated and respected Italian community in the country.
South Africa considers Italy as an important partner in political, economic, cultural and scientific fields, but mostly, a loyal friend. A friend that stood by us during our struggle for freedom and justice that paved the way to our democracy. Italy not only heard about our story, but also became part of the story. You took the struggle and made it your own, and for that we will forever remain grateful and humbled.
Our relationship is enhanced by an exchange of high level engagements notably, the official visit by the Premier of Gauteng, Mr David Makhura and his business delegation in July 2015, the visit by the Speaker of the South African Parliament, Honourable Baleka Mbete, and the Working visit by Minister Nkoana-Mashabane to Italy, in November 2015. Minister Nkoana- Mashabane further hosted Ms Federica Mogherini, the High Representative of the European Union on Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, and Vice-President of the European Commission, for the 13th SA-EU Ministerial Political Dialogue meeting in South Africa on 26 February 2016.
We are looking forward to hosting Minister Paolo Gentiloni, the Italian Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, as he will embark on a Working visit to South Africa later this year.
Our economic relations continue to grow from strength to strength, as demonstrated by the number of South African and Italian companies in our respective countries. Italian companies such as Ferrero, Fiat, ENEL Green Power and Parmalat have found a home in South Africa, and our companies such as SAB Miller, Standard Bank and Barloworld have also set up shop in Italy, raising the flags of both nations very high. There is also a more recent presence of young and dynamic Italian entrepreneurs. We enjoy the benefits of their good reputation, which increases the appeal of the “Brand Italia” in South Africa.
The South African business community welcomed the news that the Italian House Ambrosetti has decided that for the year 2016, the Italy-South Africa Summit will be held in Johannesburg, which is the hub of South Africa’s economy. The 2015 Italy –South Africa summit brought together over 150 heads of Italian and South African companies, economists and representatives government, an increase of 30% over last year’s attendees. The event culminated with the launch of a social initiative, which will target seven young entrepreneurs, who will receive training for six months, from some of the leaders who participated in the Summit.
We sincerely applaud the Italian Embassy for the social initiatives in support of the South African government’s developmental priorities undertaken, notably:
- The “Integrated action for a sustainable community Empowerment within the informal settlements of the Buffalo City Municipality” launched in 2012, with the aim of enhancing the living conditions in the informal settlements, particularly through activity towards women and children;
- The support in helping us fight the scourge of HIV and AIDS in our land, to which Italy has committed 22 million Euros;
- Involvement of the Italian Embassy in the Operation Smile project, which provides free surgeries to repair cleft lip, cleft palate and other facial deformities for children around the globe; and
- Educational assistance provided to South Africans, such as scholarships in the field of Architecture and Design, which will see three South African students travel to Italy for the 9 months fully paid sponsorship.
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen
Together we have achieved a lot since the dawn of democracy in 1994. It is only the beginning and I am certain that relations between Italy and South Africa will continue to growth exponentially.
In celebration of the National Day of Italy and in recognition of the continuation and expansion of our longstanding friendship, it is my honour to invite you all to join me in a toast to the good health and prosperity of His Excellency, President Giorgio Napolitano and to the happiness and prosperity of the Italian people.
I thank you.