Remarks by the Minister of Basic Education, Mrs Angie Motshekga, MP, at the Japan National Day Celebrations held in Pretoria , 27 December 2014
27 November 2014
Dean of the Diplomatic Corps
Your Excellency, Ambassador Yoshizawa and Madame Yoshizawa
Excellency’s, Ambassadors and High Commissioners
Members of the Diplomatic Community
Ladies and gentlemen
On behalf of the Government and the People of the Republic of South Africa, I wish to extend to the Government and people of Japan our congratulations on this special occasion of the celebration of your National Day that marks the birthday of his Majesty the Emperor of Japan.
National days are annual milestones in any nation’s journey. We humans as we get older we become more fragile with each birthday. On the contrary nations become stronger, wealthier, wiser in its leadership and sturdier in its resolve with each passing year to provide a better life to its people. It is indeed opportune for the people of Japan to celebrate this day as you continue on your noble path to economic freedom while simultaneously building a better tomorrow. A stronger Japan at peace with itself and peoples’ of the world is the exact medicine that the international community requires.
We are also aware that on the 23rd November you celebrated yet another milestone in the history of Japan - the Thanksgiving Day. This day was first observed in 1948 as a nation’s resolve to rebuild the nation in the aftermaths of World War II. Subsequently, the day is now a yearly celebration of labour, productivity and of course the continued resolve to build Japan as the next frontier of growth, peace and prosperity.
Diplomatic ties between Japan and South Africa dates back to 1962 when the first consular relations were established. The relations were developed into full diplomatic relations in 1992. In 1993 the first Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) was launched to coordinate political and economic ties between Japan and the rest of the African continent.
Our warm relations with Japan reached a crescendo in 1995 with the first diplomatic visit undertaken by the late founding father of the new South Africa, the late former President Nelson Mandela. He was received warmly by the people and Government of Japan.
During President Thabo Mbeki’s years the relations with Japan were strengthened further when he attended and made meaningful input into the deliberations at TICAD II, III, and VI.
The current President His Excellency Mr. Jacob Zuma elevated our bilateral relations further with the signing of the “Strategic Co-operation Partnership” in 2010.
President Zuma also continued in the trajectory started by his predecessors through continued participation in the TICAD V in 2013.
We can safely say without any fear of contradictions that our relations are poised for even greater heights with the preliminary talks of the Japanese assisting in the development of two Special Economic Zones (SEZs) in Limpopo and North West Provinces in the field of platinum beneficiation.
Although the historical ties between South Africa and Japan span well over a century our relations have improved significantly since the dawn of democracy in South Africa in 1994. This is largely owing to the recognition of the mutual advantage in enhancing and widening the ambit of the bilateral relationship which has driven South Africa - Japan relations in the past decade and a half.
There has been a steady stream of exchanges between our two countries in recent times reflected by the number of Ministerial, Senior Officials and other visits. In this regard, one of the hallmarks of 2013 was President Zuma’s working visit to Japan following the conclusion of TICAD V where the President met Prime Minister Abe and engaged members of the Japanese business community and media.
We often emphasise that trade and investment forms the backbone of our bilateral relations. We view Infrastructure development as a catalyst to sustainable economic development and the improvement of the quality of life of our people thereby fulfilling the promise of Better Life for All.
It is pleasing to note that Japan is South Africa’s largest trade partner after China and the United States and a major provider of development finance and official development assistance (ODA) to South Africa and Africa via the TICAD process. As a matter of interest, in 2013, total bilateral trade was R93, 073 billion. South African exports to Japan were R53, 751 billion and Japanese exports to South Africa were R39, 324 billion.
Whereas trade and investment may be viewed as the engine of economic growth and change, it certainly does not define our bilateral relationship. The relationship between our two countries has not only expanded in trade and investment but also in the development of human networks and in the promotion of academic and business interactions. The impressive contribution to job creation and skills transfer by the Japanese private sector and the Government of Japan through development agencies such as the Japan International Co-operation Agency (JICA), part of the African Business Education (ABE) initiative; and through the Japan Overseas Co-operation Volunteers (JOCV) is invaluable. The people of South Africa appreciate and thank you heartily for your relentless efforts in building a better South Africa and prosperous Africa.
It is encouraging to see that the expansion of our bilateral relations is not limited to interaction at the official level but has filtrated down through to people-to-people contact.
On a multilateral front, it is well known that South Africa and Japan share common views on a broad range of international issues including the central role of the United Nations in international affairs and the importance of reforming the United Nations system. We respect international law and promote the resolution of conflict through diplomacy and dialogue. Both our nations make an important contribution to peacekeeping as well as post-conflict reconstruction and development. We further share the view that development particularly in Africa has to remain at the top of the international agenda.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Japan’s consistent and tangible support for reconstruction and development projects in Africa deserves special mention. Your commitment to the development of Africa demonstrated by the important initiatives through the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) continues to be a valuable platform for engaging in developmental issues.
Today, I have the pleasure of conveying the appreciation of the Government and the people of South Africa to the Government and people of Japan for the continuous contribution to scientific and technical cooperation and skills development in our country. Relations between our two countries are growing at many levels – bilateral and multilateral, official and people-to-people - and hold much promise for the future.
On a final note, it is time to bid farewell to Ambassador Yoshizawa, who has come to the end of his official posting in South Africa. Excellency, on the eve of your departure, I have the honour of conveying to you the sincere appreciation of the Government and the people of South Africa for your efforts and contribution towards building our bilateral relationship. We wish you well and all the best in your future endeavours.
Your Excellency’s, Ladies and Gentlemen
Please allow me to propose a toast to your happiness, your good health and further development of Japan-South Africa and Japan-Africa relations.
I thank you.