Posted on April 27, 2017

Today,on the 27th of April 2017, the Republic of South Africa will commemorate the day, 23 years ago on which all South Africans could cast a vote for the first time in the country’s history and the state emerged a democratic nation.

The theme for this year’s celebration is “The year of OR Tambo: Together deepening democracy and building safer and crime-free communities”. The celebrations coincide with the centenary of the late President and National Chairperson of the African National Congress, Mr Oliver Reginald Tambo, an international icon and hero of the South African liberation struggle. Freedom Day recognises and celebrates the strides that have been made since 1994, and acknowledges that South Africa is a far better society than it was under apartheid.  It is also a period of reflection on what else needs to be done collectively towards the goal of building a prosperous society and improving the quality of life for all.

The South African Ambassador to Qatar, H.E Prof S.M Soni in cooperation with Mr Phinda Vilakazi, President of Sasol in Qatar and Mr Francois Rousseau, Chief Operating Officer of Oryx Group for Food, the company that has the two South African restaurant chains Nandos and Ocean Basket in its stable, will be hosting a gala reception at the Shangri-La hotel tonight as part of a month long celebration of South African cooperation with the State of Qatar.  The Embassy also indicated that the reception is the culmination of promotional efforts which includes a South African Food Festival at the Sridan Restaurant in the Shangri-La hotel, a week-long South African Fresh and Processed Food Promotion in Lulu supermarkets and the visit by a South African U19 Football Team from Cape Town to Qatar to further strengthen cooperation between the football fraternities of South Africa and Qatar in the run-up to the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

The last 23 years has seen the socio political and economic relationship between South Africa and Qatar grow exponentially both quantitatively and qualitatively because it is built on values of genuine mutual trust, tolerance, respect and a common understanding of matters that affect not only our respective regions but all of mankind. Matters of Peace, Justice, Equality, and the  Freedom of people from poverty, disease, domination, oppression, deprivation and the restoration of humankind's God given  right to dignity.

It is these ideals that South Africa carries onto the agenda of the African Union, the BRICS, the Non Aligned Movement, the Commonwealth and the United Nations. Together with Qatar and other like-minded peoples of the world South Africa will continue to strive to be agents of transformation, to break down the artificial barriers that divide the world and to work for a world order built on mutual respect tolerance and acceptance. The ties that bind us are stronger than the barriers that divide us.

The Republic of South Africa and the State of Qatar established diplomatic relations in 1994 and South Africa has had a resident diplomatic presence in Qatar since 2003.  Since then, the political and economic relationship has grown substantially.  On 11 April this year, the Republic of South Africa was privileged to host H.H Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al Thani on the Emir’s first visit to Sub-Saharan Africa.

The South African community in Qatar has grown and they have brought along with them knowledge and expertise that have found their way into all sectors of Qatar’s development. We share the vision of Qatar 2030 and contribute actively towards its realization. Just as Qatar is keeping its eye firmly on the ideals of Vision 2030, the African continent has set itself ambitious goals through its long term development plan entitled Agenda 2063. Aiming to encourage discussion among all stakeholders, “Agenda 2063” is an approach to how the continent should effectively learn from the lessons of the past, build on the progress now underway and strategically exploit all possible opportunities available in the immediate and medium term, so as to ensure positive socioeconomic transformation within the next 50 years.

South Africa celebrates 23rd [].jpgAt present bilateral trade between South Africa and Qatar stands at US$ 517 million (2016). During his March 2017 visit to South Africa, the Foreign Minister of Qatar, H.E Sheikh Mohamed bin Abdulrahman al Thani met with the South African Foreign Minister, H.E Ms Maite Nkoana-Mashabane as well as President Zuma. During the meetings it was decided that the two countries will increase the trade figure to US$ 1 billion by 2020. The Ministers also decided that the two countries will develop a joint 5 year plan focusing on political cooperation, people to people contact through art, culture and sport and economic diplomacy.

Tourists visiting South Africa has increased substantially over the last 5 years. First time visitors and returning guests contributed to a 23% increase in the number of visas issued to Qatari citizens between 2015 and 2016.

South Africa is invested in the Qatari energy sector through Sasol involvement in the ORYX Gas-to-Liquid plant in Ras Lafan.  This flagship South African energy company has shown great commitment to both the economy and people of the State of Qatar over the last decade of its presence in the country and has won numerous accolades for its corporate social responsibility programmes especially those aimed at the disabled community in Qatar.

During the visit of His Highness to South Africa, the two Heads of State had the opportunity to discuss political developments in Africa and the Middle East.  Both of these regions continue to be confronted with socio-economic challenges and conflict.  South Africa has great appreciation for the role that His Highness the Emir and his government is playing in the peaceful resolution of the conflicts in Yemen, Syria and Libya as well as the support Qatar is giving to the people of Palestine through its involvement in the reconstruction efforts in Gaza.

Former South African President Nelson Mandela said on many occasions that South Africa cannot really be free until Palestine is free. 

All South Africans are urged to join the celebrations in their communities, as we remember that our freedom was not free, it was hard earned.  There was struggle and bloodshed, and for this reason our freedom needs to be cherished and protected. The Embassy invites all South Africans to join the conversation on social media using the hashtag #FreedomDay and share their ideas of the South Africa they envisage to live in and show how they are willing to contribute to make it a better country for all its citizens. Follow @GovernmentZA @GCISMedia and @SAGovNews for updates on the proceedings on Freedom Day.