Honourable President of the Assembly,
Your Excellency President Joaquim Chissano,
Honourable Members of Parliament,
Ladies and Gentlemen:
Thank you very much for giving me this opportunity to address this august gathering of the representatives of the people of Mozambique.
I bring you greetings from your brothers and sisters in South Africa. In a real sense, we can say without any fear of contradiction that we are, in many ways, one people. Long before the colonial borders were arbitrarily imposed on us, we shared common history, traditions, cultures and languages.
As we know, the first recorded contact between whites and blacks in southern Africa happened on the 11th January 1498 when Vasco da Gama anchored his ships up the coast off a small river identified as Inharrime, south of Cape Corrientes.
This was after Vasco da Gama and his crew had attempted to sail further north and their ships battled against the strong Agulhas current until they found themselves, on Christmas Day, at the point at which they had passed before. They named the green, hilly shoreline, Natal. With further attempts they anchored at Inharrime and found such friendly people that they named the place Terra da Boa Gente, the Land of Good People.
Today we are happy to be amongst boa gente. In fact, we will all agree that there are very few Africans, across the entire continent, who are themselves not boa gente.
I am recalling this story of the boa gente, to indicate that these good people of Africa, who comprise many nations, speak many related languages, displayed to the strangers who appeared at their shores the spirit of ubuntu, which is the spirit of kindness, selflessness, solidarity, service to the people and innate humanism.
This ubuntu was again demonstrated when in 1647, the Haerlem, the ship that belonged to the Dutch East Indian Company, was forced ashore by some sudden gale force winds near Table Bay.
Having been treated with the same kindness displayed by the people of Inharrime towards Vasco da Gama almost two centuries earlier, the sailors of Haerlem, whose stay was the longest in the Cape, upon their return to Holland, presented a memorandum suggesting that the company should establish a permanent settlement in the Cape.
The historian Noel Mostert, in his book the Frontiers says that the sailors of Haerlem advised their superiors that when establishing the settlement, the settlers should reciprocate the ubuntu of the Khoi and the San with kindness.
However, the commander appointed by the Dutch East India Company to establish the settlement, Jan van Riebeeck, disagreed with the advice given to the company.
Jan van Riebeeck expressed an opinion that was to inform the attitude of many of the settlers towards the black people.
Van Riebeeck held a racist view that the Khoi and the San people, who populated the southern tip of the Cape, “were not to be trusted, (they) being a brutal gang, living without any conscience”.(Frontiers, p 106).
The Portuguese, the Dutch, the French, the Belgian and the British settlers who colonized most of our countries on the continent, shared van Riebeeck prejudice of black people, and proceeded from a gross and intemperate collective judgment that led to centuries of racial oppression, repression and abuse that is amongst the worst in the history of our world.
The San and the Khoi people were subjected to such systematic and horrendous brutality that they were almost exterminated.
The people of Mozambique and South Africa, together with our brothers and sisters in the rest of the continent have been victims of many brutalities, including a slave trade that uprooted millions of our people and dumped them into foreign lands. In that process, millions more perished before they could arrive at their forced destination.
Another historian John Reader writes in his book A Companion to Africa that:
” Demographers have estimated that by the end of the 15th century, about 47 million people were living in Africa. The population was growing very slowly but should have reached 100 million by 1850. In fact, it was half that – about 50 million. What happened? The other 50 million were lost to foreign exploitation.
“Eighteen million slaves left Africa between 1500 and 1850. Researchers estimate that for every 9 slaves that crossed the Atlantic another 12 died. These were people Africa could not afford to lose. Their absence denied the continent both labour and children.” (A Companion to Africa, p9)
There is no doubt that the effects of this far-reaching annihilation of half of the African population are still being felt even today.
Even when slavery was abolished, our continent became the treasure trove of the European countries that divided the continent amongst themselves and treated our countries as their foreign provinces.
Accordingly, as we are gathered here today, we are bonded not just by the fact that we share the same landmass, have identical traditions, cultures and languages, important as these are; but we are also unified by a painful experience that has robbed us of our ability to nurture our talents and exploit to the fullest our technological advances that propelled the ancient Kingdoms of Mapungubwe in the northern part of South Africa, Mwene Mutapa corrupted by the Europeans to Monomotapa, the Great Zimbabwe and countless others.
Yet, despite the brutal and brutish interruption by the settlers, the fact that today we meet at this Assembly of an independent and free Republic of Mozambique, chosen by the people of this country, means that we are ready and prepared to reclaim for ourselves and the generations to come, Terra da Boa Gente – the Land of Good People.
This is possible in large measure, because the people of Mozambique and other African patriots have long arrived at a common determination that, Mozambique and the rest of the continent cannot enjoy freedom while their brothers and sisters live under the joke of apartheid. Hence, the enormous sacrifices made by the heroic people of this country to ensure that we, in South Africa, also become free.
Once more, on behalf of the South African people, I would like to pass our sincere gratitude to the people of Mozambique for having stood shoulder to shoulder with us until we attained our freedom.
Again, precisely because of this common determination that our destinies are bound together, since we attained our freedom, South Africa and Mozambique have entered into numerous agreements to promote the economic development of our peoples.
These agreements are the foundation for joint action so that together we work for the reconstruction and development of our countries and give our people the opportunity and possibility to embark on individual and collective advancement and development.
Our close bilateral relations are characterized by on-going interactions at the Presidential, Ministerial, Parliamentary and official levels. The Joint Permanent Commission for Co-operation (JPCC), which was established in 1994, held its second successful meeting last year December in Pretoria and there are more than 20 Bilateral Agreements that have either been entered into or are currently been negotiated.
Some of these agreements cover such important areas as Fisheries, Agricultural Development, Maputo Harbour, Natural Gas Trade, Demining, the Maputo Development Corridor and Joint Water Commission.
I know that the cry of a sick child in South Africa touches the hearts of the people of Mozambique just as the hunger pangs of a Mozambiquan child affect the people of South Africa.
We therefore face a common challenge of ensuring that we attain, as speedily as possible and within the constrains of our resources, the development and prosperity not only of our two countries but also of many of our sister countries on the continent.
With regard to our bilateral relations, our joint efforts to attract investment to Mozambique has seen South Africa becoming the largest foreign investor in this country, with R25 billion invested by the South African businesses and parastatals.
We are proud that through the leadership of President Chissano and his government, we have managed to attract mega projects like Mozal and Sasol as well as about 220 large, medium and small enterprises.
The Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA) and the Industrial Development Corporation, (IDC), have made the largest investments on the continent here in Mozambique.
We are happy that South Africa’s leading black businessmen and women have engaged their counterparts in Mozambique through the Black Economic Empowerment Circle.
Indeed, we have to ensure that as we revive and develop our economies, bringing them into the age of information and communication technology, we also build strong and viable indigenous businessmen and women, who will inspire our people and demonstrate that as Africans, we are capable of meeting each and every challenge posed by the demands of the modern world.
We are proud that our close working relations have made it possible to complete a major project such as the Maputo Corridor. Through the Maputo Corridor, we have learned valuable lessons that will help us as we continue with our common task of development of our countries and in our assessment of the implementation of the Bilateral Agreement on Road Transport for Goods and Passengers.
Further, as part of our efforts to manage more efficiently and effectively the transport of goods and people between our countries, the Caminhos de Ferro de Mozambique (CFM), is about to enter into an agreement with their South African counterpart, Spoornet, to co-manage the railway line between Witbank in South Africa and Resano Garcia here in Mozambique.
One of the critical areas of our co-operation is in the energy sector. We will continue our engagements on the best possible options for the full utilization of Cahora Bassa and hopefully ensure that we arrive at an agreement that benefits mainly the people of Mozambique.
Tomorrow we will, with President Chissano, launch the Sasol Gas pipeline in Temane. This is a very important development for both our countries, as this pipeline, which will be more than 900 kilometers long, will create much-needed jobs in Mozambique and supply markets in South Africa.
We should also move with the necessary speed to conclude the agreement on some of the important Tourism Corridors, especially the Transfrontier Parks of Gaza/Kruger/Gonarezhou which will create one of the largest game parks in the world.
Undoubtedly, the economic benefits to Mozambique, Zimbabwe and South Africa, out of the envisaged unified park, are enormous.
Honourable Members, I think we will all agree that it is fitting to use the hallowed halls of this Assembly to thank the men and women in the police services of our two countries, for the sterling work they have and continue to do, to search, confiscate and destroy illegal weapons.
Through Operation Rachel, our joint police services have since 1995, destroyed more than 1000 tons of small arms as well as landmines and other unexploded devices.
More effort and assistance from our governments, the business people, our people and communities will ensure that together we defeat these crime syndicates that engage in illicit arms smuggling, money laundering and motor vehicle theft and in the process killing and injuring many innocent and law-abiding citizens. Some of our brave policemen and women have also fallen victim to the cowardly acts of these criminals.
As part of this war against crime, we should increase the capacity at our border posts and ensure that corrupt officials who take bribes so that criminals can have a safe passage through our borders, are identified and dealt with accordingly.
Our two countries have established an important precedent in the process of ensuring that erstwhile antagonists are able to negotiate a settlement that put the interests of ordinary people first.
I am sure that we will agree that this path that we have chosen, is a correct one and should never be forsaken. As we rebuilt our countries and forever seeking the best possible ways of bringing about an enduring stability and peace, we will occasionally encounter problems that may momentarily upset our balance in our march to a better and prosperous future.
In such circumstances, as the descendents of the ancestors whose innate humanism earned our shores the Land of Good People, we should not lose our focus and our collective vision of ensuring that our people are given the opportunity to live in peace, stability and harmony.
Further, although our democracies are still young, given our divided and violent past, we have managed to overcome what some considered insurmountable obstacles.
We therefore have a heavy responsibility to ensure that our democratic processes are not derailed, that the normal political contestations do not loom larger than our common quest for a strong democracy, lasting peace, durable process of development and an enduring stability.
It is in this context that President Chissano is amongst the leading lights on our continent to ensure that through the programme that we, Africans, have produced, we radically change our continent from a place characterized by conflicts, poverty and underdevelopment, to a home of stability, prosperity and development.
Through the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (Nepad), we are charting a new path for the regeneration of our continent and ensure that we harness our skills, expertise, talents, resources and natural riches to bring a better life to all Africans.
As you are aware, in July we will launch the African Union (AU), which will replace the Organisation of the African Unity (OAU). The African Union has been structured in a manner that will be better suited for the challenges that we face, of bringing about peace and stability on the continent, ensuring a culture of human rights and giving the necessary impetus to the development programmes of Nepad.
We therefore need the active participation and solid support of this important Assembly on both the Nepad process and the work within the African Union, so that the leadership represented here is able to give all of us the required advice and guidance.
As part of this work, you may also be aware that we are engaged in important processes of assisting and supporting efforts towards stability and peace in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burundi as well as giving support to reconciliation programmes of the people of Zimbabwe.
In all these and many other challenges, we will not succeed if we don’t have the solid backing of this leadership as well as the entire mass of the people of Mozambique.
I am however confident that when we engage in these important efforts, of bringing about peace, stability, democracy and development to our continent, we will do so with the knowledge that we have unqualified support from the Assembly of the Republic of Mozambique and the good people of this land.
I thank you.