27th April commemorates the day in 1994 when the first democratic election was held in South Africa. South Africa celebrates Freedom Day to mark the liberation of the country and its people from a long period of colonialism and White minority domination (apartheid).
In Israel Freedom Day was celebrated on 29th April, like every year at the beautiful gardens of the South Africa Ambassador H.E Sisa Ngombane and Mrs. Thatanyana in Ramat Gan.
Ambassadors and other members of the diplomatic corps in Israel, members of culture, industry, art, science, and many other honored guests from Israeli society and South Africa enjoy the colorful and happy atmosphere with typical food : Boerewors, Pap with Gravy,Bobotie, Cape Chicken curry, Sambuza with chatney , wines and South African spirits.
The evening opened with the national anthems of South Africa and Israel .
Ambassador Ngombane welcome the guests: " We have gathered for the last 21 years all over to celebrate good over evil. In this simple act we also pay tribute to those who have made this day possible. We salute the courage of the leaders and the people of South Africa who stood up against all odds so that we can say we free. In the same breath we honor and remember the members of the international community who not only accompanied us but occupied trenches with us. This is especially so for our African brothers and sisters who some of them paid with their lives.
Allow me to address two issues that have been making headlines for some time now. One is the xenophobic attacks on foreign nationals especially targeting Africans and the second is power outages.
The South African Government has condemned the attacks on foreign nationals in the strongest possible terms and offered deep condolences to the families. The government and many South Africans has been appalled by these acts of unwarranted violence and has taken action to arrest those responsible ".
" President Zuma received an open letter from Mia Couto, a Mozambican writer and poet on 24 April 2015. In his reply he stated :
“I remember you from our days in Mozambique, when you worked at the Mozambique Information Agency and when you were editor of Tempo magazine and later of Noticias.
I cannot forget the friendship that Mozambique accorded my comrades and to me personally. In fact Mozambique became my second home and it remains my home.
You are in pain as your letter indicates, because of the deaths of Mozambicans and the general attacks on foreign nationals in parts of our country. South Africans are also in pain because of the tragic and senseless killings of all seven persons in the past weeks. These are three South Africans and four foreign nationals. May their souls rest in peace and may their tragic deaths unite us all in the quest for peace and an end to violence.
The reports we have received indicate that the attacks last week in Durban were sparked off by the conduct of an employer who fired South African workers who had gone on strike and employed workers from outside the country. Even in the South African context, the employment of scab labour usually triggers an angry reaction from workers who are on strike. We join the country’s trade unions in appealing to employers to avoid such behaviour of pitting workers against one another. The Soweto attacks in January were triggered by the fatal shooting of a young man by a non-South African shopkeeper.
This is a difficult period for our country and its people. Millions of peace loving South Africans are in pain because they are being accused of being xenophobic which is not true. South Africans are definitely not xenophobic. The actions of a small minority should not be used to wrongfully label and stereotype more than 50 million people.
You reminded me of the hospitality and generosity that was accorded to me by Mozambicans during my stay in your beautiful country in exile. We agree that we benefited immensely from international solidarity and friendship during our struggle against apartheid. Our brothers and sisters in the African continent in particular shared their meagre resources with us. Many were killed for supporting our struggle for freedom. The Matola raid in your beautiful country is an example. It is for this reason that we embrace our African brothers and sisters who migrate to South Africa legally. In fact our migration policy is advanced because we integrate refugees and asylum seekers within our communities. They live among our citizens, they are part of us. We are one people as President Samora Machel said after the tragic Matola raid in which many Mozambicans were killed by apartheid security forces.
South Africa has not changed and has not forgotten such comradeship and solidarity. But like most countries that have emerged from conflict, we have deep-seated challenges.
We appreciate the contribution of foreign nationals in South Africa. They contribute to our economic development by investing in the economy, bringing critical skills and through adding to the diversity that we pride ourselves in. But there are also some complaints or problems that citizens have raised which need to be addressed. These include the increasing number of illegal and undocumented immigrants in the country, the displacement of many local small traders by foreign nationals and that some of the migrant traders operate illegally. There are also accusations that foreign nationals commit crimes such as drug peddling and human trafficking, that they take the jobs of locals as employers prefer them as they are prepared to take lower wages and also complaints about free government housing that is secured by foreign nationals. We have emphasised that none of these grievances justify any form of violence against foreign nationals and that it will never be tolerated by government. We are also pointing out that not all migrants are in the country illegally and not all are involved in criminal activities.
The grievances of the South African population have to be balanced with the plight of many refugees, asylum seekers and economic migrants from the continent and beyond. We therefore have a lot of work to do to find long-term solutions.
In the short-term we will improve the implementation of the existing migration policy including tightening controls at the ports of entry and borders and also ensuring adherence to the laws of the country, while protecting migrants and the local population from criminal elements who are taking advantage of the tensions caused by socio-economic challenges. Work has also begun to review the country’s migration policy based on the current and recent experiences.
Our government will rely on the cooperation of sister countries in the continent from where most of the migrants come, as we search for solutions”.
" South has also made headlines news for power outages that have been occurring more frequently of late. The South African government developed a strategy to address this problem based on Independent Power Producers ( IPP’s ) playing a bigger role in power generation. In line with this the government has awarded contracts to IPP’s to produce an additional 13 469 MW from a combination of sources such as Bio-Mass, On-Shore Wind, Solar PV and Hydro worth of twenty three billion rands [ R 23 bn] starting on 2016.
Mr Andrzej Golebiowski of Scater Solar which won three bids has this to say :
"The renewable IPPs programme is inspiration and visionary," he said. "It's really big on a global scale. It's over 4 000MW they are planning to reward this year. It's going to make it by far one of the biggest markets globally for renewables. That's pretty impressive."
Golebiowski said that the Norwegian company moved its headquarters from Germany to South Africa when they saw the potential of renewable IPPs in Africa.
"Today is one of the biggest days in the history for our company," he said. "For us, it reconfirms that SA is the heart of our company. It's a small example of how the programme is building a long-term sustainable industry," he said. "We have decided to make this place our global hubs. With the new wins, it reconfirms our strategy.
"Companies will devise long-term strategies on the continent due to this move," he said. "Things will happen on the back of this. We can now look at other projects in Africa because of South Africa's leadership.
This view was echoed by Co-founder of G7 Renewable Energies Dr Killian Hagemann whose 140 MW On-Shore Roggeveld Wind Farm was one of the 13 preferred bidders saying “ It reaffirms our expertise and ability to develop competitive and efficient wind farm projects in South Africa.”
The South African government is responding to the power generation needs of country and will by year 2021 add 25 000MW to the national grid which is more than halve of the current generation capacity of South Africa ".
" South Africa congratulates the people for the election in Israel on 17th March 2015 and looks forward to working with the new government and address the issues that challenge the two countries in their bilateral cooperation.
Finally we celebrate the 21 anniversary with a lot of reflection but strong, knowing that South Africans can stand up to adversary and be victorious. We will overcome.
On behalf of the State of Israel , Ambassador Avi Granot , Deputy Director General for Africa at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, thanked the Ambassador and congratulated him and the SouthAfrican government and people on this event and said :
" Israel and South Africa both share democratic values and principles. We are both countries that are in the midst of nation building. Israel, as a start-up nation is willing to share its experience in Africa in general and with South Africa in particular.
I would like to highlight the fact that South Africa is Israel's largest trading partner in Africa. Yet there is much potential for future growth in trade as well as in cooperation in areas such as agriculture, water management, advanced technologies, public health, clean energy, food security and homeland security.
Homeland security is indeed a potential field of cooperation, taking into consideration the growing strength of radical Islamic groups as demonstrated by numerous acts of terror that have plagued Africa in recent months ".
" Nation building as well as the realization of the full potential of independence takes time. Indeed, thousands of years ago, it took the people of Israel forty years of wandering in the desert before a new generation, liberated from the shackles of slavery in ancient Egypt, could emerge ready to take on the task of construction of nationhood.
Thus, the time has come for South Africa, after twenty one years of freedom, to disassociate itself from various conceptions of the past which are redundant today and focus more on the future rather than be attached to the past. Specifically, I am referring to the South African approach towards the situation in the Middle East; it is high time for South Africa to zoom out from its one sided pro-Palestinian stance that constrain the development of relations with Israel, which can surely be beneficial to both countries.
It is no secret that we in Israel are disappointed by the lack of progress in our bilateral relations as well as the unbalanced official position and statements of South Africa that ignore the complexities, changes and new challenges in the Middle East and make it more difficult for South Africa to play a significant role in this part of the world. Let us set aside our differences and explore, in the spirit of the late President Nelson Mandela, father of the South African Nation, constructive ways to expand and deepen our bilateral relations and build bridges between our two nations.
Last but not least, we in Israel are very proud of the Jewish community of South Africa which is a part of the beautiful mosaic which is South Africa. It played a role in your struggle for freedom and we believe it can be useful in helping further our bilateral relations.
Your Excellency, please convey the best wishes of the government of Israel to the government and people of South Africa. May South Africa enjoy, peace, stability and prosperity and may the relations between the State of Israel and the Republic of South Africa develop and grow.
Photo Silvia Golan