Opening Remarks by Deputy Minister Botes on the occasion of the Virtual Meeting with the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of the Republic of Portugal, 01 December 2020
Your Excellency, the Secretary of State of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of the Republic of Portugal, Ms Teresa Ribeiro,
The Ambassador of Portugal to South Africa, Ambassador Carvalho,
Distinguished Members of the South African and Portuguese Delegations,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am pleased to participate in these discussions to ensure that the strong and historic relationship between South Africa and Portugal continues to endure and that we can forge ahead with our work in these challenging times.
We are meeting during a very difficult time, a time when world is ravaged by the Coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19). South Africa remains the epicentre of the corona virus on the continent, with more than 700 000 confirmed cases, and more than 20 000 deaths recorded.
We have witnessed our economies collapsing and our people dying. Many of our people have lost their jobs, as companies were forced to close. These has caused a major setback for our government, as we strive to create employment for our people in order to emancipate them from the scourge of poverty, and to bridge the inequalities we inherited from our dark past. I believe that if we work together and utilise the bilateral and multilateral fora at our disposal, we shall overcome. We shall rebuild our economies and forge new frontiers. One of our main priorities is to strengthen our health systems to better protect humanity.
We had so many big plans for 2020. We were looking forward to hosting President De Sousa for the Portugal National Day Celebrations in June 2020, as he had communicated to President Ramaphosa when they met in Mozambique earlier this year. I was also looking forward to travelling to Portugal, to preside jointly with you, over the Seventh SA – Portugal Annual Bilateral Consultations. I believe that once the COVID-19 storm is over, we can still plan for these significant events to materialise or we should look at the feasibility of a virtual meeting in this regard.
Madame Secretary, as you are aware, South Africa currently is the chair of the African Union, and our priority is for peace and security to reign on this beautiful continent. The year 2020 is dedicated to ending all forms of conflicts, as highlighted in the Silencing of the Guns by 2020 Roadmap. We will forge ahead with the implementation of the Continental Free Trade Agreement, whilst creating opportunities for women to play a significant role in their economies. It is the right of women and girls to be full and equal participants in the workplace, in political life and decision-making and in obtaining an education.
We remain concerned with the security situations in Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Mali, and Libya, and we believe that the regional economic communities and the African Union are equipped to address these situations.
In his virtual address during the 76th Session of the UN debate, President Ramaphosa reaffirmed South Africa’s commitment to multilateralism. Throughout our tenure as a non- permanent member of the UNSC, we will continue to champion the peaceful settlement of dispute, highlight the plight of women and children, and the reform of the UN.
As Portugal will be assuming Presidency of the European Union Council in the first half of 2021, I am confident that Africa will be one of your focus. I am looking forward to hearing more about your priorities and your plans regarding Africa. You can count on South Africa’s support in enhancing the EU – AU partnership.
I thank you for your initiative for this call and hope we will have a productive discussion today.
ISSUED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND COOPERATION
OR Tambo Building
460 Soutpansberg Road