Address by President Nelson Mandela at the Malaysian Institute of Diplomacy and Foregin Relations, Kuala Lumpur

7 March 1997

Mr Chairmen;
Distinguished guests;
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Since yesterday, Ministers from 14 countries washed by the Indian Ocean, including South Africa and Malaysia, have been gathered in Mauritius.

The first Ministerial Meeting of the Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Co-operation represents one more step towards bringing to fruition the idea that the ocean which separates our countries also joins them. It helps add flesh to the vision of relations amongst us which draws the fullest benefits from the region's resources for the benefit of all its peoples.

This is a vision nurtured in the ancient network of trade which multiplied the wealth of the region and fostered the interchange of culture and technology. It is an idea that has gathered force with the passing of the colonial era.

The Indian Ocean Rim is an association in its infancy with many hurdles still to cross. Advisedly its goals are being pursued with circumspection and in a modest and gradual way.

But the possibilities and the challenges which it brings are of a kind with all those that seek to ensure that the emerging international order does indeed bring equity, peace and prosperity to all nations and all peoples.

As the world moves towards a new global economic system, it is of critical importance that the benefits of increased trade and the consequences of more open markets are not enjoyed by only some of the expense of others.

The difficulties inherent in reaching these goals and their solutions are the pre-occupation and lifeblood of bodies such as the Malaysian Institute for Diplomacy and Foreign Relations.

You are widely credited with having contributed to the remarkable successes of Malaysia's foreign policy. By inviting us to share ideas with you as we approach the end of our four-nation visit to South East Asia, you are affording us a very special opportunity. May I, on behalf of myself personally and our delegation, record our sincere thanks to the Institute for making this occasion possible.

Ladies and gentlemen;

In seeking models for the building of co-operative regional relations in the wake of the colonial era, we do not need to look beyond South-East Asia. If we need an example of how particular countries can contribute to that process, we can find it close to hand. We see it in the way Malaysia has patiently and painstakingly worked with her neighbours to build an association to promote peace and a climate for growth and development.

Today this is one of the world's top economic growth areas. ASEAN is on the verge of including all ten South East Asian Nations; your free trade area is taking shape; and the first summit meeting between Asian and Europe, no longer colonised and coloniser, took place last year. A combined population of 400 million gives the members of this predominantly "southern" association a voice that cannot be ignored int he capitals of the world.

History decreed that Southern Africa's journey on a similar path should begin later than yours. This does however give us the latecomer's advantage of learning from your experience, and we are taking every chance to do so. That is one of the purposes of this visit.

More than that, the same principles that lead us to form regional associations with our neighbours, once we are free to do so, also favour the building of links between our regional associations.

SADC with its 150 million people is also setting out on a path towards a free trade area. It has made itself into an ideal destination for investment in which the principal ingredients are immense natural resources; the entrenchment of democracy and peaceful resolution of conflicts; a framework for development integration; and far-reaching programmes of reconstruction.

Close links between SADC and ASEAN can only be of benefit to all our member countries and their peoples.

The same imperatives are bridging the vast expanse of the Southern Atlantic Ocean. Contacts between South Africa and Brazil, as Chairman of the SADC and MERCOSUR respectively, and meetings of the Ministers of Trade and Industry of the two bodies are mere beginnings of the co-operation which is possible.

But ultimately, ladies and gentlemen, the prospects of such regional associations and interlinkages between them, depend on the strength of the relations between their respective member-countries.

South Africa's trade with South East Asia doubled in the three years from 1993 to 1995.

Thanks to the vision and leadership of Prime Minister Mahathir trade between South Africa and Malaysia has expanded even more rapidly than this.

Malaysia has become one of the biggest sourceS of foreign investment in South Africa, a trend likely to be reinforced by the negotiations between South Africa's Telkom and a consortium including Telekom Malaysia.

South Africa takes particular interest in Malaysia's success in overcoming the legacy of colonialism and poverty; and in the economic policies that made this possible.

We are keen to benefit from your experience as we implement our Macroeconomic Strategy for Growth Employment and Redistribution. We adopted this strategy in order to put our economy on a new and higher growth path that would create more jobs and produce the resources for reconstruction and development.

We are convinced that we have much to learn from Malaysia's experience as we restructure our economy towards export-orientation, with an emphasis on training and new technology; as we create a climate for investment by our own private sector and from outside the country; as we restructure the state's economic assets; and as we empower those who were previously excluded from the world of business.

This morning Prime Minister Mahathir and I were able to witness the signing of further agreements between our countries, on trade and shipping. Out of such small but concrete steps we are building extensive relations of trade, investment, co-operation and common action between Malaysia and South Africa.

Such relations are nourished by the shared aspirations which led Malaysia to support the struggle for freedom in South Africa; and to assist in our transition to democracy.

South Africa and Malaysia have a common cultural heritage, not initially of their own making, but now joyfully embraced as part of the richness and commonality of our societies.

These commonalities and shared aspirations, as well as the links we are building, will promote our broader endeavours to construct regional associations and linkages. As we succeed in doing so and in overcoming the legacies of the past, we will also give powerful voice to those aspirations.

To the extent that we succeed as countries in forging mutually beneficial relations, we will promote the prospects for successful relations between our regions and for wider associations like the Indian Ocean Rim.

And to the extent that these associations prosper we will help ensure that the benefits of world economic growth accrue to the developing as well as the developed; to the small and the medium as well as the large and the giant.

We will be raising the voice of those who were once excluded from the counsels of the world, and help ensure that the world at last finds the way and the will to lift the poverty and insecurity which still darken the lives of millions.

Ladies and gentlemen,

There is great scope, but also a lot of work ahead before all the possibilities for associations between peoples, countries, regions and continents are realised.

But the foundations are being laid through political, cultural diplomatic and business contacts. Our visit to your region, we believe, will give stimulus to that process.

Let us reach out across the ocean in a partnership of peace and prosperity.

I thank you

Issued by: Office of the President

Source: South African Government Information Website