Address by President Nelson Mandela at the State Banquet hosted by President Mugabe, Harare - Zimbabwe

19 May 1997

Your Excellency President Robert Mugabe;
Distinguished guests;
Ladies and gentlemen,

We have been so often in each other's company in the last three years that I fear I have begun to take the pleasure of your company for granted. So let me start out by saying that I am once again honoured and pleased to be in the warm company of our neighbours and friends.

Though our countries share only a short border, our friendship stretches much further than those few kilometres. Its roots lie in our peoples' common striving for liberation. We will always be indebted to Zimbabwe and to you, Mr President, for the role you played in our liberation, as a member of the OAU and in your capacity as leader and Chairman of the Frontline states. We can never forget the self sacrificing support of the Zimbabwean people who treated us as their own and made their homes,our homes.

We also remember, Mr President, that you were the first African Head of State to visit democratic South Africa. That occasion, and our own visit to Zimbabwe a few days later, granted us the opportunity to reawaken the ancient bonds suppressed by apartheid and colonialism. Basking in the rays of our newly found peace and stability, we set ourselves on the path of a new struggle - that of regional development and growth.

In your address to the South African Parliament three years ago, you spoke of the challenges ahead of us. You warned of the obstacles in the path of development in the form of war and famine on our continent and in our region. Then as now we placed great value on your experience and wisdom.

It has long been recognised by all that development of any part of Southern Africa requires the development of the entire region. Our economies, our cultures, our histories and our futures are inextricably linked. Our common fight against poverty, disease and crime is the foundation for regional and bilateral co-operation for growth and development.

The opportunities for building a strong, united region are there. Our strategic position between emerging economic powers in Asia and Latin America and our abundant natural resources lend us a comparative advantage. An effective strategy for sustained regional growth and balanced development will empower us further as a trading bloc.

The fact that the Southern African Development Community has already made great strides in this regard owes much to the influence and contribution of Zimbabwe. Practical progress in establishing regional approaches to infrastructure and the combating of crime, bears powerful witness to the benefits of co-operation.

By playing host to Operation Blue Hungwe, in which the South African National Defence Force participated along with the forces of other SADC countries, Zimbabwe has helped foster an effective mechanism for conflict prevention and resolution in the region and beyond. Our joint efforts with Botswana have shown the potential of regional efforts to promote the entrenchment of democracy and stability.

Ladies and gentlemen;

The early exchange of visits set the ball rolling for increased diplomatic, economic and culture interaction between South Africa and Zimbabwe. The High Commissions that were established shortly afterwards are busy keeping pace with our expanding relations. Today the Consular office of the South African High Commission to Zimbabwe issues the most visas of any of South Africa's diplomatic missions abroad. And we are proud of this.

Trade between our countries continues to flourish. History has decreed that the trade balance is skewed in our favour. But we have it in our power to achieve a more equitable trade relationship, and South Africa is committed to working towards the goal. That is why we reinstated the negotiated preferences on textiles and clothing, as we move carefully towards our shared goal of reducing internal barriers to regional trade.

Our co-operation in the fields of defence, cross border investment initiatives, road transport as well as the ongoing negotiations in many other areas ensure high level visits between Zimbabwe and South Africa constantly. In fact South African Ministers spend so much time in Zimbabwe that I am considering hiring premises in Harare as an alternative venue for our Cabinet meetings.

Mr President,

May our friendship and good relations grow from strength to strength.

Ladies and Gentlemen;

Please rise and raise your glasses in a toast to the continued healthy relations between Zimbabwe and South Africa and to the good health of His Excellency, President Robert Mugabe.

Issued by: Office of the President

Source: South African Government Information Website