Address by President Nelson Mandela at State Banquet in honour of President Eduoardo Frei of Chile, Pretoria

12 November 1998

President Frei and Mrs Frei;
Your Excellencies;
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is indeed a distinct privilege and a great honour to welcome you and your delegation to our country. This first official visit by a democratically-elected Chilean Head of State to a democratic South Africa is cause for celebration.

It evokes the affinities of our countries and our continents, shaped by common historical experience and shared aspirations for freedom and dignity. It affirms our joint determination to strengthen ties in order to advance the development of our peoples.

Chile and South Africa both face the challenge of overcoming a legacy of underdevelopment within a globalised world economy. We do so as peoples for whom the memory of oppression and repression is still fresh and painful, and who know that the process of dealing with such a past is a long and difficult one.

It is therefore only to be expected that South Africans and Chileans should take especial interest in one another's experience.

When a newly-liberated South Africa sought ways of dealing with the wounds created by the inhumanities spawned by apartheid, we drew upon Chile as a guide to establishing our Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Chile's impressive growth rate is an encouragement to us all as we strive for sustained growth under the difficult circumstances of integration in an international economic system from which the imbalances and disparities of the past still need to be removed.

The numerous South African delegations and study groups visiting Chile testify to our eagerness to learn from you, in these matters and others such as land reform, banking, telecommunications and transport.

Our two countries have also learnt the lesson of an era of increasing interdependence, that the problems we face are beyond the capacity of any one of us to solve on our own.

Our shared membership of the Valdivia Group and the Antarctic Treaty gives expression to our recognition that the protection of our environment requires joint action. Our commitment to SADC and MERCOSUR, and our increasing engagement in multilateral organisations, lends strength to our determination to give effective voice to our regions as part of the developing world, and at the same time to seek effective partnership for development with the industrialised nations.

Within this context, we can only draw mutual benefit from cementing our growing ties and together exploiting what we share.

The South African government therefore actively promotes the expansion of our economic ties.

The fact that South Africa is currently the third largest foreign investor in Chile's mining sector measures the extent to which economic linkages and exchange of technology have already been established. The recent growth in tourism between us points to opportunities that will not only enhance growth but also promote understanding between our peoples.

There is tremendous potential for expanding and diversifying these links. The agreements between our countries that were signed today will give an impetus to this process.

As countries actively integrated in the affairs of our regions and our continents, growing links between South Africa and Chile will not only impact on ourselves but also more widely.

Southern Africa's strategic location between Latin America on the one hand and South and South-East Asia on the other, will add still further to the value and significance of stronger relations between Chile and South Africa, as bricks in the edifice of South-South co-operation.

Indeed, Mr President, the fact that you are proceeding from our country to Malaysia gives practical illustration to the growing role of the southern tip of Africa as a bridge between your continent and Asia.

Your visit will help deepen the mutually supportive relations between our countries that have grown so rapidly in the few short years of our freedom. I have no doubt that during your stay in South Africa you will experience the warmth of our people towards you as the representative of the Chilean people.

Ladies and Gentlemen; I ask you to rise and join me in a toast to President Frei and to the flourishing of relations between the peoples of Chile and South Africa.

Issued by: Office of the President

Source: Nelson Mandela Foundation