South Africa & Việt Nam: working to turn potential into reality

April 27, 2023 - 07:57
South African Ambassador Vuyiswa Tulelo writes to Việt Nam News on the country's Freedom Day April 27.

South African Ambassador Vuyiswa Tulelo writes to Việt Nam News on the country's Freedom Day on April 27.

On 27 April 2023, South Africa celebrates its 29th Freedom Day, and at the same time will mark the 30th anniversary of diplomatic relations between South Africa and Việt Nam.

Twenty-nine years ago, South Africans of all races stood together patiently in long, winding queues to vote for the first time in our country’s turbulent history in free, democratic, non-racial elections.

In their tens of millions, South Africans rejected the oppressive and racist Apartheid system and united behind the ideal of creating a democratic, non-racial, non-sexist, united and prosperous society based on justice, equality, the rule of law and the inalienable human rights of all.

This year, we celebrate our National Freedom Month under the theme: “Consolidating and Safeguarding Democratic Gains”. The objective of this year’s Freedom Month celebrations is to increase understanding of our history and the development of our democracy, as well as to celebrate South Africa’s struggle icons from all walks of life.

Later this year, in December, we will commemorate ten years since the death of one of the greatest of these icons, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela.

South African Ambassador Vuyiswa Tulelo (left) and Bùi Quang Huy, First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Hồ Chí Minh Communist Youth Union on November 28, 2022. — Photo Courtesy of the embassy

We take pride that South Africa has transformed from an apartheid state into a democratic one, and that the values of human dignity, non-racialism and non-sexism, and the rule of law remain paramount in our nation.

While we celebrate these and other achievements of our democracy, we also know that much remains to be done to fulfil the potential that shone with so much promise in 1994.

  • We need to work harder and smarter to address the triple threat of poverty, inequality and unemployment.
  • We must work to create a nation that has equal opportunities across all areas of society.
  • We must also do more to create a society in which all our citizens feel safe and secure, but in particular our women and children feel safe and fully enjoy their rights and freedoms as guaranteed in the Constitution.

We are delighted to avail ourselves of our Freedom Day to also mark the 30th anniversary of diplomatic relations between South African and Việt Nam.

The ties of friendship and solidarity between our peoples long precede the formalisation of diplomatic relations between our countries. In fact, it was at the Asia-Africa Conference in Bandung in 1955 where the seeds of the ties between the South African liberation movement and Việt Nam were sown. These bonds persisted throughout the bitter years of the struggles against racial discrimination in South Africa, and against imperialism in Việt Nam.

The Communist Party of Việt Nam (CPV) and the then exiled African National Congress (ANC) had very close relations. In 1978, the Government of Việt Nam invited an ANC delegation led by its President, the late Oliver Reginald Tambo, to visit Việt Nam. Among other things, the ANC delegation sought to learn from the Vietnamese experience in their struggle for independence from French colonial domination and US occupation. After the visit, the ANC compiled a report that became known as the “Green Book” emphasising the importance for the ANC to mobilise the masses in a “people’s war” to confront the apartheid government.

It was only when South Africa was well on its road to transitioning to a new democratic and non-racial state that formal diplomatic relations were established on December 22, 1993.

Participants at the seminar on Vietnamese and South African Women in Leadership and International Integration in Hà Nội, on August 30, 2022. — Photo Courtesy of the embassy

The three decades following the establishment of formal diplomatic relations have seen the conclusion of a number of bilateral legal instruments and mechanisms aimed at facilitating cooperation in important areas of mutual interest. Numerous high-level visits have also taken place between the two countries, all of which was rudely interrupted by the global COVID-19 epidemic.

This is the context to marking the 30th anniversary of diplomatic relations. In collaboration with a number of partners, the Embassy will implement a year-long programme of events, on the one hand to mark and celebrate this milestone, and on the other, importantly, to provide renewed impetus to our bilateral relations.

President Cyril Ramaphosa said it well in his letter congratulating HE Mr. Võ Văn Thưởng on acceding to the high office of President of the Socialist Republic of Việt Nam. “This year, as we commemorate the 30th Anniversary of diplomatic relations between our two countries, we should endeavour to further consolidate our resilient partnership across various areas, including in the fields of trade and investment.”

South Africa and Việt Nam stand ready to fully utilise the potential that exists between our countries to derive concrete benefits for both our peoples. — VNS