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Grußwort von Staatsministerin Maria Böhmer anlässlich des Freedom Days, dem Nationalfeiertag Südafrikas, in der südafrikanischen Botschaft in Berlin

27.04.2016

Chargé d’affaires Brammer,
Excellencies,
Ladies and gentlemen!

It is a great honour and pleasure for me to be celebrating Freedom Day with you, our South African friends, and friends of South Africa!

Freedom Day reminds us of the peaceful transition from the repressive apartheid regime to a democratic society. It reminds us too of the first free elections in South Africa in 1994.

We Germans celebrated the happy end of the long walk to freedom along with Nelson Mandela and all South Africans.

For us freedom is of outstanding importance too. I still have strong memories of the year 1990. It was the year when Nelson Mandela regained freedom. And it was the year when the Berlin wall, which had divided our country for so long, has just fallen.

This year – 2016 – we also recall two particular events on the long walk to freedom:

60 years ago, brave women from all sections of the population and all levels of society protested against discriminating passport laws.

40 years ago, school pupils in Soweto stood up against new rules making the use of Afrikaans compulsory in lessons for all students.

South Africa can be proud of everything what was achieved over the past twenty years. We feel as well about the achievements in Germany.

We have not forgotten the images of that time. The desire for freedom and courage demonstrated by all involved are worthy of the respect of each and every one of us!

Our two countries regard themselves as privileged and strategic partners. This partnership was established in 1996 by Federal Chancellor Kohl and President Mandela.

Our relations are based on shared values and common interests. We are committed to universal human rights, fundamental democratic principles and the peaceful settlement of disputes.

Germany supports South Africa’s endeavours to strengthen regional cooperation not only in southern Africa, but across the whole continent, as well as to develop African solutions for African problems.

We view Africa as a continent with great potential, and we support South Africa in taking on special responsibility.

In this connection the women of South Africa play a key role. I was very impressed by South-Africa´s longstanding Minister Dlamini-Zuma. I met her in 2015 during the G7-Women-Forum at the German Chancellery. We had an intensive exchange.

Miss Mlambo-Ngcuka, who ist the executive director of UN Women and also from South Africa, and myself are united in the joint effort for gender-equality between men and women. We also fight together for the rights of girls and women worldwide.

It is also important that women participate economically. Because only if there is shared and equal responsibility between men and women, societies are sustainable.

South Africa is a key partner for Germany on the African continent, and we are engaged in steady political dialogue.

One example is President Zuma’s visit to Berlin last November.

This year we are looking forward to welcoming our South African partners to Berlin for the ninth meeting of the Binational Commission.

Since its foundation almost 20 years ago, the Binational Commission has proved to be an important trailblazer for closer cooperation between our two countries.

In many fields we work together intensively, for example: foreign and security policy, vocational training and development cooperation, as well as renewable energy and climate protection.

Our economic relations are also developing very positively:more than 600 German companies have a presence in South Africa.

They provide jobs for almost 100,000 South Africans and play a major role when it comes to vocational training, an important area. Last year, our bilateral trade reached a new record high of 15 billion euros.

However, our relationship is about much more than just politics and business: every year, many young Germans travel to South Africa to experience the country as students or volunteers.

Their interest and engagement are expressions of the fascination which South Africa holds for us. And we are glad that more and more South Africans are discovering the delights of Germany!

Today is your day!

It is a day for joy!

So allow me to raise my glass in a toast to the Republic of South Africa and the close partnership and friendship between our two nations!

Thank you very much.

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