Speech by Minister Paul Mashatile on occasion of the signing of a cultural agreement between South Africa and Ethiopia

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08 May 2013

We thank the people of this great nation for receiving us warmly since our arrival here, early this week.

We are here to strengthen the already cordial relations between our countries.

We are here, once again, to extend a hand of friendship and solidarity to a brave people who have done so much to help liberate not only my country, South Africa, but many parts of our Continent.
As we in South Africa prepare to celebrate 20 years of freedom and democracy, next year in 2014, we remember our friends, who offered us hope during our hour of darkness.

Indeed we count the great sister people of Ethiopia among those who stood by us in defence of freedom and justice. This you did at an enormous cost to the security of your country and its people.
We specifically recall that the founding father of our democratic nation, President Nelson Mandela, spent time in your country in the 1960’s and received critical training that prepared him to be the Commander in Chief of Umkhonto Wesizwe; our people’s army.

Many other cadres of Umkhonto Wesizwe also received training here in Ethiopia.

As a country, we equally acknowledge the role played by Ethiopia in consolidating the unity and the integration of the African continent through the African Union.

This role is particularly significant as this year, will mark the 50th Anniversary of the establishment of that heroic organisation; the Organisation of African Unity.

We also acknowledge that Ethiopia is one of Africa's fastest growing economies.

To us this is an important development. It indicates that Africa is the Continent of the future and that it has indeed turned the corner.

Only yesterday we had the opportunity to be part of the important ceremony marking Lucy’s homecoming.

This event demonstrated this country’s and Africa’s contribution to the development of humankind.

It proved, once again, that Africa is the cradle of humankind. It reminded us that as humanity we share a common ancestory and therefore our destiny is one.

Programme Director, over the years, the government of South Africa has engaged the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia on issues of arts, culture and heritage.

This engagement began with the reciprocal fact finding visits between our two countries in 2005, 2006 and 2008.

In July 2006, we sent young people from each of our nine provinces on a cultural exchange programme; focusing on art (mainly painting and sculpting) with an acclaimed Ethiopian artist, Captain Lemma Guya of the Africa Art Museum.

We also partnered with the Embassy of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, to celebrate the Ethiopian Millennium in South Africa in August of 2008.

In 2011, we had the honour of being invited to the celebrations of the Ethiopian National Day in Tshwane.

Today by signing this cultural agreement we are building on the work we have already done to strengthen people to people contact.

We are cementing further our bonds of friendship and solidarity.

Flowing from this agreement, we have already committed ourselves, working together with the government of Ethiopia, to refurbish the place at the Kolfe Barracks where President Mandela stayed and received his military training.

It is our intention to preserve the place as heritage site, build a museum and an interpretation centre.

The site will stand as a living monument in honour of the contribution the people of Ethiopia made to the South African struggle for liberation.

We will also explore possibilities for mutually beneficial partnerships with the Addis Ababa University to facilitate skills transfer between artists from our two countries.

This we believe will help us as we are in the process of establishing a National Skills Academy for the Creative Industries.

Equally, we will continue to work together to ensure the viability of the African World Heritage Fund, as an African institution geared towards the preservation and promotion of Africa’s World Heritage sites.

I take this opportunity to invite you, my colleague and friend, the Honourable Minister of Culture; Minister Abdulkedir, to visit my country at your earliest convenience.

Let the relations between our two countries grow from strength to strength!

Thank you.