By Embassy of the Russian Federation in the Republic of South Africa.
This year Russia and South Africa celebrate an important anniversary, as on 28 February 1992 our countries established diplomatic relations. We would like to congratulate our South African friends on this occasion – for thirty years our countries have been walking together on the path of mutual understanding, respect and friendship.
Traditionally friendly ties between our countries date back to the times of struggle against the apartheid regime. The trust and people-to-people ties we have forged back then grow stronger as years pass. We can say with confidence that this served as a basis for our relations – our people have never been indifferent to the fates of one another. Many prominent ANC members, stalwarts of revolution such as Josiah Gumede, Moses Kotane and John Beaver Marks visited the Soviet Union in the 1920-1930s. This line of interaction between our peoples continued well into 1960’s and 1980s when the USSR rendered assistance to liberation movements that fought against the apartheid, first and foremost – to South African Communist Party and ANC. The Soviet Union provided humanitarian, financial, organizational support, as well as training for military and civilian specialists among the black population of South Africa. Meanwhile the Soviet diplomacy worked tirelessly to attract the international community’s attention to the anti-human nature of the regime of racial segregation. Such resolve was fully supported by the common citizens of the Soviet Union, who experienced the horrors of Nazis’ wicked racial theories themselves.
We in Russia are honoured with the fact that South Africans cherish the memory of those Soviet citizens who sacrificed their lives to assist the liberation struggle in the region of Southern Africa, including the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa. The Russian section of the Wall of Names with the names of 67 Soviet military specialists was solemnly unveiled on 13 December 2018 in Freedom Park, heritage memorial complex in Pretoria. This day is now rightfully one of the commemorative dates in the calendar of Russian-South African bilateral relations. Russia also preserves the memory of our common history. In 2015, the ashes of Moses Kotane and John Beaver Marks, who had been buried in Moscow in the 1970s, were given to the South African side for reinterment; their cenotaphs are being kept at the cemetery as a memorial. Beside that, the Russian side is working with the government of Moscow on giving one of the city’s administrative and territorial unit (a street or a square) the name of Nelson Mandela in light of the personal input of South Africa’s first democratically elected President in fight against apartheid regime as well as colonial yoke over African continent as a whole.
Today the ties between our countries are based on two fundamental bilateral treaties: Treaty on Friendship and Partnership 2006 and Joint Declaration on the Establishment of a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership 2013. As of today, the legal framework of Russian-South African relations includes over 80 treaties in various areas of cooperation. Interesting fact: South Africa became the first country of the Sub-Saharan region to be visited by the head of the Russian state. President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin visited SA in 2006, when he and the President of the Republic of South Africa signed the Treaty on Friendship and Partnership mentioned above.
Another dimension of our cooperation at the political level that is worth mentioning is the parliamentary and intergovernmental interaction. The United Russia and the African National Congress are maintaining steady party-to-party ties. The representatives of both lower and upper chambers of the SA Parliament took part in observing the 2021 legislative elections in Russia. As for intergovernmental interaction, we are actively cooperating on a wide range of issues such as education, science, sports and preservation of historical memory. A series of mechanisms of intergovernmental cooperation have been established, including the Intergovernmental Committee on Trade and Economic Cooperation (ITEC).
Our trade and economic cooperation are also developing steadily. A number of major Russian companies, such as “Renova”, “Kaspersky”, “Severstal” or “Transmashholding” are operating in South Africa. In their turn, “Naspers”, “SABMiller” and “Mondi” are working actively in Russia. According to Russian statistics, the total turnover after 3 quarters of 2021 reached 1,04 billion USD. The trade between our countries shows positive dynamics, and in this area, we still have vast opportunities to explore.
Russia and South Africa successfully cooperate in the international arena within the framework of various international fora such as the UN, G20 and, of course, BRICS, since 2010 when South Africa joined this association. Our two countries, as well as other BRICS partners, steadily develop mutually beneficial cooperation in all three major tracks: politics and security, economy and finances, humanitarian area. Russia attaches great importance to joint work within BRICS, as today it is one of the world’s leading associations promoting a more just world order based on the principles of adherence to international law, non-interference in domestic affairs, mutual respect and understanding. We see South Africa as the African continent’s voice in BRICS – a platform that unites three continents in total: Eurasia, Africa and South America, as well as over 40% of the world population. In the upcoming year of 2023, South Africa will attain BRICS Chairmanship. We have no doubt that the anniversary XV BRICS Summit as well as other events under the aegis of BRICS will be a success.
In 2019 the first Russia-Africa Summit was held in Sochi. We are delighted to say that our South African friends expressed interest in and support for this initiative. President of South Africa Cyril Ramaphosa attended the Summit where he held talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin. We see this Summit as a platform to turn a new page in Russia’s relations with the African continent. We are confident that together with South Africa, as well as other African nations, we will be able to make that page in history truly glorious. We in Russia are committed to achieving that goal with the second Russia-Africa Summit that is scheduled for 2022.
We would like to congratulate our South African friends once again on the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Russia and South Africa. We wish you peace, happiness and prosperity. With the rich history of bilateral ties that we already have, we are ready to expand this legacy further, explore new ways and areas of cooperation for the benefit of our nations. Let the 30th anniversary become a new impulse for our relations that will bring us to new achievements that will benefit the peoples of our two countries.