Pretoria – President Cyril Ramaphosa on Thursday received letters of credence from 17 incoming ambassadors and high commissioners-designate who have been assigned to their diplomatic missions in South Africa, and heard their aspirations for ties between the countries .
Due to the raging Covid-19 pandemic, Ramaphosa had not had the opportunity to personally meet the top diplomats who were assigned to South Africa this year, a landmark event on the diplomatic calendar.
However, on Thursday, a low-key event to do just that was hosted at the Sefako Makgatho Presidential Guest House in Pretoria, where physical distancing was observed and hands were regularly sanitised.
Newly appointed Chinese ambassador to South Africa Chen Xiaodong, accompanied by his wife Zhang Bin, applauded Pretoria’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, expressed confidence in the Pretoria government and conveyed a message of support from Chinese President Xi Jinping to Ramaphosa, including well wishes for his birthday earlier this week.
“Last month you announced a robust initiative, your economic reconstruction and recovery plan. China also announced our 14th five-year plan and a wide range of objectives towards the year 2035,” said the ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary to South Africa, who arrived in September.
“We believe our two countries can take this opportunity to better connect our economic strategy and deepen our co-operation in many areas. China is also willing to strengthen co-operation in regional and international affairs, including in the G20, the BRICS and the United Nations.”
Representing the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, Ambassador Loi Van Hoang, accompanied by his wife Luong Thi Thu Ha, said Pretoria and Hanoi must continue the relationship of friendship, solidarity and comprehensive co-operation that was forged and contemplated by the late president Nelson Mandela and president Ho Chi-Minh.
“It is my great honour to be designated as the ambassador of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam to the Republic of South Africa – a very beautiful country, full of potential and which plays a very important and proactive role in the region and the world at large,” said Hoang.
Representing the Islamic Republic of Iran, the oil-rich Middle East nation’s former assistant minister of African affairs, Ambassador Mahdi Aghajafari, also officially met Ramaphosa and presented his letters of credence from Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.
Aghajafari expressed Iran’s “sincere gratitude and appreciation for South Africa’s valuable support of the Islamic Republic of Iran in the international domain, especially in the UN Security Council”.
He said the strong ties between Iran and South Africa were more than bilateral relations and there existed “a deep emotional link” between the two countries.
“Major Iranian companies are willing to invest in your country’s infrastructure projects in various fields, including electricity, energy and refineries,” added Aghajafari.
The Arab Republic of Egypt’s new ambassador, Ahmed Taher Elfadly, said he has fond memories of South Africa after spending part of his honeymoon in the country with his spouse several years ago.
He remarked on the warm relations between President Abdel Fattah El Sisi and Ramaphosa and looked forward to creating "a strategic and sustainable relationship at all levels and all fields“.
“There are opportunities to be seized and challenges to be overcome, with your guidance and support, Mr President,” said Elfadly, adding that “people-to-people relations are important”.
"A few days after my arrival I saw coach Pitso Mosimane off to Cairo to join Al Ahly Club. He now has the support of 60 million Egyptian fans of Al Ahly through his good work. Through my work here, Mr President, I wish to earn the trust and support of 60 million South Africans,” he added.
For the Republic of Botswana, High Commissioner Claurinah Tshenolo Modise said she was under “strict instructions” from President Mokgweetsi Masisi "to do nothing but to consolidate and even deepen relations” between the two countries.
For the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire, Ambassador Sakaria Kone, accompanied by his wife Merriam, conveyed gratitude from President Alassane Ouattara.
“Your Excellency (Ramaphosa), Côte d’Ivoire is ready, and Côte d’Ivoire is open for business. President Ouattara wants to convey that message to you,” said Kone.
Earlier this month, the Ivorian electoral commission provisionally announced that Ouattara had won a third term in office with 94.27% of the October 31 vote.
Pretoria hosts one of the highest number of foreign diplomatic missions in the world, with more than 137 embassies and high commissions.
African News Agency (ANA)