Under the auspices of Russia’s Foreign Affairs Ministry, an exhibition dedicated to the 25th anniversary of establishing diplomatic relations between Russia and South Africa, which attracted government officials, academics, policy experts and cultural activists, was held in March in Moscow.
In her speech, South African Ambassador to the Russian Federation, Ms. Nomasonto Maria Sibanda Thusi, reiterated that the Republic of South Africa and the Russian Federation have an excellent relationship dating back many years ago when the former USSR supported our people fighting for the liberation of South Africa.
According to Sibanda Thusi, Relations between South Africa and Russia are based on historical connection as many people were hosted, studied and trained during the liberation struggle. The hospitality of Russians have left an impressive mark on the minds of many South Africans who continue to have high regard for present day Russia.
Worthy to say that bilateral relations grew into a strategic partnership through the declaration of principles on friendly relations and partnership, which was signed in 1999, and have become legal instruments and mechanism for these.
It grew from strength to strength especially within the inter-governmental committee on trade and economic cooperation structure that was revived in 2002. It is within this context bilateral cooperation has grown to focus on key areas such as mineral exploration, South Africa’s energy challenges, skills development through party funded scholarships, research and development as well as trade and economic cooperation.
The establishment of South Africa – Russia Business Council further reinforces the efforts to strengthen economic and trade relations between the two countries.
Thus currently there are 41 agreements signed between the two countries with more still under negotiation including the MOU on agriculture, fisheries and on trade. It is the considered view of the government of South Africa that the 15th session of inter-governmental committee on trade and economic cooperation planned this year, these agreements could also be finalized and signed.
The exhibition provides a fairly complete picture of diplomatic relations dating much further back to the history when the Soviet Union provided support to the struggle against apartheid and to the African National Congress. In the most recent historical period, relations have been based on the solid foundation laid during that historical process.
Of great importance is the current relations. Thus the documents presented at the exhibition also included the Joint Declaration of President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin and President of South Africa Jacob Zuma, which enshrines the status of both countries’ relations as a strategic partnership.
There was another exhibition of photographs by Russian Ambassador to South Africa Mikhail Petrakov. These photos complement the official exhibition and reveal the stunning nature of South Africa which fascinates many.
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov noted in a speech at the opening ceremony the role that the outstanding statesman and public figure of modern times Nelson Mandela played in promoting our relations. His contribution cannot be overestimated. He also note that presidents Thabo Mbeki and Jacob Zuma, along with their governments and ministers, have advanced diplomatic cooperation on the basis of the principles laid down by Mandela.
“We have a fairly diversified cooperation mechanism, including the Mixed Intergovernmental Committee on Trade and Economic Cooperation, the Russia-South Africa Business Council, which includes businessmen of the two states, the Joint Intergovernmental Commission for Military-Technical Cooperation, and the Joint Commission on Scientific and Technical Cooperation,” Lavrov told the gathering.
The ties and contacts between parliaments and regions of Russia and South Africa are strong and regular. “I would like to specifically highlight our interaction in modern ground-breaking industries which underpin scientific and technological progress, primarily, in the nuclear power engineering,” he pointed out.
Lavrov added: “We have signed a corresponding intergovernmental agreement on strategic partnership and cooperation in the sphere of nuclear energy and industry. In addition, Roscosmos and the South African National Space Agency have established cooperation. They have already developed specific projects in South Africa, and materials related to these projects can be seen at the exhibition.”
Lavrov said he was convinced that Russia and South Africa will be even closer and more regular after the Protocol between the Government of the Russian Federation and the Government of the Republic of South Africa on mutual abolition of visa requirements for holders of foreign passports enters into force on March 30.
The Protocol between the Government of the Russian Federation and the Government of the Republic of South Africa on the reciprocal repeal of visa requirements for foreign travel passports, that was concluded by an exchange of official documents, starting from March 30.
Under the Protocol’s provisions, citizens of Russia and South Africa traveling without the intention of working, studying or living in the other country’s territory, are free from visa requirements and can enter, stay or transit without a visa for a duration of up to 90 days. Currently, Russia and South Africa are both members of BRICS.