MORE THAN A CENTURY IN THE MAKING

Lebanon 2017 | DIPLOMACY | GUEST SPEAKER

Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, Minister of Foreign Affairs of South Africa, on working together with Lebanon to forge broader regional peace, strengthening over century-long ties, and working in tandem with South Africa's sizeable Lebanese diaspora to boost commercial ties between the two.

Maite Nkoana-Mashabane
BIOGRAPHY
Maite Nkoana-Mashabane was born in Makgoebaskloof and grew up in the village of Ga-Makanye in the Limpopo province. During the 1980s, she was an active member of the United Democratic Front and served in various structures of the Mass Democratic Movement and the African National Congress’ (ANC) underground structures. Nkoana-Mashabane was elected as a Member of Parliament from 1994 to 1995. In 1995, she was appointed High Commissioner to Malaysia, also servicing the Philippines and Brunei (1995 to 1999). As South Africa’s Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, she leads one of the largest contingents of diplomats, with 125 diplomatic missions in 107 countries across the world.

The government of South Africa attaches great importance to the ties that have been built between our country and the Republic of Lebanon, and we look forward to enhancing our relations further. Once again, I convey my government's congratulations for the manner in which the Lebanese nation addressed the question of leadership, resulting in the current democratic dispensation. The election of President Michel Aoun and the installation of Prime Minister Hariri symbolize a historic transition. We hope that this new era will enable us to take our relations to a higher and more fruitful level.

South Africa enjoys friendly diplomatic relations with Lebanon. An important element is the sizeable community of South Africans of Lebanese origin (estimated at 30,000), the first of which date to more than a century ago. The Conference of the Lebanese Diaspora Energy (LDE), African Chapter, presented an opportunity for us to meet with the objective of strengthening bilateral political and economic relations between South Africa and Lebanon.

The LDE Conference brought together some of the most prominent business leaders from Lebanon, who have witnessed the growing importance of Africa in advancing trade and investment with our continent and here in South Africa. We hope this conference will further strengthen the economic ties between our countries and, by extension, Lebanon's relations with our Southern Africa regional partners, as well as the entire African continent. This is in line with our foreign policy priorities, which place the African continent at the center of our international relations program. I recently returned from a successful African Union Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where we had the opportunity to discuss our continent's political and economic realities.
South Africa and Lebanon share common positions on the Middle East peace process. We both support the two-state solution—we support the inalienable right of Palestinians to a sovereign homeland, and are strongly opposed to the continued settlement expansion being pursued by the government of Israel.

My government is also focused on enhancing our understanding of the current developments in Lebanon and the broader region, particularly insofar as it relates to the political, socio-economic, and security challenges confronting Lebanon and the region. We have used our bilateral discussions to identify and strengthen areas of potential cooperation between our countries, particularly in regards to increasing trade, tourism, and investment relations, and possible joint action between South Africa and Lebanon.

It is in this regard that we agreed to facilitate the finalization of the following draft agreements: an MoU on bilateral consultation/cooperation; an MoU on economy and trade cooperation; a finance cooperation agreement on the avoidance of double taxation and the protection of investment; a bilateral air services agreement; a tourism cooperation agreement; a judicial services cooperation agreement; and an agreement on the abolishment of visas (diplomatic, special, and service passports).

We already have a growing Lebanese business community active in our economy in communications, agriculture, cement production, property development, and construction. I am certain that we will continue to strengthen our ties and further explore new areas of cooperation.