Press Releases

Press Releases

AFRICA DAY 2024

 

In South Africa, the celebrations coincide with the commemoration of 30 Years of Freedom, celebrated under the theme, “Celebrating 30 Years of Freedom: Building a Better Africa and a Better World’’.

In South Africa an Africa Day event will be held on Sunday, 26 May 2024, at Vilakazi Street Soweto, Gauteng.     

The Africa Day commemoration is a moment for the continent to pause, reflect, and celebrate the unique African identity and cultural expression. The day is also an opportunity to promote African unity, deeper regional integration, and recommitting Africa to a common destiny. The African Union (AU) dedicated the 2024 Africa Day towards accelerating the implementation of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area, and promoting programmes that support the International Decade of Indigenous Languages as declared by UNESCO.           

 

 

FROM THE DESK OF THE PRESIDENT - 20 MAY 2024

 

One step closer to affordable quality health care for all

Dear Fellow South African,

Last week I signed the National Health Insurance Act in to law, bringing our country one step closer towards universal health coverage. This is a milestone in our quest to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal of good health and well-being for all.

For many years, we have had parallel healthcare systems operating in our country. The majority of the population, some 84%, uses public health facilities, while 16% are covered by medical schemes, enabling them to access private health care facilities. A small percentage of people use both.

This has perpetuated inequality, with the quality of health care one receives being determined by one’s ability to pay. This runs contrary to our aspiration to be a society that is just and equal.

While achieving social justice is a key objective of National Health Insurance (NHI), efficiency and better resource allocation are equally important. We have said that the real challenge in implementing NHI lies not in the lack of funds but in the misallocation of resources that currently favour the private health sector at the expense of public health needs.

There is a misconception that the private health care sector operates and is funded completely independently of government.

Firstly, the training of doctors, nurses and other healthcare personnel that work in both the public and private sectors is subsidised by the state. Secondly, as an employer, the state pays billions of rands annually in subsidies for employees who are members of the various public sector medical aid schemes. Thirdly, taxpayers claim tax rebates for medical aid expenses amounting to approximately R37 billion. This is the money the state should earn in taxes which it foregoes to subsidise private health care.

We therefore have a situation where the state both directly and indirectly helps to fund a private health care sector that serves only a minority of society.

Access to private health care through medical aids is also costly for users. It is said that without the tax rebate private healthcare would not be affordable to the majority of users. Medical aid contributions are increasing faster than inflation. At the same time, benefits are being reduced. As the 2016 Healthcare Market Inquiry found, private healthcare services and medical scheme cover is frequently over-used without clear improvements in health outcomes.

The resources that are spent both by the state and private individuals can therefore be more efficiently used to build a single, unitary health care system that serves all.

Some people have claimed that the NHI will signal the end of private health care. To the contrary, the NHI aims to use the respective strengths and capabilities of both the private and public health sectors to build a single, quality health system for all.

South Africa’s private health sector has world-class expertise and is a major source of domestic and foreign investment. The public sector too has numerous centres of excellence and is staffed by well-trained, experienced personnel.

The NHI Fund will procure services from accredited public and private service providers for every person in need of health care.

The NHI will be a lifeline for millions of poor South Africans whose resources will be freed up for other essential needs. It will also alleviate the burden on those who are increasingly paying more in medical aid premiums for increasingly fewer services.

There may be different views on how NHI will be progressively implemented, the reality we must confront is that the current health care system is unsustainable.

Access to quality, decent healthcare should not depend on one’s ability to pay. The current situation does not serve the poor, does not serve the middle-class and does not serve the country.

With careful planning, effective oversight and monitoring, and the strategic allocation of resources we can achieve universal health coverage. Working together in partnership, as both the public and private sectors, we can make the dream of quality health care for all a reality.

With best regards,

Signature

 

FROM THE DESK OF THE PRESIDENT - 13 MAY 2024

 

Reduced load shedding shows that our collective efforts are working

Dear Fellow South African,

As of today, the country will have had no load shedding for over a month and a half. This welcome development shows that the Energy Action Plan we announced in 2022 is working.

It is too early to say that load shedding has been brought to an end. However, the sustained improvement in the performance of Eskom’s power stations – as well as the new generation capacity we have added to our energy system – gives us hope that the end of load shedding is in sight.

A renewed focus by Eskom on maintenance and the return to service of several units is now showing results. Losses due to unplanned outages have reduced by 9% between April 2023 and March 2024, adding the equivalent of 4,400MW of capacity to our national grid.

Better maintained and more reliable power stations have increased the country’s Energy Availability Factor (EAF), which is the amount of electricity available from our power stations at any given time. The EAF has been above 60% since April, compared to 53% over the same period last year.

Through dedicated support from our law enforcement agencies and the National Prosecuting Authority, great strides are being made in rooting out corruption at Eskom. Work is continuing in disrupting criminal syndicates and protecting our power stations from sabotage.

The leadership, management and staff of Eskom, particularly the power station general managers and their teams, are to be commended for their efforts. The work of the National Energy Crisis Committee, which coordinates the response across government, has also been vital. The strong partnership with business and the support of other social partners has enabled the deployment of valuable resources and expertise.

The stabilisation in the availability of electricity and reduction in breakdowns signal a real trend in improved plant performance.

Yet, against all the available evidence, some people have claimed that the reduced load shedding is a political ploy ahead of the elections. Some have speculated that there is less load shedding because Eskom is using the diesel-fuelled peaking plants to ‘keep the lights on’ in the run-up to the elections.

This is not borne out by the facts. Eskom is actually using these peaking plants at a much lower rate than the last two years. For example, last month Eskom spent more than half as much on diesel as it did in April 2023.

Another key factor driving the reduction in load shedding is our success in adding new generation capacity, mostly from renewable energy sources.

Removing the licensing threshold for new power generation projects has led to significant private investment in the energy sector. There is now a pipeline of more than 130 private energy projects, representing over 22,500 MW of new capacity, some of which are already starting to connect to the grid.

As a result of the tax incentives and financing options we introduced for businesses and households, by November last year the capacity of rooftop solar had reached over 5,000MW, more than doubling in just twelve months. This has helped to alleviate pressure on the national grid.

More bid windows have been released for new capacity from solar, wind, gas and battery storage, with more than 10,000 MW currently in procurement through public programmes.

Load shedding has been reduced due to a combination of all of these measures: fixing Eskom, unlocking private investment in energy generation, accelerating the procurement of new capacity and supporting rooftop solar.

While we have made progress in addressing the current crisis, we have also put our country on a clear path towards a reliable, affordable and sustainable supply of energy. We have embarked on fundamental reforms to the energy sector that will ensure we don’t experience load shedding in the future.

The Electricity Regulation Amendment Bill, which we tabled in Parliament last year, will establish a competitive energy market in South Africa for the first time. This will encourage investment and bring down electricity prices. We are also expanding our transmission network to accommodate renewable energy in provinces like the Northern Cape, with a plan to build over 14,000 km of new transmission lines across the country.

Just as we note this progress, we must be clear that we are not out of the woods yet. The risk of load shedding remains. We must therefore all continue to play our part by using electricity sparingly and paying for the electricity that we use.

What we can say for sure is that our plan is working. We are determined to stay the course and to continue this work until the energy crisis is brought to an end once and for all.

With best regards,

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FROM THE DESK OF THE PRESIDENT - 6 MAY 2024

South Africa is an increasingly attractive investment destination

Dear Fellow South African,

Last year was a milestone for the country’s flourishing vehicle manufacturers, when the six millionth vehicle built in South Africa was exported. It was also a record year for new vehicle exports, reaching nearly 400,000 vehicles.

These figures are significant for a number of reasons. They show that our auto sector continues to grow despite a gloomy global economic outlook and disruptions to the flow of goods between countries.

The growth of the automotive sector also demonstrates the potential of South Africa as an investment destination. It is a good example of how committed investors, supported by government policies and programmes, can achieve good returns for their shareholders while contributing significantly to the South African economy.

A number of the world’s leading auto manufacturers like BMW, Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz, General Motors, Ford, Toyota, Nissan and others continue to expand their presence in the country with increased investment.

By way of example, Volkswagen last month announced a R4 billion investment to expand its Kariega plant in the Eastern Cape in preparation for the production of a new vehicle model expected to roll off the assembly line in 2027. This investment is expected to secure the livelihoods of approximately 3,500 workers and support an additional estimated 50,000 indirect jobs and opportunities.

South Africa’s value as an investment destination extends across many other industries, as local and international companies continue to either expand their investments or undertake new investments. Investment is important because, among other things, it creates employment, supports the growth of emerging suppliers, generates revenue for the country, and, in doing so, supports our efforts to reduce poverty and inequality.

According to a recent report by PwC, net foreign direct investment (FDI) into South Africa has been consistently positive since the global financial crisis of 2007 to 2009. This means that the inflow of investment has been greater than the outflow.

Last year, FDI inflows amounted to R96.5 billion, equivalent to 1.4 per cent of our gross domestic product (GDP). This supports a trend where foreign direct investment has, on average, been far greater over the last five years than over the previous decade.

The manufacturing sector is the largest destination of foreign investment, followed by mining and quarrying and financial services. This shows the progress we have made in entrenching supportive industrial policy.

The PwC report notes that South Africa has attractive fundamentals, such as world-class financial services and communications industries, deep capital markets, abundant natural resources and a transparent legal system. Furthermore, South Africa is “a strategic geographical location for entry into the rest of sub-Saharan Africa.”

South Africa is a stable democracy with robust institutions. We have good relations with countries on our own continent and across the world, and favourable trade relations with a number of large markets. Our tertiary institutions produce skilled graduates and useful research.

Since this administration took office, we have held five well-attended Investment Conferences that have attracted R1.5 trillion in investment commitments across a broad range of economic sectors.

Over one-third of these pledges have translated into job creating businesses and business expansions in renewable energy, mining, packaging, automotive, retail, manufacturing, transportation and other sectors.

While there is a broadly positive attitude towards South Africa among investors, our FDI as a percentage of GDP is slightly lower than the global average. It needs to be much higher if we are to drive sustainable growth.

That is why we continue to work to implement our policies and align regulatory and other obstacles, so that we can attract higher levels of investment. Through the auction of broadband spectrum and progress in digital migration, for example, we have greatly expanded opportunities in telecommunications.

We have significantly reduced waiting times for water use licences and other authorisations that are so important for getting major investment projects off the ground. We are working to get rid of other forms of red tape that impede and slow down investment.

Electricity has been a major challenge to our people and the economy at large. Through our Energy Action Plan, we have made much progress in dealing with the country’s electricity crisis. We have seen an improvement in the performance of Eskom’s power stations and substantial investment in new generation capacity. This has contributed to a sustained decrease in the severity of load shedding.

The work we are doing with business, labour and other social partners in improving the efficiency of our ports and rail infrastructure is also starting to bear fruit. Further progress in these areas will increase the country’s competitiveness and attractiveness as an investment destination.

We have invested a lot of effort into improving our capacity to plan, package and finance major infrastructure projects, creating new investment opportunities in energy, housing, logistics, manufacturing and other areas.

We will continue to build on the gains that we have made towards creating an enabling business and investment climate that promotes economic growth and creates jobs.

It is only through attracting higher levels of investment, both foreign and domestic, that a swift, sustainable economic recovery can be assured.

With best regards,

Signature

 

FROM THE DESK OF THE PRESIDENT - 29 APRIL 2024

Through democratic change, South Africans are reclaiming their dignity

Dear Fellow South African,  

On this past Saturday, 27 April 2024, South Africa celebrated the 30th anniversary of the country’s first democratic elections. It was the day that changed our country forever.

It was the day on which the country turned its back on apartheid. Beyond the great wrong that was apartheid, it was a system designed to deny people their dignity.

This national humiliation and degradation ranged from bureaucratic pettiness like whites-only benches, restaurants and beaches, to the brute force that saw families torn apart and forcibly moved from their houses and land. People were tortured, imprisoned, exiled and killed. The so-called solution of ‘separate development’ resulted in nothing but underdevelopment for the country’s majority 

As President Nelson Mandela once said, in the system of apartheid, both the oppressed and the oppressor alike are robbed of their humanity. 

That is why the task of national reconciliation we embarked on in 1994 was as much about liberating white South Africans from the shackles of prejudice and fear as it was about freeing black South Africans from the indignity of apartheid. 

As we continuously strive towards nationhood, it is critical that all South Africans, be they white, black, Indian and coloured, remain part of this journey. 

This becomes all the more important at times of difficulty, when there is a temptation to retreat into laagers of ethnicity and race. For the sake of national unity, we should resist this temptation. We should acknowledge feelings of marginalisation and address them.

The democratic breakthrough of 1994 began the restoration of the dignity of black South Africans that had been denied and systematically eroded, first by colonialism then by apartheid. 

Despite the many challenges our country continues to experience, not least of all the crisis of unemployment, South Africans are pioneering, resourceful and resilient, often in the face of great odds. 

What always strikes me during my interaction with young South African men and women born into democracy is the confidence they exude, secure in the knowledge that their dignity is both respected and protected.

Democracy’s children are self-assured about their human rights, in their citizenship, of their role and place in society, and of their own potential.

During apartheid, Bantu education was served up to the country’s black majority as a reminder that there was no place for them ‘above the level of certain forms of labour’. In South Africa today, equal access to quality education has enabled black children to become CEOs of companies, professors, engineers and fighter pilots. 
Young South Africans, our nation’s future, are making their mark in the workplace, in arts, culture and music, in academia, in the high-growth tech and IT sectors, and in serving their communities. 

They are also politically astute and civically engaged. Some 77 percent of new voters registered in preparation for the forthcoming election are young people under the age of 29.

At times of difficulty in the life of our nation, same have found themselves tempted to question whether life has really been better under democracy. For all who experienced apartheid, there can be no doubt that democracy has restored the dignity of every South African. 

Each time I meet with the many young people born into a free South Africa, when I look at the vast, profound, transformative change this country has undergone over the past thirty years, I feel a profound sense of gratitude. 

I am grateful that they will never have to endure the humility and indignity of previous generations, of being forced to sit on separate park benches, dispossessed of their land, denied opportunities for advancement and of being pariahs in the land of their birth.

In this Freedom Month, when we collectively reflect on how far we have come in building a new nation, we know that we are not as far as we had hoped to be. While we have done much to undo the devastating legacy of apartheid, we have confronted other challenges, both from beyond our borders, such as the global financial crisis, and here at home.

In recent years, as we sought to recover from more than a decade of low growth and the era of state capture, our progress was interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, which led to the loss of more than 100,000 lives in our country and caused the greatest contraction of our economy in decades. The public unrest in July 2021 and the catastrophic floods in parts of the country the following year led to further loss of life and destruction of property and infrastructure.

While these events severely hampered our collective efforts to rebuild the country, they also showed the resilience of the South African people. Despite these great difficulties, we have persevered with the task of reform and recovery, to grow an inclusive economy and create jobs.

We have continued to work together to overcome the crises of unemployment, poverty, inequality and underdevelopment. These challenges impact on the lives of millions of people and undermine the dignity that we have worked throughout our democracy to restore. 

And yet we maintain our resolve to move forward with optimism. We have come a long, long way. And we are determined to go further to achieve the free, just and equal South Africa for which millions voted on Freedom Day 30 years ago. 

With best regards,
 

Signature

 

FROM THE DESK OF THE PRESIDENT - 22 APRIL 2024

As Africa’s newest country, South Sudan needs greater support from the international community

Dear Fellow South African, 

I have just returned from a working visit to South Sudan, a country that in 2011 emerged from the shadow of Africa’s longest civil war to become the world’s newest independent nation.

South Sudan’s journey to statehood, and the progress it has made towards constructing and consolidating its nationhood, is a remarkable and largely untold story.

Much like our own experience as South Africa, the people of South Sudan were faced with the task of constructing a new nation in the midst of conflict and social divisions, all the while contending with a legacy of racial discrimination and oppression. 

The South Sudanese set out to do so in the face of the most extraordinary, challenges. The incoming government of the newly independent country of South Sudan had to build an economy and institutional capacity from the ashes of their sad past.

Prior to independence, the south of Sudan had been deliberately marginalised, leaving it one of the world’s least developed places, with high levels of poverty, unemployment, illiteracy and poor health outcomes. There was also the impact of the two Sudanese civil wars between the north and south that lasted for over 20 years and resulted in shattered livelihoods, displaced people and the loss of more than two million lives. 

These massive challenges of political transition and reconstruction, coupled with deep social divisions, resulted in internal conflict that threatened South Sudan’s prospects for stability, peace and progress.

When the internal conflict broke out, South Africa was among the countries that joined the peace effort. The signing in 2018 of the Revitalised Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan became a beacon of hope. 

It is admirable that the permanent ceasefire continues to hold and that the parties to the agreement have honoured their commitment to end armed conflict and engender national security by seeking to form a united national defence force through the     cantonment and training of former combatants. 

This political and legal framework that is being implemented outlines the aspirations of the people of South Sudan to bring a permanent end to armed conflict, consolidate democracy and determine their collective destiny. Included in the agreement are commitments to adopt a permanent constitution and create unified security services. 

As South Africa, we understand well the challenges of national reconstruction, and of the difficulties of forging national unity in a multi-ethnic society. 

South Africa has provided development, mediation and other forms of assistance to South Sudan since 2005. We have been consistent in our support for the current Revitalised Transitional Government of National Unity and the people of South Sudan as they navigate the transition period. 

We continue to provide support at a bilateral level and as the Chairperson of the African Union High-Level Ad hoc Committee on South Sudan, also known as the C5. This committee consists of South Africa, Algeria, Chad, Nigeria and Rwanda.

All these countries have invested a great deal of time and effort to ensure there is stability in South Sudan. South Africa is also one of the guarantors of the Peace Agreement.

South Africa helps South Sudan with capacity building for state institutions and programmes for post-conflict reconstruction. We have used our country’s African Renaissance and International Cooperation Fund to provide humanitarian assistance to people in South Sudan negatively impacted by the conflict.

South Sudan is now at a crucial point in its journey towards consolidating democracy. Elections are scheduled to be held in December this year, before the Revitalised Agreement expires in February 2025. Parties are hard at work to ensure that the necessary preconditions are in place for the holding of elections that are free, fair and credible.

During my visit to the capital Juba last week, I met with President Salva Kiir Mayardit, First Vice-President Riek Machar and other South Sudanese political leaders. I also met with representatives of the AU, monitoring bodies and international development organisations.

I was glad to see the progress that has been made in the run-up to the elections, including the establishment of a national elections commission and the registration of political parties. What is pleasing is that the South Sudanese are working together to address the outstanding issues on the agreed Roadmap as the country advances towards elections. This proves that the adage “African solutions for African problems” is truly at work in South Sudan. The best we can all do is to encourage and support the process.

As Africa and as the international community, we owe it to a people who have suffered so much and for so long, to support South Sudan’s journey towards becoming a fully-fledged democracy. We have a collective responsibility to ensure that South Sudan is ultimately able to reap the dividends of peace and security, including economic prosperity. 

South Sudan needs investment, particularly in social and economic infrastructure. A number of South African companies have demonstrated their confidence in South Sudan’s economy and have a presence there.

At a school in Juba, there is a mural of President Nelson Mandela alongside that of Dr John Garang, the founding leader of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army. Just as Africa’s independence movement inspired our own liberation struggle, our democratic transition in 1994 gave encouragement to the people of South Sudan. 

Thirty years since we attained our freedom, we are proud of our ongoing support for the efforts of fellow African countries to emerge from conflict to rebuild and consolidate democracy.

Despite the ravages of a bitter war, South Sudan was remarkably able to emerge and join the community of nations. 

With the ongoing political and material support of the international community, the United Nations, the AU and other countries supporting the peace process, stability, prosperity and a sustainable peace in South Sudan are well within reach. 

With best regards,

Signature

 

FROM THE DESK OF THE PRESIDENT - 15 APRIL 2024

South Africans prepare to hold free and fair elections

Dear Fellow South African, 

In just over a month and a half, we will hold the seventh general election since we attained our democracy in 1994. 

South Africa’s electoral processes, together with the rights enjoyed by citizens and political parties to organise, campaign and contest, are among the greatest strengths of our constitutional order. 

Political contestation in our country takes place freely and openly. The media is free to report. We have independent courts that administer justice without fear or favour, including an Electoral Court that oversees the work of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) and the conduct of elections. 

As the country counts down to the election, the vibrant and robust campaigning that is taking place reflects how South Africa’s politics continues to evolve and mature. It is also a reflection of the many different views in our society and the variety of choices that voters have.

In a democracy such as ours, we should not be worried about differences, even when sharply expressed. That is because the vast majority of South Africans value and respect the democratic process. They have faith in the rule of law and know that any disputes can be resolved through the courts and other legal avenues.

Over the past 30 years we have held elections that are not only free and fair, but also peaceful and free of intimidation. Dire predictions of South Africa ‘regressing into violence’ or ‘democratic backsliding’ that regrettably remain a common feature of some reportage and analysis have been proven wrong time and again. 

According to the 2023 Electoral Integrity Global Report, South Africa ranks third highest on the continent when it comes to perceptions of electoral integrity. The report is made of up expert assessments of electoral integrity in 169 countries around the world, using indicators such as electoral laws and procedures, voting processes, campaign financing, media coverage and vote counting.

The majority of South Africans recognise the importance of their vote and believe they have a duty to vote. Research commissioned by the IEC found that, ahead of the 2021 local government elections, almost three-fifths of South Africans, or 57%, believed that it was their duty to vote. While youth apathy is often cited as a problem in our country, some 55% of 18-24 year olds saw it as their duty to vote. It is significant that young people accounted for over 78% of new voter registrations last year. The IEC research also found that the majority of respondents agreed that democracy is preferable to other kinds of government.

Despite its many challenges, our democracy is in good health. Even as political and other forms of contestation continue in the run-up to this year’s polls, they are taking place under the broad umbrella of a constitutional order characterised by fundamental freedoms and human rights. 

It is up to us all to ensure that this year’s election is a success in our ongoing journey of democratic consolidation. It is up to us all, whether as government, political parties, candidates, voters, the media or civil society organisations, to play our part by ensuring that our actions and words inspire faith in our democracy. We must continue to work together to ensure that nothing undermines the integrity of our elections.

Above all, it is up to us all to ensure that this hard-won right to vote, for which so many sacrificed so much, is exercised by every eligible citizen in a climate free of intimidation and all forms of violence. 

Having proven the prophets of doom wrong time and again, let this year’s election be yet another affirmation of the strength of our constitutional order, our institutions and our democracy. 

With best regards,
 

Signature

 

PUBLIC NOTICE – 01/2024

 

EMBASSY OF THE REPUBLIC OF SOUTH AFRICA

PUBLIC NOTICE – 01/2024

 

Dear South Africans and the Public

  1. SWITCHBOARD TELEPHONE LINE
  • Kindly be informed that the Embassy is experiencing technical problems with telephone lines and have requested the service provider to attend to it as matter of urgency. At times calls go through and sometimes calls do not get connected. We are aware of the challenges this technical glitch poses to service deliver and access to the Embassy. However, the line is active and in working order, except in cases where the line is engaged, your calls will not go through.
  1. IMMIGRATION AND CONSULAR SERVICES HOURS
  • The Embassy’s Immigration and Consular hours are from 08h30 – 12h30, Monday to Thursday, excluding public holidays. You may call between these times to secure appointment and for Immigration and Consular Services enquiries. No calls will be attended to after these times until the next day.
  1. REVISED TURN AROUND TIME
  • VISAS: It takes 10 -14 working days for the Embassy to process complete, accurately filled, and paid visa application forms. Applicants MUST NOT call or make follow-up on their applications. Our official will call you once your application is successful/approved/declined.
  • PASSPORTS: It takes between 6 – 8 months for process passports applications. Please take note that this process is entirely dependent on the Dep: of Home Affairs in Pretoria. The Embassy commits to call the applicants to collect their passports as soon as they are issued. 
  1. EMERGENCY LINE
  • We urge the public to refrain from calling the emergency mobile number for the purpose of securing appointments and follow up on passports/civil service queries. This number is an afterhours contact line and is meant for emergency cases only (reporting death, accidents, urgent repatriation of mortal remains, robbery, floods, arrests, and similar cases). Our officials will not respond to civil service matters on this number, during office hours.

By Management

FROM THE DESK OF THE PRESIDENT - 8 APRIL 2024

 

Never again must the world close its eyes to genocide

Dear Fellow South African, 

Thirty years ago, in the space of just a hundred days, one of the worst mass murders in recent times happened on African soil. 

Approximately 1 million men, women and children were slaughtered within a period of 100 days in Rwanda in an orchestrated campaign of violence that involved organs of state, civilians, militias, the local media and even churches.

The Rwandan genocide was one of the darkest chapters in human history. 
It was an atrocity that unfolded as the world looked on and failed to act. There was little intervention from the international community.

Despite a warning from the head of the United Nations deployment stationed in Rwanda at the time that a mass extermination of Rwandan Tutsi people was imminent, the UN peacekeepers failed to prevent the killings, arguing that their mandate was limited and that they lacked authority to intervene. 

Instead, the peacekeepers were ordered to focus on evacuating expatriates desperate to flee the country.

The first big massacre of the genocide was at a school in the capital, Kigali, which was being guarded by UN peacekeepers. Just hours after the UN troops withdrew, the feared Interahamwe militias stormed the school and killed 2,000 people who had sought shelter there hoping the UN would protect them.

Several western countries, some of which had a presence in Rwanda at the time, would later say they were not aware of the extent of the killings. Thirty years later, no country or international body can any longer say ‘we didn’t know’ and use that claim as justification for a failure to act. 

The advent of 24 hour news, the proliferation of social and community media and the speed with which information is disseminated in the digital age makes it nearly impossible for mass atrocities to occur under conditions of secrecy.

At the numerous Rwandan genocide 30th commemoration memorials, one finds the words ‘Never Again’.

This phrase, ‘Never Again’, also appears on memorials to the Nazi holocaust, and is evoked as a reminder to the world of the horrors perpetrated by humankind and of the collective responsibility we share to ensure that this dark history does not repeat itself.

The holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel has called the phrase “a prayer, a promise, a vow, never again the glorification of base, ugly, dark violence”.

It is because of our stated commitment to never again allow atrocities of this kind, that the world cannot stand idly by as another genocide is carried out, this time against the people of Palestine in the besieged Gaza Strip.

Nobody can claim ignorance about what is happening in Gaza, because, unlike in Rwanda in 1994, these atrocities are being televised, written about, tweeted and live streamed.

It is now close to six months since Israel unleashed a campaign of violence on the people of Gaza in response to the atrocities committed by Hamas. 

More than 32,000 Gazans have been killed. According to the UN Children’s Fund, approximately 13,000 of these casualties are children. Civilians, non-combatants, women, persons with disabilities, journalists and even aid workers have been spared.

Late last year, South Africa instituted proceedings against Israel at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague for violating its obligations under the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, with respect to its actions in Gaza. 

The International Court of Justice, the principal judicial organ of the UN, pronounced on a set of provisional measures that Israel should take to prevent the commission of all acts falling within the scope of the Genocide Convention. The Court directed Israel, among other things, to ensure that its military does not commit such acts, to prevent and punish the direct and public incitement to commit genocide, and to enable the provision of urgently needed basic service and humanitarian assistance to the people of Gaza.

In clear defiance of this legally-binding order, Israel has intensified its violence against the residents of Gaza. These people are now also facing starvation and famine as the delivery of aid continues to be disrupted, including the killing of humanitarian and aid-workers.

Last week, the ICJ issued additional measures, ordering Israel to take the necessary and effective measures to ensure ‘unhindered provision at scale’ of basic services and humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza. The Court accepted South Africa’s argument that, contrary to what Israel claimed, the UN agencies are not being assisted to get aid flowing into Gaza.

The court also ordered Israel to ‘ensure with immediate effect that its military does not commit acts which constitute a violation of any of the rights of the Palestinians in Gaza as a protected group’ under the Genocide Convention.

When the Rwandan genocide unfolded in 1994, the Genocide Convention had been in existence for nearly half a century, having been adopted in 1948 in the aftermath of the Second World War. 

In spite of this, the atrocities in Rwanda didn’t just happen, but were allowed to happen in the face of callous indifference by the international community.

It was only several decades later that a number of these ‘bystanders to the genocide’ apologised for failing to act as the killings happened. As they were for the families of those who perished in the Rwandan genocide, for today’s genocide victims, apologies are too little, too late. 

It should never be, and must never be, that atrocities, gross human rights violations and genocide should somehow carry less weight because of the race, ethnicity or religious affiliation of the victims.

We owe it to the victims of all the world’s genocides to not betray their memories by looking away, by failing to act, or worst of all, by claiming we didn’t know. 

The terrible events in Rwanda in 1994 took place in the year we as South Africans attained our freedom. 

We are ever mindful that with that freedom comes a responsibility to work for peace, justice and human rights everywhere. It is a duty and a standard we will continuously strive to uphold, not just for ourselves but for all peoples, everywhere.

With best regards,
 

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