22nd Annual General Meeting Of The Africa Taiwanese Chamber Of Commerce

Message Of Support
Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP
President Of The Inkatha Freedom Party

Delivered On His Behalf By
The Hon. Mr Narend Singh MP
Treasurer General Of The Inkatha Freedom Party

Suncoast Conference Centre, Durban

President of the Africa Taiwanese Chamber of Commerce, Ms Nancy Wen; Chairperson of the Overseas Chinese Affairs Council for the Republic of China Taiwan, Dr Wu Hsin-Hsing; Representative of the Taipei Liaison Office in South Africa, Mr Chen; Representatives from Taiwanese Chambers in America, Europe, Australia and Africa; Members of the ATCC; distinguished guests and friends.

I am honoured by Ms Nancy Wen’s invitation to speak this morning as we open the 22nd Annual General Meeting of the Africa Taiwanese Chamber of Commerce. Unfortunately, I am addressing a rally in Nkandla this morning in preparation for next week’s Local Government Elections. This weekend sees the last of our election rallies, as a gruelling campaign draws to a close. So there is a sense of celebration, and certainly a fair bit of relief. Nevertheless, I regret that this commitment prevents me from being with you this morning.

I have therefore asked the Treasurer General of the IFP, the Hon. Mr Narend Singh MP, to deliver my message of support. Mr Singh is also the Chairperson of our National Campaign Committee and has been at the forefront of our election campaign. So I can imagine that he takes pleasure in speaking today not about voting, but about the significance of the relationship between Taiwan and South Africa.

I must just say, however, that in both his capacities Mr Singh kept me informed of the generous donations towards the IFP’s election campaign that have come from the Chinese and Taiwanese business community. In this regard, I must thank in particular the President of the ATCC, whose substantial donation enabled us to print manifestos and flyers, brand vehicles, and secure gazebos for election day.

We have also had donations in kind, such as scarves and blankets, and cash donations to assist with T-shirts, food for our party agents, and various other campaign necessities. This, I believe, is an expression of the friendship between the IFP and the Taiwanese community.

While we serve in politics for love of country, it is an unavoidable fact that money is the milk of politics. Without funding, we could not hope to compete. Without support, our message of hope would be drowned out by the fiery and divisive rhetoric of our opponents. We therefore thank all those who have supported a strong multi-party democracy, by making a donating towards the IFP.

Many of these donations have come through our councillor candidate in Newcastle, Mr Alex Liu, who serves as Chairperson of the Newcastle Chinese Chamber of Commerce. Mr Liu represents an important voice in South Africa; the voice of the Taiwanese community. We are proud to have him stand on the IFP’s lists, and grateful for the work he is doing to enhance the good partnership between the IFP and the Taiwanese community.

That partnership began almost four decades ago, when my administration in the erstwhile KwaZulu Government opened the doors to investment from Taiwan and welcomed thousands of Taiwanese families onto our soil. My administration was the first in South Africa to open trade offices in Taiwan, through which we facilitated investment and business partnerships.

Since then, Taiwanese business has invested millions of Rands into South Africa’s economy. You have employed thousands upon thousands of South Africans, many of whom are unskilled and would otherwise have remained unemployed. You have helped our families put food on the table. So naturally what began as a business partnership, soon became a long-standing friendship.

When South Africa engaged in constitutional negotiations towards democracy, I had the privilege of visiting Taiwan and meeting with President Lee Teng-hui to discuss Taiwan’s experiences of creating effective democratic processes. My admiration for what Taiwan had achieved, in such a short time, both in terms of democracy and economic growth, led me to believe that my own country could learn from Taiwan’s experiences.

Nine years later, I again visited Taiwan, this time in my capacity as the national Minister of Home Affairs. It was inspiring to discuss the progress South Africa had made, and to learn more from my friends in Taiwan. Yet that visit was marred by the shame I felt over how South Africa’s Government had treated Taiwan. I was in Cabinet when President Mandela announced the withdrawing of diplomatic recognition, and I could not help but remember how he had previously insisted that South Africa would always recognise Taiwan.

Our country had received a great deal of assistance, and we enjoyed trade, investment and tourism from Taiwan. It shamed me that our Government could take with one hand and close the door with the other.

On principle, I refused to impose visa requirements on Taiwanese citizens, despite intense pressure from Cabinet to do so. It infuriated President Mbeki that his own Minister of Home Affairs would defy an instruction from Cabinet. But I could not in good conscience compromise my country’s relationship with Taiwan.

The end result was that I became the only Minister ever to be taken to court by his own President! The President challenged my immigration regulations at the same time as we were campaigning, from different parties, in an imminent national election. It is no surprise that while I had served two terms as Minster of Home Affairs, I was not re-appointed to Cabinet after those elections.

But I have no regrets. My friendship with Taiwan remains and I continue to believe that South Africa has much to learn from Taiwan. Taiwanese in South Africa have contributed significantly to our economy; an economy that is now faltering dramatically. I continue to urge my country’s leadership to look to Taiwan for inspiration on how we can restore economic growth.

I had the pleasure of discussing these things with Her Excellency President Tsai Ing-Wen in May this year, when I attended the presidential inauguration. At the invitation of the Foreign Ministry, I and my delegation, which included the Hon. Mr Singh, enjoyed several days of significant interactions with leading figures in Taiwan, including the President, the Deputy President Dr Chen Chien-Jen, the Minister of Economic Affairs Dr Chih-Kung Lee, and the President of the Legislative Yuan the Honourable Mr Su Jia-Chyuan.

We also spent a memorable afternoon with the Taiwan Africa Industry Development Association, where we spoke about the IFP’s economic policies and how we differ from the ruling party. The IFP wants to grow South Africa’s economy. We are working to generate employment, maintain investor confidence, open the doors wider to tourism, and to make it easier to do business in South Africa.

Unfortunately, the ruling ANC bows to pressure from its alliance partners, the South African Communist Party and the Congress of Trade Unions, and also to pressure from the People’s Republic of China. This has weakened its economic policies and made relations between Taiwan and South Africa difficult.

Moreover, the visa issue has never gone away. I know I am not the only one who wanted to be here this morning, but couldn’t be. Difficulties with South Africa’s visa requirements prevented several participants from attending this meeting. That is deeply frustrating. As Minister of Home Affairs in the first ten years of democracy, I fought hard to prevent the imposition of visas on Taiwanese citizens. When visas were eventually imposed, I fought hard to remove them.

I remember my shock when I visited Taiwan in 2003 and was told by the Vice President, Ms Annette Lu, that she had been denied a visa to enter South Africa. Her visa application should have been processed through my own Department. But Government by-passed its own Minister and sent the application straight to Cabinet. I was not even aware of the application, when a decision was taken against it. That, I believe, shows the extent of the pressure being placed on our Government by the People’s Republic of China.

The IFP believes it is unethical for South Africa to receive with one hand and close the door with the other. Our country benefits substantially from trade, investment and tourism from Taiwan. It is time that we said thank you.

The IFP wants you to stay and to enjoy success, for your success is our success. Your businesses boost the economy and provide jobs where there are few jobs to be found. What South Africa needs is more employers. We need to stimulate business and investment. We need to support the industries that provide jobs. We need, in essence, to value people like you far more highly.

As you continue your deliberations today at this 22nd AGM, I wish you wisdom, harmony and success. May this meeting see a deepening of the relationship between our two countries. Indeed, may it see a deepening of Taiwan’s relationship with all of Africa.

I thank you.