For more than three decades, the IFP has enjoyed a solid partnership of trust and friendship with the Republic of China (Taiwan). Under the presidency of the late Mr Lee Teng-hui, massive investments were made in industrial parks in the then KwaZulu, providing employment for hundreds of thousands of struggling black South Africans.
Today, as Taiwan prepares to celebrate its 110th National Day on the 10th of October 2021, I am proud to congratulate our friends not only on all that they have achieved economically through hard work and strong leadership, but on their perseverance in strengthening the democratic system.
It was a remarkable pleasure to attend the inauguration ceremony of Her Excellency President Tsai Ing-Wen in 2016, and to congratulate her on her second term of office in 2020. When I met with President Tsai Ing-Wen in 2016, we spoke about the meetings I had with the first democratically elected President of the Republic of China, His Excellency Mr Lee Teng-hui.
Upon taking office in 1988, President Lee dismantled the dictatorship of his predecessor Chiang Ching-kuo and sought to deepen democracy in Taiwan through a multi-party system. I admired the way Taiwan created democratic processes. Thus, when South Africa began our own democratic negotiations in 1991, I visited President Lee Teng-hui to discuss Taiwan’s experiences.
More than a decade later, I was able to return to Taiwan as South Africa’s first Minister of Home Affairs under democracy. On that visit, Vice President Annette Lu and I discussed the progress our countries had made, and I witnessed how much we could still learn from Taiwan.
While I served in the Cabinet of President Mandela, the President assured us that Taiwan would always be recognized. I was pleased, for I knew how much South Africa had benefitted from Taiwanese investment, tourism and business. It was inconceivable that Government could withhold diplomatic recognition.
Yet I also remember very clearly the day that President Mandela told us in his Cabinet that the South African Government was now withdrawing diplomatic recognition of Taiwan, despite his assurances. I opposed this strongly.
As Minister of Home Affairs, I carried the responsibility of transforming the entire body of policy and legislation around the movement of people to bring it in line with our new democratic framework. In crafting our immigration laws, I refused to impose visa requirements on Taiwanese citizens. It made me very unpopular within Cabinet, but I knew that it was the right thing to do.
I have never forgotten the investment made by the Taiwanese into KwaZulu when our people were under the worst oppression of apartheid. To me, that assistance cemented a life-long friendship.
I have been grateful to continue that friendship through the various representatives of Taiwan serving in the Taipei Liaison Office in South Africa. For years now, the IFP has been invited to celebrate National Day with the Director-General and the Taipei Liaison Office, enabling us to spend time as well with the industrious and vibrant Taiwanese community living within South Africa. Their contribution to our country is valuable and appreciated.
It is sad that, this year, we cannot gather to celebrate National Day due to the ongoing threat of a global pandemic. Nevertheless, on behalf of the IFP, I express our congratulations to the Government and the people of the Republic of China, to its representatives in South Africa and to all who celebrate this happy occasion.
May National Day 2021 mark a moment of renewed hope in the midst of a global storm.