Ambassador Rasool and other distinguished guests. Thank you so much for inviting me to participate in this year’s Freedom Day celebration. On behalf of President Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry, and the American people, I congratulate all South Africans on the 19th anniversary of South Africa’s first democratic elections.
Nineteen years ago today, the final death knell of racial authoritarianism sounded in South Africa as power passed to a new, diverse generation of parliamentarians, who began their work by inaugurating Nelson Mandela as the first black president of South Africa. A few hours later, Mandela stood on a balcony at Cape Town City Hall and gazed out at Table Bay, with Robben Island on the horizon, where he spent 18 of his 27 years in prison. Addressing the vast crowd below, Madiba declared a message of inclusion, saying: “We place our vision of a new constitutional order for South Africa on the table not as conquerors, prescribing to the conquered. We speak as fellow citizens to heal the wounds of the past with the intent of constructing a new order based on justice for all.”
Those words marked the final death of a political system based on race, and the birth of a new constitutional order in South Africa that has inspired billions across Africa and the globe. Tonight we celebrate that successful new order: A South African society based on democracy, justice, equality, and human rights.
I am proud to say our two countries remain united by these shared ideals.
Your brave stand against oppression reminds Americans of our own efforts to overcome discrimination and injustice. Your remarkable democratic Constitution reminds us of our own Constitution and Bill of Rights. Both of our nations have given hope to people around the world who value freedom. I am proud to be here tonight to celebrate this important occasion.
Our common ideals are the framework of our diplomatic relationship. The United States of America is committed to working with South Africa as a partner and friend to build peace, democracy, and prosperity in Africa. The African continent is clearly on the move, as democracy and economic growth promise to transform Africa into a 21st century powerhouse.
As outlined by President Obama, the U.S. engagement with Africa is founded on four core pillars: support for strong democratic institutions; spurring economic growth, trade, and investment; advancing peace and security; and promoting opportunity and development. The United States views South Africa as a critical partner in all of these areas.
From peacekeeping to climate change, South Africa brings unique value and perspective to regional and global initiatives. Your country’s contributions to peace- and nationbuilding in Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Zimbabwe, and other nations exemplify South Africa’s commitment to stability and development on the African continent. We deeply appreciate your leadership in the region.
Over the past decade, our relationship has deepened and matured, with collaboration growing significantly in the last several years. Our Strategic Dialogue, inaugurated by former Secretary Clinton and Minister Mashabane in 2010, has reinforced cooperation on an entire range of important issues, including health, trade and investment, law enforcement, climate change, energy, and nuclear nonproliferation.
Officials from the United States and South Africa meet regularly throughout the year to collaborate on issues and exchange ideas. At our Annual Bilateral Forum in Pretoria, in March, we discussed issues related to health, education, and the environment. Undersecretary of State Robert Hormats is in Cape Town this week attending the World Economic Forum, and I anticipate additional senior-level visits to South Africa later this year.
The United States remains a dedicated partner with South Africa in the fight against HIV/AIDS. In 2012, we contributed more than $500 million to South Africa through PEPFAR, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, and we have provided over $6 billion over the past decade. Working together, the United States and South Africa have provided treatment to millions of men, women, and children. Millions more have received HIV counseling and testing.
I commend President Zuma and the Government of South Africa for establishing effective provincial and national HIV/AIDS control programs, fighting the health crisis with renewed effort, and speaking frankly to the South African people about the disease.
Even as we stand by your side in the fight against HIV/AIDS, our partnership is evolving. By 2017, South Africa will become the first country in Africa to fully manage its PEPFAR program, while the United States will continue to provide substantial funding and technical support. Ultimately, our combined efforts are helping to eradicate disease and save lives.
Our two countries also share a commitment to sustainable economic development. South Africa is one of the most important emerging economies in the world, a member of the G-20 and BRICS coalition, and a leading U.S. trade partner. More than 600 American companies have operations in South Africa, employing thousands of South African citizens. Your country’s modern, efficient economy serves as a launching pad to the rest of Africa, helping to expand prosperity throughout the continent.
As a longtime supporter of nonproliferation and disarmament efforts, South Africa brings valuable experience to the global effort to buttress the nuclear nonproliferation regime; we value your contribution and look forward to continuing our important cooperation in this area.
These are just a few examples to illustrate the strength of our bilateral relationship and the valuable role South Africa plays in regional and global affairs. While we may not agree on every issue, the United States is committed to a partnership with South Africa to meet our shared goals. South Africa’s robust democracy and leadership in regional and global affairs make it an important U.S. partner.
Congratulations again on the 19th anniversary of this momentous occasion. I offer the people of South Africa my very best wishes for the coming year.