SA, German cooperation part of shaping globalisation more fairly - German Federal president

Frank-Walter Steinmeier. (John Thys, AFP)
Frank-Walter Steinmeier. (John Thys, AFP)

Without multilateral cooperation it will not be possible to master the major global challenges, German Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said on Monday during a visit to the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg.

"Only if we work together can we shape globalisation more fairly. In the next few years we will have the opportunity to approach this in a very concrete way," said Steinmeier, who is on a state visit to SA.

"Germany and South Africa will be on the United Nations Security Council together and I hope that we will make use of this opportunity to work together on peacekeeping, climate and security, and health and security."

He is set to meet with President Cyril Ramaphosa in Cape Town on Tuesday. At the end of October, Steinmeier welcomed heads of state and government from seven African countries to Berlin, including Ramaphosa. He said he is looking forward to meeting Ramaphosa again, this time in Cape Town.

"We need new partnerships between Africa and Europe. The Compact with Africa initiated by Federal Chancellor Merkel at the G20 is an expression of just such a partnership, aimed at exploring new potential for investment, jobs and new forms of cooperation. Furthermore, there are strong signs that German businesses want to become more engaged here in South Africa," said Steinmeier.

"Whether in Europe or in Africa, we are living in eventful times. We are living through a period of great change. One can see this very clearly in your country: South Africa is daring to make a transformation, and for that I wish you confidence and great shared determination."

Racism

He added that Germans are aware of "the abysses of violence and the delirium of racism".

"Mandela’s legacy is reconciliation…I know that here in South Africa, too, the discussion about the past has not been concluded, the wounds are far from healed," said Steinmeier.

"But despite all the differences, we do at least have one important lesson learnt in common. Namely that the democracy in which we are living is not something that can be taken for granted…"

To him this also means that democracies are never fully finished and never perfect.

"Democracy requires compromise. Compromise is often painful, very painful indeed. Who knows that better than you here in South Africa?...For some, no doubt, these compromises went too far; for some, the price doubtless seemed too high," he said.

Constitution

"I am aware that there are huge societal challenges here in South Africa, too. There is still poverty and inequality; jobs are short, and by no means everyone has the opportunity to acquire a good education and training. Here, too, there are walls between people."

He emphasised that, even when it seemed so very far off, Nelson Mandela always believed in his vision of a democratic, united South Africa where everyone enjoyed the same rights, irrespective of skin colour, gender, religion or social standing.

"There is, however, something else, that binds us, that is closely related to our historical experiences: our democratic constitutions...," he continued.

"What is no coincidence, however, is this: our two constitutions are regarded – rightly, I would say – as among the best and most progressive in the world. Because they are both based on this principle: human dignity is inviolable. That, too, unites us."

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