Ambassador Vermeulen said Nelson Mandela had become South Africa’s first democratically elected President and leaders from all over the world had arrived in numbers in the country to witness his inauguration. The occasion had sent a powerful signal that South Africa was no longer a pariah state shunned by the rest of the world.

"We had arrived and became known as the rainbow nation," the ambassador said. "Looking back it is fair to say that the Government has made great strides over the last 25 years at home in addressing the legacy of apartheid and transforming our society. But we realise that we are still facing the triple challenge of poverty, unemployment and inequality. It is our resolve to ensure clean government and deliver quality basic services to the people of South Africa. So, much more needs to be done and it remains work-in-progress."

Looking at the role that South Africa has played internationally, it is also fair to say that the country has taken its obligations seriously, Ambassador Vermeulen said. He wanted to mention a few highlights:

  • South Africa served as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council on three occasions – in 2007-2008, again in 2011-2012 and right now, for the 2019-20 term.
  • The nation chaired the Non-Aligned Movement twice (1998-99 and again in 2003).
  • South Africa chaired the Group of 77 and China twice (2006 and again in 2015).
  • The country hosted a number of important international conferences, including the 2001 World Conference Against Racism, and COP17 in 2011, which paved the way for the historic Paris Agreement on climate change.
  • In 2002 South Africa played host to the launch of the African Union and South Africa is home to one of its main organs, the Pan African Parliament (PAP).
  • Importantly, the nation has also become a member of leading international formations, including the G20 and BRICS, comprising Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

Ambassador Vermeulen said that in addition, South Africa also hosted a number of important international sporting events:

  • 1995 Rugby World Cup ("which we won")
  • 1996 Africa Nations Football Cup ("which we also won")
  • 2003 Cricket World Cup ("which we did not win")
  • 2006 Paralympic Swimming World Championship
  • 2010 FIFA World Cup
  • 2013 Africa Nations Football Cup

"I think it is fair to say that South Africa took its international responsibilities seriously," the ambassador said. "And we will continue on this path in the future. Already next year South Africa will again chair the African Union."

"I briefly want to say a few words about our bilateral relations with Hungary, which are indeed going from strength to strength. By now, the presence of a sizable number of Stipendium Hungaricum students from South Africa has become a prominent feature in our relations. We are in the process of extending this programme and it will continue into the future."

"Our business ties are also expanding. Notably a number of South African companies have made quite big investments in the Hungarian economy over the last year, in sectors such as retail and logistics."

"South Africa itself is open for business and we are working hard to see more Hungarian investment in the South African economy as well."

"Another sector where there are significant developments, is in science and technology cooperation."

The ambassador said South Africa is heading for the polls on May 8, the sixth time that general elections will be held in those 25 years of freedom. "We are confident that our bilateral relations with Hungary will grow and reach new heights after a new government is formed in South Africa."

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