Durban: September 8, 2002

It is a great pleasure and indeed a great honour for me to receive the Medal for Honourable Friendship of the Overseas Chinese from the Government of Taiwan. This is for me a very important honour which consolidates a long-standing friendship. Our friendship has spanned many decades. It is not only a friendship which has withstood the test of time, but is also a friendship which has withstood the test of many trials. I have maintained my friendship with the Republic of Taiwan when it was easy and when it was difficult, when it was politically correct and when it became politically incorrect. Friendship is a matter of principle which cannot be affected as the winds of political convenience and expedience change.

For me, my friendship with the Republic of Taiwan, its people and its Government is a reflection of my own values and principles. I could not betray this friendship without betraying my own self. Throughout my long political career, which now spans almost half a century, I have always advocated and stood by the values of democracy, productivity, social discipline, freedom and a socially responsible free market. These are the very values which have made of Taiwan a worldwide success. I have always been candid and outspoken about my friendship with Taiwan and in one of my parliamentary speeches I justified it by stating that in many respects, the Taiwanese experience provides an example which marks a path towards the success of our own country. In my opinion, Taiwan succeeded where other countries failed, because it had the courage, the wisdom and the clairvoyance to anticipate technological developments and make massive national investments to leapfrog towards the technology of the future while training its people.

The emphasis on training, education and human resource management is what has transformed Taiwan into the success story it now is. It proves that the greatest resources available to any nation, and indeed the greatest wealth of any nation, is not that which can be found in the depths of mother earth’s bowels in terms of oil, gold, diamonds or other natural resources, but indeed that which can be found in the hearts and minds of a people dedicated to success. The greatest unexploited natural resources are the brains, character and dedication of any given people. Pointing out the Taiwanese experience, I have urged my own Government to make massive investments to train our people and promote a culture of social discipline, productivity and industriousness.

I have had the privilege of visiting Taiwan at the invitation of the Taiwanese Government and it was indeed an eye-opening experience. Many of my colleagues were also invited to Taiwan. We witnessed what the blessing of democracy combined with a responsible and visionary leadership can deliver, even to a people, like the Taiwanese people, who had to begin their journey into history from a beginning characterised by very scarce resources and enormous difficulties.

I believe that the friendship between South Africa and Taiwan is greatly mutually beneficial. One thing that I have always appreciated about Chinese culture is the constant quest for solutions which are mutually beneficial. This feature of Chinese culture is similar to the sentiments of African culture, in which, whenever possible, we try to reach all-inclusive solutions. Chinese wisdom and African wisdom have many aspects in common. Our feel for life, the way we respect life and the way we experience life are very similar, as is the way in which we take pride in what we do. We too operate on the basis of a culture of honour and respect. These are important shared values which should form the solid basis for a stronger friendship.

I am also particularly thankful for the contribution which the Chinese community has made in the development of our country. People from Taiwan in particular have given great evidence of industriousness and have assisted our country in its economic development. I regard Chinese people as very welcome members of our communities. I regret that my Department, the Department of Home Affairs, still does not have the programmes which are available in many other countries of advanced democracy and who have greater resources than we do. These programmes are aimed at assisting foreigners to relocate in their chosen foreign country and to bridge the cultural and linguistic gaps which make it difficult for foreigners to adjust to their new context and to give their new country the full measure of the contribution they are capable of.

We have made one important step forward in adopting new legislation controlling immigration in South Africa. This new legislation has not yet come into force as it is in the process of being implemented through Regulations. There have been several delays in this process which I hope may now come to conclusion to enable this new legislation to come into force before the end of this year. Once enforced, the new legislation will be able to provide much easier access to South Africa for Chinese people who are willing and capable of making a significant contribution towards our country’s growth and success. Personally, I expect a lot from this cross-pollination of cultures. I believe that in a country like ours, greater diversity will mean greater strength.

The example the Chinese people in South Africa have given thus far in terms of industriousness, entrepreneurship, productivity, social discipline and respect for the law, will be of increasingly important value as their contribution increases through the benefits of the new immigration law. However it is important that the Chinese community, the Taiwanese Consulate and my Department work together to supplement the lack of relocation programmes.

I hope that we can forge the new stages of our mutual friendship in mutual efforts aimed at assisting South Africa to fulfil the measure of its potential for growth and success. I remain a dedicated friend to the people and the Government of Taiwan. Together we must promote growth and democracy around the world. We need to recognise that the present day conflicts are indeed between forces which promote democracy and forces which oppose democracy. There are many attempts made to camouflage and disguise these conflicts under the guise of cultural, religious or economic conflicts. However, when one looks at them carefully, it is obvious that a line is always drawn between forces which promote democracy and those which are inimical to democracy. It is peculiar that all countries which oppress their own people internally by preventing the flourishing of democracy, sooner or later tend to use the same methods to oppress their neighbours. At the present juncture of world history, it is important that South Africa and Taiwan stand close together, not only as friends, but as friends of democracy.

I hope that this Medal which I have the honour of receiving today may not only be a testimony of the great friendship we have thus far enjoyed, but that it may prove to be a token of the greater friendship to come. Therefore, with great honour and privilege, I accept the Medal for Honourable Friendship of the Overseas Chinese in the hope that it might strengthen the ties between our two respective countries. I thank you.