I take great pride this evening in fulfilling one of the more rewarding tasks of my office as the Minister of Home Affairs. Tonight, our country has been enriched by the addition of men and women who may rightly call themselves new South Africans. I wish to congratulate you and officially welcome you into this beautiful country which is shared by extraordinarily diverse peoples, all of whom proudly call this home. South Africa has never shied away from diversity. We have always been confronted with our differences and, through a long and historic process of negotiations and transformation, we have come to accept and appreciate that our unity as a nation does not demand our uniformity of identity. Indeed, as you will have often heard, our diversity is our strength.

This evening, therefore, South Africa’s strength is increased. The ceremony of naturalisation is perhaps insufficient to capture the gravity and significance of the agreement entered into between those becoming South Africans and South Africa itself. However, I wish to thank the Company for Immigration for organising this ceremony, for I know that it is the destination of a long journey which has been walked with the immigrants here tonight. Throughout this journey, the full significance and value of this evening’s ceremony will no doubt have emerged clearly within your own minds. In my capacity as the line function Minister representing our country, and as a fellow South African who is proud of my home, I extend to each of you the hand of friendship and the full benefit of calling yourselves South African.

In a changing world environment, the Company for Immigration is performing an invaluable service. Needs are changing across the globe and it is necessary that we adjust our response and our perceptions to accommodate this change. Even as we welcome new citizens to South Africa, we must be aware that in countries throughout the world there are South African immigrants who likewise have needs which must be met, as they relocate and adapt to a new environment. In countries such as Canada and the Netherlands, countries with far greater resources than ours, the function of assisting immigrants with relocation is performed by the State. Sadly, we cannot match such resources and South Africa is as yet unable to fulfil this role as a state function. Nevertheless, we do recognise the value, importance and necessity of this function, and support every effort to fulfil it through the various building blocks of our society.

I welcome the assistance of NGOs in this regard and encourage all those who are able to contribute financial resources to do so with the full satisfaction of knowing that what is accomplished is a service to all South Africans and, indeed, an investment in our country’s future. I regret that government is no longer able to subsidise the work of the Company for Immigration as it did in the past. I feel that we have cut off the nourishment of a vital function in our national body. Yet I have also seen the Company for Immigration survive nonetheless, and I recognise the Christian foundations upon which it is structured as being one of its surest reasons for survival. The work the Company accomplishes speaks directly to the spirit of mankind, appealing to our finest human sentiment of assistance, care and compassion for our fellow man. As evidenced by its survival, the work of the Company for Immigration is clearly still needed. Indeed, I am convinced that in our changing world context, this service is needed more today than it ever has been before.

Today, globalisation and the increasing free movement of people across international boundaries is facilitating greater interaction among people and making us increasingly interdependent. When visiting a foreign country today, people whom we would never have spoken to before have become necessary guides and links to resources. We are determined to familiarise ourselves with our environment as quickly as possible in order to extract the benefits we are accustomed to and keep business running. Moreover, our expectations from our environment have changed and multiplied, for it has become possible to transact the daily business of life far from our central base of operations, even far from home. We demand more and are more inclined to make use of all sorts of facilities. But in a world of Internet banking, Internet shopping and global franchises, nothing can replace a reliable reference to a good doctor from someone who has lived in a place for years.

In fact, every year multinational corporations dedicate enormous budgets to the task of providing the human touch to their resorts, hotels and reception areas. The mint on one’s pillow is meant to convey that someone cares enough and knows you well enough and likes you well enough to have considered your whimsical fancies. Clearly, we know that no matter how technologically advanced our world becomes, nothing can replace human relationships, human warmth and kindness. I have a deep respect and admiration for what the Company for Immigration does. They are the human touch in a foreign environment, allowing those new to our soil to experience the full wonder of South Africa without first having to press through the barriers of isolation, unfamiliar surroundings, unfamiliar customs, different rules and different ways of doing things.

I have spoken many times about the need to attract foreign skills into South Africa, but we must also be aware of the need to keep these skills for the full length of their benefit. We must recognise the simple truth that at times we lose valuable human resources because it is just too hard to adapt and adjust to the unfamiliarity of a new country. South Africa is constituted of greater cultural, linguistic and historical diversity than most countries in the world. It is not immediately apparent how one should act to achieve results in any given situation. Moreover, the same approach is often not appropriate to all people of different extraction. Comprehending the sheer emotional significance and consequences of our country’s recent history is something that takes time and patience and, surely, much guidance from those who have experienced it first-hand.

The Company for Immigration has walked hand in hand with foreign nationals in South Africa for half a century. It has sustained its value and role throughout one of the most difficult transitions South African history has ever recorded. I cannot imagine anything but a deep and real love for South Africa being able to motivate such longevity in an institution of this nature. I am in awe of the patriotic love which sustains people like Miems Swanepoel, inspiring them to perform this valuable service to immigrants and to the people of South Africa. The Company for Immigration is serving South Africans every day, by ensuring that the best of our country is promoted and the worst is made less pronounced. Moreover, as I have mentioned, the work achieved through the Company increases the number of immigrants who will stay in South Africa, securing human resources and much needed skills.

I have travelled extensively throughout the world, but I never tire of hearing from foreigners how friendly and warm they feel South Africans to be. Those who have experienced South Africa have, more often than not, experienced the vitality of the South African spirit that reaches out from our people to welcome visitors and share our story. The Company for Immigration has captured the natural warmth of our people and employed themselves with the task of welcoming visitors to our soil and giving them the best possible South African experience. Its continued assistance with relocation in areas as diverse as language classes, environmental awareness, South African law, purchasing of property, sports activities and birth registration, ensure that the transition is made easier and all the hope and anticipation contained in a new beginning can indeed be experienced.

South Africans are a unique and beautiful people. Yet perhaps the greatest asset of South Africans is the ability to adapt to a changed environment. This will surely be the most valuable resource we have as we engage the rapid changes which are impacting our world. It is necessary that we become fully comfortable and fully competent in wearing the mantle of a world player. We are fairly new on the world stage, although South Africa has always made herself known through historical circumstance and historical victory. Our identity is quickly changing and we must accept seeing ourselves in a new way. The influx of foreigners into South Africa is changing the face of our nation, but surely strengthening its features. It has been said that we will never be a melting pot, but must learn instead to become a salad bowl of cultural identities.

This is perhaps the best possible future for South Africa. We must welcome anyone who can draw out the flavour of who we are, by becoming one of us. We must compliment one another not only with our added skills, our differences and our diverse experience, but by accepting to embrace our diversity and work with it. I feel that the Company for Immigration is fulfilling one of the most important tasks for the future unity of our country. As we grow strength in unity of diversity, we will also grow our productivity, our economic prosperity, our social stability and our national identity. I feel certain that the Company for Immigration is making an investment in South Africa, the benefits of which will only become fully appreciated in the years ahead. I thank them for this visionary leadership, and for the deep love that motivates their work.

I know that no one will feel the full value of the Company for Immigration tonight more than those whom we have welcomed into South Africa as fellow citizens. I hope that your interaction with the Company will continue to establish your firm roots in this country and empower you daily to invest more of your heart and more of your future in South Africa. If you can see your future on this soil, I believe you will work unceasingly to see that future become the present reality. As you pour into South Africa all it takes to achieve your goal, I believe that South Africa will give back immeasurably more in return. South African to South African, it is my honour to welcome you home.