South African Ambassador discusses relations with Italy
ANSA interviews diplomat and Mandela's 'friend'24 September, 18:19
(by Tania D'Amico).
(ANSA) - Rome, September 24 - Italy and South Africa, both known for their human warmth and sympathy, share large-scale potential for bolstering trade and developing new sectors, South African Ambassador to Italy, Nomatemba Tambo, told ANSA.
She stressed the desire of the two countries to forge ever closer ties, citing the excellent relations between the two and discussed what could be done to improve them further, as well as her country's ambitions as a BRICs nation and her memories of Nelson Mandela, to whom she is linked by a very special bond. "From an economic and political perspective I think Italy and South Africa have a strong relationship. We signed in 2003 a memorandum of understanding and the point of that was to establish a framework for future bilateral relations and projects in the fields we haven't done yet, such as tourism, whereas we have have signed quiet a few other agreements for example, science and technology, Defence, Arts and culture, Sports. "The goal is to create a bi-national commission. If we can do that it means that our government departments will have access into acting with our counterparts in Italy and we can do much more, we can have a much more serious interaction.
According to the ambassador, "the idea is that we engage on a national level but also that we forge relationships with the regions as well. We got along very well with Italy, I've realized that we are quite similar, in the warmth of the people, the sense of sympathy, and caring; the communities you see here in Italy are the same in South Africa. "They come and go freely, they have their businesses, their kids go to South African schools, so they're very much an integrated part of our community, but they still have the links with the old country and so that's also something I think that Italians should take as an encouragement for businesses opportunities". "From that perspective - she adds - there is a lot we have in common and there's a lot that speaks to a good relationship that can grow even further and stronger".
As for the BRICS (emerging economic powers, Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), "the goal is to represent the continent, we want to be able to be part of that whole thing about shifting the notion of global governance, it's so unfair and has been unbalanced for such a long time, we want to make sure that Africa has a voice, we want to make sure, for example, that through BRICS we are perceived to be at the correct level.
We have responsibilities to the continent", she says. "We also just had a summit there and we had a lot of things that came out of it, there's now going to be for example a BRICS business council, we never had anything like that before and that's very exciting prospect, we're going to have a think tank, and the business council will be under the guardianship of South Africa, we have development banks that are in place, so there is a lot of stuff going under the BRICs foundation, to make sure that it actually has legs and it does achieve his goals". Speaking about the issue of high-profile miners' disputes, the ambassador says that "they are still kind of striking. It's not completely 100 per cent over yet. And I don't know that it will be anytime soon. This backwards and forwards that is going on between the miners and the bosses is not creating the level of trust and comfort that one had hoped for. Now the president has been forced last year to form a commission of inquiry and that commission will complete its task soon and they will come up with their recommendations as to how to move forward. "But actually the strikers have the right to strike, and it's not government business to pay wages, this is what the bosses must do and what is upsetting them is that they believed for many years they've been underpaid and now they got to a point where they're prepared not to settle, so we'll see".
As for Mandela, or "uncle Nelson" as she still calls him, the ambassador gets emotional. "He's our father, our guiding light, he has already left us his legacy, and we understand how we as South Africans must behave because of how he has conducted himself, because of the standards and the moral ethics he has shown and the way that he has dealt with conflict, the way he's dealt with forgiveness.
What we have been left by President Mandela is the sense that we must always strife for excellence. It may not be easy, we may scramble sometimes but it doesn't mean you don't keep the vision pure". And then she recalls a moment of her personal life related to him: "Uncle Nelson and my father were friends and they shared a law practice. So then the trials came, etc, etc. Come 1981 I'm getting married and the big story in the house was if my father was coming to the wedding. And if he does will he wear the traditional British top hat and tails. And of course he couldn't 'cause he's a revolutionary. "Anyway, the big news was that I got a letter from uncle Nelson, a week before my wedding. This was a major production because he was in jail, so this thing had to be smuggled, God knows how many months it took before it finally arrived but he thought about it clearly because it arrived just one week before my wedding, perfect timing, and he was telling me about being a young woman, what I must to expect from my husband and the family I've been raised in and that I should not be worry, beautiful stuff, ' I am your uncle, I love you'. "Here I was thinking about if the flowers were going to match with the tablecloths whereas he was thinking about the letter, to show me that he was thinking about me on that special day. That's the kind of man he was, that's the kind of heart he had".