By Fakir Hassen, IANS,
Johannesburg : A reaffirmation of India’s important role in assisting with development in South Africa and an all-African brass band playing the national anthem marked India’s Republic Day celebrations here.
A brass band contingent from the Osizweni Combined School in Secunda, some 150 km east of here, impressed the Indian mission officials who attended the function there last year. They joined South African Indian and African dancers in a combination of dances representing both countries.
Speaking on behalf of the premier of Gauteng province, who could not attend, Local Government Minister Quedani Dorothy Mahlangu said the special relationship between South Afric and India, started by the common links that Mahatma Gandhi created, has been recorded for new generations to understand it.
“It is important that this is recorded so that generations to come will remember and know and understand that the partnership between these two countries will always be there – politically, economically and otherwise,” Mahlangu said.
“From former presidents Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki, as well as all other leaders in our municipal and provincial governments, there are a lot of things that we have learnt from India and there has been a lot of interaction that has taken place since (freedom from apartheid in) 1994, and we are looking forward to that being continued as we proceed with strengthening our democracy.”
Mahlangu also lauded India’s role in developing communities in South Africa: “It is important to note that one of the most important programmes in the South African government, called the Community Development Workers, was informed by and encouraged by what is happening in India. That programme is working very well with men and women who are foot soldiers on the ground who are assisting in responding to the challenges that the poor have been facing.”
Mahlangu said there were still many challenges that were common to India and South Africa: “One of them is underdevelopment; the second is poverty. As we work hard at better business relationships, those must translate to higher economic growth which must lead to lesser poverty and underdevelopment.”
He said India could also assist in improving education and health services in South Africa through strategic partnerships.
Indian High Commissioner Rajiv Bhatia said the similarities between the two democracies would be highlighted further when general elections are held in both India and South Africa, probably at about the same time in the next few months.
“Soon you will see the majesty and greatness of India’s democracy which will enable some 700 million people to exercise their right to vote. Sitting here in Johannesburg, I could say that India and South Africa are heading to general elections and it is quite possible that it will be around the same time. Of course in neither country the timing has yet been determined, but we will be watching the announcements with a great deal of expectation and interest.”