Breaking the COVID diplomatic lockdown, the ambassadors of 17 countries presented their credentials of President Cyril Ramaphosa at the Sefako Makgatho Presidential Guest House in Pretoria.
Social distancing was enforced as the envoys made short speeches expressing wishes of broadening and deepening bilateral relations with South Africa before presenting the president with the letters from their heads of state.
Some of the ambassadors managed to make powerful use of the two minutes allotted to them.
Sweden’s Håkan Joholt recalled how he’d become an anti-apartheid activist at age 25 before serving 23 years as a member of parliament.
“I have come here to build bridges and to forge people-to-people ties between Swedes and South Africans,” he said. “What we can do together is fight for democracy, human rights, peace and a sustainable environment,” he said.
Entering his second term as ambassador of the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic, Mohammed Beissat said Polisario and the ANC forged ties as liberation movements at the most difficult times for their countries.
He recalled how Oliver Tambo visited the Western Sahara and returned to South Africa with apartheid-built tanks captured by the Saharawi from the Moroccan.
“Now Mr President the Western Sahara faces fresh aggression from Morocco,” he said referring to the kingdom breaking the 30 year old truce signed under UN auspices that ended the war that followed Morocco’s 1975 invasion of the former Spanish colony.
“We are confident we can overcome yet another challenge from the illegal occupier, especially since we are assured of your support and the solidarity of your government and people,” said the ambassador.
Braving a heatwave that took the mercury into the thirties, the ambassadors were greeted by a guard-of-honour before entering the guest house to have their exchange with the President.
In addition to the Western Sahara and Sweden, Ramaphosa received credentials from the ambassadors of
Vietnam, North Korea, Iran, Botswana, Cote’Ivoire, Bangladesh, Ukraine, Egypt, China, Sweden, Mauritius, Pakistan, Sudan and South Sudan, Slovenia, Finland.