South African Embassy celebrates Mandela's centenary

ROME – A fundraising event took place on Tuesday at the South African Embassy in Rome to celebrate the hundredth anniversary of the birth of former president Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, the founding father of his native country’s democracy.

 They also celebrated the centenary of the birth of “Mama” Albertina Nontsikelelo Sisulu, who dedicated her life to the service of other people and relentlessly struggled for freedom in South Africa.

 Celebrations and commemorative events are scheduled throughout the year in South Africa and around the world, including in Italy, to honour the incredible stories of these two inspirational heroes.

 "We are truly grateful for the partnerships developed throughout Italy with the National Government, Regional Governments, Mayors and Councils, Universities, NGO's, Think Tanks, African Ambassadors accredited at the Quirinale and the main institutions of public and private sectors, to build on the legacy of Nelson Mandela and Albertina Sisulu and commemorate these important centenarians," said the South African Ambassador to Italy, HE Prof Shirish M. Soni.

 "Today we’re all committed to building on the legacy of Nelson Mandela and Albertina Sisulu, and working to promote a better quality of life for all South Africans. We’re committed to working more intensively to decisively address the three challenges that South Africa faces against persistent poverty, unemployment and inequality," said Ambassador Soni, speaking at his official residence in Rome.

 "For this purpose, we are working to fulfil Nelson Mandela's vision of good schools and hospitals, quality housing and services, decent jobs and working conditions, as well as a non-racist, non-sexist, free and egalitarian democratic society in which all South Africans can develop and prosper together.”

 The Ambassador also spoke in detail about some initiatives that the Embassy of South Africa has undertaken, along with key partners in various sectors, as part of the Embassy's economic diplomacy program, which includes the promotion of trade and investment, with a focus on small and medium-sized manufacturing enterprises, tourism promotion, technology transfer and the exchange of education and skills.

 All of the Embassy’s diplomatic efforts were undertaken to further strengthen and expand bilateral relations between South Africa, Italy and the other countries.

 Ambassador Soni also paid tribute to Italy for its contribution to South Africa's struggle for freedom and democracy. "The Italian trade unions, along with various parties on the left of the political spectrum, have promoted international solidarity through their support for the struggle against apartheid, and the Catholic Church has also been a courageous supporter of the struggle, providing shelter and cover for the people of South Africa during demonstrations against the apartheid government," he said.

 Ambassador Soni further emphasised the Italian Government’s role in promoting peace, democracy, non-racism and non-sexism in South Africa, as well as freeing other countries, such as Angola and Mozambique, from the scourge of colonialism.

 "Moreover," he said, "we must not forget the important role played by the business sector in Italy, for not having devoured our markets when the South African liberation movement and the African National Congress called for economic sanctions against the previous regime."

 In the next few days, the South African Embassy will host three high profile events at the official residence of Ambassador Soni, who said: "The Embassy team is very energetic and adrenaline is rising high. We have worked hard in recent weeks to finalise the organisation of a tourism seminar, in which almost 100 Italian tour operators will partake, including Alitalia and a leading company in South Africa, Tourvest Destination Management; a fundraising event at the official residence with Mais Onlus and various others donors; the big event of the week, a reception to celebrate the South Africa’s National Day and the 24th anniversary of democracy.”