How Samia’s visit to South Africa strengthens deep-rooted relations

PRESIDENT Samia Suluhu Hassan undertook a State Visit to South Africa between March 15 and 16 this year, at the invitation of her counterpart, Cyril Ramaphosa.

This was the first State Visit by President Samia to South Africa since she became President two years ago.

The warmth with which she was received by her host underscores a point that Tanzania and South Africa relations are historical and deep rooted.

The visit also evoked important noteworthy liberation struggle memories. President Samia’s trip to South Africa was however not the first by Tanzania top leaders.

Other leaders before her have made similar trips. Former Presidents Late Julius Nyerere, Ali Hassan Mwinyi, Benjamin Mkapa, Jakaya Kikwete and John Magufuli all visited South Africa on different occasions either on a state visit or working visit.

During the Late President Julius Nyerere’s visit in October 1997, at the invitation of President Nelson Mandela, he was also invited to address the South African Parliament.

In his address, he reminded the parliamentarians that, “…situation has changed, South Africa is democratic. South Africa is no longer trying to destroy others. And please work with others…” During his address to the South Africa democratically elected Parliament, Mwalimu was flanked by Speaker of the Parliament, the late Dr Frene Ginwala who lived in exile in Tanzania and was appointed by Mwalimu in early 1970’s as the first Managing Editor of the Standard and Sunday News, (now the Tanzania Standard Newspaper Limited -TSN) after it was taken over by the government from Lonrho group.

As an outstanding Pan Africanist and fully committed to the cause of liberation, Mwalimu must have been very happy to have an opportunity to address a democratically elected parliament in South Africa. Many still remember in 1967, while at the TANU National Conference when he declared that total African Liberation and total African Unity are basic objectives of his party and government.

He added, “…we shall never be really free and secure while some parts of our continent are still enslaved…” Likewise, on different occasions top leaders from South Africa have also made official trips to Tanzania.

Former Presidents Nelson Mandela, Thabo Mbeki, Jacob Zuma, and Cyril Ramaphosa have all visited Tanzania. Former President Mandela first visited Tanganyika in 1962 one year after independence.

Years later he wrote in his book titled Long Walk to Freedom, that “…I met Julius Nyerere, the newly independent country’s first President… and I recall that he drove himself in a simple car, a little Austin.

This impressed me for it suggested that he was a man of the people…” Mandela went again to Tanzania in 1990 immediately after he was released from jail and met with Mwalimu, who by then had already retired as a President. Former President Mbeki also met with Mwalimu for the first time in 1962 in Dar es Salaam while enroute to London for studies.

Years later, in the book titled 38 Reflections on Mwalimu Nyerere edited by Mark Mwandosya and Juma Mwapachu, he described Mwalimu as being ‘one of us’. Former ANC President, the Late Oliver Tambo, made frequent trips to Tanzania during the liberation struggle when South Africa freedom fighters and others from the region were sheltered in Tanzania.

ANC had established their first training camp in Kongwa-Dodoma in 1962/63. Oliver Tambo was also a visiting lecturer at the University of Dar es Salaam.

His last trip was in 1992 when he handed over Mazimbu College in Morogoro – commonly known as Solomon Mahlangu Freedom College (SOMAFCO) to the Tanzanian government.

The College was named after the struggle activist and operative of the ANC military wing Umkotho We Sizwe who was killed this month 44 years ago.

This college occupying 600 acres of area in Mazimbu Morogoro, was donated by the Tanzanian government in 1977 to build an education and vocation centre (Grades 1-12) for children affected by the Soweto Uprising of 1976. These children first stayed at Magadu -Morogoro before moving down to Mazimbu.

Morogoro is also well remembered by many of ANC cadres, since it was here where Oliver Tambo chaired the famous Morogoro Conference of 1969 considered as the ANC landmark consultative conference.

This conference was a pivotal moment in the struggle for South Africa liberation – a moment of renewal and revitalization for the ANC. It was a conference that effectively defined the course of the ANC struggle.

It was during this conference that the ‘1969 Strategy and Tactics document’ was adopted. The conference was attended by over seventy delegates from various centres representing ANC branches, units of Umkhoto we Sizwe – the ANC military wing and leaders of Indian and colored communities.

Speakers included George Magombe Executive Secretary OAU Liberation Committee, Mr A Swai Administrative Secretary for External Affairs of TANU, Mr J Nambuta of NUTA and others from MPLA, FRELIMO, SWAPO and ZAPU. Mr Oliver Tambo, who was the main speaker, rallied the conference delegates.

“…the order that comes from the conference is close ranks. Be vigilant comrades, the enemy is vigilant…” Recently in 2019, when President Ramaphosa visited Mazimbu Morogoro during his State Visit to Tanzania, he said, “…We return to feel with our own hands the soil that sustained our freedom fighters over many dark years of oppression, the soil in which the remains of several of these freedom fighters are now interred … This is the soil that continues to provide life and sustenance to our Tanzanian brothers and sisters.”

He added, “…We return here because we desire like the people of this area and all the people of Tanzania to see this as a place of development of commerce, of learning and prosperity…” The legacy of Mazimbu continues.

President Samia’s last month state visit to South Africa has evoked some of these fond historical memories, and she was warmly received by her host, President Cyril Ramaphosa.

It was a visit described by many as resoundingly successful. While in South Africa, she was accorded with a colorful official welcome with the traditional 21-gun salute, attended a mini trade exhibition and a business forum, during which she addressed members of the business community from both countries before laying a wreath in remembrance liberation struggle heroes at the Freedom Park.

President Samia was also honoured by being bestowed with the Order of South Africa for her ground-breaking role as being the first woman President of the United Republic of Tanzania and for the significant role played by Tanzania in the struggle of liberation for South Africa. In accepting the honor, President Samia humbly said “Under the gratefulness bestowed to me and my country Tanzania and on behalf of my government and the people of Tanzania, we humbly accept the honor given to us.

It’s not mine; it’s my country’s honor. Thank you so much…” Indeed, these were very befitting acceptance remarks because in Tanzania it was not only the leaders or our gallant soldiers who contributed to the Liberation Struggle efforts. The general citizenry also offered voluntary contributions to the efforts by way of agricultural produce, money contribution (one shilling campaign for each family in support of FRELIMO) and even blood donations.

During the press briefing, President Samia very articulately explained Tanzania’s positions on quite a wide range of national, regional, and global issues.

On national issues for example, she explained the sixth phase government philosophy of 4Rs i.e. Reconciliation, Resilience, Reform and Rebuild and how through this philosophy she has extended an olive branch to the once recalcitrant opposition parties in the country (emphasis mine), thereby bringing a very conducive climate for political activities.

She stressed the point that all political parties, irrespective of their ideologies, should work together in building a nation with a strong inclusive economy.

Someone seated close to me during the press briefing reacted by saying “That’s the way to go.” The Bi National Commission (BNC) which President Samia co-chaired with her host President Cyril Ramaphosa was the second one.

The first BNC took place on 20 May 2017 in Dar-es-Salaam co-chaired by former presidents Jacob Zuma and the Late John Pombe Magufuli. Originally, the BNC was a Presidential Economic Commission (PEC) signed by late President Benjamin Mkapa and Thabo Mbeki in September 2005, a cooperation mainly through technical meetings focusing on trade and investment before it was elevated to BNC (Presidential level) in July 2011 by former Presidents Kikwete and Jacob Zuma.

During this State visit, both presidents expressed satisfaction with the existing bilateral relations between the two countries, hinging upon the long standing historical, political, economic, and cultural ties.

The two presidents also noted with appreciation the broad nature of the bilateral cooperation in various sectors and expressed their shared commitment to boost and broaden cooperation in these areas.

To date, 15 sectoral agreements/ MOUs have been signed between the two countries and three more were signed during the BNC.

The two presidents underscored that the pending MOUs should be finalized and signed by the end of this year. The presidents also exchanged views on the ACFTA, Tripartite FTA between SADC, COMESA and EAC and how these instruments, when ratified, could bring economic benefits.

At the end of the official talks, President Samia extended an invitation to His Excellency President Cyril Ramaphosa to the next BNC to be convened in Tanzania in March 2025. This state visit took place at a time when trade between the two countries is booming.

The trade volume has increased from USD 976,331 in 2007 to USD 2.9 bn in 2021 with a favourable trade balance for Tanzania. Tanzania’s major exports to South Africa are gold compounds, black tea, textile and apparel, cotton, precious metal ores and concentrates, synthetic textile materials, roses, tobacco, oil, and vegetable fats.

Tanzania imports from South Africa include motor vehicles, flat rolled products of iron and steel, machinery, polypropylene printed books, lubricants in liquid form, bituminous coal, pumps for liquids, tractors and semi tractors, brewing machinery, and apples.

South Africa has become the first port of call to many Tanzanian businessmen. The two countries are also doing well on the investment side though very much a one-sided affair.

South Africa is one of the top 10 investors in Tanzania, accounting for approximately 10% of all the foreign investments in the country.

Tanzania Investment Centre (TIC) figures show that up until 2022 there were more than 200 companies from South Africa with investments in Tanzania.

Some of the companies include Vodacom, Multichoice, SAB Miller (Trading as Tanzania Breweries), Stellenbosch Distillers (Trading as Tanzania Distillers Ltd), Simba Cement (PIC), ABSA (trading as NBC), Illovo (trading as Kilombero Sugar), Anglo Gold Ashanti (trading as Geita Gold), and many others. President Samia’s State Visit to South Africa was important for strengthening the already existing bilateral relations and for boosting trade and investment in line with the country’s economic diplomacy policy.

Both countries stand to benefit from this visit and the outcome of this BNC which agreed to boost bilateral cooperation in various sectors including Defence and Security, Trade and Investment, Agriculture, Environment, Tourism, Home Affairs, Science and Technology, Transport, Health, Education, Energy, Mining, Infrastructure development, Culture, Arts and Sports. And for Tanzania, it is Kazi Iendelee in accordance with the now famous newly coined development slogan.

• The writer is Tanzania’s High Commissioner to South Africa.

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