Brief statement by King Willem-Alexander with President Cyril Ramaphosa during the state visit to South Africa, Pretoria
Thank you so much for your hospitality,
Baie dankie vir jou gasvryheid,
Ri a livhuwa
I wish I was able to thank you in all twelve of your nation’s official languages, including South African Sign Language. But I hope the message is clear: my wife and I are delighted to be here on a state visit to your magnificent country.
I have many special memories of South Africa, including of course the inauguration of President Mandela, almost 30 years ago. He also celebrated our wedding with us. In fact, he was the only guest to invite himself. And he was more than welcome!
You, Mr President, represent the generation after Nelson Mandela.
But like him, you’ve made your mark on the free South Africa. Indeed, you were one of the main architects of the interim constitution of 1993. The foundation on which your democracy is built.
South Africa stands out for its strong legislation and independent court system. People here have the freedom to speak out, to unite, to choose their own path, to be themselves. You were the first country in the world to ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in your constitution. This deserves the highest respect.
We have come to South Africa to listen, and to exchange ideas on your concerns, and on everything we share.
We will do so with an open mind and honest intent. We share a history which, for over a century and a half, was marked by colonialism, abuse of power and slavery. Its traces are still visible and tangible in many places.
Tomorrow, at the Iziko Slave Lodge in Cape Town, we will reflect on this past in all humility.
After our colonial ties were severed, a sense of kinship remained. But it wasn’t until the 1960s that a broad awareness of injustice towards the black population emerged in the Netherlands.
Our country joined the struggle against apartheid. A struggle that succeeded thanks to people like you.
South Africa has become a leading voice on the African continent and around the world. You are an advocate for connection. You have demonstrated the power of this in your own country with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which has helped heal so many wounds.
Connection: that’s what we need so badly around the globe. In that regard, our two countries are truly of one mind.
We think alike on fundamental principles like human rights and democracy.
Together we support the International Criminal Court. And together we promote the equality and safety of every human being, regardless of their colour, gender or sexual orientation.
We will be discussing all these issues during our visit, including the practical realities that sometimes stand in the way of our ideals.
Our work together extends into many other fields too. One of the biggest tasks facing both our countries is the transition to a sustainable energy future.
Together we’re working to build a clean, fair and climate-friendly energy supply. I’m very pleased that we’re stepping up our cooperation and exploring the scope for green hydrogen.
Wouldn’t it be great if you could soon start exporting South African sunshine to the north! That would give both our economies a sustainability boost.
The main source of power for a thriving economy is an educated population. Besides being a young nation, you are a nation of the young.
That’s fantastic. But many young people are out of work and lack the skills to make their dreams come true. Good education that meets society’s needs is the key.
Our two countries have been working together in education and research for many years. And we hope to give that partnership an extra boost during our visit.
Every time I visit South Africa I feel uplifted by the incredible vitality, positive energy and enjoyment I find here.
It’s like watching the Springboks play. Now complete with L.E.D. signals from director Rassie Erasmus.
And speaking of Erasmus...
Next month, at the Royal Palace in Amsterdam, I will be presenting the Erasmus Prize to a South African: Trevor Noah – the youngest winner in the award’s 65-year history.
And there’s a fitting connection here.
Between Erasmus of Rotterdam, a humanist who wrote In Praise of Folly more than 500 years ago. And a young South African from Soweto who made it big as a stand-up comedian in the clubs of Johannesburg.
Noah once wrote: ‘I never let the memory of something painful prevent me from trying something new’.
An inspiring motto.
Without forgetting the past, we are here to embrace new opportunities in our partnership with you. And we’re looking forward to the rest of our visit.