Farewell to land of great emotion, courage, resilience, hope

Farewell to land of great emotion, courage, resilience, hope
July 17 08:40 2021
Ambassador Martin Schäfer

It has been a long ride. Having served for my second term in South Africa, I will have spent nearly eight years in your country, since October 2017 as the German Ambassador. It has also been a wild ride in many ways.

I saw Jacob Zuma being elected president of the ANC in Polokwane in December 2007 in a landslide. I was here when South Africa hosted guests from around the globe for the FIFA World Cup in that wonderful cold and sunny winter month in 2010, when the rainbow nation seemed to have to come true (and I shed a tear or two when Germany lost to Spain in the semi-finals in Durban). I witnessed Cyril Ramaphosa’s razor thin victory at Nasrec in December 2017 and shared the hope of renewal after long years of state capture. I felt the anxiety and uncertainty of what was to come when President Ramaphosa locked down South Africa in March 2020 to shield us from the deadly Coronavirus pandemic.

I had the privilege to witness great moments in our bilateral relations: It was an honour to welcome German Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier in November 2018 on a state visit to South Africa (the first in more than 20 years) and Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel on an official visit in February 2020 in Pretoria, her second after 13 years. And to witness our leaders embrace responsibility for our two nations, the biggest and most stable democracies and economies on our sister continents, beyond our own borders for Africa and indeed the world.

‘We are in this together’

Together, we have worked hard to come closer to the potential of the relations between Germany and South Africa, possibly as close as in the wonderful years after the miraculous fall of the Berlin Wall and the release of Nelson Mandela, these moments in history when suddenly everything seemed possible and we managed to build our nations anew, when South Africa and Germany became true beacons of hope of a new and peaceful world order, with human dignity, social justice and democracy at its heart

Today, we both give it our best to live up to that promise and work together to make this world and South Africa a better place: by jointly focusing on professional education and vocational training to curb the scourge of youth unemployment, with our huge joint efforts to green the economy  and bring about a just energy transition, to provide reliable energy for growth and employment, fight climate change and its potentially devastating consequences for Southern Africa, by helping to reinvigorate the principles of the rule of law as the most fundamental basis of a peaceful, democratic and just society. We are in this together!

Germany is supporting South Africa’s response to the Covid crisis by helping to set up field hospitals in Gauteng, in East London and in Uitenhage in the Eastern Cape with more than five thousand beds, with the unwavering support of German companies like BMW, Siemens and Volkswagen, by helping to acquire protective equipment and the most advanced analytical tools, by providing food and shelter to many thousand vulnerable women and children on the Cape Flats, by supporting the rollout of vaccines.

Most importantly, we have, together with our French partners, paved the way towards a meaningful production of vaccines in South Africa for Africa, thus helping to bring about a sea change in Africa’s own tools to react to a pandemic.

 

All with the clear goal to stand together, beat the virus together and overcome the pandemic together

In times of the rise of populism and the my-country-first-brigades from the North, East, West and South, in times of fake news, propaganda and the rise of new global stand-offs, South Africa and Germany were steadfast in our stance for a peaceful multilateral world order, dialogue and cooperation, on the world stage and side-by-side in the Security Council of the United Nations. Indeed, we did not linger in promoting democratic principles and human rights and standing up to bullying in the stormy headwinds of a world in turmoil.

Quite a lot indeed.

 Grateful and indebted to South Africans

I witnessed and felt the joy and the suffering of South Africans, the ups and downs, the euphoria and the depression, the hopes, dreams and aspirations, sometimes fulfilled, sometimes shattered, the new dawns, the small and big victories.

Remember the roar of a whole nation when Tshabalala scored the opening goal of the World Cup 2010 in Soccer City against Mexico? Remember the moment Cyril Ramaphosa was elected President of the ANC, at Nasrec, only a stone throw away? When South Africa won the Rugby World Cup in Japan in a nail-biting final against England?

I do. And I will for the rest of my life

I cherish the countless encounters with South Africans, scientists and artists, ministers and members of parliament, from government and opposition, journalists and whistle-blowers, from business and trade unions, communists and capitalists, diplomats, activists and civil servants, football stars, past and present.

I believe in a good and peaceful and prosperous future for all South Africans, and South Africa inspiring hope as a constitutional, multi-party democracy based on the rule of law with the well-being of all of its citizens at heart.

South Africa is a place of great emotions and true heroes, big and small, because of its difficult past and the incredible courage and resilience of its people. It was a privilege to have met so many and even become friends with a few. I am grateful and indebted to South Africans for their kind friendship and unrivalled hospitality.

Actually, I not only felt at home. I was at home.

I do hope indeed that South Africa will embrace my successor with the same open arms with which I was welcomed.

Stay well!

H.E Martin Schäfer  is the outgoing German ambassador to South Africa

view more articles

About Article Author

Diplomat Magazine
Diplomat Magazine

View More Articles