Ban Ki-moon's speeches

Opening remarks at press conference with President Kgalema Motlanthe of South Africa

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Pretoria (South Africa), 25 February 2009

[Unofficial transcript]

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen of the media. Sawubona.

It is a great pleasure for me to be here on my first [official] visit to South Africa as Secretary-General of the United Nations. And I thank President Motlanthe and the Government of South Africa for the warm welcome and the kind hospitality provided to me and to my delegation.

South Africa holds a particular place in the United Nations family because of our own long engagement against apartheid, in support of the struggle of the South African people.

That particular place has sustained the test of time, as South Africa is today an important partner for the United Nations, because of the major role South Africa plays in international and regional peacemaking, peacekeeping and peace building efforts.

It is facilitating the peace process in Burundi and mediating in Zimbabwe. It is contributing more than two thousand troops to United Nations operations from the Congo and Sudan to Nepal, and it has paid a heavy price for that commitment.

These are some of the subjects I discussed a few minutes ago with President Motlanthe and other cabinets ministers, including the Foreign Minister, the Environment Minister and the Finance Minister. We have just held a very fruitful and constructive meeting.

On Zimbabwe, I welcomed the inauguration of the new Government of National Unity. The partnership between the Zimbabwean parties will need to be nurtured. Although the United Nations has no direct mandate to help implement the Agreement between the parties, we are ready to ensure that the enormous challenges confronting the Zimbabwean people are effectively addressed. That said, I remain concerned about reports of arrests and detention of opposition activists and human rights defenders. I hope that these people will be freed as soon as possible.

Also, in the face of the rapid deterioration of the humanitarian situation in Zimbabwe, especially the current cholera epidemic, the UN will do all possible efforts to increase its support to Zimbabwe, including for nationally owned stabilization and recovery programmes. My Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Catherine Bragg, is currently in Zimbabwe. She will recommend how the international community can step up its humanitarian efforts in the country.

On the DRC: I commended the role of South African peacekeepers in saving, daily, the lives of Congolese civilians under extremely difficult circumstances. As Secretary-General of the United Nations, I hope we can count on South Africa's continued and significant support to reform the Congolese security sector.

We also discussed with the President South Africa's key role as an economic powerhouse with by far the largest, strongest and most diversified economy on the continent. We discussed the forthcoming G-20 meeting in April, where South Africa's President will be once again the only African leader in attendance and an effective voice for the millions of voiceless and most vulnerable.

I am here in South Africa to concretely reach out to countries that have a potential leadership [role] in confronting global challenges. One such challenge is climate change. While South Africa has been an effective advocate on behalf of the G-77, much of Africa has not benefited from the current international climate change regime. It is time to change that. Africa must help shape the Copenhagen deal in a way that benefits the interests of the continent and its citizens. South Africa has shown commendable leadership and can do more.

As to issues specific to this country, I stressed to President Motlanthe my appreciation of the fact that South Africa has made remarkable strides in consolidating democracy since the end of apartheid. It has built solid and reliable democratic institutions. The forthcoming elections present a historic opportunity to showcase South Africa to the region and the world as a country that is capable of effecting peaceful democratic change.

But, perhaps more importantly, I wish the best of luck to the Bafana Bafana when they set out next year to become hopefully the first African football champion of the world, as they have done so in rugby. And while our United Nations teams might be able to compete on other fields, we cannot claim to have Benny McCarthy or Steven Piernaar on our side.

We will contribute instead in our own way to the success of the next World Cup through a joint project of the Global Environment Facility, supported by the UN Development Programme and environment agencies. We will spend 11 million dollars to upgrade the South African public transport system ahead of the 2010 World Cup. The project's environment objective is to reduce greenhouse gases from urban transportation in South African cities for the World Cup and beyond.

Thank you very much. Siyabonga.