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South Africa and the Netherlands: A Historic Partnership for a Brighter Future

Tinashe Mupasiri



In a momentous event at the Union Buildings in Pretoria, South Africa, President Cyril Ramaphosa welcomed His Majesty King Willem-Alexander and Her Majesty Queen Máxima of the Netherlands on the occasion of their first state visit to South Africa. The President’s opening remarks at this significant diplomatic gathering highlighted the deep historical ties between the two nations, the strides made in reconciliation, and the commitment to building a better world together.

From Left to Right: Her Majesty Queen Máxima, His Majesty King Willem-Alexander, President Cyril Ramaphosa and Dr. Kgosientsho Ramokgopa, Minister of Electricity in The Presidency. Photo Credit: Tafadzwa Ganyanhewe

Historical Ties: A Journey of Centuries

The historical connection between South Africa and the Netherlands dates back to the arrival of Dutch settlers in the Cape in 1652. These early interactions have left a lasting imprint on South African culture, language, and society. The Afrikaans language, widely spoken in South Africa, has its origins in Dutch, showcasing the linguistic influence of the Dutch colonizers.

Additionally, the Dutch East Indies’ political exiles and laborers arrived in South Africa in 1658, shaping the country’s multicultural fabric and history. Dutch culinary and cultural elements persist, creating a unique blend of traditions and flavors that South Africa is known for today.

Reconciliation and Commitment to Human Rights

President Ramaphosa acknowledged the historical injustices that both nations have confronted. He commended King Willem-Alexander for the Netherlands’ apology regarding its role in the slave trade, demonstrating a commitment to healing old wounds and promoting reconciliation. This gesture symbolizes the determination to acknowledge the past and move towards a future built on shared values of human rights, equality, development, and prosperity for all.

Global Challenges: Calls for Peace and Unity

President Ramaphosa addressed the pressing global issues, emphasizing the need for peace and reconciliation on the international stage. He expressed his concern about ongoing conflicts, such as the Russia-Ukraine conflict and the situation in Israel and Palestine, which threaten global cooperation and the pursuit of a conflict-free world.

As a nation that chose reconciliation over conflict, South Africa emphasizes the importance of immediate cessation of hostilities, upholding international law, and fostering favorable conditions for negotiation and dialogue. The President emphasized that change is always possible, even between adversaries with bitter histories, and the South Africa-Netherlands relationship stands as a testament to this belief.

A Fruitful Partnership: South Africa and the Netherlands

The partnership between South Africa and the Netherlands extends beyond historical ties. The Netherlands has been a valuable ally to South Africa, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. Their support included the provision of personal protective equipment and contributions to the Solidarity Fund. This cooperation highlights the Netherlands’ role in supporting development and economic growth across the developing world.

The economic collaboration between the two countries has been robust. Trade between South Africa and the Netherlands doubled between 2019 and 2022. The Netherlands remains a significant investor in South Africa, and South Africa welcomes Dutch tourists with open arms. The visit by a large Dutch business delegation promises fruitful engagements with South African counterparts.

The Future of South Africa-Dutch Relations

The partnership between South Africa and the Netherlands spans various sectors, including agriculture, education, transport, science, and innovation, with a growing focus on green hydrogen and renewable energy. The strong cooperation extends to academia, with universities in both countries contributing to knowledge exchange.

As President Ramaphosa aptly noted, this is a strategic partnership of mutual benefit, evolved and matured over time. It is a source of pride for both nations, founded on shared values and a commitment to development. The future holds the promise of even closer ties and expanded horizons for this remarkable South Africa-Netherlands relationship.

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