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72nd Anniversary of the Italian Republic

21 June 2018

Ambassador of Italy to South Africa Mr Pier Giovanni Donnici hosted a reception to celebrate the Republic of Italy. Mr Ebrahim Patel, Minister of Economic Development of South Africa was the guest of honour.

Ambassador Donnici said that Italy shares a special undertaking towards the African Continent. "Africa is a cornerstone of Italian foreign policy. This is reflected in the size and scope of the Italian investments in Africa, as well as in the wide array of activities and events the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation dedicates to our partnership with African countries, among them the Italian-African Ministerial Conference, whose 2nd edition is set to take place this Autumn. Italy also enjoys a solid economic and trade relationship that makes South Africa by far our main commercial partner in Sub-Saharan Africa," said Ambassador Donnici.

Remarks by Ambassador Donnici

Today we are here to celebrate the Republic of Italy. The Republic that the Italian people freely chose to establish in a referendum 72 years ago, just as South Africans chose freely to re-found their Republic in 1994. For us, as then for South Africa, it was the first election held with universal adult suffrage.

Our democratic Republics both recognize all citizens equal social dignity and equality before the law, without distinction of sex, origins, language, religion, political opinion, personal and social conditions.  

And – allow me to quote the Italian Constitution, of which we celebrate this year the 70th anniversary – it is the duty of the Republic to remove those obstacles of an economic or social nature which constrain the freedom and equality of citizens, thereby impeding the full development of the human person and the effective participation in the political, economic and social organisation of the country.

At the same time the Constitution assigns citizens the duty, according to personal potential and individual choice, to perform an activity or a function that contributes to the material or spiritual progress of society. The Republic cannot live and thrive without the contribution of its citizens.

President Ramaphosa often remembers the words of the great Hugh Masekela: “Thuma Mina”, “Send Me. I want to be there. I want to lend a hand,”. That is the spirit of our Republics, of South Africa and Italy.

Such was also the spirit of service that animated President Nelson Mandela and Albertina Sisulu, who were born 100 years ago in a much different South Africa. They committed to build a new society, on the pillars of democracy, justice, equality, human dignity for every woman and man. And they, along with many others who fought with them, accomplished what some time ago could have seemed only a dream.

This struggle found in Italy a wide and deep solidarity – let me just mention the friendship that united Oliver Reginald Tambo and the Italian city of Reggio Emilia, whose bond with South Africa stands to this day. Or the lasting legacy of Benny Nato, who served as the ANC representative in Italy.

Now we look with admiration and gratitude to these forefathers. The Italian President of the Republic Sergio Mattarella paid homage to Madiba’s lasting example in his message on the occasion of Africa Day, as I had the honour to inform President Ramaphosa when we met last Friday. I was proud to share with him and with Minister Lindiwe Sisulu the text.

The ties between South Africa and Italy, which roots are in the years of the struggle against apartheid, are indeed strong in every field, from political to economic and social.  

Politically, we share a commitment to the multilateral system of global governance, with the United Nations at its core, and many other important international fora in which we participate together, such as the G20.

We also share a special undertaking towards the African Continent. Africa is a cornerstone of the Italian foreign policy. This is reflected in the size and scope of the Italian investments in Africa, as well as in the wide array of activities and events the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation dedicates to our partnership with African countries, among them the Italian-African Ministerial Conference, whose 2nd edition is set to take place this Autumn. Italy also enjoys a solid economic and trade relationship that makes South Africa by far our main commercial partner in Sub-Saharan Africa.     

The increasing trade between Italy and South Africa, +9% in the last year, with our exports growing over +18% - strengthens the economies of us both.

I am particularly glad to welcome and warmly thank the Italian companies who are present here with their great products. From Illy coffee to Campari drinks and Ferrero chocolates, from Alfa Romeo to Maserati and Ferrari spectacular cars, from Bianchi bikes to Aprila, MV Augusta, Ducati and Piaggio-Vespa motorbikes. Today, the Residence is like an open-air gallery of Italian quality and craftsmanship.

Many of our exports to South Africa, though, we cannot easily show here. Indeed, some of our biggest exports are capital goods and machinery, chemicals and other production inputs that further bolster the already advanced South African production system. Business to business, as I like to repeat. The final consumer cannot spot them, but they are among the secrets behind some of the best South African products.

Italian companies also invest in training local human resources, they partner with local entrepreneurs and carry out social responsibility initiatives for local communities.

We do not want to exploit South Africa or deplete it of its resources. Ours is instead a partnership among equals, for the mutual benefit of our people, and our collaboration can be a driving force for the sustainable and inclusive development of the whole African Continent.

In our partnership among equals, with both countries boasting advanced companies, the pattern of our collaboration is the one that characterizes the interactions among industrialized countries. Hence, the importance of scientific and technological research, that in South Africa as well as Italy goes hand in hand with economic progress.

2018 marks the 20 years of the bilateral agreement for scientific and technological cooperation between South Africa and Italy. It has been implemented through bilateral executive programmes that have supported a vibrant cooperation in several sectors such as biotechnology, health, nanotechnology and new materials, ITC, green and renewable energies and physics, astrophysics and radio astronomy (in this latter sector I would like to mention also our partnership for the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) platform).

The Embassy is also active in linking research and industries. The matchmaking event on aerospace that took place last December was a huge success in terms of participation. Yet, the best news is that the seeds we had planted on that occasion are now flourishing with many new partnerships among South African and Italian aerospace companies and industrial districts being established. The next matchmaking event will focus on the nexus between food, health and nutrition.

I must say that Italy can count on a special asset in South Africa: it is the Italian community established here since decades, which forms an integral part of South African society and economy. A community which through hard work and commitment managed to build a successful life so far from home. A community which contributes to the prosperity and the well-being of this country.

Now, dear guests, please allow me to briefly address our compatriots in our beloved language: I am sure that given the beauty of the Italian language you won’t be bothered by a few minutes of exotic speaking!

Care cittadine, cari cittadini, lasciatemi dire quanto orgoglio suscita in me vedere questa comunità italiana così viva e operosa, così ben inserita nella società del Sudafrica e allo stesso tempo così fedele alle tradizioni e i valori del Paese di origine. Un legame, quello tra Sudafrica e Italia, che come avete sentito va rafforzandosi sempre più, anche a livello economico commerciale. E la comunità italiana può essere fiera del proprio contributo in questa direzione, nell’offrire un punto di riferimento, un bacino di contatti, di idee, di risorse per le nostre imprese che intendano investire o esportare in Sudafrica.

Vorrei anche ricordare che il prossimo settembre si svolgerà a Durban la Commissione continentale anglofona del CGIE – di cui un membro della nostra comunità esprime la guida – un esempio della centralità di cui godono gli Italiani in Sud Africa nel panorama delle comunità italiane all’estero.

Tutto questo è possibile grazie alla mirabile rete di associazioni che testimonia l’attaccamento alla Patria e alle proprie radici, un attaccamento di cui ho avuto prova tangibile al cimitero di Zonderwater, dove riposano i nostri prigionieri di guerra caduti.

Un saluto caloroso vorrei rivolgere anche ai ‘nuovi arrivati’. Ai tanti giovani italiani, ricercatori, imprenditori, professionisti, che hanno trovato qui in Sud Africa una nuova casa. Le vostre nuove energie non potranno che  arricchire ulteriormente la nostra comunità e rafforzare l’amicizia con questo meraviglioso Paese.

Buona festa della Repubblica a tutti voi! Happy Day of the Republic!
Viva la Repubblica Italiana, viva la Repubblica del Sudafrica.

Embassy of Italy in South Africa




February/March 2020

















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