Article by His Excellency Ambassador Kanat Tumysh of Kazakhstan to South Africa

Today, on the 5th of March, we celebrate the 30th Anniversary of diplomatic relations between Kazakhstan and South Africa; it is the Pearl Jubilee of our Friendship.

Allow me to convey warm greetings from my leadership and extend the best wishes of our Government and people to the Government and people of the Republic of South Africa. Based on the modern history of our two states, that very date, when our diplomatic relations were officially established, is the beginning of the Kazakh-South African cooperation.

We are thankful to the Rainbow Nation because after Kazakhstan gained its Independence, South Africa was among the first countries to recognize our statehood, thereby emphasizing genuine interest to establish and develop mutually beneficial relations with us.

A milestone event in the development of bilateral relations was the opening of the Embassy of South Africa to the Republic of Kazakhstan in December 2003. Since December 2016, H.E. Ms. Kiitumetsi Matthews has been the Ambassador of South Africa to Kazakhstan. On the other hand, the Embassy of the Republic of Kazakhstan in South Africa was opened in December 2013, and it is the only diplomatic mission of Kazakhstan in the vast region of Southern Africa. In July 2019, I was appointed as the Ambassador of Kazakhstan to South Africa.

I would like to underscore the strength of Kazakh-South African political, economic, cultural, and humanitarian relations aimed at strengthening interstate cooperation across the entire spectrum of ties.

Our countries have much in common. Both South Africa and Kazakhstan boast diverse populations with different ethnicities, religions, and traditions – a diversity that strengthens and enriches our countries. I have personally experienced the depth of South Africa’s history and culture.  Likewise, I also always try to utilize opportunities to share the Kazakh culture with the people of South Africa.

I appreciate the strong friendship between our two countries greatly. We are partners. Exchange programs have allowed our doctors, professors, and students to learn from and teach one another. In numerous fields, people from our nations are working together to advance our shared interests. This has produced tangible outcomes and has helped identify priority areas. Indeed, the two nations have started a very promising conversation on a range of important issues, including cooperation in the fields of defense, security, industry, trade, overall economic development, energy, and education. We would like to stress Kazakhstan’s leadership’s interest in further building efforts to improve mechanisms of mutually beneficial cooperation. In this vein, it is important also to promote cooperation in the mining industry, engineering, healthcare, and agriculture, in particular, in the exchange of advanced technologies.

We have already agreed to strengthen the economic partnership and have pledged to conclude the Enhanced Trade and Economic Cooperation Agreement that seeks to give preference to Kazakh and South African companies to win goods and services contracts in both countries. In the future, we plan to launch a binational Business Forum as a vehicle through which our two countries can promote and advance economic and development goals that are beneficial to both sides. Our business leaders work together to create jobs and grow our economies. Both countries strive to build a genuinely attractive business environment for foreign companies. We believe that together with South Africa we will work closely towards catalyzing private financing to develop our economies.

We also share common values and a strong commitment to contribute jointly to the principles of multilateralism and UN pillars, having worked, in particular, as non-permanent members of the UN Security Council.

For instance, we work hand-in-hand to make Africa, the Middle East, and Asia inhospitable terrains for extremists and terrorists, freeing our planet from nuclear weapons and nuclear tests, advancing effective and sustainable primary healthcare for all, promoting the empowerment of women and in many other spheres.

Our state also proposed the creation of a new geopolitical reality based on the establishment of direct dialogue among the world powers. Many of the troubles of the contemporary world lie in the lack of trust and dialogue. We believe that such a reputable state as South Africa, being a full member of NAM and BRICS, as well as being an authoritative African leader, will be instrumental in the implementation of this agenda.

I look forward to being constantly in touch with the Government and people of South Africa in order to continue our tradition of partnership. For 30 years, since we established our diplomatic relations, these ties have grown steadily and smoothly. Even during some difficult times of COVID-19 and other challenges for our planet, we have worked together and accomplished much in pursuit of shared goals, most particularly to build a juster, more prosperous, and safer world. This work rests on our shared commitment to maintain peace and security, ensure sustainable development, as well as to promote humanitarianism. As the relationship between our countries grows and develops, our shared values ensure that we will remain close.

Madiba once said, “Only through hardship, sacrifice and militant action can freedom be won. The struggle is my life. I will continue fighting for freedom until the end of my days.”

Indeed, for years humanity wandered in the dark forest of disunity. However, the greatest illusion on the planet Earth is the illusion of our dissociation, as we are all a part of the whole. Neither frontiers, language distinctions, nor political contradictions can cancel the unassailable fact that we live on one planet, which we must bequeath to our children and grandchildren. That is why my country Kazakhstan calls for unity in these turbulent times. That is why Madiba urged us to continue our long walk to freedom. Indeed, Freedom is a virtue, and virtue is the dress of a human being. We have deceived ourselves for too long, but now we must come to our senses before the complete and final destruction of the spirit of humanity has come.

This is why this year we decided to commemorate the Pearl Jubilee of our diplomatic relations in a very unusual manner. We have organized in partnership with the Yunus Emre Institute, Council of Muslim Theologians, G-Global Africa, the Thembikile Mandela Foundation, AWQAF, AMKA Products, Two Lights Foundation, and others a unique contest – Essay Competition for South African schools on the legacy of Great Sufi Leader and Turkic Poet – Ahmed Yassawi.

Yassawi was a Great Sufi leader who exerted a powerful influence on the development of Islam. He was born in the town of Sayram (another name: Ispijab) in South Kazakhstan in 1093. His father, Sheikh Ibrahim ibn Mahmud, was a famous learned man (Mullah and Ulama), and also religious master and Sultan of the Khoja community, pertaining to the Hanafi school of Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh). His mother was Aisha Khatun Iftikhar, the daughter of one of Ibrahim’s disciples. With the help of another local Hanafi scholar, Bakh ad-Din Ispijabi, the father introduced the son from early childhood to the religious life and to the study of sciences.

He praised ascetic life and meditation on death and adapted the Islamic message to Turkic customs. He also abolished differences between men and women and showed tolerance for other religions. He also emphasized the importance of individual freedoms and knowledge. He practiced and taught the mystic way (tasavvuf) and garnered more than 10,000 followers. Many were good students and novices (murids) and he mustered an uninterrupted line of successors (khalifah), thereby becoming the spiritual ancestor of all Turkic tribes. A popular brotherhood rose around him and developed into a school (tariqah) called Yasawiyya, representing one of the three important Sufi orders of Central Asia.

Yasawi is also the earliest known Turkic poet who composed poetry in Middle Turkic.

Last year Ahmed Yasawi’s native city of Turkestan located in Southern Kazakhstan was proclaimed the Spiritual Capital of the Turkic World. Muslims call Ahmed Yasawi Sayyid Hadrati-Turkistan. My President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev of Kazakhstan, while calling for the revival of Turkic Civilization, highlighted, that this process should begin, above all, with the promotion of Yasawi’s legacy and presentation of our sacred Spiritual Capital to the entire world. That is why we organized the Essay Writing Competition, and we plan to publish in Pretoria in December 2022 Ahmad Yassawi’s book entitled ‘Diwan-i Hikmat’, which means ‘Collection of Divine Wisdom’.

We did it also, because Madiba taught us, that education is the most powerful weapon, which one can use to change the world.

Thank you.

The Diplomatic Informer
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