Hungary and South Africa share a common history, with lengthy occupation by major foreign powers and the imposition of ideologies such as communism and divisive apartheid over roughly the same time, South Africa’s Ambassador to Hungary, Johann Marx, told guests celebrating his country’s Freedom Day last week.
As such, the word freedom undoubtedly has a particularly important meaning for Hungarians and South Africans alike, Ambassador Marx told the gathering. In this context, “this year 2016 commemorates major events in both our countries on what South Africa’s first democratically elected head of state, the late president Nelson Mandela, correctly called a long walk to freedom”, he said.
“Sixty years ago this year, ordinary Hungarians and South Africans undertook acts of defiance in pursuit of their freedom. In Hungary the 1956 Uprising against Soviet rule was among the first stepping stones to the country regaining its freedom in 1989, while in South Africa at the same time a courageous group of women, representing our diverse society, marched on the seat of government to protest the hated pass laws, imposed on the majority of our country’s citizens against their will.”
Ambassador Marx said this latter action was also a major step on South Africa’s road to freedom and democracy, which 20 years later, in June 1976, was followed by a massive student uprising that could be regarded as the beginning of the end of apartheid rule. This in turn had led to the adoption during 1996 – now exactly 20 years ago – of South Africa’s definitive Constitution, which laid the foundation for a democratic society based on the rule of law and the will of all its people.
Marx said that this year the two countries celebrate 25 years of bilateral diplomatic relations that have witnessed substantial developments in ties, such as the establishment of a joint economic commission, the second session of which was co-chaired by Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade László Szábo and his South African counterpart in Budapest in April.
This had contributed to South Africa becoming Hungary’s largest trading partner on the African continent.
Freedom Day, South Africa’s National Day, is held each April 27 to commemorate the first post-apartheid elections held on that date in 1994.