Pretoria – Cabinet ministers and other politicians have toured Chinese diplomatic missions in South Africa, to express condolences and words of solidarity following the death of former president Jiang Zemin.
Jiang, who became China’s leader in 1989, died last week at the age of 96.
Minister of International Relations and Co-operation (Dirco) Dr Naledi Pandor has visited the Chinese Embassy in Pretoria. She signed the book of condolences and interacted with Chinese Ambassador to South Africa, Chen Xiaodong.
“On behalf of the government and people of South Africa I express the deepest condolences to the government and people of the People’s Republic of China, on the passing of the former Chinese president Jiang Zemin,” said Pandor.
“This was an iconic leader and political, a role model who spearheaded your great country on a positive growth path. Former president Jiang will be primarily remembered as a renowned thinker and statesman who led the session of South Africa-China Bi-national Commission in 2001 which bolstered the cordial co-operation between our two countries.
“Our sympathy goes to his family and the country during this difficult time of mourning.”
Flags across the Asian nation, and at Chinese diplomatic missions across the world, have been flying at half-mast, in honour of the former leader who passed away on November 30.
Former president Thabo Mbeki also visited the Chinese Embassy in Pretoria, where he left a heartfelt message for the government and people of China.
Meanwhile, Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation, Dr Blade Nzimande, visited the Chinese Consulate in Newlands, Cape Town where he also signed a book of condolence.
“My condolences on the passing away of comrade Jiang Zemin, the former general secretary of the Communist Party of China and former president of the People’s Republic of China. I happened to have the honour to meet comrade Jiang Zemin on three occasions, in 1991 and in 1996 in Beijing, and also when he paid a State Visit to South Africa,” said Nzimande.
“A real, great friend of South Africa, a true supporter of our cause for liberation. When the ANC and the SACP were unbanned in 1990, he used that occasion to further deepen relations between the Communist Party of China and the ANC and the SACP.
“In fact, the first time I met comrade Jiang Zemin in Beijing, it was in 1991 when he also met the leader of our SACP delegation, the late Raymond Mhlaba who was charged together with Nelson Mandela in the Rivonia Trial.”
Nzimande told reporters in Cape Town that he had come to express “most sincere condolences” at the consulate.
“We have come to express our most sincere condolences to the Communist Party of China, to the government of China, and to the Chinese people generally. As South Africa we say we have lost a true friend,” said the former general secretary of the South African Communist Party.
On Tuesday, Chinese President and general secretary of the Communist Party of China, Xi Jinping addresses a memorial meeting for Jiang, held in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.
Earlier this year, Chinese Consul-General in Joburg, Tang Zhongdong commended the unparalleled ties between China and South Africa, highlighting that China has been South Africa’s biggest trading partner for over a decade, and the economic ties have doubled despite the Covid-19 pandemic.
“China has been the largest trading partner of South Africa for 13 consecutive years and the trade between the two countries has risen to $54.1 billion (R9.4 trillion) last year, which is the highest in history.”
Tang said in 2019, the trade between South Africa and China was around $25bn, but has doubled even amidst the Covid-19 pandemic.
“South Africa has exported to China goods worth about $33bn,” he added.