The Mayor of Fallo, Alfredo Salerno & his wife, Carla;
The South African Ambassador to Italy;
The South African Ambassador to Turkey;
Municipality Staff;
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you for the invitation to be with you and mark this remarkable occasion. Grazie mille.

I am deeply humbled by the conferral of Honourary Citizenship on me by the Municipality of Fallo today.

Just six years ago, my wife and I had the wonderful opportunity to visit Fallo for the first time, in September 2012. Throughout the years, visits to Italy have been a key feature of our calendars, and on each occasion we have been met with incredibly hospitality, warmth and generosity that is the international hallmark of the Italian spirit!

Today’s event marks yet another sign of the friendship that binds our two countries together.

Over the last decade, the historic political, economic and cultural relations between South Africa and Italy have grown – maturing diplomatic ties that were established in 1929.

Indeed, South Africa is home to more than 60 000 people of Italian descent[1], who have made the country their place of residence since the 17th and 18th centuries and now form part of the diaspora.

A number of Italians settled in South Africa after the Second World War, in which we must remember the over 100 000 soldiers who were interned at the prisoner of war camp Zonderwater which translates to ‘without water’.

Numerous Italian-South Africans can trace their roots back to these brave souls – many of whom decided to return to our country following the war[2].

Ladies and Gentlemen;

It is meaningful that this privilege is granted this year – in which we are celebrating the Centenary of Nelson Mandela, as we commemorate the spirit of brotherhood, diplomacy and humanism that he embodied as an individual and statesman.

In becoming a honourary citizen of Fallo, I join two other South African luminaries who have been bestowed with similar honours in times past.

Oliver Tambo, the South African liberation icon who served as President of the African National Congress, was granted both an honourary degree in Political Science by the University of Bologna and honorary citizenship bestowed by the Town Council of the city of Bologna, Italy in 1988. He was a noted great friend of the City of Reggio Emilia. The city offered support to our liberation struggle after the signing of a solidarity pact with the ANC in 1977[3]. As Tambo once said: ‘Italy`s solidarity movement with the peoples of southern Africa has a profound significance for us’[4]

Mandela was granted honourary citizenship of the City of Florence in 1987, and honourary citizenship bestowed by the Town Council of the city of Bologna in 1988.

It is a profound privilege to follow the path of these remarkable men.

Italy has gained world renown as a site of extraordinary art and architecture, beautiful fashion and artisanal crafts, an advanced automotive industry, culinary excellence and rich culture and musical heritage. The country is steeped in history and tradition, and has gained a significant place in the world. It is therefore a sincere honour to be bestowed the gift of official allegiance.

As such, I would like to take this opportunity to express my deepest gratitude to Ambassador Soni, Mayor Salerno, and their respective teams, in making this moment possible.

I end with the words of Nelson Mandela, which seem fitting on this occasion:

“A fundamental concern for others in our individual and community lives would go a long way in making the world the better place we so passionately dreamt of.”

Thank you for your kind attention.