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Rajapaksa asked Zuma for help with peace – South Africa’s Special Envoy

South Africa’s Special Envoy to Sri Lanka said his government agreed to become involved in the island’s “struggle for peace” after President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s requested President Jacob Zuma’s assistance when he visited Colombo last year.

In his first public comments on his role, Mr. Cyril Ramaphosa, also Deputy President of the ruling African National Congress (ANC), said South Africa’s post-Apartheid success in building a new nation that embraced democracy and human rights had endeared the country to many others around the world, including Sri Lanka.

Cyril Ramaphosa addressing crowds at Mount Edgecombe. Photograph Tamil Guardian

“Our country used to be the pariah of the world, and today we are the darling of the world... Some of those that have come to respect us greatly are countries like Sri Lanka,” he said in a speech on April 18th, at Mount Edgecombe, KwaZulu Natal.

“When our president went to Sri Lanka, [President Rajapaksa] said: 'President Zuma please could you assist us to find permanent peace amongst our people here in Sri Lanka?'."

“He said he would like South Africa to play a critical role in helping to cement the people of Sri Lanka together,” Mr. Ramaphosa told an audience largely of South Africans of Tamil descent at a 'Hindu Easter' event by the Shri Mariammen Temple.

President Zuma, who also made a brief address at the event, had met President Rajapaksa when he attended the controversial Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Colombo last November.

“What we have been through, in the form of reconciliation, in the form of building a new nation from the ashes of Apartheid has made many countries around the world to want to learn from us,” Mr. Ramaphosa, who is also South Africa’s Special Envoy to South Sudan, said.

“They want to know how did we succeed to defeat the monster of Apartheid? How did we defeat racism? How did we defeat exploitation... imposed on a many of our people by a few?”

“Sri Lanka, where quite a number of you, through your forebears are associated with, has been struggling to find peace. Last year they reached out to us.”

“We are truly honoured to be chosen amongst many countries to go and make this type of contribution to the people of Sri Lanka,” he said. “We have a wonderful story to tell, and it is this wonderful story that the Sri Lankans see."

"As South Africans we do not impose any solution on anyone around the world," he said, noting the limits of South Africa's involvement. "All we ever do is to share our own experience and tell them how, through negotiation, through compromise, through giving and taking we were able to defeat the monster of Apartheid."

"We think we can share those experiences, and of course in the end, it is up to the people of Sri Lanka to find their own peace," he stressed.

“All I can say is … there is a great deal of hope and we as South Africa are going to be able to share our own experience [of] how we were able to build our own peace, how we were to begin the process of building a nation from the ashes of terrible oppression, ashes of Apartheid and ashes of exploitation.”

See here for the full text of Mr. Cyril Ramaphosa's address.

See also our feature 'Enter South Africa?'.