South African Ambassador to Manila Agnes Nyamande-Pitso on Tuesday thanked the Philippines and the Filipino people for their support during a “difficult time” as South Africa mourned the passing of its former president and anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela.
The Philippines, she said, has been a “wonderful host” to South Africa. Pitso specifically thanked President Benigno Aquino 3rd and Vice President Jejomar Binay for sending their sympathies to the people of South Africa.
Mr. Aquino personally went to the South African Embassy in Makati City to sign the condolence book for Mandela while Binay is currently in Johannesburg to attend the memorial service for the anti-apartheid champion.
Binay is among several world leaders, including three generations of American presidents, who will be paying their last respects to the man called Madiba by his people.
Madiba is Mandela’s Xosha clan name. It is a sign of respect, endearment and familiarity.
Pitso remembered that Mr. Aquino’s mother, the late former President Corazon Aquino, was a “close friend” of Mandela, with the two having met in Cape Town when the latter visited the country.
Both are also considered democracy icons of their people.
Aquino’s signing of the condolence book is “like seeing somebody which represents the family close to Mandela,” the envoy said.
The ceremony held at the RCBC Plaza in Makati City that was organized by the South African Embassy is in remembrance of a “great man whose ideals are still relevant and what each and every country strive for [today].”
Pitso also believed the two countries can learn from each other in terms of moving forward and facing socio-economic challenges.
She stated how similar Manila and Cape Town are in terms of its history, its fight for democracy and its people.
She described the relations between the two countries now as “vibrant” rather than “cordial,” a term she used during her first few months in the office.
“It’s improving . . . the relations between the two countries. The two societies became closer to each other,” Pitso said, adding that this closeness enabled her country to reach out to the Philippines in its time of need such as what happened in eastern Visayas during the onslaught of Typhoon Yolanda.
“We can learn from each other how to move forward and do better good for the people and have a better nation,” the envoy said.
As an ambassador, her work is to improve the relations between the two countries and find a common ground under which both people can work together for social and even economic cooperation.
“So I mean . . . and you have the same challenges that South Africa is dealing with. We also try to deal with those challenges and the Aquino administration [is doing the same thing],” Pitso said.
“There is no road without challenges, the most important thing is when [there are]challenges, we have the humility to address those challenges and move forward,” she added. BERNICE CAMILLE V. BAUZON