Ambassador Rakwena has come to the end of his stay in our country, after more than six years of indefatigable activities in re-approaching two countries of different continents, but with so much in common. He was a watershed in the bilateral relations between Brazil and South Africa, not only because he represented the democratic government of his country but also because, as a black person, he represented the majority of its population. With those two credentials, with natural diplomatic skills and with a strong determination to fulfil his duties, Ambassador Rakwena was a success from the start. He fact that he is a look alike of our revered football legend, Pelé, has consistently assisted him in making an excellent first impression, which was always subsequently confirmed with a better knowledge of his person.

I say that Brazil and South Africa have much in common because they are both developing countries with the majority of the population consisting of black people, who have been oppressed during centuries and who disgracefully occupy the lowest steps of the economic and social ladder. Thus, both South Africa and Brazil have before them the daunting challenge of not only overcoming the appalling state of economic underdevelopment, but also of sponsoring effective policies of economic and social inclusion and racial empowerment. All that must, of course, to be done whilst preserving the rule of law and the democratic liberties.

Our countries have learned to share experiences and to support each other in this formidable quest and have co-operated in a most effective manner. This co-operation today has a very wide spectrum, starting with the formulation of multilateral policy, of joint actions and co-ordination in multilateral trade negotiations. It has also evolved into understandings for a trade pact between MERCOSUR and SADEC, presently under way. Other areas have involved racial empowerment or social inclusion, business facilitation matters, judicial and police co-operation, tourism, health, housing, education, sanitation and numerous other fields. In all those subjects, Ambassador Rakwena had a decisive role as galvaniser, facilitator or broker. Few ambassadors have left their posts with a roster of so many and so important accomplishments.

In addition, he was a great promoter of all things South-African in Brazil, trade or non-trade related, and also of things Brazilian in South Africa. His success in promoting trade in general is confirmed by formidable growth in bi-lateral commerce, which ensures that, amongst other products, we can enjoy, in Brazil, South-African wines of the quality we are drinking tonight. Tourism has also been an area of impressive growth and Brazilians have learned to enjoy top quality holidays in South Africa for very reasonable prices.

Ambassador Rakwena once told me that he never knew his true potential as a person, in view of the limitations he suffered, very sadly, like all his countrymen in the same position, during the sombre years of apartheid. His personal contribution as a representative of South Africa has been decisive to reverse this sad heritage.

Well, success also has its toll. In this case, Ambassador Rakwena´s superiors have realised the quality of the diplomatic asset they had deployed in Brazil and have re-called him to Pretoria for a post of enormous strategic importance, from which he will still be in contact with our country. Of course, Ambassador Rakwena is going to be greatly missed by the legion of friends he has made amongst us, myself included. We wish him continued success.