/ 14 February 2006

Blair wants stronger SA-Britain relationship

South Africa’s relationship with Britain is strong, British Prime Minister Tony Blair said in Soweto on Monday.

”I want to see it even stronger still,” said Blair, who came to South Africa to attend last weekend’s Progressive Governance Summit.

”But I want to see that partnership play a part in the relationship between the developing world and the developed,” he said during a short visit to Kliptown, Soweto.

Blair, who could not fly back home because of problems with his aircraft, paid a courtesy call on former president Nelson Mandela and visited the Apartheid Museum.

During his visit to Kliptown, Blair was accompanied by Minister of Safety and Security Minister Charles Nqakula, two Gauteng provincial ministers and the British high commissioner to South Africa, Paul Boateng.

He toured the area, especially the tower where the Freedom Charter’s 10 clauses were written.

”Just going in there now, seeing the flame, seeing the 10 points of the Freedom Charter … gives us a great sense of optimism for the future

”What you are doing here, the ANC [African National Congress] and President [Thabo] Mbeki, is something quite remarkable,” Blair said.

He said the worst thing that can ever happen in politics is when people become down-hearted, pessimistic and ”think that things can never change”.

”But this place where we are today is living proof that change can come, and with change comes hope, and with hope comes a future in which people feel they have a stake,” he said.

Not many British citizens would understand the importance of Blair’s visit to Kliptown, where the Freedom Charter was signed 50 years ago.

Nqakula, who in the past accompanied Blair to Alexandra, northern Johannesburg, a few years ago, said South Africa is happy about Britain’s continuous help.

”We are happy therefore that you will continue personally and [as] your country to work closely together with us,” he told Blair. — Sapa