/ 15 March 2024

Lithuania celebrates 34 years of independence 

Lithuanian Ambassador Rasa Jankauskaite
Lithuanian Ambassador Rasa Jankauskaite delivers an address at Sammy Marks Museum.

On 11 March 1990, 50 years of Soviet occupation came to an end 

The Embassy of Lithuania in Pretoria celebrated their 34th anniversary on the occasion of the Day of Restoration of Independence, at Sammy Marks Museum on 14 March 2024. Lithuanian Ambassador Rasa Jankauskaite welcomed members of the diplomatic corps, distinguished guests and friends of Lithuania. 

On 11 March 1990 50 years of Soviet occupation came to an end and Lithuania declared its independence. It was a period of euphoria and unity transcending beliefs, ages, religions and nationalities. 2024 marks the 20th anniversary for Lithuania’s membership in both NATO and the European Union. 

Addressing guests, H.E. Ms Jankauskaite said: “Freedom is not just a concept, it’s the heartbeat of every Lithuanian.” 

The heartfelt independence that began in 1990 has bestowed upon the people a sense of identity and sovereignty that is immeasurable. Lithuania and South Africa share similar experiences of breaking free from authoritarian rule and fighting for freedom, on 11 February 1990 Nelson Mandela was released from long imprisonment signifying the most striking symbol of the end of apartheid. In Lithuania on 11 March 1991 the act of the reestablishment of the independent state of Lithuania was adopted by the Supreme Council of the Republic of Lithuania.

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Many emigrants from Lithuania joined the struggle of South Africa against apartheid and contributed significantly to the development of South Africa. Some of those were Judge Albie Sachs, Nobel prize-winning writer and political activist Nadine Gordimer, Joe Slovo, Hebert Kalmbach, photographer David Goldblatt and artist William Kentridge, to name but a few prominent South Africans with Lithuanian ancestry.

Sammy Marks emigrated to South Africa at the end of the 19th century, and starting as a peddler he became a great industrialist, innovator and financier; his legacy is still alive today in South Africa. 

Commenting on relations that exist between Lithuania and South Africa, Jankauskaite named some of the good economic relations, which include being an important supplier of grain to South Africa and other African countries. Lithuanian companies operate in South Africa delivering high value products such as internet devices and are part of the e-waste recycling system. Lithuania is among the 50 fastest growing startup ecosystems and has started investing in South African systems as well. 

Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga congratulated Lithuania on their celebration on behalf of the government of South Africa. South Africa and Lithuania enjoy friendly and warm bilateral relations which continue to evolve, fostering cooperation across various areas and strengthening ties between the two countries and people.

South Africa will be hosting the fourth round of senior official political consultations in March 2024, which will provide an opportunity to strengthen bilateral, political and economic relations between both countries and explore new areas of cooperation. Efforts to enhance the trade relationship between South Africa and Lithuania have led to a steady increase in trade relations, although the balance of trade is unequal. 

Links in other areas such as culture, academic exchanges and technical cooperation should continue to be explored by both sides. Motshekga ended by wishing all Lithuanians wealth, prosperity, peace and good health.