CELEBRATING THE INDONESIA AND SA LINK
INDONESIA and South Africa will celebrate 25 years of diplomatic relations in 2019. They are strategic political and economic partners in the evolving geopolitics of the Indian Ocean Rim and more broadly in global politics.
Importantly, Indonesia hosted the first Afro-asian conference in Bandung in 1955. South
African anti-apartheid activists
Molvi Ismail Cachalia and Moses Kotane attended as observers, and presented a memorandum against apartheid, which significantly helped internationalise support for the liberation movement.
Touching down in Jakarta a few days ago, one is immediately moved by the sense of energy and urgency in one of the most vibrant economies in the Asia-pacific. The new leadership of President Joko Widodo is palpable as one ambles through its buzzing side lanes and the boardrooms of its financial hub.
A not dissimilar energy is bubbling in South Africa with President Cyril Ramaphosa’s Thuma Mina campaign which has given a fresh boost to the economy and national sentiment.
Indonesia and South Africa share common ground that goes well beyond the quarter of a century of formal diplomatic relations.
There are historic ties that bind and provide a sound emotional basis for closer, mutually beneficial relations. Much of that is immediately apparent when one meanders the Cape Peninsula from Robben Island to the Cape Flats.
History records that barely
41 years after the Dutch colonial invasion of the Cape, the Dutch East India Company, in 1693, shipped Sheikh Yusuf from Makasar to exile at what they regarded as the Cape of Good Hope.
In the period of Yusuf’s imprisonment at the Cape, the
Dutch had established a firm military control over both the Cape and Indonesia with the latter centered around Batavia. While there is considerable scholarship about the history of the misnamed “Malay” community and the development of the Afrikaans language, the current flavour of African nationalist narratives pay scant attention to this important period in South Africa’s tortured history.
A significant case in point was the past week in the harassment of the delegation of King Khoi as they descended on Pretoria’s Union Buildings after a long and arduous walk across the country to state their first people’s claim to land.
Certain elements from the EFF who were bussed in to the Union Buildings were adamant about bullying them into showing proof of their claims. Land issues are contested and emotional all over the world and neither Indonesia nor South Africa are immune to diverse claims. The resurgence of the Khoisan in wanting to assert its legitimate claim to be counted in the heritage of struggle also has a demonstrable link with Indonesia.
Progress in the 21st century and the age of the Fourth Industrial Revolution demands that we open our eyes and hearts to each other and the nations around us. Visiting Indonesia has shown that distance is not a barrier to working together for progress and mutual prosperity.