The National Assembly and the People’s Republic of China’s National People’s Congress held the fifth Regular Exchange Mechanism (REM) meeting today to assess progress with the bilateral cooperation and solutions to the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic.

 In his opening address, the Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People Congress, Mr Li Zhanshu, stated that the meeting sought to inject new vitality into South Africa-China relations. He commended the role of technology in ensuring that the meeting took place, despite the challenges posed by the pandemic. “We may be separated geographically, but technology has brought us together today. [W]e are pleased to state that our revolutionary relations have been consolidated over time and are now cruising at a high level.”

He praised South Africa as one of China’s strategic African partners with robust cooperation in trade, culture, science and technology. He further commended the continued cooperation in dealing with Covid-19 pandemic. “When South Africa was faced with challenges in dealing with Covid-19, we provided it with medical support to contain the virus. And we continue to stand firm and cooperate with you in this regard,” he continued. 

The cooperation of the two legislatures, he said, is a bridge for the two countries and their people. He called for strengthening the ties of friendship and making good use of the bilateral cooperation between the two legislatures.

In her maiden address to this bilateral relation, the Speaker of the National Assembly, Ms Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, said: “I am looking forward to a constructive and mutually beneficial cooperation between the parliaments of the two countries.”

“This new normal [Covid-19] has forced humanity to dig deep into our innovative capacity, to bring about interventions in the areas of new technologies, health and treatment protocols, the structure of our labour markets, supply chain, service delivery and the recognition of common servitude and human solidarity.

Given the socio-economic changes brought about by Covid-19, the Speaker spoke about the role legislatures can play to support and advance collaboration between the two countries. She said the first role would be to monitor the types of adjustments that the respective governments must make to these collaborative efforts and agreements, as a result of the changing environment. She conceded that “we need to strengthen the structural oversight mechanisms between our two parliaments, and we should do so more urgently.”

Giving the historical background of this bilateral relation, she stated that the exchange is based on a long-standing exchange between these two countries, which has naturally evolved over time to ensure that their shared goals are achieved. There is now a comprehensive strategic cooperation underpinned by common needs and tangible progress has been achieved in this regard.

 She further stated that the thematic discussions of this bilateral meeting on anti-pandemic economic and trade cooperation and rural vitalisation would impact positively on both parties. “We need to consider the review of our memorandum of understanding to address the changing requirements of the work we do as legislatures.”

The South African legislature has improved public participation in law-making and oversight processes. “China, with its towering advancement in tele-communication, could assist us to advance our public participation by utilising technology to disseminate our information and to enhance our interface with the South African public through various technological platforms that form part of the 4th Industrial Revolution.”

She further praised China as South Africa’s largest trading partner. But “we must ensure that this bilateral is based on balanced trade and that the principle of a shared future between the two countries are premised on a win-win approach for both economies”.

“We would like China to assist us to grow our industrialisation agenda. And to continue to assist our research capacity in medicine and technology to harness the opportunities presented by the 4th Industrial Revolution to dent the levels of inequality.”

Speaking on the challenges posed by Covid-19 and gender-based violence, both currently ravaging South Africa, she stated that the “pandemic tested our disaster management response and taught us how to deal with such scenarios in future. But also, we have come up with policies to deal decisively with gender-based violence and femicide to ensure that there’s adequate sentence for its perpetrators and there’s also adequate care and recourse for its victims.”

Abel Mputing
22 October 2021