President Muluzi;Excellencies;Ladies and Gentlemen.

It gives me great pleasure to welcome you and your delegation to South Africa. May you feel the same warmth here that you yourselves are renowned for extending to visitors to the "warm heart of Africa."

South Africa and Malawi have many things in common, chief among them the experience of struggle against colonialism and oppression.

The migrant labour system whose tentacles spread across the whole of Southern Africa, also linked the history of our peoples. In the annals of South Africa's working class the name of Clements Kadalie will forever stand as one of the giants of resistance.

Although Malawi gained her independence three decades before we did, the year in which you, Mr. President, led your country to multiparty democracy, was the same year in which South Africa achieved democracy.

South Africa's struggle drew impetus from our neighbours and friends across the world who rallied to the call to join us in ending the inhuman system of apartheid. Under testing political and economic circumstances, the people of Malawi too showed their revulsion at the system, and we take this opportunity to thank them sincerely.

Now that our region is liberated, we can focus all our resources on improving the lives of our peoples. The challenge is to use our freedom to foster development in our countries, our region, our continent and beyond.

If South Africa's own growth strategy has a strong focus on co-operative relations with our neighbours, it is because the development of any part of Southern Africa requires the development of the entire region. As we fought oppression and exploitation together, it is now our common fight against poverty, disease and illiteracy that is the foundation for co-operation.

By pooling our abundant resources;by sharing the benefits of our strategic position between emerging economic powers in Asia and Latin America, and by combining in one regional market, we can realize our long-cherished vision of co-operation for sustained regional growth and balanced development.

We have the capacity as individual countries and as a region to make our mark in a highly competitive global market. Our success in doing so will have a profound impact on our future. It will determine the extent to which the next generation of Malawians and South Africans will enjoy proper educational facilities, good medical services, nutritional food and adequate housing.

Not long ago we met in Blantyre as the SADC Summit discussed frankly the challenges as we enter the new millennium. The Summit reaffirmed that success will depend on our individual contributions, not only in terms of economic co-operation, but also in ensuring that peace, stability and democracy are permanent features of the entire Southern African region.

We are heartened by the growing co-operation between our two countries on issues affecting Southern Africa. It contributes to the consolidation of our positions as a region. Whether it concerns debt reduction;tariff policies, disease control or military efforts, the time has come for Africans to act together and to take charge of Africa's destiny.

Trade between our countries is growing. History has skewed the trade balance in our favour, but we have it in our power to achieve a more equitable relationship. South Africa is committed to working towards that goal.

Malawi and South Africa both have much to gain from closer ties.

For many years Malawian workers have helped build South Africa, including our steel industry. Already there has been much co-operation between us in technical matters and research. South African business is looking for more opportunities in Malawi.

We look forward to increased trade and investment based on principles of mutual benefit.

Your visit here Mr. President, with your delegation, will strengthen the ties of friendship and co-operation.

Ladies and Gentlemen;Will you join me in raising your glasses in a toast to the President of Malawi and to the ever lasting friendship between the peoples of Malawi and South Africa.

I thank you.

Issued by: Office of The President