Pretoria – Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Lechesa Tsenoli and his Palestinian counterpart Saed Al Koni have signed a Memorandum of Understanding, which will see the two countries deepen their working relationship.
The MoU makes provision for an exchange programme between SA and Palestine, in the interests of improving the work of local government.
Speaking to SAnews after signing the agreement, Tsenoli said the MoU was a symbolic representation of a step towards building a better world.
“… The MoU benefits are not only aimed at the advancement of local government, but also for the education of young engineers and others who would like to get skills opportunities in both South Africa and Palestine.
“The signing of this MoU is important because we’ve always maintained that our freedom is interconnected with the freedom of others elsewhere, who are facing similar challenges like us. So this relationship also fits in with our own agenda of strengthening local government capacity, which we need from the Palestinians.
“The MoU also speaks to our agenda of building a better world through working together, as we undertook in 2009 that we will work with others to make our world a better one. The signing of the MoU today is a symbolic representation of the step we are taking towards that direction,” he said.
Tsenoli described the relationship with Palestine as an “historic one”, which dates back to the period before the dawn of democracy in 1994. He said through the MoU, South Africa will reinforce its capacity to turnaround its municipalities.
The minister had high hopes for the exchange work that will take place following the signing of the MoU. He said the MoU laid the foundation not only for government-to-government exchange, but also for people-to-people.
“People expect to see change in their lives, especially at the local government level. If the Palestinians can help us to improve the capacity of our local government, we will also contribute to their programmes aimed at improving their local government as well.
“This … will offer us an opportunity to learn from each other… We also view this as a great opportunity for our people, especially the youth, to be skilled and trained.”
Al Koni said the Palestinians were enjoying their deep-rooted relationship with South Africa.
“With regard to local government, what we’ve noted is that we have mutual experience, a similar history to our struggle. We had the same programme to build a strong local government,” he said.
He said Palestine admired South Africa’s democratic institutions, which have grown in leaps and bounds since 1994.
“We hope that the MoU will benefit us from your experience of building a well capacitated local government,” he said.
Al Koni and his delegation of senior officials have been in South African from 16 February and are expected to stay until Saturday, 22 February. The visit is part of strengthening relations between the two countries, after a MoU was signed between the respective ministries in July 2013.
The MoU provides a framework for cooperation between the two countries in the fields of local governance and municipal development and is currently being implemented.
It also provides for cooperation in various fields including the legal framework of local governance; municipal finances and intergovernmental fiscal relations; urban and strategic development planning and the amalgamation and restructuring of local government units.
The cooperation is based on the needs, interests and potential of both parties. It set the foundation for launching an exchange and cooperation programme between Palestine and South Africa.