South Africa and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) on Tuesday signed a crucial treaty on the Grand Inga hydropower project, which could eventually become the largest hydroelectric project in the world, with the potential to power half of the continent.
President Jacob Zuma made the announcement earlier on Tuesday while addressing the Parliament of the DRC, where is arrived, accompanied by a strong ministerial and business delegation, for a two-day state visit on Tuesday.
Zuma said that the signing treaty was a major step towards the realisation of the long-cherished dream of the people of the DRC.
"I must convey how particularly pleased and excited I am by the progress taking place towards the realisation of the Grand Inga Hydropower Project. This incredible feat of human ingenuity, when completed, will have the capacity to power Africa and indeed to export electricity beyond the continent."
The Grand Inga project will seek to harness the power potential of the Congo River, sub-Saharan Africa's greatest waterway.
"South Africa is extremely proud to be working so closely with the DRC in realising this accomplishment," Zuma said. "This represents one of the most ambitious projects ever undertaken on the African continent, and one which will long be a resounding symbol of the rise of Africa and her people."
SA 'ready to share experience with DRC'
Zuma said South Africa stood ready to share its experiences and expertise in helping the DRC to further strengthen and deepen their democracy as well as to further entrench their impressive commitment to human rights.
"We look forward to extending and deepening the close relations between our two great nations. We can do this across the many areas of shared interest, and in pursuit of a better future for our two great nations and peoples.
"In the spirit of ubuntu, which means 'I am because we are', and which is a core principle underpinning the work of the South African government, we will continue to stand side by side with the DRC.
"We will work together in seeing this great nation assume its rightful place as a fellow powerhouse of the African continent."
He added that South Africa would forever be grateful for the solidarity it had received from the Congolese people during the country's liberation struggle.
Concern over conflict in eastern DRC
Zuma said it has always been South Africa's firm belief that in order to overcome poverty and to achieve prosperity through development, it was imperative that the essential preconditions of peace, security, and stability were first put in place.
He said South Africa remained deeply concerned by the enduring conflict in eastern DRC, perpetrated by local and externally supported armed groups on innocent Congolese civilians, and stood in solidarity with the DRC in overcoming this serious challenge.
"We deplore the devastating loss of life, the human suffering, the displacement of more than a million civilians and the damage to property which this intolerable situation has resulted in. I extend the deepest sympathy of the people of South Africa to the Congolese people for the hardship they continue to endure as a result of this conflict."
Zuma commended the government of the DRC on its efforts in the Kampala talks aimed at ending the conflict. "Together, we united in sending the message that for too long have the people of the DRC endured the incalculable suffering as a result of recurrent cycles of conflict.
"Enough is enough. The time for peace is now, and to those who would challenge this for their own self-interests, we stand firm in the message that your time is now up, lay down your arms, as no longer will the misery you inflict be tolerated."
Angola-DRC-SA Tripartite mechanism meets
Meanwhile, ahead of Zuma's visit, International Relations Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane joined other senior officials at the 1st Session of the Ministerial Meeting of the Angola-DRC-South Africa Tripartite Mechanism on Dialogue and Cooperation.
Nkoana-Mashabane said critical decisions had been made on the implementation of the tripartite mechanism.
"We have rededicated ourselves to make this unique mechanism a success," she said. "We have agreed to work towards the operationalisation of the permanent secretariat, and we have committed ourselves to speed up the ratification process of the MoU on the tripartite mechanism."
Established in March, the tripartite mechanism is a body designed to help consolidate peace in the Great Lakes region, and safeguard the conditions favourable to the implementation of the Framework Accord for Peace, Stability and Cooperation in the DRC, signed in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in February.