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Minister Molewa’s acceptance speech: The bestowing of the Légion D’Honneur Award by the government of France

14 July 2018

His Excellency Mr Nicolas HULOT, Minister for the Ecological and Solidary Transition of the Republic of France;
H.E. Mr Christophe FARNAUD, Ambassador of France to South Africa;
Fellow Ministers of the South African government;
Invited guests;
Esteemed Ladies and Gentlemen;

I am both honoured and humbled to receive this award of Officer in the Legion of Honour; more so on Bastille Day – an event with such historical significance.

The French Revolution, with its rallying cry of Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite  was one of the most dramatic social upheavals in modern history; and has been the lodestar for people’s struggles everywhere.  It was President Nelson Mandela who said that the events in France of 1789 were ‘an example which served as a beacon for our own endeavours.’

It’s noble ideals inspired our own struggle for liberation in South Africa; and during the dark days of apartheid when our activists were forced into exile, many found refuge in Paris.

I am ever mindful of the great weight of history as I accept this, the highest French National Order, established by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802 and retained by all successive governments in France.

Your Excellency, Minister Hulot, allow me to thank His Excellency President Macron for this recognition. I also thank the people and Government of France for recognizing our work. I say “our” because I accept this award on behalf of the people of South Africa.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As I am before you today, I too stand on the shoulders of giants. This month marks the centenary of two of the titans of our liberation struggle; President Nelson Mandela and Mama Albertina Sisulu.

I want to dedicate this award, that recognizes me for my work in the environmental sector but also for my role in the struggle for democracy and for women’s rights – to Mama Nontsikelelo Albertina Sisulu; a woman who dedicated her life to the betterment of her people.

Her life was the embodiment of self-sacrifice, generosity of spirit and an unwavering commitment to the cause of the poor, the downtrodden and the oppressed.

Mama Sisulu was an inspiration and role model for me as an activist and I am honoured to have met her and interacted with her in the African National Congress Women’s League (ANCWL). In invoking her memory, the words of the French author Guy de Maupassant come to mind: that “It is in the lives we encounter that make life worth living.” Thank you, Mama.

Your Excellency Mr Hulot,

This award has been bestowed on me in recognition of my role as part of our collective South African team, in the conclusion of the Paris Agreement to Combat Climate Change.

Climate change is one of the most pressing issues of our time; and it was our privilege to lend support to our good friends on this very important matter; and to share in the extraordinary achievements of the French Presidency at COP 21.

COP 21 is universally regarded as a seminal point in the development of the international climate change regime under the UNFCCC, concluding as it did with the Paris Agreement.

It was Victor Hugo who once said that “nothing in the world - not even all the armies, are so powerful as an idea whose time has come.” The global shift towards a low-carbon, inclusive and climate resilient future; is that idea whose time has firmly come.

There can be no turning back on the collective effort to combat climate change and overall position and prepare our respective countries to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) as contained in the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The French government is our valued partner not just in the fight against climate change but on a host of other issues, as mentioned by the previous speakers.

I want to thank you for always standing by us, and trust we can count on this support well into the future.

We look forward to working with you in the next coming CBD and UNFCCC Conference of the Parties; and I want to appeal to you, Excellency, that we should deepen our collaboration to ensure that the Paris implementation rules are developed in a manner that both strengthens the multilateral regime, and allows for the Agreement’s practical implementation by Parties, with due regard to equity and differentiation.

To preserve the political consensus underpinning the Paris Agreement, there is a need to balance pre-and post-2020 outcomes, and for balanced and comprehensive treatment of topics covered by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

As we take stock on progress made in the implementation of pre-2020 action and finance, including a US$100 billion annual climate finance commitment by 2020, we should through the COP assist the Green Climate Fund to find a better way of conducting its business. Working together, Excellency, we can find a political solution to these issues.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Our two great nations are united by the ties that bind us. They are the ties of liberty, of equality, and fraternity: but perhaps of all these three, what counts most is fraternity.

The bestowing of this award on me, as it was previously to President Mandela, will only serve to cement these already strong bonds. We face complex challenges in our respective countries; and in this regard we know we can count on our fraternity with the government and people of France as we seek to resolve them.

In the words of Voltaire: “it is said that the present is pregnant with the future.” We look forward to this future - with optimism, with vigour and with hope.

I thank you.

For media queries contact:

Albi Modise
Cell: 083 490 2871


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