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Kazakhstan and South Africa – Differently Similar

30 November 2019

Mr Kanat Tumysh, Ambassador of Kazakhstan to South Africa, recently delivered a keynote address at a roundtable hosted at the Old College House at the University of Pretoria where the Centre of Governance Innovation – GovInn can be found. Dr Chris Nshimbi, the Director of GovInn, moderated the discussions which sought to discover governance innovation through an interaction between countries so far apart.

Photo: (l-r) Mr Yernur Tuyakbayev, Minister Counsellor, Mr Kanat Tumysh, Ambassador of Kazakhstan and Dr Chris Nshimbi, Director of GovInn

The Roundtable, ‘Kazakhstan and South Africa: Lessons of Building Constructive Public Dialogue as the Basis of Stability and Prosperity’, pointed out the stark reality of what people need and how the difference in historical, political, social and economic conditions combine for the greater good of their people, or not.

H.E Kanat Tumysh recently presented his credentials to President Cyril Ramaphosa, and has been at work getting to know the lay of the land and making his presence felt in diplomatic circles. His country, Kazakhstan, has also seen a shift in leadership and will celebrate 30 years of independence after the disintegration of the Soviet Socialist Union. This historic event may have also acted as a catalyst for the ushering in of a democratic, just and free dispensation in South Africa, ending the skewed and abnormal race based policies of the nationalist regime.

In Kazakhstan President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev delivered his first State of the Nation (Address) on 2 September 2019 in Nur – Sultan, the newly named Kazakh capital. The name pays tribute to former President Nazarbayev who ruled the country before independence and is credited for the emergence of a united Kazakh nation and its embrace among the nations of the world.

South Africa was also accepted back into the family of nations for choosing the path of truth and reconciliation, and the realisation that self-forgiveness will lead to the healing of the nation.  The iconic Nelson Mandela, together with many stalwarts like Walter Sisulu, Ahmed Kathrada, Lilian Ngoyi and the unforgettable Winnie Mandela were instrumental in bringing about a negotiated settlement and unifying a nation in all its diversity.

In Kazakhstan, Kazakhs make up 60% of the population while the rest are Russians, Ukrainians, Tartars, Uighurs and even Koreans. The two official languages are Russian and Kazakh. South Africa has 11 official languages. Many Kazakhs fled the country during what is called the Great Hunger, when many people starved to death during the collective agriculture policy during the rule of Joseph Stalin. There are about 50 families in South Africa explained Yernur Tuyakbayev – Minister Counsellor at the Embassy.

A listening and responsive state was key to building a modern and effective state and this marked the beginning of President Tokayev’s first SONA – ‘Constructive Public Dialogue as the Basis of Stability and Prosperity of Kazakhstan.’ This set the tone of Ambassador Tumysh’s presentation which went further to detail budgets and a rash of changes that will see Kazakhstan develop to become one of the top 30 nations in the world.

Inclusive economy, financial support for entrepreneurs, updating outdated textbooks and learning material to represent the present and future in the education system, social modernisation, regional development, urbanization, and increase in wages for vocational and civil workers in the fields of health and safety, were among the measures introduced by the President in his inaugural address.

Compared to South Africa, unemployment and inequality in Kazakhstan is very low. Birth-rates and life expectancies differ. In South Africa, political freedom was expected to bring about economic freedom. In Kazakhstan the vision was to create economic prosperity and allow for evolutionary rather that revolutionary change as the accepted route.

There are many lessons to be had, as Kazakhstan has done, by researching governance and policies of other countries including the South American country of Chile and the ASEAN nation of Singapore.

It became clearer at the conclusion of the roundtable that these nations, South Africa and Kazakhstan, may be located 10 000km apart, in geographical opposite hemispheres, but need to provide for the common good of their citizens, that a dynamic people to people exchange in the spheres of education, trade, tourism art and culture can only lead to greater harmony and understanding.




February/March 2020


















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