SABC says documentary “25 Years On” brings to life the close bond between South Africa and China

Acting group chief executive officer of the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) Nada Wotshela. Picture: Supplied

Acting group chief executive officer of the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) Nada Wotshela. Picture: Supplied

Published Dec 31, 2023


Acting group chief executive of the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC), Nada Wotshela, said the documentary titled ‘25 Years On’, which premiered in Johannesburg on Saturday brings to life the close relations between South Africa and China, which has this year reached a 25-year milestone.

Addressing delegates including top diplomats, government officials from both nations, local and international media, Wotshela said a significant joint effort by the SABC and the China Media Group (CMG) has been put in producing the three-episode documentary.

“It is quite an honour for the SABC to be a part of this very, very important event which coincides with the celebration of the strategic relationship between South Africa-and China. Most important to me as a broadcaster is cementing the relationship between CMG and the SABC,” she said.

“We have really put together a wonderful documentary that I hope you are all going to enjoy, which brings to life the partnership that has been signed between CMG and the SABC. I think the real work that is going to take the two broadcasters forward is the work that is going to start at the beginning of next year.”

Documentary titled "25 Years On" was premiered in Johannesburg on Saturday. Picture: Screengrab

She said when the memorandum of understanding was signed between the two broadcasters, the differences between the two entities were highlighted.

“The SABC is a public broadcaster and subscribes to certain laws and regulations within the country, and the CMG being a State broadcaster. A lot of people, especially South Africans had been questioning how the partnership could work between the two broadcasters. But we believe at the SABC that free-flow of information and content between countries can really enrich journalism.

“We believe as the SABC that in areas such as cultural exchange, we will really be able to have South African stories being told by South Africans in all the countries, especially the BRICS countries that we collaborate with,” she said.

“We are also looking forward to learning a lot from CMG, because we believe in terms of technology, you have grown in leaps and bounds. There is a lot that South Africa can benefit from this relationship,” said Wotshela.

Minister of the Chinese Embassy in South Africa, Zheng Bingkai speaking at the premiere of the documentary "25 Years On". Picture: Supplied

The premiere of the three-part documentary was attended by delegates including Prof. Anil Sooklal, ambassador-at-large for Asia and BRICS at the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco); Zheng Bingkai, Minister of the Chinese Embassy in South Africa, renowned researcher and academic, Prof. Paul Tembe. The director of the programme was SABC veteran anchor Peter Ndoro.

Veteran journalist and SABC news anchor Peter Ndoro at the premiere of the documentary titled: "25 Years On" in Johannesburg. Picture: Supplied

On the other hand, acting bureau chief of CMG Africa Song Jianing, said the documentary series titled "25 Years On" records the brotherly relations between China and South Africa, outlining a bright future of jointly building a high-level China-South Africa community with a shared future.

“For four months, our cameras and reporters travelled through the beautiful rainbow country of South Africa to record touching moments and stories one after another,” said Song.

Acting bureau chief of China Media Group (CMG) Africa, Song Jianing addressing the documentary's premiere in Johannesburg. Picture: Supplied

“Today, I am very pleased to tell you that in addition to meeting hundreds of millions of Chinese audiences in China, we are also racing against the clock to translate the documentary into the three major languages of the African continent, namely, English, French and Arabic to inform more South African viewers about the fruitful achievements of China and South Africa over the past 25 years,” she said.

“A partnership forged with the right approach defies geographical distance. In this fruitful era, we welcome blossoms in spring and harvests in autumn. The 25-year-old China-South Africa relationship is entering a golden era and is in its prime with prospects more promising than ever.”

Meanwhile, Tembe told IOL that the documentary details how the friendship between the two nations has developed.

“Like in all relationships, we try to take advantage of what we can bring home in the relationship. We have seen economic exchanges taking place which from 2010 until now, we have seen South Africa emerging as the main trading partner with China and vice versa,” said Tembe.

Prof. Paul Zilungisele Tembe. Picture: Supplied

“There is also a reflection that our institutions are coming together. Personally for me, what is more important is that this event seems to subscribe to what I have written about two years ago, that the production of popular culture and popular discourse between China and Africa traverses different angles. They go at parallels but with different ways of production,” he said.

“The mere fact that SABC and CMG have been able to cooperate, to bring this thing together, shows that we are on the right line. We are living politics, commerce but I see this as an extension of people-to-people relations.”

African National Congress member of the Gauteng Legislature, Tshilidzi Munyai told IOL that the premiere of the documentary happens at a landmark era in South Africa-China relations.

Member of Gauteng Legislature, Tshilidzi Bethuel Munyai. File Picture: Itumeleng English/Independent Media

“I am very pleased with the celebrations of the South Africa-China diplomatic relations. This is a turning point because China is the biggest trading partner of South Africa and Africa as a whole. China goes for win-win collaborations, but I am sure our relationship has been taken to a higher strategic height, and there is mutual benefit and support,” he said.

Diplomatic relations between Pretoria and Beijing were established on January 1, 1998.

Throughout the past 25 years, the two countries have deepened their wide-ranging bilateral relations, which have since been elevated to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership and underpinned by a new 10-Year Strategic Programmes of Cooperation (2020-2029), according to the Department of International Relations.

South Africa and China enjoy vibrant economic relations, and China is by far South Africa’s largest global trading partner.

Documentary titled "25 Years On" was premiered in Johannesburg on Saturday. Picture: Screengrab

The bilateral trade grew exponentially over the years, increasing from less than R1 billion in 1998 to the current levels of more than R500 billion in 2021, despite the raging Covid-19 pandemic at the time.