The Pattaya City Expats Club was honored to welcome back His Excellency Geoff Doidge, South African Ambassador to Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar. He previously spoke to us when he gave a tribute to Nelson Mandela, champion of peace and reconciliation, on the occasion of the anniversary of his centenary. At the Sunday, November 18, PCEC meeting, Ambassador Doidge provided a slide presentation extolling his native country, South Africa, welcoming all to visit, and provided a multitude of reasons for visiting.
Ambassador Doidge was born in the Province of Kwa Zulu Natal in 1954. He studied business management and marketing courses. From 1994 to 2010, he served as a Member of Parliament. He participated fully in the transition process in South Africa and became a member of the Constituent Assembly that produced the internationally acclaimed Constitution of South Africa. In Parliament he was responsible for the management of the legislative process that oversaw the passing of the Promotion of National Unity and Reconciliation Act, which gave the world the most progressive Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
From September 2008 to October 2010, he served as Cabinet Minister of Public Works of the Republic of South Africa. In addition, he served in various capacities in the Government, Cabinet Committees, Inter-Ministerial Committees and political field of the Republic of South Africa. He was serving as High Commissioner Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of South Africa to Sri Lanka, Maldives, Bangladesh and Nepal from 2011 until becoming South Africa’s Ambassador to Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar. He is a firm believer of Restorative Justice as opposed to Retributive Justice. He speaks English, Afrikaans and Xhosa languages.
To start, he showed a map of South Africa and provided some general information on geographical location. He noted that South Africa is undoubtedly one of the world’s top tourist destinations of choice. He said, “What sets us apart is it is Africa’s top vacation destination, it’s affordable, has breathtaking natural beauty, and offers safe tourism. Further we are proudly South African, we are unique in our own right and size does not matter. What we offer and who we are as a nation, is different. Cape Town and its surrounds are of course a uniquely beautiful destination.”
This was followed by many slides as Ambassador Doidge covered the following: Where is South Africa? Nine Amazing Provinces, Amazing Natural Treasures, Biodiversity, Safaris, Scenic Beauty, Coastal Beaches, Active Adventure, City Lifestyle, and Culture. In describing their beautiful beaches, he also mentioned that in addition, the coastline is defined by rugged cliffs, beautiful forests, untouched eco-systems, marine life, ancient wilderness and hiking trails just waiting to be explored. For adventurers, there are many activities including cage diving next to the Great Whites (sharks) and rafting down the Orange River.
He especially cited South Africa’s diverse cultures that are inspired by the Malay slaves that were brought to their shores and which is a link they are proud to have with their Malaysian and Indian ancestry. An example is they have the second biggest Carnivals after the Rio Carnival which has been hosted in Cape Town on the 2nd of January since the abolishment of slavery in 1834. So if you are in Cape Town on January 2nd you will witness this dazzling “Die Tweede Nuwe Jaar” or 2nd New Year celebrations, in all its color, splendor, music and diversity. Up to 13,000 minstrels from 70 troops play and celebrate music of the slave era, something; unique only to South Africa.
He also invited everyone to explore their unique History. A nation built on its own terms and is proudly South African. You can discover this young nation’s struggle for freedom whilst following the footsteps of Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi, Albert Luthuli, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, and many other Nobel Laureates.
Ambassador Doidge concluded by providing some tourism statistics, visa requirements, health issues, how to get around, spending, and what to pack. To view the Ambassador’s slide presentation, visit: http://www.pcecnews.com/permNL/SouthAfricaPresentation-18Nov2018.pdf.
In responding to a question about Lesotho being shown on the map being surrounded by South Africa but not part of it, Ambassador Doidge gave a brief history of both Lesotho and Swaziland, which is surrounded by South Africa on three sides and explained that these were sovereign states and that South Africa is in a customs union with them and respects them as such. In responding to another question about traveling from Thailand to South Africa, he said the Embassy would introduce the questioners to Thai Travel Agents that have a working relationship with the Embassy.
After the presentations, MC Roy Albiston brought everyone up to date on upcoming events and then turned it over to the Open Forum portion of the meeting where questions are asked and answered and comments made about Expat living in Thailand, Pattaya in particular. For more information about the PCEC and their activities, visit www.pcec.club.