On 11 August 2022, about 250 guests led by the Hon Candith Mashego-Dlamini, Deputy Minister in the Department of International Relations and Cooperation of South Africa, joined the High Commission in celebrating Singapore’s 57th National Day. (The National Day of Singapore falls on 9 August, which coincides with the National Women’s Day.)

It has been some time since the last commemoration of Singapore National Day in South Africa. This was due partly to the social restrictions necessitated by the pandemic over the last two years. We were therefore delighted that public health conditions in 2022 have permitted us to celebrate the 57th National Day with our network of friends and supporters in South Africa. To mark the return of the Singapore National Day Reception to Pretoria, this year, we decided to hold it on our own premises on Francis Baard Street in Arcadia, Pretoria, which have recently been given a makeover to resemble the colourful and decorative Baba House in Singapore. In addition, we also recreated the Singapore hawker centre, in celebration of the Singapore Hawker Culture, which was added to the UNESCO Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2020. For about two to three hours, therefore, our guests were able to experience the sights, sounds, and smells of Singapore, in a little corner of the administrative capital of South Africa. They were also able to sample some of the hot favourites of Singapore’s street food scene like satay, chicken rice, fried carrot cake, laksa noodles, roti prata and apom with curry, and the kaleidoscope that is nyonya kueh (sweet delicacies). To wash it all down, the iconic Singapore Sling was also on offer.

We also took the opportunity to honour some of the more than 1,000 South African alumni of the Singapore Cooperation Programme, which marks its 30th anniversary this year. Lastly, we organised an interactive session led by our colleague Alex Ho, Director of Enterprise Singapore’s Johannesburg Overseas Centre, with representatives of some of the leading tech actors in South Africa, including the Department of Science and Technology, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, SMEC South Africa, and Grindstone.

We were fortunate to have Vocal Harmony, a local acapella group, give beautiful renditions of the multi-lingual national anthems of the two countries. (Singapore’s National Anthem, Majulah Singapura, is in Malay.) Hearing their rendition of Singapore’s song, Home, also brought a tear to many Singaporeans among the attendees.

Next year, Singapore and South Africa would be commemorating the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations. The pressure is on to bring a little more oomph in the celebration of the 58th Singapore National Day in Pretoria.