End of an era for South African Consul General in Chicago

23 Nov 21 | Chamber News

The South African Consulate General Chicago has been honored to represent South Africa in fourteen states in the Midwest region of the United States for almost forty five years.

The fourteen states are Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Wisconsin. The Midwest is an important source of trade, investment, tourism, science and innovation, agriculture, education and health cooperation for South Africa.

There are ten metropolitan areas with populations in excess of 1 million with South Africans found in all areas of the Midwest contributing positively to their adopted country especially in academia, health, legal and tourism sectors.

The South African Consulate General in Chicago was established in 1977 and has been operating from the current premises at 200 South Michigan Avenue since 1987. The Consulate General is based in Chicago, Illinois, a city which our former President Nelson Mandela visited in 1993, which was the centre of anti-apartheid activism and the decades-long divestment campaign undertaken by the Free South Africa Movement composed of groups including the American Committee on Africa, TransAfrica, and the Coalition for Illinois Divestment in Southern Africa which later became the Chicago Committee in Solidarity with Southern Africa.

In July 2018, the South African Consulate General Chicago in collaboration with Chicago Jazz Philharmonic hosted Nelson Mandela’s 100 birth anniversary under the theme “Hope in Action: Celebrating Nelson Mandela’s Centennial”.

The event honouring former President Nelson Mandela was held at the iconic Millennium Park and featured performances from renowned vocalist Dee Alexander, saxophonist Rajiv Halim, the theatre artist Ron OJ Parson and the CJP’s Jazz Academy Youth Choir.

Other memorable engagements with states in the Midwest region included collaboration with Global Minnesota to present the Year of South Africa 2018-2019, which came at an opportune time when South Africa was celebrating the centenary of the birth of former President Nelson Mandela and the struggle icon Mama Albertina Sisulu.

The focus year is also important because in 2019 South Africa commemorated its 25 Years of Freedom, a milestone for our democracy. The collaboration with the state of Minnesota resulted in over two hundred Minnesotans visiting South Africa, including a high level state government delegation, testimony to these growing ties between the State of Minnesota and South Africa. During this period, the Minnesota Orchestra in partnership with South African musicians participated in the Nelson Mandela Tribute Concert that took place in Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban and Soweto.

Over the years the South African Consulate General has been a centre for South Africans in the Midwest region and celebrated key national days including, Freedom Day, Youth Day and Women’s Day.

We have collaborated with partners in the Midwest to share the best of South Africa and to intentionally:

• Increase value-added exports and market access to, and investments from the US in key priority sectors such as agriculture (agro-processing), automotive and energy.

• Increase tourism from the US to South Africa partnering with organizations such APTA and Advantage Travel.

• Promote positive image and brand of South Africa in the Midwest.

Unfortunately, recent economic constraints, exacerbated by the impact of the COVID-19 global pandemic, have placed considerable strains on South Africa’s resources. The necessary support towards the health sector, businesses in stress and urgent social support packages, required reprioritization of budgets across various government departments.

These factors led to the Government of South Africa taking the painful decision to close the South African Consulate General Chicago as of December 2021.

Consul General Phumzile Mazibuko has assured all stakeholders in the Midwest region that South Africa is open for business and will still be represented in the United States.

“There will be continuity in servicing the Midwest region on all matters from trade & investment to civic and immigration from the Embassy in Washington D.C. We are confident that the good relations between states in the Midwest region and South Africa will continue to grow from strength to strength through the work of our Embassy supported by our Honorary Consul in Minnesota, Judge LaJune Lange and Honorary Consul in Wisconsin Mr Joseph Davis” stated the Consul General.

Consul General Mazibuko thanked the staff at the Consulate, most of whom have served the Consulate with distinction for over twenty years, for their dedicated service to the government and people of South Africa. She also wished to thank the South African community in the Midwest region for supporting the Consulate over the years, “we are because you are”.

Dear Friends of South Africa

I am writing this letter as a farewell as my journey at the South African Consulate in Chicago has ended.

I started working here August 8th, 1994 and after 27 years, October 29th, 2021 it has come to an end. As the longest serving employee this is truly a bitter sweet goodbye. The Consulate doors closing is truly an end of an era. I have been blessed in serving my country and I am proud of the work I have done.

It has been a privilege and honour to serve. Meeting so many wonderful people in Chicago and the Midwest has made my everyday work a pleasure. I have worked with many great Consul Generals and Transferred Officials. The Locally Recruited staff was like family. I sincerely hope that every person I have come in contact with would have felt my joy and enthusiasm.

Once again, it was my privilege and honour to serve. To all my colleagues, those who live in Chicago and those returning home, I wish each and every one blessings. Share the joy, there’s so much to go around.

And so, chapter two of my life begins after 27 years at the Consulate.

Esther Johnson Fillmore

“Faith Is Taking the First Step Even When You Don’t See the Whole Staircase.”
- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

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