Honourable Minister Maite Nkoana Mashabane and other Ministers with us today;
Honourable Deputy Minister Ebrahim Ebrahim;
The Chairperson and members of the Portfolio Committee on International Relations and Cooperation;
Honourable Members of Parliament;
Your Excellencies, Ambassadors, and High Commissioners;
Representatives of International Organizations;
Ladies and gentlemen;
As our foreign policy approaches its 20th Anniversary next year, it is critical that we fully assess the progress made in respect of our international relations agenda. It is appropriate that we evaluate the impact of our engagements against the agenda we have placed before us. In her address, our Minister did justice to that.
Today, South Africa is a better place than it was 19 years ago. Our promise to create a better life for all our people is beginning to see the light of day. When the ANC took over the reins of government in 1994, our new government was faced with multiple challenges of transformation. Today, this country has been transformed in every sphere.
Today, our international relations engagements have elevated our country from a pariah state to a great nation we can all be proud of. We have opened up economic opportunities for our people, integrated our land into the global village and played no small role in bringing peace and stability to our continent. But we also recognize the challenges that still lie ahead.
From increased levels of education, access to water, electricity, sanitation and housing, to a visionary foreign policy that is premised upon the principles that our economic prosperity as a country is intrinsically linked to the prosperity of the rest of Africa. Over the past 19 years we have promoted relations with strategic partners, and built formidable partnerships with like-minded states, we developed and implemented a robust and independent foreign policy agenda that is founded on the principle that there can be no development in Africa without peace and no peace in Africa without development.
We have played our role in preventing and mediating conflicts across our continent, we have committed our resources to post reconstruction and development on our continent. We have developed and implemented independent bilateral, multilateral and trilateral policies that are aimed at transforming the international multilateral global architecture in favour of the developing world. We have successfully designed and implemented a foreign policy based on the principal of Ubuntu, human rights, human development and international solidarity with the developing world and oppressed.
Today, we can confidently say that we have made progress. Africa today is a far more peaceful (albeit the challenges) continent than it was 2 decades ago. Today even the Economist magazine who a decade ago spoke about Africa being the Dark Continent acknowledges that Africa today is the hopeful continent that is rising and that the next decade will even be better. In brief, this is what this great nation and our foreign policy have contributed to in the past 19 years.
This year 2013 marks the penultimate year before our country celebrates the 20th Anniversary of our freedom in 2014. This year also the 25th anniversary of the death of another great patriot, diplomat and protégé of our leader OR Tambo – Cde Dulcie September, a women, activist, internationalist and cadre from the Cape Flats who was brutally assassinated (in Paris) by the Apartheid regime for her commitment to international solidarity, justice, peace, democracy, non racialism and non sexism and whose assassins have to date still not been brought to book. In the words of one of our other giants of diplomacy and former minister of foreign affairs the late Cde Alfred Nzo when we he spoke at Dulcie’s funeral “if ever there was a soft target, Dulcie was one”
These comrades and patriots lived and died for the ideals of a non racial, non sexist and democratic South Africa, Pan Africanist unity, ubuntu, international solidarity with the oppressed masses of the world, peace stability and friendship. So to the families of these great patriots and heroes and heroines of the struggle some of whom are present here today namely the nephew of Cde Dulcie September, Mr Michael Arendse, we say to you thank you, Baie Dankie, Enkosi Kakhulu.
The extent to which we succeed in our foreign policy is directly dependent upon the support and mandate we receive from the masses for our foreign policy agenda. Yet, our foreign policy initiative has historically been perceived by ordinary South Africans as an area that is divorced from our communities and our domestic priorities. Secondly a perception exists amongst ordinary South Africans that our objectives and victories within the international relations arena has neither correlation nor impact on local community priorities and daily existence. It is for this reason that the Public Participation Programme under the leadership of our President and, approved by Cabinet in 2010 has been fully utilized by our department to debunk these misconceptions and ensure that our people are fully involved in the development and implementation of our foreign policy agenda in a manner that they both understand and directly and indirectly benefits them.
In this regard we have over the past few years successfully revved up and effectively implemented this public participation platform to demystify the work we do and its impact on local communities. We have used this space in order to reinforce accountability to citizens and robustly engage with them in respect of policy priorities through continuous public participation events throughout the year, giving impetus to the letter and spirit of the constitutional principles as it relates to developmental public participation. We have in the past three years travelled the length and breadth of this country. We engaged and interacted with the citizens through structured meetings. We shared and debated our foreign policy trajectory with students, business, the elderly, our youth, NGOS and CBO’s and across all other spectrums of society.
Yesterday was the latest in a litany of examples where we had a very successful community engagement in Gugulethu Cape Town and an opportunity to interact with more than 2000 people. In addition we have had focused sectoral meetings with the different sectors of society as well as mass based community consultation meetings in preparation for the COP17/CMP7, the Global African Diaspora Summit, and recently the 5th BRICS Summit amongst others. This year we also intend establishing BRICS community chapters which will form the basis for community empowerment by our BRICS countries within local communities giving impetus to BRICS commitments at a local level. This will ensure that Small, Medium and Micro Enterprises (SMME’s) women, youth and disabled entrepreneurs are able to be brought into and benefit from our international trade relation dialogues.
The promotion of peace, democracy, and justice in the continent is critical for stability. Our Minister has just announced the progress made thus far regarding the establishment of the South African Partnership Development Agency (SADPA). The Agency will serve as the focal point for all South Africa’s outgoing development assistance. It will provide greater policy cohesiveness, harmonization, synergy and coordination amongst all spheres of government. We believe that South Africa is uniquely placed to develop partnerships with African countries, and other partners of the South, the multilateral institutions, civil society and the private sector, in a manner that drives innovation around African developmental challenges for the creation of self-sufficient societies, reducing the need for aid and capitalising on the human and natural resource assets of Africa. In this regard (even prior to SADPA through the ARF) we have already committed millions in Aid to Somalia for capacity building in a number of areas including and in particular in programs that seek to strengthen its governance and financial institutions and architecture. This we hope, in line with our vision, will ensure that Somalia will become more sustainable and less dependent upon international developmental aid in the long term.
Another of the agencies key strategic focus areas will include the development of an integrated continental skills database which will strengthen our continental and developing world partners with the matching, placing, sharing and exporting of human capital in and between countries in an integrated manner based on our continental agenda. It will also allow us to ensure a more synergised trilateral arrangement between countries such as Cuba in the deployment of their skills across Africa particularly in the area of Engineering and Health amongst others.
We will continue to use all our diplomatic tools and fora including development aid to further our policy position of international solidarity and support the people of Palestine, Cuba and Western Sahara amongst others.
In this regard we once again call upon our civil society organisations to work in partnership with us in finding a lasting and peaceful solution to the situation in Palestine and Western Sahara. We also make the clarion call to our members of civil society to increase its support and international solidarity for the release of the remaining 4 members of the Cuban Five.
We have also participated fully in the resolution of conflicts in the region. To use one example since the 2009 coup, Madagascar has been suspended from membership of both SADC and the African Union, pending restoration of a constitutional order. The road ahead seemed very long for the Malagasy. Our country as a member of the SADC Ministerial Committee Organ Troika as well as the chair during the period 2010-2011 committed itself to ensure that Madagascar implemented its Roadmap to return it to constitutional normalcy. For our part, we will continue to work closely with the SADC Troika on politics, defence and security cooperation in its efforts to finding lasting peace and stability through peaceful elections.
Our Department remains central in the coordination of the implementation of South Africa’s foreign policy pursuant to Cabinet’s approval in 2008 of the Measures and Guidelines for Enhanced Coordination of South Africa’s International Engagement. Our success in securing the release of Prof Karabus is an example of an expression of this mandate. This case was an example of a sterling social compact between government, civil society, media, members of the religious and cultural communities and numerous businessmen nationally and internationally as well as the Prof’s family. It is proof of what we can achieve when we are united as a nation and pull together with a unity of purpose based on the principles of human rights, Ubuntu and humanism. I hope that we will be able to emulate and build upon this goodwill and social cohesion across all sectors in other areas.
In a complex and insecure world, it is necessary that South Africa articulates and present its foreign policy positions with a singular voice since we are a unitary state and not a federal one. Consequently being a unitary state we have one foreign policy for our democratic state under one executive authority- President Zuma and by implication matters of state in relation to foreign policy are executed by the Department of International Relations and Cooperation at the instruction of the President of the Republic of South Africa.
Yet over the past few months we have experienced inherent intergovernmental policy tensions as it relates to implementation of foreign policy where provincial and local governments operate in silos creating a multiplicity of foreign policy positions and decisions and by implication contradictions.
Within this context I want to address an issue currently confronting our country and the people of the Western Cape. It is wrong for any city, metro or local municipality in South Africa to invite a Head of State to receive a Freedom of the City Award without following the appropriate Intergovernmental relations framework and protocols both in letter and spirit by not consulting with national government and in particular, the Department of International Relations and Cooperation as the custodians of Foreign Relations. Equally so, it is both ethically and morally wrong not to consult residents of that city or local municipality when making such a decision.
The extent to which our country can achieve its domestic priorities, especially job creation, depends on the potential successes of our economic diplomacy – Economic diplomacy should be an instrument that reinforces our vision of a better South Africa in a better Africa. Our economic diplomacy initiatives must therefore find expression in the vision set out in our National Development Plan. For us to succeed in building alternative continental global economic system, the NDP must have a strong focus on Africa, especially our quest to promote peace, democracy, and justice in the continent.
Having due regard for the above our diplomatic academy continues to provide training on economic diplomacy to our prospective diplomats, in order to enhance the work of our missions abroad. Introducing this training has set our missions on a path to influence and set the agenda of public discourse on economic diplomacy.
On that note, I also want to add by calling upon all our young people to start interacting with our DIRCO website as it will provide them valuable insight into the requirements and skills required for those wanting to choose a career path in diplomacy.
The current international economic outlook depicts a negative trajectory which by implication, challenges on our ability to deliver on our set objectives. It has become an international trend that as a result of these current economic constraints the foreign affairs budget globally are the first to be cut as due to domestic priorities taking precedence. I call on parliament and leaders to take a more strategic and long-term approach in this regard. We need to reflect upon this current paradigm and trend of sacrificing the foreign affairs budget first during declining economic conditions. We must calculate the unintended consequences and potential economic losses in the long term and impact upon addressing the triple challenges of poverty, inequality and unemployment, given that there is a direct link between our international relations agenda and its role in growing our economy.
Yet at the same we remain committed to and are inspired by innovative ideas to do more with less.
The proposed budget vote tabled by the Minister today is premised upon this principle and represents the priority areas that the Department continued to place significant emphasis on – Administration, International Relations, International Cooperation, Public Diplomacy and State Protocol, and Transfer Payments.
Despite the limited resources, we have been able to do our work. Now we must look forward into the future with great optimism, and do more in attaining the goals we set in our vision for 2030.
Today, Africa is rising. Let us also rise as peoples of Africa. As we celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the OAU/AU, let us recommit ourselves to promoting an integrated, prosperous, peaceful and unified Africa driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in the global arena.
I thank you.