Budget Vote Speech by Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, H.E. Ms Maite Nkoana Mashabane, at the National Assembly, Cape Town, 30 May 2013
Your Excellencies Ambassadors, High Commissioners and Representatives of International Organizations;
Ladies and gentlemen;
Fellow South Africans;
Comrades and Friends,
A few days ago, President Jacob Zuma was in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, for the 50th anniversary celebrations of the OAU/AU – our Pan-African organization founded in 1963 for promoting our unity in diversity, strengthening our solidarity, and building on our common history and shared values.
Kwame Nkrumah captured this vision in his address to the inaugural meeting of the OAU when he said: “Our objective is African union now. There is no time to waste. We must unite now or perish”.
Indeed, we have not perished – today we are a continent on the rise. We pay tribute to our forbearers for their foresight that gave our continent the OAU and its successor, the AU.
Next year will be twenty years since as a nation we began our journey in 1994 towards a better South Africa in a better Africa and a better world.
During the negotiations, we spelt out our transformation agenda in our May 1992 document rightly entitledReady to Govern: ANC Policy Guidelines for a Democratic South Africa which set four foreign policy goals for the post-apartheid dispensation, namely:
- The transformation of our foreign policy with the view to democratizing our international political and economic relations for peace and friendship;
- Our integration as a full member of the international community;
- To develop a foreign policy that will promote regional cooperation, peace and security; and
- To establish a professional foreign service in which training, employment equity and affirmative action will be important components for the attainment of high standards of service.
Soon after the 1994 elections, we elaborated these ideas further in a document we called Foreign Policy Perspective in a Democratic South Africa which provided additional details of the foreign policy that the new government was going to pursue.
All these unfolded in an era of the transition from the end of the Cold War to a new world order which many thought would be dominated by a triad made up of North America, the European Economic bloc, and Japan.
In just nineteen years we reset South Africa’s international relations that were constructed and developed during 400 years of exclusion, colonialism and apartheid.Today, the goals we set for ourselves when we began this journey have been achieved:
- Our country is no longer a pariah state but a valued and respected member of the international community;
- We have a dynamic, independent foreign policy that speaks to our domestic priorities, which is supported by a professional foreign service;
- We expanded our global footprint from 34 to 126 Missions across all continents and time zones;
- Our international trade surged, creating millions of jobs; and tourist arrivals continue to grow year after year;
- Our African Agenda has placed our continent at the center of our foreign policy;
- Our relations with countries of the South are firmly grounded on shared interests and common challenges;
- Our partnership with countries of the North is based on mutual respect and cooperation;
- We are active in the multilateral system for the transformation of the global governance architecture;
- Our economic diplomacy promotes South Africa’s broad economic objectives globally; and
- We are considered globally a member of what has become known as “emerging powers”.
In the next year and beyond, DIRCO will lead a coordinated campaign, through the footprint we have established, to diversify and consolidate our international relations. The budget we present to you today (Honourable Members) is about availing more resources so that DIRCO can power ahead into new frontiers of cooperation, contributing towards the eradication of poverty, inequality and unemployment. The proposed figures are attributable to our reality of operating in an international environment.
Our journey since 1994 whose achievements are widely recognized has been through small but yet giant steps that we take, working together with our people. This Administration is one such giant step.
In 2009, this Administration made a number of foreign policy commitments to the people of this country in the context of the five priorities of creating decent work and sustainable livelihoods, while focusing on education, health, crime, and rural development. This was done with an understanding that the cornerstone of our foreign policy lies in our domestic interests. We stand before you today to affirm that these commitments we made in 2009 have been fulfilled. We therefore wish to thank all who responded to our call that working together, we can do more.
Our relations with our neighbours are in good shape, thanks to our bilateral mechanisms as well as the integration objectives of the SADC and SACU.
Bilaterally, we continue to work for strong diplomatic and economic ties with countries of our region; and our Bi-National and Joint Commissions, including continuous exchange of high-level visits, have all been instrumental in this regard.
We stand for a strong SADC as an integrated community in various domains that is supported by an effective Secretariat.
SADC has taken a lead in working for peace and stability in our region, and our contribution in this regard has been through preventive diplomacy and mediation; our membership of the Organ on Politics, Defence and Security; and through regional peacekeeping efforts.
As a member of the SADC Organ Troika, we have urged the leaders in Madagascar to put their country first and act in accordance with the letter and spirit of the roadmap that they themselves have committed to in order to ensure a credible election with an acceptable outcome.
We remain seized with the process of assisting the parties in Zimbabwe to implement the Global Political Agreement and the Roadmap to elections in the context of the SADC mediation framework.
We welcome the proposal for an Intervention Brigade as a realistic option to bring security normalcy to the eastern DRC. SADC’s leadership has set a good example by deploying its brigade as part of this intervention force.Our government condemns in no uncertain terms attacks on civilians, humanitarian actors, and MONUSCO peacekeepers.
These excellent relations we have with our neighbours extend to all regions of our continent.
During his recent State Visit to our country, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan emphasised the value to Africa and the importance of a strong working relationship between South Africa and Nigeria.
We remain concerned with the peace and security situation on our continent. The stabilisation of the Great Lakes Region, Central Africa, North Africa as well as parts of West Africa and the Horn of Africa – requires urgent attention if we are to consolidate the gains we have made in recent years to restore peace to Africa. We are therefore in full support of peace initiatives in the DRC, the CAR, Mali, Guinea Bissau, Somalia, and between South Sudan and Sudan. Libya, Tunisia and Egypt need all of us as they transit towards a new socio-economic and political dispensation. We firmly support the ongoing constitutional processes in these countries and are indeed ready to revitalize our structural bilateral consultation mechanisms with them.
The humanitarian assistance we provide is an act of solidarity with sisterly countries in need.
We have for many years been seized with the issue of the status of Western Sahara. It remains our firm commitment to continue supporting all efforts aimed at achieving a just, lasting and mutually acceptable political solution in that country. The self-determination of the people of Western Sahara is essential.
The primary objective of the OAU was to achieve a better life for the people of Africa, eradicating all forms of colonialism, and defending their sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence.
We must therefore recall to memory the contribution made by the Conference of All Independent African States and the All African People Conference (AAPC) to the birth of the OAU, because it was these two conferences that led the way and shaped the ideas that are associated with the OAU today.
The AAP Conference,which met for the first time in December 1958 in Accra, Ghana, was a gathering of anti-colonial movements fighting for freedom, along with the few independent African states under the clarion call “Hands Off Africa!”.While the ANC could not attend this conference because of restrictions imposed on it by the apartheid regime, it was nonetheless represented by one of its leaders who was resident in Ghana, a former Treason Trialist, Comrade Alfred ‘Tough’ Hutchinson. He read the ANC’s message to delegates which I wish to quote:
We … welcome the convening of the Conference and wholeheartedly congratulate its organisers. We should like particularly to place on record the deep appreciation of the oppressed people of South Africa of the fact that those who have already achieved their freedom and independence have not forgotten their duties and responsibilities to those who are still in chains, and to the sacred cause of African freedom and independence.
This history is important not only because of the background it gives to the origins and outlook of the OAU, but also to demonstrate that South Africans were not bystanders in the evolution of the OAU. Indeed, the ANC participated in the inaugural meeting of the OAU in 1963 and continued as a member through the Liberation Committee which was established for the execution of the OAU’s objective of decolonization.
As such, a series of national activities are envisaged for our own celebration of the Golden Jubilee of the OAU/AU under the theme: “Pan Africanism and the Renaissance”. A special sitting of this House is to convene so that our Parliament can also pronounce itself on this important Pan-African event.
The celebration of the Golden Jubilee of our Union is the beginning of another voyage towards the centenary of the continental body in 2063.
Today, Africa is different from what it was fifty years ago. Not only is the decolonisation process almost complete, but significant progress has also been achieved towards African unity. Our continental Peace and Security Architecture, the NEPAD, and the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) – are all among the concrete steps we have taken to find African solutions to our challenges of peace, development and democracy.
South Africa’s contribution to this Pan-African endeavor is the reason our country is respected on the continent and globally. Our role during the transition from the OAU to the AU, in the establishment of NEPAD and the APRM, as a member of the AU Peace and Security Council, as well as our commitment to the AU Commission and other organs of our Union – are all informed by our belief that a better Africa is possible, and in our lifetime.
Building strong South-South relations is another leg on which our foreign policy stands. We do this through:
- Establishing good bilateral relations with countries of the South;
- Developing a focused strategy and approach for engagement with the “emerging powers” of the South; and
- Participating in mini-lateral bodies of countries of the South such as the Non-Aligned Movement for the pursuit of the interests of developing countries in the global system.
In this regard, our government is inspired by the outcomes of recent BRICS Summit as contained in the eThekwini Declaration and eThekwini Action Plan.
The IBSA (India, Brazil, South Africa) Trilateral Agreement celebrates its 10th anniversary this year; and we will use this to reflect on the milestones and long-term future of this formation.
What makes our South-South engagement strategy so effective is the fact that it is rooted on strong bilateral relations.
Our relations with the countries of Asia continue to strengthen at a pace that necessitates a greater focus to the East.Africa and Asia share a complimentary outlook for the future.
China and India are not only strategic bilaterally, but are also partners through the BRICS and IBSA. Furthermore, their partnership engagements with Africa resonate with our African Agenda.
With regards to FOCAC, you would recall that South Africa assumed the Co-Chairship in June 2012 in Beijing. We remain committed to work together with China over the next six years to ensure the implementation of the 5th FOCAC Beijing Action Plan (2013-2015).
The Gulf region is equally important as a political player in global affairs as well as a source of FDIs and destination for our exports.
However, peace in the Middle East remains elusive despite the various efforts to bring some respite to the almost daily toll of human life and shattered livelihoods of people. The view that the conflicts in the Middle East constitute a risk for international peace and security is not far-fetched. It is for this reason that we will continue to direct our efforts in contributing to the peaceful resolution of the conflicts in Palestine, Syria and other areas of conflict in that region.
As president Zuma said in his State of Nation Address: “We stand with the people of Palestine as they strive to turn a new leaf in their struggle for their right to self-determination; hence we supported their bid for statehood. The expansion of Israeli settlements into Palestinian territories is a serious stumbling block to the resolution of the conflict”.
Our relations with Latin America and the Caribbean region are also underpinned by shared South-South values and goals. This partnership is indeed strengthened by the presence of a large African Diaspora in the region. We are committed to the expeditious implementation of the Five Legacy Projects of the AU Diaspora Summit we hosted last year.
We have good bilateral relations with countries of the North.Our strategic political dialogue with the United States of America continues to positively impact our bilateral relations. The US remains our major trade, investment, tourism and technology partner.
Europe remains South Africa’s main trading partner, source of investment and valuable supplier of cutting-edge technology and capacity-building. Our partnership with the European Union serves as a platform for political dialogue and the expansion of our economic ties.
We are looking forward to participate at the TICAD V Summit to be held in Yokohama, Japan, from 1-3 June 2013.
Our country attaches great importance to promoting multilateralism. Since re-entering the world stage in 1994, South Africa has taken up many international positions of responsibility, often the task was daunting, but through the innovative hard work and dedication of our people, we have consistently recorded resounding successes. Today we are an influential global player.
We have sought to utilise our various memberships in the international fora to promote our national interests and advance the African Agenda.
The United Nations remains one single fora where nations of the world converge under one roof to discuss issues of common interest. South Africa’s election to the UN Peace Building Commission, following directly on our UN Security Council membership, is testament to our continued commitment to global peace and security. It also coincides with our membership of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), which is the principal coordinating body for economic and social matters within the UN system.
Building on G20 reforms of the international financial architecture and the Bretton Woods institutions, we should intensify our advocacy and diplomatic work on the transformation of the global governance system. The expansion of the UN Security Council in the permanent and non permanent category should be a priority.
South Africa has continued to play an active international role in numerous multilateral disarmament and non-proliferation meetings, because this is important to our agenda for the creation of a peaceful and prosperous century.
The next three years will also be critical in setting the post-2015 agenda for the international partnership for development.
This journey to freedom, as our icon Madiba taught us, is but a long walk. Every good step we take is just the beginning of a better one. Some priorities should therefore preoccupy our approach into the future.
We have initiated implementation modalities on the National Development Plan. One of these is on South Africa’s national interests with the view to elaborating a policy and strategy in a manner that balances our domestic priorities with equally important imperatives of cooperation and partnership as well as Pan Africanism and South-South solidarity.
The African Agenda must be consolidated. The AU continues to be the primary vehicle that carries the hopes and aspirations of all Africans. As we look to the future, as South Africa, we embrace Vision 2063 of the AU which is encapsulated in the 50th Anniversary Declaration adopted recently at the conclusion of the Golden Jubilee celebrations. ThisVision contains priorities that form the pillars of the tasks bestowed on us by history in our march to the next 50 years of our Union in 2063.
The achievements of decolonisation must entail self-reliance and true socio-economic emancipation.
The success of NEPAD’s Presidential infrastructure initiative that we champion and the AU’s Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA) is essential not only to our integration agenda, but specifically for the realisation of the Continental Free Trade Area.
The current trend of gaining political power unconstitutionally has to be halted. In this regard, the decision taken by the recent AU Summit, at the initiative of South Africa on the urgent establishment of the African Capacity for Immediate Response to Crises is historic, and indeed a leap towards the operationalisation of the African Standby Force.
Elections should not be a source of dispute and political instability but a democratic path through which the people decide peacefully on who should govern them as stipulated in the AU Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance.
We are glad to announce that the administrative requirements for the establishment of the South African Development Partnership Agency have now been completed. The Proclamation was signed by President Zuma and the Agency will soon become operational. Shortly, we expect to table a Bill in Parliament for the creation of the Partnership Fund for Development. This Fund will replace the African Renaissance and International Cooperation Fund and provides the mechanism for the funding of development cooperation programmes administered through the Agency.
The establishment of the South African Council on International Relations (SACOIR) is also in the final stages.
DIRCO has made strides to improve on our human resource capacity by filling some of the key positions which were vacant. Organizational development remains at the heart of a well functioning organization.
Our Department took heed to a Presidential call for job creation. Since 2005, DIRCO placed unemployed youth on Cadet, Learnership and Internship programmes through which we continue to contribute towards job creation initiatives. Today, beneficiaries of the Cadet programme, Ms M Letlala, Ms NP Malekane and Ms NS Msimang are here as my special guests. I am also pleased to be joined by 20 scholars from three schools in Cape Town, that is, Langa High School, Zonnebloem Nest Senior Secondary School and Beauvallon Secondary School who are here as part of the DIRCO’s “Take-a-Girl and Boy-Child to Work Day”.
We remain committed in our efforts to further respond to another Presidential call to prioritize “communication and marketing” in our work. We continued to strengthen our Public Diplomacy mandate through informative public participation platforms to enhance communication between government and public. We believe that the establishment of our internet based radio station “UBUNTU Radio” will further enhance and strengthen our desire to reach out to our national and international partners with ease.
Honorable Speaker and Members,
The foreign policy goals we set for ourselves when we began this journey in 1994 have been achieved. We have now reached a turning point where we have to marshal our forces in order to remain among the top economies of the world of today and the future. We are ready for this task. History defines destiny, not only in humans, but also amongst states.We are stronger and more determined for the long walk in this journey to a better South Africa in a better Africa and a better world.
As we say in anthem of the Africa Union:
Let us all unite and toil together
To give the best we have to Africa
The cradle of mankind and fount of culture
Our pride and hope at break of dawn.
I thank you!