Honourable Deputy Ministers,
High Commissioners and Representatives of International Organizations,
Ladies and gentlemen,
In four days’ time, on the 25th of May, Africans, all across the continent, will unite to celebrate and affirm what is uniquely ours – “To Be African”.
This will happen as we prepare to host next month the 25th Ordinary Summit of the African Union which will be yet another milestone in the construction of the Africa We Want!
Next month, we will also observe 60 years since the Freedom Charter was adopted. “There Shall be Peace and Friendship!”, a directive contained in this Charter, has been the torchlight guiding our foreign policy since 1994.
The world was still fresh from the Second World War when the Freedom Charter was crafted. The Cold War was on the rise, and our continent under the grip of colonialism. Today, Africa is a free continent. The Cold War has ended. The world has never known another global war since, except for regional conflicts especially in Africa and the Middle East.
The Freedom Charter may be 60 years old but its ideas are for today and its vision for tomorrow. Peace and Friendship must remain the core agenda of our foreign policy. We have grown into an important player in the international arena, thanks to our values and principles for which we fought which enjoin us to forge a better life for all South Africans and a better Africa and the world.
The African continent remains central in our foreign policy, and this approach forms the basis for our friendship, cooperation and peace efforts all over the world. We stand for cooperation and partnership, instead of competition, in global affairs.
Our country’s entry into its third decade of freedom coincides with the emergence of distinct global trends which demand that we creatively navigate and find opportunities, working together with our people at home and friends and partners abroad.
Implications for our country’s foreign policy are very clear:
Asia and the Middle-East has surpassed Europe as South Africa’s number one trading partner.
Since 1994, trade with Africa has increased 35-fold to about R400 billion,
Europe remains our main strategic trading block while recovering from the global financial crisis.
In the execution of our foreign policy, taking into account this reality, and consolidating our traditional trade ties while expanding new ones, we shall ensure that we remain an active and responsible global citizen, grounded in our values and principles.
Therefore our department’s spending focus over the medium term will be on:
Consolidating political, economic and social relations with the countries of the world
Participating in the global governance institutions, informed by our principled adherence to multilateralism
Enhancing operational capacity by strengthening policy and coordination in relation to ongoing South African development cooperation
The implementation of the African Union’s Agenda 2063
Review of the current legislative framework governing the department’s operations abroad and
The undertaking of various infrastructure projects, and implementing the property management strategy.
Honourable Members, today we affirm that:
Our foreign policy is continuing its upward march, adapting and innovating, from frontier to frontier beginning in our SADC neighborhood, across the entire Africa for the implementation of the African Agenda, into the South to strengthen our co-operation there, to the North where our partners value a relationship with us, and in multilateral organizations where South Africa’s independent voice continue to be heard and respected.
Africa is a growing giant, and South Africa is an integral part of this.
Our economic diplomacy programme is a platform through which our department will contribute to the Nine-Point Plan unveiled by the President in his State of the Nation Address.
We will implement necessary cost containment measures to ensure that we deliver more with less, despite reduced budget allocation of R335 million in the Budget Vote we are tabling today.
Yes, Africa is a giant on the rise, but its potential will remain stunted if its core challenges of governance, sustainable development and peace and security, are not overcome.
The June African Union Summit will give serious attention to these challenges and set out measures for the roll out of Agenda 2063 as a continental vision for the Africa we all want, which is the cornerstone of our foreign policy.
This should entail the strengthening of political and economic integration of SADC.
The expected ratification of the SADC-EAC-COMESA Tripartite Free Trade Agreement in June 2015 will pave the way for the Continental Free Trade Area negotiations due to be concluded in 2017 – a step which will ensure that Africa trades more and more with itself.
As Chair of the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation, South Africa is leading peace building and security efforts in the region. In this regard, we led no less than six SADC Electoral Observation Missions which were peaceful and credible.
These positive outcomes at the ballot box are a clear contribution to the entrenchment of democracy, regional stability and continued economic integration. I wish to congratulate the people of these sister countries, including Lesotho, for doing us and our region proud.
South Africa will continue to forge closer political, economic and social relations through targeted high-level interactions in Africa.
The realisation of the Africa We Want requires peace, be it in the SADC, Great Lakes, the Horn, or in North Africa.
Peace shall remain a dream if the continent continues to experience setbacks such as the recent coup attempt in Burundi. We reiterate our gest condemnation of unconstitutional change of government and reaffirm our support for regional initiatives towards the restoration of political normalcy in Burundi.
Libya is not just a vindication of the stance we took on the crisis in that country. It is also another failure of the approach of regime change and militarism in tackling political and conflict situations.
Our continent, especially in East, West and North Africa, is battling against a spate of dreadful and cowardly acts of terrorism which we condemn and must be defeated.
ACIRC for rapid response to crises has to be operationalized as one of our tools for African solutions to African problems.
We must silence the guns! Africa must be at peace with itself!
We will have the opportunity to contribute more in this regard when we chair the AU’s Peace and Security Council later this year.
The root causes must also be addressed. Among these, democracy must be deepened to give our people a voice they deserve. We should govern our countries in a manner that is progressive, inclusive, with the people always first. Our constitutions have to reign supreme to ensure the accountability of our leaders and political certainty.
Without development that is sustainable our continent will continue to feed from the crumbs instead of the real benefits of globalisation.
The plight of the people of Western Sahara is the unfinished business of the decolonisation period that must be finalised.
A better Africa is indeed a dream we can realise in our lifetime! We are not short of policies. It is in action that we are inadequate.
Our continental organisations are in place. What they need however is more effectiveness, sharpness in programme delivery, and finding innovative sources of self-financing for budgetary self-reliance.
NEPAD and the APRM are our programmes for sustainable development and democratic governance, respectively. We must continue to appraise the capacity, impact and overall work of these institutions and, more importantly, resource them optimally.
The Africa We Want is meaningless if it is not about people – if it does not touch and transform the lives of ordinary men and women.
Beyond our continent, South Africa must remain engaged with the countries of the South and North and in multilateral organizations.
Accordingly, President Zuma will participate at the 7th BRICS Summit in July, to be hosted by the Russian Federation, which will review the progress achieved in the operationalization of the New Development Bank and Contingent Reserve Arrangement.
We remain committed to IBSA as a South-South mechanism for enhanced cooperation between our country and India and Brazil.
Our Asia strategy, considering the growing economic significance of that region to our country, is to actively pursue wider access to the fast growing Asian markets.
This strategy will allow us to secure more beneficiated exports to that region and vigorously seek increased Foreign Direct Investment and tourism opportunities.
In December, we will host the 2nd Forum for China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) Summit.
In the Middle East where conflict has raged for years, South Africa will continue to eschew military solution to conflict, while providing unequivocal support to the just struggle of the Palestinian people until they attain their own freedom and sovereignty.
Latin America and the Caribbean remains an important region for South Africa, including in our multilateral endeavours.
The commendable rapprochement between the United States of America and Cuba should result in the lifting of the unjust blockade on Cuba.
Engagement with Europe has resulted in the establishment of joint infrastructure projects and the sharing of technical skills in our priority areas.
Regarding the Economic Partnership Agreement, work is being done to ensure that the remaining technical processes are concluded as soon as possible.
We commit to the finalisation of all matters relating to our relations with the EU, including the resolution on the issue of Citrus Black Spot.
Our bilateral relations with the USA and Canada continue to strengthen, especially in the areas of economy, health, education, energy, water, safety and security, capacity building and the empowerment of women.
The renewal and expansion of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) provides a platform for the enhancement of industrialisation and regional integration.
Our Missions in littoral countries and those with inland waterways are expected to meaningfully contribute to the Blue Economy. Multilateral Fora such as the Indian Ocean Rim Association are also critical to Operation Phakisa.
This year marks the 70th Anniversary of the United Nations and it has been identified by South Africa as a seminal year to review and reform the UN, especially its Security Council. Africa must be represented in the permanent category of this Council.
Participating in the crafting of the Post-2015 Development Agenda is our other priority for this year. We also look forward to a comprehensive outcome of COP21 in Paris, the seeds of which were in planted in the Durban Platform agreed at the COP17 that our hosted.
The role South Africa has been able to play in promoting the interests of the developing world has indeed been enhanced by our election as Chair of the Group of 77 and China for 2015.
Our participation in the G20 seeks to utilise this international economic cooperation forum to promote g, sustained and inclusive economic growth.
We must continue to demand and work for a fair global economic order.
We will continue to participate constructively in meetings of the IAEA that hold potential benefits not only for the nuclear industry in South Africa, but also for accelerated economic growth on the African continent.
DIRCO must be strategically configured as an organisation and better positioned on the policy front to carry out the above agenda.
Accordingly, I have just approved a new organisational structure which will be implemented during this financial year.
The South African Council for International Relations (SACOIR) has been formally established and ready for operation.
Strides are being made on last year’s commitment to create a fully-fledged Diplomatic Academy.
As per the NDP, the department, through the Academy, will empower and train all its diplomats in Economic Diplomacy as a core competency for their work abroad.
This is in addition to our ongoing training of African female mediators from across the continent.
We are in partnership with the Oliver and Adelaide Tambo Foundation and the School of Governance of the University of the Witwatersrand for the implementation of the NDP recommendations on strengthening our foreign policy.
Our draft White Paper has been approved by Cabinet and is now in the hands of Parliament which will in due course also consider draft Foreign Service Bill and the SADPA Bill.
Young graduates recruited under the Johnny Makhathini Cadet programme will soon take their posts as part of our long-term cadreship development programme.
Through our robust public diplomacy strategy, we have succeeded in sustaining a positive image of our foreign policy, working together with the media and general public to brand and market South Africa at home and abroad.
With the establishment of our Centre for Early Warning, DIRCO is poised to give more impetus to our peacemaking efforts.
In addition to various State Events and International Visits, our State Protocol rendered services to the President and Deputy President for a total of 22 incoming and 48 outgoing State and Official Visits.
Over the weekend, we will lay to rest Mme Ruth Mompati – a seasoned diplomat and one of the recipients of our first Annual Ubuntu Awards held early this year. As we convey our condolences to her family, we also pay tribute to her for her long and uninterrupted service to our struggle for freedom and transformation, as a selfless leader, mentor, and mother to all.
In the same spirit, we must remember all those people, all over the world, who are without human security, living in the midst of disease, hunger, fear and want.
We also pay tribute to South Africans of all walks of life who carry our flag aloft overseas through their sterling work, in some cases even through acts of great courage and selfless sacrifice.
The core interests of our country abroad should galvanise every South African, uniting, not dividing us. Our Portfolio Committee has being exemplary in this regard. We therefore thank you, Honourable Members, for being South African first on matters of foreign policy, and for your support to DIRCO.
We showed the true colours of our nation in the swiftness and decisiveness with which we put an end to violent attacks on fellow, foreign African nationals. We thank our friends and international organisations who stood by us.
International migration and its root causes is a challenge we must overcome in this century. Africans should not be travelling miles and miles, sometimes by foot, across deserts and seas, often at great risk, just to put bread on the table. None of us should be displaced or forced from their cherished motherland by the destructive power of guns. Our continent is well endowed to take care of its own. It is not guns that fire or destroy, but us, humans, who carry them.
We are One, United Africa!
Like the now forgotten son of the soil and poet, Ingoapele Madingoane, once wrote: “Late is never a bad start in Africa my beginning, and Africa my ending”.
Honourable Members, work for the Africa We Want begins now!
I thank you.
South Africa has fulfilled its host country obligations to AU institutions located in our country, including the Pan African Parliament. We will be building a dedicated precinct on an already identified site for long-term housing of these institutions.
Issued by: Department of International Relations and Cooperation
Source : South African Government