Role of the Department of international Relations and Cooperation in foreign engagements between the three spheres of government, and international entities or governments




QUESTION NO: 45 (CO53E)          


Mr E R Makue (Gauteng: ANC) TO ASK the minister:

(1) What is the role of her department in foreign engagements between the three spheres of government and international (a) entities or (b) governments.


The foreign engagements of the three (3) spheres of government with international (a) entities or (b) governments should be guided by the following:

Chapter 3, article 41, of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa (RSA) on co-operative government and intergovernmental relations inter alia states that all spheres of government should “preserve the peace, national unity and the indivisibility of the Republic”.

The Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) promotes and advances international relations and cooperation of the RSA by presenting the country in an effective, coherent and comprehensive manner abroad. The Department is furthermore responsible for conducting and coordinating international relations and cooperation at bilateral, regional and multilateral levels through its network of missions abroad and through interaction with foreign representatives in the Republic in accordance with the foreign policy of the RSA.

The engagements of the other spheres of government in the international arena be it with other entities or governments, should take cognisance of the above-mentioned.  Moreover it must adhere to the Constitution of the RSA and in particular the spirit of Chapter 3 as well as the provisions as stipulated in Chapter 14 “International Law”.

In accordance with the Cabinet approved document “Measures and Guidelines for the Enhanced Coordination of South Africa’s International Engagements”  DIR CO should therefore be the entry point on all matters relating to international relations of National, Provincial and Local Government as well as of other institutions of state. The aforementioned document should be read in conjunction with the policy of ‘’Strengthening of Economic Diplomacy and the Challenges of Coordination in Marketing South Africa Abroad (presented and approved by the July 2007 extended Cabinet Lekgotla) which provides guidelines to the 2nd and 3rd spheres of government when travelling abroad. The Director General (DG) of DIRCO hosts two (2) meetings of the Consultative Forum on International Relations (CFIR) per year which provides a platform for information sharing and enhancement of coordination between the three (3) spheres of government. The Deputy Ministers furthermore embark upon provincial visits with a view to promote better coordination and coherence in the implementation of South Africa’s foreign policy.

(2) Whether the visit of the Mayor of Tshwane to Taiwan is in line with South Africa’s foreign policy; if not, what is the position in this regard; if so, what are the relevant details?


South Africa formally recognised the People’s Republic of China (PRC) on 1 January 1998, immediately after the de-recognition of Taiwan on 31 December 1997.  A critical aspect of the bilateral relations between democratic South Africa and the PRC is the ‘One China Policy’ which was adopted in 1998. The ‘One China Policy’ is aimed at addressing the question of the territorial sovereignty of the PRC as the sole legitimate representative of all of China. The ‘One China Policy’ is a global principle which stipulates that there is one China and that mainland China (including Tibet, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan) are all considered parts of China.

South Africa’s foreign policy position towards Taiwan views Taiwan as a province of China. South Africa and Taiwan continue with their informal relations through Liaison Offices located in the respective capitals. No political visits and engagement to and from Taiwan take place, and relations between the two entities are mainly economic, social, cultural, scientific, trade and investment.

South Africa’s economic engagement with Taiwan is conducted within a Structured Mechanism called the Dialogue Forum, chaired by the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) at Chief Director level.

National, Provincial and Local Government Departments must liaise with DIRCO prior to undertaking international visits for coordination/guidance purposes. However, there was no due consultation with DIRCO regarding the Mayor of Tshwane’s Office, prior to the Mayor Solly Msimanga’s visit to Taipei in December 2016. Even Cabinet Ministers and Deputy Ministers need to consult with and get approval from the President of the Republic of South Africa.

In view of the above the visit of the Mayor of Tshwane to Taiwan was not in line with South Africa’s foreign policy and guide-lines.




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2003 Department of Foreign Affairs, Republic of South Africa