Address by the Deputy Minister of Foreign
Affairs Ms Sue van der Merwe at the Debate on the Budget
Vote of the Department of Foreign Affairs, Cape Town
3 June 2004
President Thabo Mbeki
Deputy President Jacob Zuma
Colleagues in the Executive
Members of the Portfolio Committee of Foreign Affairs
Members of the Diplomatic Corps
Honourable Members of Parliament
Ten years ago when we laid the foundations for a democratic
South Africa, we knew that we had come so far in attaining
our freedom. The political processes opened the road
for South Africa's people to be truly and fully free,
but while this was an important milestone, we knew that
hard work lay ahead in order to achieve our economic
freedom and to build a better life.
In our quest for economic freedom, we are reminded
of the ancient Nubian civilization in what is today
northern Sudan and southern Egypt - the Black Gods and
Kings, a society which had attained a flowering of culture
and economic prosperity. We think of the Pharoahs of
Kush, and in the West the salt, gold and books of Timbuktu
- a world in which entrepreneurship and marketplaces
We are further reminded of the lost cities of Mapungubwe
and Thulamela, the Mutapa Empire of Great Zimbabwe where
trade flourished from the sale of cattle, "surplus
wealth accrued and this region began to be integrated
into the larger trade network of the Indian Ocean Coastal
Cities." Intricate gold artifacts, finely wrought
gold plates, thousands of beads manufactured as far
afield as India and China are to be found at these sites.
We are told that "Arab traders spoke of the 'land
of Sofala' with its purported "meadows of gold'.
This was an African marketplace for gold and ivory,
while beads and cloth were also traded deep into the
The great African-American historian, Henry Louis Gates
Junior, in his book, Wonders of the African World, tells
"Legends of the gold of Sofala - a city on the
coast - spread to Europe, fueling the search to explore
the heart of Africa. Thus were channels opened between
the Limpopo River basin and the outside world."
This should be the source of our inspiration as together
we move this country and this continent to greater heights.
As we reflect upon the strides that have been made
over the past ten years in placing our nation squarely
at the forefront of international relations, we are
left with no doubt about the caliber of South African
leadership that has steadily and purposefully guided
this journey to freedom and our relations with the rest
of the world.
They have given us this vision of a African continent
that is prosperous, peaceful, democratic, non-racial,
nonsexist and united, and which contributes to a world
that is just and equitable.
So it gives me much pleasure now to join this great
journey: to build upon and contribute to the work of
the Department of Foreign Affairs as it asserts South
Africa and Africa's place in the world.
In her presentation, the Minister of Foreign Affairs
covered a wide range of issues and activities, upon
which I would like to add and emphasize some points.
The most pertinent would relate to our foreign policy
emphasis on the consolidation of the African Agenda
and the continued strengthening of Africa's institutions.
The Minister has referred to the progress made with
respect to the establishment of the organs of the African
Union. Amongst those are the launch of the Pan African
Parliament in March, the creation of the Peace and Security
Council on Africa Day this year, and the ratification
of the Protocol on the African Court of Human and People's
Rights, amongst others.
These achievements are significant in giving effect
to the African Union's agenda for a united Africa and
a better world.
Whilst a lot of work has already been done to ensure
the participation of governments in these unfolding
continental developments, a key challenge remains to
fully involve civil society in Africa-wide processes.
The establishment of the Economic, Social and Cultural
Council will go a long way in addressing this need.
We have made progress on this front, with the launch
of the South African Chapter, where nine civil society
organizations were elected as Secretariat from among
women's groupings, youth, religious groups, organized
labour, NGOs, lawyers, cultural groups and people with
disabilities. At this gathering, draft statutes were
discussed and amendments submitted for transmission
to the AU Commission. In July 2004, the AU summit is
expected to deliberate and finalise on this statute.
Our task is also to strengthen the SA Chapter so that
the heightened involvement of the masses of our people
in these continental processes will enhance our political
participation, deepen the character of our commitment
and enable the intensification of our practical work.
The Minister also pointed out the importance of NEPAD.
In this regard, its implementation will only advance
if there are successful organs and institutions to ensure
this. NEPAD remains a priority in all our incoming and
outgoing visits, as well as for all meetings of SADC,
the AU and other international initiatives.
Critical for our success has been to ensure that African
institutions have the requisite will and capacity (human,
financial and institutional) for the implementation
of NEPAD priorities and programmes. Thus a major focus
has been on Capacity Building. The African Capacity
Building Foundation has signed an MOU with the NEPAD
Secretariat on capacity building in the Regional Economic
Communities (RECs). EU support has been sourced and
there have also been interactions with India, Japan,
Indonesia, Malaysia and Brazil, amongst others, to secure
tangible support for NEPAD projects and capacity building
The implementation of the five NEPAD priority areas
is ongoing. Various South African Government Departments
are closely involved in the implementation of the priority
programmes, especially the Departments of Agriculture,
Environment and Tourism, Science and Technology, Minerals
and Energy, Health and Transport.
Much energy is still needed to improve our regional
Southern African Development Community (SADC) in light
of new priorities. More work needs to be done as SADC
is going through its restructuring process. The involvement
of civil society in SADC's institutional development
will be a great asset and we would call on South Africans
to consider bringing their expertise to SADC institutions.
The people of our Continent are in need of lasting
peace and security in order to rise out of poverty and
underdevelopment. We are therefore fully committed to
collective efforts of the African Union, the United
Nations as well as our bilateral relations to reach
Whilst the Minister has already mentioned matters relating
to Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the
Sudan and Zimbabwe, our efforts reach further across
In Angola, the peace implementation process is on track.
Following sessions of the SA/Angola Joint Commission
on Co-operation, various agreements have been finalised
and initialled. These include agreements on the Promotion
of Tourism, on Energy and Electricity, Petroleum, Customs,
Civil Aviation and Merchant Shipping. More impetus is
to be given to our bilateral relations by a planned
visit of an interdepartmental team of Directors-General
to Angola as well as the hosting of Foreign Minister
Miranda towards the end of this month.
In Cote d'Ivoire, the situation has begun to stabilise
as a result of the deployment of a strong United Nations
force and elections are due to take place in October
In the Comoros, legislative elections were held successfully
in March and follow-up elections in April 2004. However,
tensions still do remain and as a result, South Africa
should still continue to assist in the national reconciliation
and reconstruction process.
In Liberia, South Africa has played a role in the transition
process and to prepare for the new leadership. South
Africa forms part of the current UN observer mission
in Liberia and will continue to be part of international
efforts in alleviating the deteriorating humanitarian
In the Central African Republic (CAR), the situation
remains fragile and South Africa will continue to support
the transition from the interim government to a democratically
While we consolidating our African agenda, our attention
is also focused on forging our relations with Asia and
the countries of the South. The Minister has spoken
about the significance of Asia-Africa co-operation and
of IBSA, an important partnership that spans three countries
on three continents. These are tangible examples of
our growing relations with partners in all parts of
the world and our expanding trade networks.
In October 2003, President Mbeki attended the Third
Tokyo International Conference on African Development
(TICAD III) in Tokyo. The TICAD process reaffirmed the
concepts of African ownership, of the development process
by Africa, embodied in the pursuit of priorities set
by Africa itself. TICAD also importantly enshrined a
vision of African development that integrates the principle
of global partnership based on an equal footing with
all development partners.
In mid December 2003, South Africa, along with 44 African
countries participated in the Second Ministerial Conference
of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, in Addis Ababa.
This Conference reviewed progress on the implementation
of agreements concluded during the First Ministerial
Conference, which had taken place in Beijing in 2000.
China pledged to assist Africa with human resource development,
medical care and public health, cultural exchanges and
Given our activities, outlined today, there has certainly
been a great deal of pressure to enhance our institutional
capacity to be able to implement our international agenda.
The Department has undertaken a number of interventions
to address its institutional strengthening requirements.
Some of these have been a recruitment drive in search
of skilled cadres to join the Department and a promotion
process to acknowledge the professional performance
of our officials. At the beginning of 2004, a total
of 175 officials had been either recruited or internally
promoted. We are confident that this drive is indeed
providing the Department with a sound baseline capacity
on which to build further the excellence of the Department
and its officials.
I had occasion recently, together with the Minister,
to meet these young future diplomats. I was struck particularly
by their insights and enthusiasm. The challenge for
us now is to build such organisational capability as
to nurture their talents.
Currently, a second wave of recruitment is underway
with approximately 300 posts to be filled before the
end of this calendar year.
We are using these recruitment opportunities simultaneously
to attract young South Africans to the Foreign Service
as well as ensure a more representative workforce especially
with regards to gender and people with disabilities.
We are devoting special attention to the enhancement
of our human resource development and management interventions.
This is critical to ensure a good quality of diplomats
but also to ensure that we retain those already recruited
because they themselves see a bright future in South
Africa's foreign service.
A key instrument we have for training is the Foreign
Service Institute - our diplomatic training centre.
This has not performed optimally. We are currently engaged
in a repositioning exercise.
This benchmarking exercise has now led to the second
phase, which is ongoing, including such elements as
reflecting on the structure of the institute as well
as reforming the curriculum in line with our requirements.
As part of the curriculum reform we shall be paying
particular attention to arming our diplomats with the
capacity to engage in important economic work, working
of course together with other appropriate arms and institutions
of our government such as the DTI, SA Tourism and the
International Marketing Council (IMC).
Another example of our attempts to capacitate our diplomats
with economic skills is an initiative we have with the
government of Singapore which will see 25 officials
from our headquarters and all our missions in Asia and
Australasia meet in Singapore in June, on a 7 day trade
and investment course offered by the Singaporeans together
with the DTI.
I stress this area of our work because it is key to
ensuring that we leverage global opportunities to advance
our key domestic challenges namely unemployment and
Our project to build a new Headquarters to house the
department is also gathering steam. As many of you know,
the Department of Foreign Affairs operates from 7 different
buildings scattered throughout the Pretoria CBD.
This obviously is unsuitable for management efficiency
and for team building. We have now already appointed
a transaction advisory team which has been helping the
department on systematically working through the PPP
treasury requirements since this is the acquisition
option being considered.
As things stand now we are aiming to complete the project
by December 2006.
This is an exciting journey. A journey of South Africa,
making her contribution towards a stable and prosperous
Africa in a better world.
It is also a journey that opens possibilities for the
boundless human energy that we have in our midst to
be used in the course of advancing humanity.
In the years that lie ahead our task is to forge unity,
to build our international relations, so that we can
re-create the vast ancient African markets and build
the new African marketplaces for the African century,
and for a modern world.
With that thought, I would like to thank you all for
the attention you will undoubtedly give to the work
that the Department of Foreign Affairs is required to
As we implement our international agenda and strive
to reach our goals, let us together open new roads and
the minds of the world to the possibilities of our country
and our continent.
Issued by the Department of Foreign Affairs
3 June 2004