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

Madame Speaker

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

Distinguished Guests:

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 thrived.

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 interior.

The great African-American historian, Henry Louis Gates Junior, in his book, Wonders of the African World, tells us that:

"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.

Madame Speaker:

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 initiatives.

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 this goal.

Madame Speaker:

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 the Continent:

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 2005.

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 conditions.

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 elected one.

Madame Speaker

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 people-to-people contact.

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 poverty reduction.

Madam Speaker

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 carry out.

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
P/Bag X152
3 June 2004

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2003 Department of Foreign Affairs, Republic of South Africa