Address by the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, the honourable Sue van der Merwe, to the Pretoria Diplomatic Association, Pretoria Country Club, 05 October 2004,

Taking stock after 10 years: Building for the next 10

Distinguished guests

I am pleased to be here this evening to address you at such a critical juncture in the history of our country, when we celebrate 10 years of democracy and freedom. It is a critical juncture for us because it provides us with the opportunity to evaluate our achievements in the last ten years of our freedom as well to prepare for the challenges that lie ahead. Indeed, the issues with which you are concerned are the same issues with which we as a government in general and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in particular remain seized.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is at the coalface of our international relations. Such an interface presents us with the opportunity to state what we unambiguously stand for and what kind of world we aspire to. If we move from a premise, as we surely must that our foreign policy is anchored in our domestic policy, we will state that we seek a better life for all in South Africa, on the continent of Africa and in the world. In pursuit of this strategic objective, our Ministry strives for the related and interconnected goals of peace, stability, democracy and development in an African continent, which is prosperous, peaceful, democratic and united, contributing towards a world that is just and equitable.

Pursuant to the attainment of these goals, South Africa is committed to making its contribution. We strive, as we have always done, to do this through dialogue, within a multilateral framework that ranges from participation in both organisations of the North and South as through the implementation of the New Partnership for Africa's development. Indeed the challenges that face us as a country, region and continent are far too diverse and complex for us to hope to overcome them on our own.

It seemed that the Chinese saying (or is it a curse), "May you live in interesting times", seems to have found resonance when one recalls the challenges that faced us in the latter part of the twentieth century. However, not all is doom and gloom. We have started to apply our collective minds and energies as African peoples to address the challenges of underdevelopment and poverty, which are largely a consequence of problems of the past including, amongst other things, military coups, military dictatorships, corruption, absence of democracy and marginalisation of the mass of the people. All these problems, I am glad to report, are on the wane.

For us in South Africa, the early 1990s set the stage for a new era in both global and African politics. The demise of the Cold War and the demise of bi-polar politics, closely coincided with the rise and acceleration in the struggles for self-determination in various parts of the world including Eastern Europe, Asia, Africa and Latin America.

The stage for a new era in African politics was set in the pre-1994 period with the intensification of the efforts by both South African and African leaders to bring about an end to the last colonial outpost on the continent. The focus on toppling the apartheid government in South Africa somewhat obscured what was emerging as a strong commitment by Africans to take their fate into their own hands to find solutions to their own problems. Furthermore, the very struggle against apartheid was the struggle for good governance. The pressures for reform both from within South Africa and elsewhere, the growing realisation that the system was intolerable, and the crumbling economy emboldened political leaders on all sides to take steps to dismantle apartheid.

The birth of the new South Africa could in a sense be said to have also been a child of its own times, hailed as perhaps the greatest human rights campaign ever. Thus the end of apartheid and essentially of colonialism in South Africa, owes a great deal to the efforts of Organisation for African Unity whose main objectives were, to rid the continent of the remaining vestiges of colonisation and apartheid; to promote unity and solidarity among African States; to co-ordinate and intensify co-operation for development; to safeguard the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Member States and to promote international co-operation within the frame work of the United Nations. Indeed, as a continental organisation the OAU provided an effective forum that enabled all Member States to adopt co-ordinated positions on matters of common concern to the continent in international fora and defend the interests of Africa effectively. Through the OAU Co-ordinating Committee for the Liberation of Africa, the Continent worked and spoke as one with undivided determination in forging an international consensus in support of the liberation struggle and the fight against apartheid.

The OAU initiatives paved the way for the birth of African Union, which was successfully launched at the Inaugural Summit held in Durban, South Africa in 2002. Clear as it should be by now, it must be emphasised that the AU is not the continuation of the OAU under a different name, but this new organ has the capacity built into it, to drive the development of the African people through New Partnership for Africa's Development.

NEPAD and investment

NEPAD deliberately highlights peace and security, democracy, good political, economic and corporate governance, and regional integration as the necessary conditions for development (and of course, investment, both domestic and internationally). These necessary conditions, coupled with other NEPAD priorities such as infrastructure development; ensuring banking and financial standards; agriculture and market access; are about reducing the risk profile of doing business on the continent, creating the conditions conducive for investment, reducing business costs and increasing Africa's competitiveness in the world economy.

Opportunities for domestic and international investors are many as the NEPAD infrastructure and agriculture projects come on line. The infrastructure projects are in the energy, transport, ICT and water and sanitation sectors. As an illustration, the World Bank Board approved funding for two major projects in November 2003, namely the Southern Africa Power Market project and the Southern Africa Regional Gas project.

Under the NEPAD initiative, there is a firm commitment to mobilising the resources and resourcefulness of the African people. It is for this reason that the AU Summit in Maputo in July 2003 decided to set budget targets for health (15%) and agriculture (10%). The African Development Bank, the Development Bank of Southern Africa, the Industrial Development Corporation of South Africa and ESKOM, the South African power utility, have been in the forefront with billion dollar investments in the continent.

Clearly, the private sector has a key role to play in the future development of the continent. NEPAD, by creating peace and stability and a conducive environment provides many opportunities for business, as will the NEPAD programmes on infrastructure development, on the diversification of production and in the drive to add value to products. Public-private partnerships are essential in the NEPAD process. If nothing else at the end of the day, NEPAD must result in the private sector saying that they are doing business in Africa because of something that African governments have done rather than despite what they have done or not done.

By systematically working together, African countries can begin to realise the goals of NEPAD. They can do this with their own resources and by combining their strengths and dealing with their weaknesses. In such a situation, the benefits that partnership with the developed world brings are additional and welcome, as they can serve to accelerate implementation, but they are adding to what is being achieved already. The point is simply that African countries do not have to wait for resources to be provided by the developed countries before starting to change their economies.

The partnership that South Africa and Mozambique have built up since 1994 is a case in point. An examination of what has been done, how it has been done and what has been achieved provides a case study for what can be done.

Regional Integration:

One of the most important conditions for sustainable development mentioned in the NEPAD base document, is regional integration. African economies are generally small, weak and fragmented and the majority of countries have relatively small populations. Therefore, regional integration is essential in order to increase market size, economies of scale and the maximization of comparative and competitive advantages in order to attract investors. While there has been some progress made in achieving regional integration in Africa, there are still challenges that remain and they need to be addressed urgently. In order to accelerate regional integration, the following actions are necessary:

  • Strengthening Regional Economic Communities (RECs) including the rationalisation of RECs and the involvement of the private sector and civil society;
  • Improving macroeconomic frameworks for development and deeper integration;
  • Improving regional trade by, amongst others, eliminating barriers to intra-regional trade;
  • Accelerating physical integration through infrastructure development; and
  • Clarifying the relationship between the RECs and the African Union, particularly as they relate to mandates.

Both political and economic integration will enable Africa to effectively address its challenges especially those relating to trade, peace and security. There are certain issues that require a regional approach, regional co-operation and co-ordination. These include the prevention, management and resolution of conflict and the combating of infectious diseases, amongst others.

Within the southern African region, anticipation of change filtered earlier on and was manifested in the transformation of the previously anti-apartheid Southern African Development Co-ordination Conference, which excluded South Africa, to the newly restructured Southern African Development Community, which is more development oriented. SADCC was, in essence, a politically motivated response and 'defensive mechanism by the Front line States (FLS) to the PW Botha government in South Africa's idea of a 'constellation of states' in the region.

The Declaration and Treaty establishing the Community, which replaced the Co-ordination Conference, was signed at the Summit of Heads of State or Government on 17 August 1992, in Windhoek, Namibia. While it was formerly a resistance movement, it now became a co-operation structure, which is actively seeking peace, stability and prosperity and there already positive results in this regard.

A very successful Summit of Heads of State was recently held in Mauritius. One of the highlights was the adoption of the SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections, aim at enhancing the transparency and credibility of elections and democratic governance as well as ensuring the acceptance of election results by all contesting parties.

You will appreciate that stability plays an important role in contributing the good governance and economic development. This has been the African challenge and we are now beginning to stem the tide of undemocratic forms of governance by putting in place practical measures that will encourage good government, which has at its heart the interests of the people we seek to represent and lead. An example of this is the launch of the Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (RISDP) as part of the restructuring process that was initiated some four years ago.

Also during the Summit, the Strategic Indicative Plan for the Organ on Politics, Defence and Security (SIPO) was launched during official opening ceremony. The SIPO is an enabling instrument for the implementation of the SADC developmental agenda embodied in the Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (RISDP). The core objective of SIPO is to create a peaceful and stable political and security environment within which the region will endeavour to realise its socio-economic objectives. As a consequence of these initiatives, I am pleased to report that generally, peace and stability continue to prevail in the region.

Other achievements during the past four years since the SADC restructuring was initiated, include the adoption of the Declaration and Plan of Action on Agriculture and Food Security as well as the initiation of the process of establishing the SADC HIV and AIDS Trust Fund.

The extent of the HIV and AIDS pandemic in the region has reached crisis proportions. The major contributing factors to the spread of the pandemic include widespread poverty, gender inequality, illiteracy, stigma and discriminations and inadequate health care delivery systems as well as substance abuse. In this regard, the Government of the Republic of South Africa has already donated of One Million Rand as its contribution to the SADC HIV and AIDS Trust Fund.

When this government was elected, it inherited an enormous debt. It took 7 years to bring that debt under control. This having been done, the next 10 years of our democracy must be about the delivery of the better life that we envisage for our people. We are mindful however, that this better life is intricately linked with the lives of our fellow Africans and indeed with the peoples of the world. We believe the basis for the realisation of our goals has been laid. We will be working with our fellow citizens and our partners in Africa and the world to make our African Renaissance a reality.

Of course we will continue to rely on the constant and robust engagement with you and your governments in all these matters that are of mutual concern to us, that is, to create a better life for all.

I thank you.

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