Address by the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of South Africa, The Honourable Sue van der Merwe on the Occasion of the Budget Vote of the Department of Foreign Affairs, Cape Town, 15 April 2005

Madame Speaker
Ministers and Deputy Ministers
Honourable Members
Members of the Diplomatic Corps
Distinguished Guests
Ladies and Gentlemen:

The Minister has very eloquently set out for us the context in which we in Foreign Affairs find ourselves. She has described the enormous scope of our work and the myriad of demands that are made on our department as we seek to play our role on the African continent and in the international arena in general.

We consistently maintain that our foreign policy is firmly anchored in Africa and we remain resolute and steadfast in this commitment.

Guided by the spirit of the Freedom Charter, by the imperatives of our age and by the successes of our first decade of democracy, we are faced with building on these gains and, at the same time tackling the persistent challenges of global inequality in wealth, access to resources and world markets as well as the accompanying scourges of ongoing strife, conflict, wars, instability and poverty.

We also however find ourselves in a position that President Mbeki described in his State of the Nation Address as - " a confluence of encouraging possibilities". Accordingly, in the Department of Foreign Affairs we are asking ourselves the question: are we able as a department to meet the many challenges we are facing and are we able to fulfilled the many tasks that are expected of us? Are we able to take advantage of these encouraging possibilities?

The debate around any government's ability to deliver is not a new one, nor is it unique to South Africa. In almost every decade since the de-colonisation period, it has come in different guises and the conclusion almost always leaves but little alternative to the state as the primary agent to deliver services.

Forty three years ago, the great revolutionary leader Che Guevara speaking about the newly independent Cuban state wrote thus:

"Immediately after taking power, administrative assignments were made by "rule of thumb", there were no major problems - there were none because as yet the old structure had not been shattered. The apparatus functioned in its old, slow, lifeless, broken down way, but it had an organisation and with it sufficient co-ordination to maintain itself through inertia, disdaining the political changes which came about as a prelude to the change in the economic structure."

He warned that

"an apparatus which little by little began to fall into the hands of a contended and carefree bureaucracy, totally separated from the masses, which became recognised as a springboard for promotions and for bureaucratic posts of major or minor importance."

Che Guevara words echo our own challenges in making the state apparatus responsive to our vision for a better world. In the past year, as South Africans, both within government and other sectors of society we have reflected on how far we have come as a country in the past ten years to transform the state machinery to redress the injustices of the past and to establish and consolidate our democratic developmental state. One thing is clear, we have learnt from the mistakes of the other developing countries with the sole purpose not to repeat the same mistakes. At the same time, we have striven not to be isolationist in carrying out our own transformation, but we have located it squarely within a broader developmental paradigm of creating a better Africa and a better world

We inherited a very different Department of Foreign Affairs in 1994 from the one we have today. It had a budget of R6bn then, R5bn of which was spent on propping up the homelands. The budget we present here today is R2.5bn. We must make the best and most efficient use of this resource to further our developmental agenda.

In the 1990s at the end of the Cold War, there was immense pressure globally on the ability of the state to deliver services or whether it was time to reconsider its role. This prompted the World Bank to produce a report in 1997 entitled State in a Changing World.

The World Bank concluded that "the basic message translates into a two-part strategy to make every state a more credible, effective partner in its country's development:

· matching the state's role to its capability and
· raise state capability by reinvigorating public institutions.

Making every state a more credible, effective partner in its country's development is a challenge for us in South Africa as it will be for other countries on the continent, and indeed for our continental structures

I would like to talk here about two recent examples of our own work with the building of institutions and institutional support on the continent.

The first of course is the Pan African Parliament. Members of this house are fully aware of our successful bid to host the Pan-African Parliament. This house has elected our own 5 representatives to the continental body and I would like to pay tribute to them as they are playing a valuable role in the development of this new Pan African institution.

In September last year we successfully hosted the second session of the Pan-African Parliament in its new temporary home, Gallagher Estate, Midrand - the first session on South African soil.

Earlier this week the Third Ordinary Session concluded its work. The Parliament, the first of its kind on the African continent, and indeed unique in many ways in the world, has shown that it is fully engaged with and serious about the issues of the continent and adopted a series of pertinent resolutions.

Amongst these, is a resolution for the Development of a Continental Code of Conduct on the Use and Exploitation of National Resources and Environmental Protection on African soil, which many members had made reference thereto; as well as plans to deploy Pan-African Parliamentary Missions to Cotê d'Ivoire and the Democratic Republic of Congo to make an assessment of progress in those countries towards a peaceful solution of their problems. These parliamentary missions will then submit reports to the Pan-African Parliament.

I am certain that these reports would be of immense interest to all members of the Pan-African Parliament, and national parliaments and governemnts as well as other interested parties.

Deputy Minister Pahad has described the processes that has led to the agreement between the various parties involved in the dispute in Cote d'Ivoire. There was a happy convergence of events as these talks were taking place at the time that the Pan African Parliament was in session. Prime Minsiter Seydou Diarra of Cote d'Ivoire was invited by the President of the Pan African Parliament to address the parliament, and by all accounts the interaction was instructive to the MP's as well as useful in spreading the message of peace and reconciliation across the continent. Prime Minister Diarra was the first Prime Minister to address the Parliament.

The second such example of our commitment to institution building is the recent 2-week long workshop held in Pretoria with approximately 80 members of the Sudanese Peoples Liberation Movement of South Sudan. You will all be aware of the Comprehensive Peace Accord that has recently been signed in Sudan. The South African government, in its commitment to provide whatever assistance it could to the process of reconstruction of that country, agreed amongst other things, to host a delegation people from South Sudan, placing them at various government departments for experiential work. This programme was a great success and we hope to build on this in the future.

I am reminded here of a statement the Minister made at the opening of this training and orientation programme. She informed the SPLM that we were humbled by the honour vested upon us by the Sudanese people to provide the capacity building programme because it provided us with a great opportunity to carry the African Renaissance forward and to promote the advantages of peaceful transition.

Speaking at his State of the Nation Address in February this year, President Mbeki made it abundantly clear, that in the second decade of our freedom we need to ensure that concrete and tangible progress is made on the eradication of poverty and underdevelopment and on growing a vibrant economy that sees to the needs of our people. With this in mind, he further asserted that in order to meet these developmental goals, we need to achieve new and decisive advances in the capacity of government to deliver on its mandate.

We reported to this House last year that our Foreign Service Institute (FSI) was in the process of being restructured with the view to developing a relevant curriculum as well as being adequately staffed. I am pleased to report that we have heeded the President's call we have appointed our former Ambassador to Switzerland, Ambassador January-Bardill as its Head. We are delighted that she has agreed to take on this challenging assignment and confident that she has the necessary credentials and expertise to implement our vision for the creation of a new foreign service dispensation. This will be a highly motivated and skilled generation of diplomats, a foreign service that is essentially South African and quintessentially African in outlook. These diplomats will be the frontline of our international diplomatic efforts to renew our continent.

During February this year, we held our annual Heads of Mission Conference. This was later followed by a Women-Heads-of -Mission Workshop in March, to coincide with International Women's Day on 8 March. The purpose of the Conference was to pay tribute to our women diplomats, who work in the most male of male environments, and to provide the space for women Heads of Mission and Senior Managers to reflect on their roles and experiences since their arrival in the Department ten years ago. Amongst its recommendations, the Conference concluded that there was still need for transformation in the areas of diplomatic culture, diplomatic ideology, conditions of service and career and human resources development.

The Conference was also attended by both the Minister and myself to engage and listen to their issues so that we continue to champion the issue of women's advancement and the pursuit of gender equality which forms part of the transformation of the South African society. In re-orientating our work, we are also moving towards the African Union position of 50% representation of women in senior positions in the organisation. We believe that, given the opportunity, women have a seminal role to play by bringing innovative ways of management as well as changing mindset about diplomacy as a male preserve, and generally to contribute to creating a more humane, just and caring society.

Madame Speaker

Honourable members will have followed on the news that we recently co-hosted the African Diaspora Conference in Jamaica, which the Minister attended leading a multidisciplinary delegation, which included government and civil society representatives. The African Diaspora is a huge and largely untapped resource of fellow Africans and South Africans who reside in other parts of the world. Not only are these fellow sisters and brothers and well placed to further our agenda, but are also ready and willing. We plan to build on this conference and engage more thoroughly with South Africans and African abroad, wherever they may be.

The idea of engaging the Diaspora, wherever it may be found was enthusiastically received at the Heads of Mission Conference in February. In fact, also invited to the Heads of Mission Conference were representatives from a number of other government departments, business and civil society entities, including South African Airways, International Marketing Council, South African Tourism, and South Africa the Good News amongst others. The common thread uniting all participants at the Conference was the commitment to promoting South Africa abroad. We need to leverage all these opportunities and harness them as part of our broader foreign policy process.

Another area that we are already exploring in the Department is that of demystifying foreign policy and making it accessible and understandable to all our people. The public inquiries into the international work of our President, Deputy President and Ministers are an indication that there is sufficient interest in the work that we do.

We need to respond to this challenge. During 2000, the Cabinet decided on an Imbizo programme as a means of interactive governance and communication that should be adopted to promote increased dialogue; an unmediated communication between the government and people. The Department of Foreign Affairs has not as yet engaged with these izimbizo. We are working on this and we hope to start with our izimbizo programme in the near future. Are plans include engaging with interested sectors of the South African community such as Universities and other institutions, border communities and others to engage with them on our policies and programmes.

Madame Speaker,

As you will by now appreciate, as a Department we have a mammoth task and to implement all the programmes we have outlined within a limited budget is no mean feat. However, we are well resourced compared to many of our fellow African countries and they look upon us to help where we can. We would be failing in our duty as a progressive force of change if we were to look at contributing to the development of other African countries as inconvenient and a burden. Over the past decade we have proved that there is no price too high to pay to bring about the rebirth of our continent, and to establish peace security and development. We continue to soldier on in spite of the difficulties for we cannot afford to be comfortable in our prosperity in an environment of despair.

When we consider the positive developments that have occurred on the African continent over the past ten years against the investments that we and others have made, we certainly have received good returns. However, our journey is far from over!

As a country we have our own challenges to deliver services to our own people. We need to remain conscious of the fact that our people's prosperity is indeed linked to that of our fellow African sisters and brothers.

It is abundantly clear that, the issue of delivery is not only about the availability of capacity, infrastructure or resources but a combination of all and how they are utilised. We believe we have already started to put these in place and we are ready for the challenges of the next decade.

In conclusion, I would like to echo the Minister's appreciation for the visionary leadership of both President Mbeki and Deputy President Zuma. I would also like to thank the Minister for her continued encouragement and guidance, Deputy Minister Pahad for his support, all my colleagues in Cabinet, Parliament and within the Department of Foreign Affairs.

I thank you.

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