Closing Address by Deputy President JG Zuma to the Fifth South African Heads of Foreign Mission Conference, Somerset West, Cape Town, 21 February 2005

Honourable Deputy Ministers,
Excellencies High Commissioners, Ambassadors, Consuls-General,
Distinguished Delegates,

Thank you for the opportunity to meet with you on home soil.

I trust that those colleagues deployed outside Africa have enjoyed being at home, because of the sunshine!

This conference takes place against the background of the end of the first decade of freedom and democracy in our country.

Over the last ten years you have played, individually and collectively, a key role not only in re-integrating South Africa into the international community of nations, but also in positioning her as a major player in the international system.

As you are aware, we have taken a conscious decision to be biased towards Africa in our foreign policy. A stable, prosperous Africa, at peace with itself, is one of the key objectives of our foreign policy.

We have also, at the same time, sought to promote the interests of the developing world in the South, working together with our sister nations in pursuit of a just and equitable world political and economic order.

The strengthening of partnerships with the developed North also remains a key part of our agenda.

The theme of your conference, ,ÄúConsolidating Democracy, Advancing the African Agenda for a better World,Äù, defines the challenges that we face as we enter the second decade of our freedom and democracy.

Under this theme, you have been able to draw from our experiences of the past decade, to ensure that our foreign policies and programmes are informed by the values enshrined in our Constitution.

It is important for us to remember the Constitution as the foundation of all our activities, especially during this year in which we celebrate 50 years of the Freedom Charter, whose provisions influenced our rights and values-based Constitution.

In his opening address to this Conference, the President passionately appealed to all of us here that it is important for us to spread a ,ÄúMessage of Hope,Äù based on the unprecedented achievements that we have made over the last ten years. We have managed to build a sound and stable democracy.

We have built a strong, resilient and competitive economy, and our socio-economic programmes are geared towards eradicating poverty and improving the lives of our people.

On the continent, democracy is taking root. This is evidenced by the increasing number of countries that have recently held successful democratic elections, namely, Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Ghana, and Niger. Africa is also turning a new leaf with regards to conflicts.

We are pleased that progress has been made in Sierra Leone and Liberia. President Kabbah, a democratically elected leader of Sierra Leone has been reinstated and constitutionality has been restored in that country.

Liberia has turned its back on a violent past and will be having democratic elections in October this year. We marked the beginning of the New Year on a positive note with one of Africa,Äôs longest conflicts, the conflict in the Sudan, coming to an end. The signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement heralds a new dawn, a new era for the people of the Sudan.

This agreement could be used as a model for the resolution of conflicts in the Darfur region and in the Eastern Sudan.

The resolution of conflicts takes the continent to the second level of reconstruction and development. This includes the task of strengthening continental institutions designed to protect human rights and to accommodate and reintegrate refugees, returnees and internally displaced persons. Africa also needs to enhance the capacity to consolidate democracy and good governance.

Let me reiterate that our foreign policy agenda can be broadly characterised as follows:

  • Consolidation and implementation of the African Agenda.
  • Strengthening South-South Cooperation
  • Partnerships with the developed countries.

We have agreed on the main elements that define the African agenda, namely, the operationalisation of the African Union (AU) structures, strengthening of the Southern African Development Community (SADC); the continued implementation of the New Partnership for Africa,Äôs Development (NEPAD); the resolution of conflicts; and the consolidation of bilateral relations.

The establishment of the AU has given renewed impetus to the objective of building African unity.

We have to play our role in ensuring that the AU organs that are being operationalised remain true to the founding principles pronounced in the Constitutive Act of the AU, the principles of democracy, good political and economic governance, social justice, respect for human rights and a culture of tolerance, transparency and accountability.

We are fully aware of the fact that the consolidation of the African agenda requires resources. SADC, as a regional economic community occupies a primary place in South Africa,Äôs foreign policy. Like other regional blocs, it is a building bloc for the AU and is key in the implementation of NEPAD.

Our challenge in the next ten years is the creation of a free trade area, and a customs union that would lead to the establishment of a SADC common market.

We should aim to diversify our economies and ensure that our export strategy places emphasis on value addition across all economic sectors by 2015; sustain an exports growth rate of at least 5% annually; an increase in intra-regional trade to at least 35% by 2008; and an increase in manufacturing as a percentage of GDP to 25% by 2015.

South Africa, with relative strength, has to play a leading role in the realisation of these targets.

Our work towards the development of the continent should further be consolidated in our bilateral relations, where we have to continue to seek support for the successful completion of the work programme contained in the Doha Ministerial Declaration and the Implementation of the Monterrey Consensus.

These will ensure that the needs of Africa and developing countries are at the heart of the work programme of the World Trade Organisation.

This support will translate into enhanced market access, technical assistance and capacity building, and to ensure the meaningful, effective and full participation by developing countries in global economy.

Building and enhancing partnerships and collaboration where necessary will help us realise our Millennium Goals, especially the eradication of poverty and underdevelopment by 2015.

Moving to matters closer to home, in his State of the Nation Address, President Mbeki mentioned that, there is continuing dialogue between our government with Zimbabwe to ensure that the forthcoming elections are free and fair, and further that, South Africa has been in consultations with the Kingdom of Swaziland to assist the Kingdom move towards a constitutional dispensation.

We have also played a key role in support of the SADC initiative to bring an end to the conflict in the DRC. All efforts are being made to ensure that the second democratic elections scheduled for 30 June 2005 in the DRC take place.

With regards to Burundi, we are committed to continuing to assist the Burundi people to honour their electoral calendar, and to hold the planned staggered elections in April, which would end the current transitional period and usher in democracy.

You will recall that the elections were meant to be held by 31 October last year in terms of the Arusha Agreement, and were postponed as the Independent Electoral Commission of Burundi requested more time for preparations.

The referendum on the new Constitution was supposed to be held initially on 26 November, and later on 22 December. It was postponed due to inadequate resources and the need to carry out voter,Äôs registration.

Our information is that preparations are now proceeding well for the referendum, now scheduled to take place next Monday, on the 28th of February. We are pleased that the statutory requirements have been met. Election materials are being distributed to the provinces and to the 6002 polling stations in the country, and voter education began on the 12th of February as required by law.

All these activities give us hope that the referendum will go ahead smoothly as planned.

We wish the Burundian government and people well during this milestone, and urge all parties to cooperate to make the referendum a success. We will be thinking of them during this important day, which is a crucial step on the road towards the return of democracy in their country.

There are other programmes that should take place, as part of the process of normalising the situation in Burundi. In this regard, we are encouraged that the Demobilisation process is in progress, and urge all parties to co-operate to execute this activity more speedily, and to address the challenges that remain, especially with regards to the Reintegration of former combatants into society, and the need to move forward more hastily on the issue of Disarmament.

These are not easy processes in any post-war situation. We stand ready to provide our own experiences and expertise to assist our brothers and sisters to achieve the objectives of the peace process.

Ladies and gentlemen, as our representatives abroad, and also those of the continent, we rely on you to spread the message of hope about our country and Africa.

You need to communicate the successes and hard work that is taking place daily, and enhance the strategic partnerships we have with our partners in the world, both the North and South, to take the African agenda forward.

As we continue to work hard in pursuit of the goal of building a better country, better Africa and better world, let us all energetically play our respective roles, to take our country and continent forward to prosperity.

In the State of the Nation address, the President emphasised that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white, as proclaimed in our Constitution as well as in the Freedom Charter.

We urge you to communicate and promote this vision beyond our borders, of a people united in their diversity, working together to build a better future.

I thank you

Issued by: The Presidency
21 February 2005

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2003 Department of Foreign Affairs, Republic of South Africa