Lecture by Minister Nkoana-Mashabane at Rhodes Unversity, Grahamstown, 20 October 2009

Vice-Chancellor of the University, Dr Saleem Badat
Our leaders in Government
Members of the University Council
Deans and Heads of Department
Members of the academic staff
Student leadership and the entire student body
Ladies and gentlemen

Some of us see foreign policy as a distant, luxurious preoccupation of elites which has no significant bearing on lives of ordinary people.  These skeptics wonder whether our country’s engagement with the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the African Union or even the United Nations is not just a waste of time and that of our precious resources.  They do not see why we should be sending our troops in peace missions to countries beyond our borders.

These concerns make sense because, prima facie, the SADC is in Gaborone in Botswana, the African Union Headquarters in Ethiopia, and the United Nations even further away in New York. Our troops are in places such as Burundi and the Sudan – far away from our corner at the tip of the African continent.

It therefore gives me great pleasure, Vice-Chancellor, to be here at the invitation of your University to share with you my thoughts on “Core Issues Facing South African Foreign Policy Today: Continuity and Change”. We hope, through this lecture, that we will contribute to a better understanding of our foreign policy and its relevance to our domestic concerns.

Our foreign policy, like that of any country, is dynamic; it changes with time, particularly in response to developments in our country and the world.  Our foreign policy should speak to the lives of ordinary women and men because our global engagements are informed by our values and domestic priorities as a country and people.

My presence here today, Vice-Chancellor, is also timely for our Department of International Relations and Cooperation because we are currently on a road-show country-wide to popularize our foreign policy and interact with our communities on what our country is trying to achieve beyond our borders.  We were in Limpopo Province last week where we gave a talk at the University there and later held an Imbizo in Mankweng.

We will be engaging as many communities and institutions as possible, including those constituencies whose activities are in our foreign policy space.

Programme Director

Our academics and students of international relations have been studying the foreign policy of post-apartheid South Africa with focus largely on, firstly, the presidencies of  Nelson Mandela, Thabo Mbeki, Kgalema Motlante and that of Jacob Zuma; and, secondly, the behavior of our country in our region, the rest of Africa and the world. Some of these scholars even ponder whether our country is not a so-called “hegemon” bullying our neighbors to promote a sub-imperialist agenda.

It makes sense, I must admit, to define our foreign policy in terms of personalities at the helm of our country because each of our presidents since 1994 contributed enormously to our global outreach and international engagements.  It is also legitimate to examine our behavior as a country in Africa and the world to determine whether what we do out there is consistent with progressive values we hold dear to our heart.

But focusing on personalities has its own disadvantages.  It can lead to the neglect of strategic complexities in the making of our foreign policy, particularly the ideological outlook of the ruling party and the dynamics linked to how this party gives mandate to the Government it leads.  One can miss here areas of continuity and change; we can also attribute to individuals what was in fact the decision of the mandating party.

We have to bear in mind that the ruling party, the ANC, is a former liberation movement that is grounded in a particular history, organizational culture, strategies and tactics, and an ideological outlook – all of which evolved over a period of almost a century.  Nor did the ANC begin international relations in 1994. No!

Strong internationalist character of the ANC laid the basis of a future democratic South African state. International work was one of the pillars of the ANC’s strategies and tactics during our liberation struggle.  Not only did we build one of the most powerful solidarity network in the world in the form of the anti-apartheid movement, but we also made friends with certain countries and international constituencies.  Many of our friends supported our struggle actively through their governments and organs of civil society.  This international support and friendships we built during our struggle are a wealth we treasure to this day, and are indeed not hard to miss in how we conduct our foreign policy today – in friends we choose, positions we take, and alliances we build.

President Zuma made this point in his address to the 64th United Nations General Assembly few weeks ago, when he said:

This year marks the twentieth anniversary of the adoption, in 1989, of UN General Assembly Resolution 44/27 on “International Solidarity with the Liberation Struggle in South Africa”. This was one of numerous resolutions by the General Assembly in which the nations of the world pledged their support for the eradication of apartheid.

Within months of the adoption of this important resolution, the South African liberation movements were unbanned. Nelson Mandela and other political prisoners were released. The stage was thus set for the negotiations that would eventually lead to the achievement of freedom and democracy in our country.

The role of the United Nations in the struggle to end apartheid is an exceptional example of the collective political will of the international community. It represented the victory of unity over division, of negotiation over confrontation. It represented a clear commitment to the promotion of basic human rights.

As South Africans we will always be grateful for that international solidarity.

It will be hard to have a full grasp of our foreign policy approach and behavior without an understanding of the ANC’s ideological perspective.  The ANC’s ideological outlook and value system are informed by internationalism, the rejection of colonialism, the quest for the unity and renewal of Africa, the promotion and defense of the plight of the suffering and poor of the world, and opposition to the structural inequality and the abuse of power in the global system. 

The ANC values democracy not only for our country, but also for the entire international system; the ANC wants peace and security not only in South Africa and Africa but also in the whole word; and the ANC struggles for economic justice and prosperity not only for South Africans but the whole of humanity.

This ideological perspective is not something of the past – it is still with us to this day as reflected in what was said in the Strategies and Tactics document that was adopted at the 52nd National Conference of the ANC in Polokwane in December 2007: That:

The ANC was formed and it evolved as part of progressive forces across the globe in the fight against colonialism, racism, poverty, underdevelopment and gender oppression. It drank and continues to drink from the well of these progressive global experiences. The strategic objectives of our National Democratic Revolution reflect some of the best values in human civilisation.

In its conduct of struggle, the ANC takes into account the global balance of forces, the better to help create and take advantage of opportunities for decisive  advance and to avoid pitfalls of adventurism. In this regard, we proceed from the understanding that it is the task of revolutionary democrats and humanists everywhere to recognise dangers; but more critically, to identify opportunities in the search of a just, humane and equitable world order – a world with greater security, peace, dialogue and better equilibrium among all nations of the world, rich and poor, big and small.

This is the ANC’s ideological standpoint which informs Government’s approach to international relations.  We are guided by what delegates at the 52nd national Conference said, that:

Our standpoint on these [international] matters is both a matter of profound self-interest and an issue about the humanity of our own outlook. We will continue to build and strengthen progressive alliances and networks across the globe, including inter-state, party-to-party and people-to-people relations in Africa and further afield in pursuit of an equitable and humane world order.

Those of us who were deployed in Government in since 1994 when President Mandela was our Head of State or today under the leadership of President  Zuma - are all guided by this perspective and undertaking.

Programme Director

The debate among academics on the theory of international relations is of interest to a practitioner like myself as I believe that the various theories have an invaluable advice to offer.  I am, however, reluctant to box myself into one line of a particular school of thought. To me, for example, to emphasize solely issues of shared values and common interest in foreign policy at the expense of national interest and the reality of power in international relations, may prevent one from seeing when the interests of one’s own country are at stake; or when others exercise their power to dominate your country and the entire international system.  At the same time, to give primacy to issues of self-interest, national security and power in foreign policy at the expense of shared values and common interest in international relations, may prevent a country from working with others – states and non-state actors – to build an equitable and humane world system.

Our approach takes into account these various dimensions of foreign policy – that is: national interest, power, shared values, and common and collective interests.   And, as President Zuma said to the 64th United Nations General Assembly, we prefer engagement over confrontation.

But our approach is a fundamental negation of the making and pursuit of foreign policy during the apartheid era.  You will all recall that the foreign policy of apartheid South Africa was aimed at:

  • Promoting and legitimizing a system of governance that dehumanized and discriminated against other sections of the human race based on one’s skin colour;
  • Defeating the liberation movement – that is: the ANC and forces of the Mass Democratic Movement;
  • The destabilization of our neighbours through military incursions and providing support to armed groups such as UNITA in Angola and RENAMO in Mozambique;
  • Anti-communism in the context of the Cold War;
  • Undermining international sanctions imposed on the apartheid state;
  • Building the military arsenal of the apartheid state by acquiring Weapons of Mass Destruction (especially nuclear weapons); and
  • Making friends and selling apartheid to the world, including promoting Bantustans as “independent states”.

Soon after our independence in 1994, the ANC released a document entitled “Foreign Policy Perspective in a Democratic South Africa” which outlined foreign policy principles, priorities and focus areas for the new South Africa with the view to giving substance to our commitment in the Freedom Charter that “There Shall be Peace and Friendship”.  The ANC proclaimed in that document that: “No longer are we the pariah of the world”, and pointed out that “More and more issues as development, human rights, the environment, South- South co-operation, North-South relations, multilateralism, peace, security and disarmament, etc., will be dominating the international agenda” in the future. It was the view of the ANC in 1994, as spelt out in that document, that:
Foreign policy being an integral part, or rather, an extension of national policy and interests, becomes, consequently an important component in our strategy for development and social purposes. In formulating foreign policy we should, therefore, be extremely careful not to let pre-conceived ideas, in-built prejudices and rigid attitudes to cloud the basic issues at stake. Objectivity must be the watchword and an objective approach can only re- inforce the adage that administrations might change but fundamental interests don't.

We are in the fourth Administration since that document was written, but we remain unmoved to this day in our belief that our foreign policy should belong to our people, because:

  • It mirrors their long relationship with the international community
  • It reflects the rich tapestry of their international heritage
  • It demonstrates their desire to live in harmony with their neighbours
  • It signals their intent to contribute creatively to Africa's future
  • It beckons them to international service so that their country may fulfill its calling as a responsible global player; [and]
  • It summons all South Africans to think beyond the immediate, to reach towards the challenges of the [twenty-first] century

We also committed ourselves right from the onset in 1994 to seven principles that were to guide our foreign policy.  We were to be guided by:

  • A belief in, and preoccupation with, Human Rights which extends beyond the political, embracing the economic, social and environmental;
  • A belief that just and lasting solutions to the problems of human kind can only come through the promotion of Democracy, worldwide;
  • A belief that Justice and International Law should guide the relations between nations;
  • A belief that international peace is the goal to which all nations should strive. Where this breaks down, internationally- agreed peaceful mechanisms to solve conflicts should be resorted to;
  • A belief that our foreign policy should reflect the interests of the continent of Africa;
  • A belief that South Africa's economic development depends on growing regional and international economic cooperation in an independent world;
  • A belief that our foreign relations must mirror our deep commitment to the consolidation of a democratic South Africa.

Programme Director

Indeed, our foreign policy has evolved dynamically over the past fifteen years with changes in our country and the world, but the principles and framework informing our engagements on the international stage remain consistent with the objectives and values of our liberation struggle as well as challenges we identified for ourselves in 1994.

We had to integrate our country into Africa and the world after decades of isolation.  Through our foreign policy, we gave expression to our position that our country’s development is intrinsically connected to that of Southern African region and the continent as a whole. We walked our talk and got directly involved in the establishment of the African Union and the design and promotion of New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD). We are fully committed to  projects underpinning NEPAD, which embrace a continent-wide renewal programme focussing on economic growth, infrastructure development, human resource development and effective democratic governance.

We, together with our fellow African sisters and brothers, promoted NEPAD through a sustained engagement with the G8 group of countries. In our engagements, we made sure that the concerns of the South remained on the G8’s annual deliberations. We continued our engagements with the World Bank and the IMF, arguing for an international financial and development architecture that is favourable to African countries and the South. We went ahead and played an important part in the launch of the new WTO round of negotiations in Doha.

Looking back fifteen years into our past, we remain proud of the progress we have registered guided by our foreign policy principles and framework. Today we enjoy peaceful co-existence with our regional neighbours in Southern Africa; we have, as the African collective, made impressive strides in addressing issues of conflict and underdevelopment; we have aggressively put the case of the rejuvenation of Africa’s economies and development on the tables of Bretton Woods institutions and the United Nations; we have forged close collaborative ties with the wealthy nations of the G8 and other major trading partners; we have and continue to build strong strategic partnerships in the context of South-South cooperation and North-South relations.

In the last fifteen years, we have evolved as an influential developing country with significant growth in diplomatic representation in all regions of the world. Presently, South Africa has 124 diplomatic missions abroad - of these, 62 missions are headed by women.  Diplomatic representation in South Africa has also become an important source of financial injection in the country’s economy. During the financial year 2007/8 the diplomatic community injected R5 billion into our country as a result of their official expenditure.

But we remember what Isithalandwe Tata Rolihlahla Mandela warned in his biography Long Walk to Freedom, that:  “After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb”.  Tata counselled us in this book that “freedom comes [with] responsibilities, and we dare not linger, for our long walk has not yet ended”. Yes, the long walk to a better Africa and a better World without hunger, disease, conflict and underdevelopment has just begun.

Some of the challenges we have identified moving forwards are:

  • We need to improve on the work we have been doing in the past to assert our national interest in our foreign policy.  The era of being the toast of the world is over; we are now viewed and treated like any other country;
  • We need to intensify our economic diplomacy;
  • That we have not engaged ordinary people fully and effectively in our foreign policy through our public diplomacy;
  • That even though many South African non-state actors – especially NGOs and corporates – have become important players on the continent and the world-over – there has not been a clear coordination and linkage with the overall objectives of our foreign policy;
  • That many government actors from our three spheres of government are active on the world stage – signing MOUs and Twinning Agreements – yet the coordination within government has not been at the desired level; and
  • That we need to take a long-term view of our foreign policy and what we need to do as part of the global progressive movement to achieve our objective of a better life at home, and a better Africa and the world.

We have not hesitated in initiating steps towards addressing these challenges.  One such step was to change the name of the Department of Foreign Affairs to the Department of International Relations and Cooperation in line with the directive of the 52nd National Conference of the ANC.   This name change is not cosmetic; it is intended to convey a profound message about our perspective and approach to world affairs which emphasizes cooperation over competition and collaboration over confrontation.  We believe in cooperation through collective action not only with other nations but also with non-state actors.

The other corrective measure we have taken after the elections was the establishment in the Presidency, of capacities led by Ministers, for planning and monitoring and evaluation.  Ministers responsible for Planning and that for Monitoring and Evaluation have already released their Green Paper and Discussion Document (respectively) to generate public discussion and input in tackling responsibilities put before them. Through their work, we will be able to align various streams of the work of Government and lift our heads to project beyond the five years that an Administration spends in political office.  Now, what we do in our foreign policy as a Department has to be clearly aligned with the overall work of Government, including what we want to achieve in the short, medium and long-term.

Programme Director

Our work in the next five years will be anchored around the five priorities which were outlined in the 2009 Election Manifesto of the ANC.  You will recall that these priorities are: the creation of decent work and sustainable livelihoods, education, health, rural development and land reform, and the fight against crime. The targets we have set for ourselves with respect to these domestic priorities have to inform our foreign policy in the next five years. 

Our Medium Term Strategic Framework (MTSF) that seeks to guide government’s programme in the electoral mandate period 2009-2014, states clearly that we seek to create a nation united in diversity, working together to weave threads that will result in the creation of a democratic, non-racial, non-sexist and prosperous society. The Medium-Term Strategic Framework spells out in detail our electoral mandate, including the five priorities, with the view to setting out an agenda for our Government.

The implementation of South Africa’s foreign policy for the period 2004 – 2008 is also spelt out in the Medium-Term Strategic Framework.  For the next five years, our focus will be on:

  • Improving the political and economic integration of the SADC;
  • The continued prioritisation of the African continent through the African Agenda;
  • Strengthening South-South relations;
  • Intensifying strategic relations with strategic formations of the North;
  • Strengthening political and economic relations; and
  • Participating in the Global System of Governance.

Programme Director

South Africa has just handed over its chairpersonship of the SADC to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) during the 29th Ordinary Summit held two weeks ago in Kinshasa.  South Africa will, however, remain a member of the SADC Troika in the capacity as outgoing chairperson until August 2010 with the incoming Chair due to be Namibia.

The SADC is a vehicle for South Africa’s foreign policy for collective action to achieve regional development and integration in Southern Africa because we have no doubt in our mind that our country’s future is inextricably linked to that of our neighbours and the rest of the continent.

South Africa is active in promoting SADC regional economic integration agenda through the Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (RISDP), which incorporates milestones towards deeper integration and sustainable patterns of development. One of our achievements in this regard is the SADC Free Trade Agreement (FTA) which was launched at the SADC Summit in August 2008 in South Africa. 

South Africa is also participating in the COMESA/EAC/SADC Tripartite process where the three Regional Economic Communities (RECs) are embarking on programmes to harmonise their trading arrangements, the free movement of people, and joint implementation of inter-regional infrastructure programmes as well as institutional arrangements on the basis of which the three Regional Economic Communities would foster cooperation.

However, more must still be done for SADC to realize its full potential and the objectives we have set for ourselves. For instance, preliminary indications from the 2009 FTA Audit Report are that the pace of growth of intra-SADC trade is lower than that of SADC with the rest of the world, despite general increases in trade. This is an issue South Africa and the rest of the SADC will be engaged in improving in the near future.

Other critical interventions are necessary.  We had prioritised the following interventions during our chairpersonship of the SADC:

  • South Africa’s support to the WESTCOR Project to address energy issues in the region;
  • Regional spatial development initiatives (SDIs);
  • Work on the Information Communications Technology (ICT) to enhance broadband access in the region within the context of the NEPAD Broadband Infrastructure Network;
  • The operationalisation of the Project Preparation Development Fund (PPDF) and the SADC Development Fund; 
  • Trans-Frontier Conservation and Development Areas (TFCDAs); and
  • Water infrastructure projects

It is also critical that countries of our region should mobilise the private sector to support SADC initiatives towards consolidating regional integration.  Organisations such as the Association of SADC Chambers of Commerce and Industry (ASCCI), the SADC Business Forum, the NEPAD Business Foundation (NBF), and the African Business Network (ABN) should be engaged to facilitate the role of the private sector in deepening regional integration.  The next five years present an opportunity for us to forge stronger links with and between the business sectors in the region.

We will also continue to work with our neighbors and the international community to support the implementation of the Global Political Agreement in Zimbabwe and finding a lasting solution to the crisis in Madagascar. 

Our recent State Visit to Angola is one effort towards strengthening bilateral relations among Member Sates of the SADC.  Sound and strong bilateral relations with our neighbours will help consolidate the spirit of solidarity and cooperation that kept our region together during the dark days of apartheid.

The agenda of integration in the SADC region is part of our continental effort towards African unity.  Regional Economic Communities such as the SADC are our building blocks to deep, continent-wide integration.  This unity is one pillar of the African Agenda.

The African Agenda is grounded in a philosophy that recognises the inseparable, triangular linkage between democracy and good governance, peace and security, and socio-economic development.  The African Union that was launched here in South Africa in 2002 out of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) is the custodian for this agenda.

The NEPAD and regional integration are the corner stone of the strategy for the economic rejuvenation and prosperity of our continent.  We have to overcome our situation of underdevelopment, including challenges of want, disease and ignorance.  The Millennium Development Goals provide us with benchmarks and targets, and it should be of great concern to us that many of our countries will not meet these goals by 2014.  As South Africa, we are not only host to the Secretariat of the NEPAD, but we have been among those countries on the forefront of this development initiative since its inception.

We remain committed to the African Union, including our support to its various organs such as the Pan-African Parliament that we host in our country.  We are at work with other African countries and the African Union Commission to ensure that the three Financial Institutions of the Union that are envisaged in the AU Constitutive Act see the light of day.  It is incumbent on all of us to make sure that the African Reserve Bank, the African Monetary Fund, and the African Investment Fund become a reality, because these three institutions have a critical contribution to make to the renewal of our continent.

We need a strong and effective African Union – and this applies to all its institutions, programmes and organs.  The decision on the African Union Authority will have to be implemented within the context of our understanding of the AU as an intergovernmental organisation of independent, sovereign Member States.  It is not our understanding that the African Union Authority will be a supranational entity operating over our heads.

Furthermore, democracy and good governance have to continue to spread and flourish on our continent for Africa to occupy its place in this century.  The African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM), as a product of the NEPAD, makes what used to be impossible in Africa now possible.  Countries can now review and advise each other on how best we can make democracy work for our people.  But we still need to encourage more and more of our countries to join the APRM.  This is important not least because the AU is probably the first regional organisation to institute such a mechanism.

We must also continue to discourage the tendency for elections to lead to civil strife and, in some cases, even to war on our continent.    The work of the African Union in strengthening our institutions of democracy, including our electoral systems and laws, is a mission that should enjoy the active support of all of us.  The squabbles over the outcome of elections are generally due to weaknesses in the quality of our elections – in our laws, institutions, and the voter education of our people and political parties. 

Another tendency that is presenting our democratisation efforts with a challenge is that of the unconstitutional change of government – that is: taking power through a coup, rebel military action or refusing to step down after been defeated in an election.  The African Union has a position on this matter including punitive measures against its perpetrators.  Yet this tendency is continuing as its perpetrators often use elections to legitimise and prolong their hold over power.

Our support of the African Union position on the application of the Principle of Universal Jurisdiction, in response to recent indictments issued by the International Criminal Courts on key African personalities, does not mean that we are for impunity or violations of human rights.  We remain committed to what the ICC was established for. Our view, however, is that the imperatives of justice should not undermine important efforts to promote lasting peace.  For example, in the Sudan, we have our troops in Darfur; former President Thabo Mbeki is leading the African Union High-Level Panel on justice and reconciliation in that country; and we are leading the AU ministerial team on the reconstruction of Southern Sudan.  Our approach to challenges in the Sudan should be informed by the imperatives of justice and peace.

Peace and security is important and will ensure the success of the African Agenda.  We need peace, not war.  We need institutions that are strong enough to prevent differences among the political elite to degenerate into conflict.  We need institutions and systems in place in countries to ensure that ordinary people have access to basic necessities as this is one of the sources of conflict on our continent. Wars destabilise countries, destroy infrastructure and institutions, and divert energies away from development.

Once peace is restored after war, the reconstruction of the country becomes a new challenge – that is: rebuild institutions and the economy, and heal and reintegrate communities. 

South Africa is involved in this domain.  Our soldiers are deployed in peace missions in different parts of our continent.  We are also working with the people of Southern Sudan to rebuild their part of the country.  We were as involved in the reconstruction of the DRC, helping with rebuilding of their public serve, among others.

Programme Director

President Zuma has just returned from a State Visit to Brazil.  Two weeks ago we were in Venezuela for a Summit of South American and African states.  Relations among countries of the South not only provide our country with opportunities for trade, but they are also important for democratising the global system. 

South Africa has since 1994 been actively engaged in and cooperated with countries of the South in four ways.  Firstly, is our membership in multilateral bodies such as the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) whose work is synonymous with our vision of a better world.  

Secondly, we have developed strategic partnerships with  states of the South – notably: China, Brazil, India and Brazil.  Our trade with China has even surpassed that with our traditional trade partners of the North.  The IBSA is providing us with a framework for a compressive and multi-sectoral programme for the intensification of our relations with India and Brazil. 

Thirdly, we have built strong, bilateral relations with progressive countries of the South, including those that supported in our struggle against apartheid.  One example here is indeed Cuba. 

Finally, we interact with countries of the South as part of the collective of the African Union through, for instance, the Forum for China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) and the Africa-India Forum.

The African Union has also developed a framework and programme for working with the African Diaspora because of our belief in the unity of people of African descent.  South Africa used our celebration of the tenth anniversary of our freedom to convene a meeting jointly with the African Union and the CARRICOM to strengthen the bond between African people on this continent and those in the Caribbean region.  South Africa will be hosting the African Union Summit on the African Diaspora.

In this context, Vice-Chancellor, our solidarity and support for the struggle of the Western Sahara and Palestinians for their right to self-determination is one important component of our foreign policy.  We are also in concert with the international community in calling for the lifting of the economic embargo on Cuba.

But our strong relations with countries of the South to promote the African Agenda and for a better world, has not prevented us from building ties with countries of the North, bilaterally or through the multilateral system.  Our trade relations with these countries continue to grow as well as our collaboration with them in various fields.  We use our engagement with these countries to advance our interests and those of our continent.  One area is the G8 whose summits today never conclude their business without a meeting with the G5 (representing of countries of the South) as equal partners.  We played a key role in making this possible. 

Our recent summit with the European Union is another indication of the extent of our relations with our partners of the North.  However, we have concerns with the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) of the European Union as we believe that these pose a serious threat to our programme and agenda of regional integration.

Programme Director

We believe that through cooperation and collective action, countries of the world can work together to the benefit of humanity in areas such as peace and security, socio-economic development, democracy, and the protection of our environment.  We believe that when resources of the world are used responsibly and shared equitably, globalization can work for all of us – the rich and the poor, and the weak and the strong. 

Also, we do not believe in an international system where power is skewed in favour of the rich and powerful who have shown in the past that they can act unilaterally at the expense of the general good and  those of us who are in the South.  It is for this reason that we believe in a strong multilateral system where nations of the world have equal say.  This, we believe, is our security against unilateralism, abuse of power in world affairs, militarism, and a globalization driven by greed and the pillage of our environment.

The world has made significant progress in building a multilateral system that works for all especially after the Second World War and the end of the Cold War.  But more must still be done to transform our international system to give us, the weak, a voice, and address developmental challenges facing humanity today.  This transformation imperative is particularly important for the United Nations, Bretton Woods institutions, and the international trade regime.

The reform of the United Nations is at the center of our agenda for the transformation of the international system for a better world and Africa.  This reform is not confined to making the institution just effective and efficient in discharging its role and responsibilities, but it is also about democratising it and ensuring equitable representation of all nations and regions of the world in its organs, especially the Security Council.  The UN has to be relevant – it must address pressing challenges of the world; it must tackle the world’s development challenges as well as peace and security issues.  It must also take lead in making sure that the international system is governed democratically to rid our world of the North-South divide in global power relations and wealth distribution.

The United Nations of 1945 is not justifiable and sustainable in the context of our world of today. Since its establishment in 1945, the UN has been a highly contested institution, first, between the East and the West during the Cold War and, today, between the developed North and the developing South.  The substance of the reform agenda has not escaped this contestation.  The North want to limit the reform to administrative matters pertaining to the Secretariat of the UN, while the South’s vision of reform is about relevance, equity and the democratisation of the institution. 

Since the UN World Summit of September 2005, several reform processes were set in motion, some of them culminating in tangible outcomes, others still bogged down in negotiation or currently stalemated. However, much work still remains in several areas to bring about genuine reform that will strengthen the UN to carry out its mandate effectively, efficiently and transparently.   Reform measures that have been implemented include the establishment of the Human Rights Council and the Peacebuilding Commission.  Measures towards the enlargement of the Security Council have, however, stalled.  We have to intensify the push for concrete action and progress in negotiations currently underway at the UN on the expansion of the Security Council to give Africa a permanent seat, among others.

We believe that South Africa should be one of those serving in the UN Security Council permanent category.

South Africa has also consistently called for reformed Bretton Woods institutions that will give better consideration to addressing financing and developing policy for development that is appropriate to country and regional conditions.  We believe that the ability of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund to deliver meaningful support for our countries in Africa will require:

  • Reconfiguring institutional and economic systems away from the legacy of colonial relations; and
  • Building closer synergy between the activities of Bretton Woods institutions and those of Africa’s own institutions, particularly those that have been given critically important mandates for infrastructure provision and improved regional interconnectedness, such as the African Development Bank and the Regional Economic Communities.

The ability of the Wolrd bank and the IMF to be  global institutions and relevant to their stakeholders, require that they establish their credibility as truly global public institutions contributing to growth and equity and stability for all countries.  This includes not only changes to internal governance mechanisms towards more effective voice and participation, but also the policies and philosophies underlying their operations. 

We welcome processes currently underway towards the full transformation of these institutions. It is also encouraging that this process in now part of the G20 programme for the reform of the international financial system.  We are all anxious for an early conclusion of this reform process with the hope that its outcome will increase, substantially, the representation of the South in the governance of these institutions; align their ideological orientation with our development agenda; and ensure that their programmes speak directly to development programmes in our countries.

The transformation of the global trade regime, for its part, will enable our countries of the South to use trade to address developmental challenges.  But the current system of global trade is not in our favour; nor does it promote our development.  We believe that the successful conclusion of the current Doha Round of negotiations at the World Trade Organization will be a big step towards unlocking the full potential of international trade so that globalization can work for all of us.  South Africa has never stopped calling on our partners of the North to play their part in unlocking the deadlock at the WTO for the Doha Round to deliver on its developmental promises.  We are also hopeful that the position taken by the WTO in the past to categorize South Africa as a developed nation will be resolved, once and for all, in our favour.

A transformed international system – with democratized United Nations and Bretton Woods Institutions and global trade that  is to the benefit all of humanity – will put us in a better position as the international community to meet targets we have set for ourselves in the Millennium Development Goals.  We will disagree less on issues that should be in our collective interest.  For instance, we will agree on the need and agenda for the protection of our environment and reversing its degradation.  We will not disagree on the need to rid our plant of Weapons of Mass Destruction.  We will also see value in privileging negotiation over confrontation and militarism, and collective action over unilateralism and the show of force.


The context of our foreign policy will always change with developments in the world.  Our timely and effective response to these new developments will in many ways determine the extent to which we will be able to use our foreign policy to advance our national interest. 

We hope that changes in the United States to the Obama Administration will enable the international community to work together much better than before especially in the context of the current global economic recession.  We are also challenged as a country to continue to engage the United States individually and as part of the collective of the African Union to advance our interests and those of our continent.

The global financial crisis is also an opportunity for us to advocate for and promote an alternative to the neo-liberal model of development which believes in the mystery of the market and gives no significant role to the state in the economy.  We now know that the market cannot work to the benefit of all of us when the state is not there to play its active, developmental role.  In fact, the market, left on its own, can bring all of us down.

Programme Director

The state is not the only actor on the international stage especially since the advent of the information and communication technology which has softened borders between countries.   Non-state actors – notably Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), labour and Transnational Corporations – are as active in international relations to the extent that today meetings of key multilateral bodies such as the United Nations and the African Union are preceded by some Civil Society Forum to contribute to deliberations.  When preparations are made for G8 meetings today, measures are put in place to contain demonstrations by anti-globalization forces which have succeeded in opening the ears of the rich and powerful to the plight of those living under conditions of want and disease. 

Many NGOs are active in the struggle for the transformation of the international system and the African Debt Crisis, for example.  Others are in conflict zones, working for peace, and offering a helping hand to the internally displaced and refugees.  This role of non-state actors cannot be ignored by governments like ours.  We value this contribution and encourage it as it strengthens our collective effort towards a better Africa and the world.

South African non-state actors are as active – especially on our continent.  Our companies are involved in Africa in sectors such as banking, retail, ICT and mining.   However, their role, important as it is to the development of our continent, has raised questions about their conduct and related issues.  The 52nd National Conference of the ANC directed our Administration look into this matter with a view to developing a code of conduct for this private sector. 

Some of our NGOs are in places such as the Sudan, engaged with people there in mediation, training and policy-related work.  Others even have full-time offices in parts of our continent. 

Vice-Chancellor, I must add to this list the work that is done by our universities individually and in collaboration with their counterparts on the continent, to contribute to our collective effort towards the renewal of Africa.  I am also aware that some of the academics of this institution are part of continental research and policy networks whose publications and advice we hold in high esteem.

Government has not been interacting with these non-state sectors of our people to coordinate their important work with ours and harmonize their approach with that of our foreign policy.  We intend to rectify this situation.

Vice-Chancellor, I must use my visit today to challenge your institution, especially students, to take full advantage of opportunities offered by the Department of International Relations and Cooperation in the form of our Cadet and Internship programs.  After fifteen years in government it is imperative that experienced diplomats and Ambassadors of today groom young South Africans to be the diplomats of the future. Hence our Department has established a Cadet programme into which young graduates from all walks of life - rural or urban, and all university degrees - are recruited and trained for a year. The selection process ensures that equity is taken into account.  I can proudly say that since the Cadet programme started students from Venda University have formed almost fifty percent of those admitted to the programme. This is so despite the fact that ours is a highly competitive programme, We receive about one thousand five hundred (1 500) applications each time from which to choose the few that are admitted to the programmer. At the completion of the course those who have passed receive a post-graduate diploma which allows them to register for a Masters degree in any South African university. If the students' attitude, conduct and behaviour are exceptional during training they then get permanent employment in our Department as junior diplomats. Hard work, dedication, good inter-personal skills, and teamwork are among key qualities and characteristics for a good South African diplomat.

Our Department is also committed to contributing towards developing competent civil servants and this we do, among others, through our internship programme which provides our youth to be trained on the job for at least one year while looking for a permanent job. Interns have been recruited in fields such as IT and internal audit. Those who are unemployed are also taken care of through learnerships in order to enhance their chances of finding jobs. Through learnerships young South Africans get classroom and practical training in our Department. To date learnerships have been delivered in human resources, marketing and public service management fields. This programme targets those who have passed Grade 12.

Once a year officials from my Department visit schools and universities to encourage our youth to think about a career in diplomacy.  Vice-Chancellor, your university has an opportunity here to collaborate with our Department. 

Programme Director

We are living through interesting times in our country and the world.  But we are in a much better position today to influence what will become of our country tomorrow and the period beyond.  Government has committed itself to a set of priorities for the next five years, but we are fully aware that the dream of a better life for our country can only be realized through working together as a people. 

I am here today to talk about the work of our Department, our foreign policy, and how our work out there in the world is informed by what we want to achieve on the home front.  My being here is also an invitation to yourselves to work with us for a better South Africa, Africa and the world.

I want to recall here the words of Pixley ka Seme – the man credited with the idea that led to the formation of the ANC in 1912 – when he said in his 1906 speech on “The Regeneration of Africa”, that:

The African already recognizes his anomalous position and desires a change. The brighter day is rising upon Africa. Already I seem to see her chains dissolved, her desert plains red with harvest, her Abyssinia and her Zululand the seats of science and religion, reflecting the glory of the rising sun from the spires of their churches and universities. Her Congo and her Gambia whitened with commerce, her crowded cities sending forth the hum of business, and all her sons employed in advancing the victories of peace – greater and more abiding than the spoils of war.

Yes, the regeneration of Africa belongs to this new and powerful period!

This vision of a better Africa was upon Comrade ka Seme in 1906 as it for us today. Africa’s regeneration belongs to this century!

I thank you!

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