Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane’s Christmas Message to DIRCO Officials – December 11th, 2009

Honourable Deputy Ministers and Colleagues,
Deputy Ministers Ebrahim and Sue van der Merwe,
Our Director-General, Dr. Ayanda Ntsaluba,
Deputy Directors-General,
Our Senior Managers,
All staff at Head Office and at Missions,
Colleagues,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Friends of DIRCO

We are here together in this magnificent building with all of us under one roof. I think even our determination and commitment to serve this Department is as fresh as this building. We are gathered here today in this new building with this new mandate that is eight months old, to see how we can together as DIRCO, with a brand new name by the way, see how we will be impacting on our five key priority areas.

The DG and the Deputy Ministers have appealed to me not to make a keynote speech, but just to say hi to you and tell you, I LOVE YOU very much – and then we eat and continue celebrating until the President arrives. We are here together with the two Deputy Ministers and the DG to say to you that it has been quite a hectic eight months. All Branches of the Department have tried to do their best in making sure that whatever will be done in this new building, with a new mandate and a brand new President, makes a mark that is expected from us.

DIRCO is a political Department. The work we do, where we go, whatever we say, whatever we are assumed to be saying – does make people have opinions about what we are about. We are about the defence of our Constitutional democracy. We are about the defence of human rights wherever we are, because we are the product of that.

We are the defenders and also the inheritors of the legacy of Oliver Tambo and all our fore-bearers. We are the yawns that weave the tapestry that makes South Africa contribute to a foreign policy that talks about anchoring our national interests in the interests of a better SADC, a better AU, a better South-South cooperation, and a better world.

It began with us when we visited Angola, four days after the new mandate was given to us. It began with us when we participated in a very important meeting, when we attended special sessions at the UN General Assembly. It continued when we dealt with the financial and economic crises of the world in June of this year. We also participated in a meeting hosted by the new American Administration – on matters relating to the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement between governments of both Northern and Southern Sudan.

It was also about us when we hosted several delegations of Foreign Ministers here at home. It was about us when we assisted the President to host several State Visits and of course when we were received by foreign governments abroad. It is about us when we advise the President and the Presidency. It is about us when we pursue the implementation of programmes of our Joint Commissions and our Bilateral Commissions with the many countries. It is our contribution in the G20. It is about our contribution together with other countries of the South when we participated in the G8 plus 5 and other forums. It is about us leading the foreign policy of South Africa and speaking on behalf of South Africans – when we say that it is about time that the Bretton Woods Institutions and the UN Security Council should be reformed, as a matter of urgency.

Like I said earlier on, it is about how we interact with other players out there. Remembering that there is no way that South Africa can hide or like the famous bird “bury our head in the sand”, because we have got a historical, political and leadership responsibility bestowed on us because of whom we are. We are South Africa. We have to do what history has bestowed on us with humility. We have to command and continue to command the respect of all countries in Africa, in the South and in the world.

As we meet here in this brand new beautiful building, this country is in recession. We have to continue working with other Clusters to see how together with other countries we can weather the storm. It is not ok to say we did not create it, but to say how we together get out of this.

Our Minister of Environment and Water Affairs is in Copenhagen together with other Ministers of other developing countries, as part of the South and the entire global leadership to discuss issues of climate change. The voice of South Africa is being heard. The voice of South Africa has to be heard. Remember that DIRCO is the Department that has to lead and coordinate all our International Relations engagements abroad. 

We have managed in the eight months to make some humble contributions out there, because of you. I have said earlier that you are the yawns, the threads that make this tapestry – that makes the rainbow nation. As South Africa, when we speak and participate in all these international forums, we are listened to, because behind us, alongside us – are women and men who are dedicated to make a difference.

Everyday in this Department, I continue to make discoveries about the various talents we possess. For example I did not know that there is a DIRCO choir. I thought you were only good at telling the world how good South Africa is. Maybe we should use choir diplomacy in the future to influence positions internationally.  I am very happy to note that we also have a very good conference centre, so there is no more outsourcing for entertainment, because we have our own internal resources which we can make use of.

Those who have worked with me in the past will tell you that, as much as I am vocally wounded, I like singing along. So I volunteer myself as a non-member of the choir. But if I don’t have Halls, I sing like Ras Dumisani, who slaughtered our national anthem. One thing that a choir does is that it is very good for team building. I’m sure that we also have a football team and a basketball team. Now that we have our own building, we should strive to focus on things that unite us.

We are all adults and we come with all sorts of baggage to our workplace. This is a place where we spend a lot of our time – hence we need to make it as pleasant a place to be as possible. I know that South Africans, given the opportunity to work together, they make very good teams and I also believe that for the past eight months, positive energies have been released. We all belong to one family and we live under one roof. The political leadership and management have resolved to work with all of you - to make sure that if there are misunderstandings here and there – you should know that we have the determination to solve them.

We are all about to go back to our homes and join our families or take them out on holidays. As we are preparing for the Christmas Season and holidays, we are also being asked to prepare for the 2010 FIFA World Cup in this very country. So a whole lot of us will be expected to continue projecting our country’s good image and what we are about. I was very humbled by the excitement that our Missions generated on the actual day of the draw, with most of our Missions also having the mini-draws in their respective countries of accreditation.

I would like to take this opportunity to salute all men and women colleagues who are serving South Africa abroad – many of whom serve under very very difficult conditions. I would want to say to all of them that - your contributions do not go unnoticed. Keep up the good work. Keep flying the South African flag high.

To all those who are here at Head Office, we would like to say to you, we wish you a Merry Christmas, a peaceful and restful festive season. Come back in one piece. Remember what the Minister of Transport says “Do not Drink and Drive” make sure that we all “Arrive Alive”. Make sure that we all come back refreshed, having forgiven those who trespassed against us – because that is the spirit of Christmas. We forgive – and the kissing and hugging should start today – as we round off this very hectic but exciting year.

I think on behalf of myself and my colleagues, we want to say how blessed we are to work with men and women like you. We think out of this Department, we shall weave the brightest and the most attractive piece of tapestry. We will be able to say to our President – you can bank on us as you main advisors on International Relations and Foreign Policy.

I wish you all the best!

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