Budget Vote Speech of the Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Honorable Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, to the National Assembly, Thursday 22 April, 2010
Honourable Chair of the Portfolio Committee on International Relations and Cooperation
Honourable Members of the Portfolio Committee of International Relations and Cooperation
Your Excellencies Ambassadors, High Commissioners and Representatives of International Organizations
Ladies and gentlemen
Fellow South Africans
Comrades and Friends,
Nearly a year ago, our Fourth Democratic Government was installed on the basis of an Election Manifesto which promised that “Working Together We Can Do More.” Embodied in this were the aspirations of our mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, and our children.
Hardly three months thereafter, we stood before you promising in our First Budget Speech that while our department would consolidate those areas where it was on track in terms of its international activities, it would urgently have to locate itself squarely in the national effort to ensure that all of us, bound together by a common patriotism, will rise together with a singular sense of purpose in pursuit of the agenda outlined by the President.
We stand before you today confident that our Department has not only fully aligned its work to our key domestic priorities, but that it has also woven these into our strategic focus which is based on the primacy of the African continent; the centrality of our region (SADC); our commitment to South-South relations; the centrality of multilateralism; the significance of relations with countries in the northern hemisphere; and the strengthening of the social, political and economic relations.
Therefore, Honorable Members, DIRCO, working together with other departments, will be the bridge builder required to forge a better democratic South Africa, a better Africa and a better World. DIRCO will be the path-finder of new opportunities and the breaker of obstacles.
Our country finds itself today in a position of responsibility as a member of the international community. We are constantly reminded – when we are invited to forums such as the G20 and Nuclear Security Summit held in Washington last week - that more is expected of us. For our country, our region and continent this is a responsibility we can neither shirk nor fail in.
In rising to this challenge, we should never miss the opportunity to look back and learn from our successes and setbacks in our endeavour to remain focused on our goal for a better life. We must also frankly assess our capacity against the weight of rising expectations.
We at the Department of International Relations and Cooperation have been involved in this exercise. We will be coming to this House in the course of this financial year to engage Honorable Members further on the substance and direction of our foreign policy and for your support in order to strengthen DIRCO in its principal advisory and implementing role on international relations. This will culminate in a White Paper that will serve as a guide in the conduct of foreign policy.
We will also present a Bill for the establishment of the South African Development Partnership Agency for your consideration. This will give legal framework to the execution of our foreign policy and facilitate more effective cooperation.
We are currently in the process of consulting our stakeholders on the need for the establishment of a Foreign Policy Council which will serve as an avenue for our non-state actors to interface with DIRCO on our foreign policy development and implementation.
As part of our public diplomacy, we have commenced our outreach to speak directly to communities about our foreign policy. We have as a consequence been to Limpopo, the Eastern Cape, and (recently) the Free State. We intend to visit other provinces in the course of this financial year. Our Annual Conference is also a platform for us to reach out to our think-tanks for dialogue with them on our foreign policy. Implicit in this is also accountability to the people whose mandate put us in office.
We are cognizant of the fact that we can do our work better and more effectively as the focal point for our foreign policy in our Government, when all the international engagements of our Government Departments, our Provinces and Municipalities, are well coordinated to avoid duplication, working at cross-purpose, or functioning in a manner that could suggest to our partners abroad that we are not a well organized government and country.
Over the past sixteen years since our freedom in 1994, we have accomplished many achievements in our country on the foreign policy front. But there are also experiences whose lessons we cannot ignore. Therefore, moving forward in this Fourth Administration, we have to build on our achievements and the wisdom that we have gained from the lessons learnt. There must be continuity to consolidate our gains, but also change to improve on our work and respond effectively to emerging global trends.
Building on the foundation of our foreign policy and our constitutional values, we must pursue more strongly the dynamic linkage between what we do abroad and what we want to achieve in our country. We should continue to bring into full view our national interest in the context of our Pan-African commitments and our role and responsibilities in the world.
The year 2010 is historic in many ways. The 21st of March 2010 marked fifty (50) years of the Sharpeville massacre, which was a significant turning point in our liberation struggle, and gave impetus to the establishment of the anti-apartheid movement across the world.
This year we are also celebrating the centenary of Kwame Nkrumah and the 110th anniversary of the First Pan-African conference which was held in 1900 under the leadership of Henry Sylvester-Williams.
We will also join the people of the Democratic Republic of Congo when they celebrate the 50th anniversary of their country’s independence on 30 June 2010. We remember Patrice Lumumba – whose tragic death is another story in the chronicle of the painful history of this continent.
South Africa remains committed to regional economic integration in Africa. We believe that our work in the SADC should build on the free trade arrangement achieved in 2008 by focusing on boosting regional production capacity, facilitating cross border trade, and developing cross border infrastructure.
We also believe the time has come to extend preferential markets across Southern and Eastern Africa through the Tripartite Free Trade Area that will draw together SADC, East African Community and COMESA.
The decision by the 14th Session of the African Union to integrate NEPAD into the African Union and establish the NEPAD Planning and Coordinating Agency (NPCA) as a technical body of the AU is an important step towards the acceleration of the implementation of the NEPAD programme. The newly established NPCA will give focused attention to the implementation of the regional integration programs and projects whilst the Africa Union Commission will continue to deal with policy and serve as the secretariat of the AU.
The AU/NEPAD African Action Plan for the period 2010 to 2015 is a master plan for concrete projects that will serve as a catalyst for the development of our continent. We call upon our partners to work with us in mobilizing requisite resources and in the implementation of this master plan.
The accession by 30 (out of 53) of our countries to the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) is a concrete demonstration of the strides we are making as a continent with regard to promoting democratic governance and people-centered development. Even more encouraging is the fact that a substantial number of these 30 countries, including ours, have already undergone the peer review process which entails (among others) developing a national programme of action to improve the systems of political and economic governance and putting measures in place for socio-economic development.
This positive development, including the increasing number of elections taking place in our respective countries, augurs well for our efforts aimed at consolidating democracy in Africa.
The establishment of the Pan-African Parliament was a step forward in giving all the peoples of Africa a voice in the running of the affairs of our continent. As provided for in its founding protocol, the PAP has to be transformed from a consultative to a legislative body. In transforming the PAP, we will need to take into account its experience and history since its establishment in March 2004 with the view to building a strong, efficiently run and effective PAP at the service of the African people.
In this regard, we wish to congratulate Advocate Zwelethu Madasa for his appointment as the Head of the Administration of the Pan African Parliament.
Our determined focus on NEPAD, the APRM and the PAP is in line with our long standing commitment to doing whatever we can to support African Union organs and institutions that are based in our country. It is also part of our overall program of engagement with the African Union, and this includes our support to other AU bodies such as the AU Commission whose capacity and capability, as the engine room of the AU, are indispensable to the achievement of the objectives for which the AU was established. We are working with fellow African countries and the AU Commission to ensure the speedy operationalisation of the financial institutions that are envisaged in the Constitutive Act of the African Union.
The work we do with the African Union and the Regional Economic Communities should be complemented by strong bilateral relations which are focused on tangible results with other African countries. To this end, we are currently strengthening our bilateral mechanisms to ensure that they work better for our mutual benefit.
The gains we have made on the continent have not been without setbacks, especially in the area of peace and security, including the resurgence of coups and other forms of unconstitutional change of government. We are unanimous in the African Union on the urgent need for the strengthening of our response to situations of unconstitutional change of government, and close loopholes in our existing instruments and mechanisms.
The African Union has declared the “Year of Peace and Security in Africa”, and we are therefore called upon to redouble our efforts in the resolution of conflicts on our continent.
Honorable Members, that as from April 1st 2010, South Africa became a member of the African Union Peace and Security Council for a two year period. We also have the support of the African Union to seek in October a non-permanent membership of the United Nations Security Council for the period 2011 to 2012.
I have no doubt in my mind that you will use this House, including your committees, to reach out to parliamentary bodies all over the world for their support. We see our membership of the AU PSC and that of the UN Security Council as an opportunity to continue contributing our efforts and resources to the peace, security and stability of our continent and globally.
South Africa will continue to carry out the SADC mandate to facilitate negotiations between Zimbabwe’s ZANU-PF and the two MDC formations for the implementation of the Global Political Agreement.
We are also pleased to have reached a stage where we cansay that our facilitation efforts to end the conflict in Burundi are drawing to a positive close, and join the international community in looking forward to elections which will start next month.
South Africa’s commitment to the peaceful resolution of conflicts and matters of post-conflict reconstruction on our continent are well demonstrated by our continued engagement in the Sudan. With elections having taken place a week ago, South Africa remains of the firm view that this democratic process holds profound consequences for the future of the Sudan.
We must also use this opportunity to confirm that we are working with all involved for the safe release of our four compatriots who were recently kidnapped in Darfur.
The continuing impasse in Madagascar is still another concern for us that will require our resolve as SADC and the entire African continent, to stand firm against unconstitutional change of government. We look forward to the outcome of the consultation on Madagascar to be hosted by President Zuma on 28 April. We urge all the leaders of Madagascar to use this opportunity to advance the cause of peace, stability and democracy in the interest of the Malagasy people.
The last few decades have seen the ascendance of some countries of the South to an influential role in global affairs. Indications are that they will be a more formidable force in the future. Some – like China, India and Brazil – are rapidly increasing their weight in the global economy, transforming the balance of forces internationally in favour of the South.
We have to intensify our bilateral relations with countries of the South, especially with those that are strategic to us because of their economy, history and geopolitical orientation. We also have to take full advantage of South-South multilateral forums such as the Non-Aligned Movement, the G77+ China, and IBSA.
We have been intensifying our engagement with China, India and Brazil (among others) through our bilateral relations, the IBSA, and our outreach to the BRIC. For instance, we are working on elevating our relations with China to a comprehensive strategic partnership level. The IBSA Summit that met last week in Brazil was convened back-to-back with that of the BRIC. Our business sector was represented in the first BRIC-SA forum that met just prior to this.
We have to pay dedicated attention to partnerships which other key South countries have with our continent such as the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC); Africa’s comprehensive partnership with India; and the Korea-Africa Forum.
We will spare no effort in strengthening the progressive forums of the South - notably the Non-Aligned Movement, G77 + China, Africa-South America Summit, and the New Africa-Asia Strategic Partnership (NAASP). These forums have demonstrated to us – some even during the difficult years of apartheid – that they can be trusted allies and partners in our struggle for a better world and Africa.
We continue to build on the long history of our bond of friendship and solidarity between us and countries of the South. We will continue to learn from their experience, especially in how, in spite of the colonial history that they share with us, they managed to transform into tigers that some of them are today. We will also continue to strengthen people-to-people and cultural exchanges between us and the South, and use our bilateral relations and structures such as IBSA to intensify exchanges between us in areas of mutual benefit.
We will continue to provide our support to the settlement of the Palestinian question in the context of the two-state solution, and call for the speedy resolution of the question of the Western Sahara.
We remain committed to the strengthening of ties between the African Diaspora and our continent, and are still prepared host the African Diaspora Summit.
In this regard, we should rally behind Haiti in this difficult moment of its long history. The response of South Africans to the tragedy that befell the Haitians has been overwhelming – and indeed a clear expression of our ubuntu. We are doing our part as DIRCO to contribute to the humanitarian effort currently unfolding in Haiti. Also, we will not rest until an inclusive democratic dispensation is achieved in Haiti.
Our approach to bilateral and multilateral engagement with countries of the world is not limited to Africa and the South. We also value our relations with countries of the North. Each of these geopolitical spaces – that is Africa, the South and the North – is indispensable to our balance and sustained forward movement in international relations and cooperation.
The Obama Administration in the United States of America has taken steps which have helped create conducive conditions for re-engagement between our two countries. This has culminated in the conclusion of a Memorandum of Understanding to anchor a strategic partnership between South Africa and the United States two weeks ago.
The European Union as a block remains our strategic partner, especially in the areas of development, trade, and cooperation. The Trade and Development Cooperation Agreement, whose instrument of ratification has been tabled for consideration by this House, provides a framework to this strategic partnership.
We are partners with the EU in tackling some of the pressing issues in the continent like institutional state building in the DRC and post conflict reconstruction in Burundi and Sudan.
We have to speed up and conclude the Economic Partnership Agreement negotiations in a manner that would not undermine regional integration on our continent. This will also help strengthen the partnership between Africa and the European Union.
South Africa’s partnership with the North is not limited to the United States of America and Europe. It also includes important partners such as Japan and Russia.
In the context of changing relations between the North and the South, we appreciate the role of the G20 as a new center in the global political economy.
The United Nations, representing as it does the universal voice of humanity, is still pivotal in global politics especially with regards to building peace and development in the world and promoting the protection of human rights for all peoples.
The MDGs are a good example of the collective agenda of what nations of the world can set for themselves when they work together. Thus we intend to play an active role at the MDG Review Summit scheduled for later this year so that we can contribute to accelerating the flow of resources to Africa for the achievement of the MDG targets.
With regards to reform of the United Nation itself and its key institutions, the fifth round of negotiations in New York should be another opportunity for Africa and its partners for reform to rally behind an agenda that will ensure that the composition and work of the UN Security Council reflect the geopolitical reality of the 21st century. South Africa is in support of the view which was expressed at the last Summit of the African Union that Africa should from time to time re-assess and strengthen its approach to these reforms to ensure that we achieve our common objective.
Whilst appreciating the important steps that have been taken recently towards the reform of the Bretton Woods Institutions, we believe that more must still be done towards addressing concerns of developing countries with respect to the relevance, transparency, and representativity of these institutions.
Our participation at the Nuclear Security Summit held in Washington recently was guided by our three-pronged principled approach to nuclear matters – and these are: nuclear disarmament, nuclear non-proliferation, and the peaceful uses of nuclear material. We shall also be working for a successful consensus outcome in the 2010 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference scheduled for next month.
Today (the 22nd of April) is the 40th Earth Day – we celebrate our planet and close ranks to secure its future especially against the threat of climate change. Everywhere – in our country and all over the world – people are planting trees on this day to green our future. On Earth Day we remind ourselves of the Kenyan proverb that says: “Treat the Earth well. It was not given to you by your parents; it was loaned to you by your children."
Although we did not conclude a binding agreement at COP15, South Africa regards the Copenhagen Accord as a step towards an inclusive multilateral outcome that must be concluded in the near future. Accordingly, we are in contact with the government of Mexico (as the host of COP16 this year) and intend to take full advantage of the opportunity to make our contribution to this endeavor when we host COP 17 in 2011.
We at DIRCO have effected measures to strengthen the department internally. Notwithstanding the financial constraints and austerity measures implemented by the Department, we are confident that we will deliver on our Strategic Plan for 2010-2013.
We have a good and dedicated team at DIRCO. I must recognize here my colleagues, Deputy Ministers Ebrahim Ebrahim and Sue van der Merwe – as well as our senior management and staff under the leadership of our Director General Dr Ayanda Ntsaluba.
We also thank the Portfolio Committee on International Relations and Cooperation and our Cabinet - for continuing to support us.
In the next 49 days we will be hosting FIFA World Cup. Our Department, including our Missions, are giving full support to ensure the success of this event.
We thank all of you for your continued support and for your support of this budget as well.
I thank you!