Keynote Address by Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane on the occasion of the Launch of the “I Am a Diplomat Campaign” – December 3, 2010

Our Programme Director and DIRCO’s Director-General, Dr Ntsaluba,
Deputy-Directors General of DIRCO,
All officials of the Department here at home and abroad,
All members of our staff and workers,
Ladies and gentlemen

It has been almost a year since the President of the Republic of South Africa; President Jacob Zuma officially opened this beautiful building – our OR Tambo Building. I am sure you will all agree with me when I say, there is no greater feeling of security, of comfort and of belonging for this DIRCO family – than a place we all can collectively call our home.

We take this opportunity to once more, send our words of gratitude to all South Africans and our government for investing their scarce resources in this imposing monument, but more so, for investing their hopes and aspirations in the work of this Department.

We meet this afternoon to launch a very important campaign relevantly titled the “I am a diplomat” campaign. This campaign seeks to engage all staff at DIRCO in a brand employee campaign in honour of the contributions that OR Tambo made to the fight for freedom and placing South Africa as a valued actor in the global community of nations. It is through this campaign that we pay tribute to the sterling and selfless work that OR Tambo did for this country. It is important to note that the fountain from which we draw and drink our diplomacy was founded by this extra-ordinary South African.

It is the objective of this campaign to, first: create awareness of OR Tambo the man and why we earned the rare honour of having our building named after him; second: encourage all DIRCO employees to embrace the work ethics of OR, amongst which were being humble, passionate in his work, selflessness and being meticulous to details; and third: to bring home the message that all employees of DIRCO are diplomats, who should be ambassadors of the values and principles we hold dear – the values of integrity, patriotism, passion and humility.

In 1963, it was OR who stood before the Special Political Committee of the UN General Assembly and appealed to the international community to urgently prevail on the South African regime of the day to stop repression and political trials in South Africa; in 1964, it was OR who urged the UN to ensure that accomplices of the Apartheid Regime get to account for their actions; and in 1968, it was OR who called on the Special Committee against Apartheid to heighten its level of engagement on the international action against Apartheid.

Colleagues, it was also OR in 1973, representing Victims of Colonialism and Apartheid in Southern Africa, who mobilized the international community to support liberation struggles of the African people; and in the same year, it was OR who urged the international community to move from condemnation to confrontation of Apartheid and Colonialism. In 1981, it was OR who addressed the International Conference against South Africa and called on the international community to impose comprehensive and mandatory sanctions against South Africa. These are some of the activities that OR expended his energies on – so that you and me, black and white, young and old - can enjoy the fruits of our liberation.

We shall not forget that it was also OR, who took it upon himself to raise funds from the international community to give many schoolchildren who fled South Africa (after the 1976 riots) and made their way to the liberation movements in exile, particularly to the ANC in Dar es Salaam shelter and education. As a successful teacher himself, O.R. was most concerned that these young exiles should first complete their schooling before joining the military struggle.

With the help of comrades, O.R. also initiated the Luthuli Foundation, which allocated bursaries to serious students, placing them in friendly countries around the world. It was also OR, who championed the cause of women empowerment, when he said 'Women in the ANC should stop behaving as if there was no place for them above the level of certain categories of involvement. They have a duty to liberate us men from antique concepts and attitudes about the place and role of women in society and the development and direction of our revolutionary struggle”.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Our launch today of the “I am a Diplomat” Campaign is a celebration of the achievements of DIRCO in carrying out our mandate.  It is a celebration of our hard work, our dedication, and our successes.

A lot is expected of South Africa on this continent and all over the world.  DIRCO has been successful in rising up to this challenge.  When we began this journey in 1994, our country was isolated, living in the shadows of the international community.  However, today we are a full and active member of the international community. 

From January we will be serving on the UN Security Council for the second time.  We have not failed in our responsibilities in the Peace and Security Council of the African Union as well as the SADC Organ, because peace on our continent and the world over is one thing that every South African diplomat strives for.

We have been effective and successful in our endeavour to build strong and mutually beneficial bilateral relations with all countries in the world – those in the North, on our continent, and in the South.  To be a South African diplomat today involves servicing these relations through joint commissions and other bilateral mechanisms.  We do this because we know that these bilateral relations are of direct benefit to our people and country.  We make friends all over the world, and we have been successful in doing so, to advance our interests and those of the African continent.  Every one of you in this hall has played a part in this success.  We will be in Cuba for the State Visit next week, then our visit to Mexico and Washington.  These are the results of your hard work.

In all what we do as DIRCO, ladies and gentlemen, Africa is at the center of our foreign policy.  Not only is peace and security on our continent an important focus of our foreign policy.  We have also been successful in promoting the prosperity and development of our continent through NEPAD in particular.  Of particular significance here is the Infrastructure initiative that President Zuma launched at the July Summit of the African Union.


I wish to emphasise here four values that I want us to always remember everywhere we go, doing DIRCO work.  These values are: integrity, patriotism, passion, and humility.  These values define a South African diplomat.

First, integrity speaks to our morality and the quality of our wholeness as individual beings. It calls on demonstrate morals of honesty and truthfulness when we undertake the various assignments of our work. How do you represent the values we hold dear when you abuse state resources or when you do as little as possible at your work-station or you drink yourself to semi-consciousness in those official gatherings representing our country? Surely you will be wrong in telling people that “I am a diplomat”.

Second, patriotism calls on each one of us to be devoted and dedicated to the success of our country and be ready to do everything humanly possible to defend it. As caretakers of all these good things that our liberation has brought us, we need to jealously guard against all the gains of our revolution - in order to deliver them to our children and grand-children. This will show in how we take care of our beautiful building, the Departmental cars and computers at our disposal – because you can proudly say “I am the diplomat”.

However, to be patriotic must not mean that we renounce Pan-Africanism and our internationalist outlook.  Patriotic as we are, we must always keep in mind that we are part of this beautiful continent of mother Africa.  We are a product of the struggle against colonialism on this continent. Our future is inseparable from the future of this continent.  We work for a peaceful, prosperous and united Africa.

We are also part of the global progressive forces working together for a better world.  We are part of countries of the South – from China and India, to Brazil and Cuba.  We are working with all these countries for a world system which is based on equity and justice.

Because we benefited so much from the support of the world during our struggle against apartheid, solidarity with our countries and peoples is very important to us.  That is why, for example, we support the people of Haiti in the endeavour to overcome the suffering brought upon them by the earthquake and cholera.

Our work with countries and people of the South does not mean that we are turning our back on Europe or the United States.  No!  These countries, and the entire North, remain important to us.  Some of them share our view on the need to transform the global system of governance.  They are important trade partners as well.

To return to the values:  The third one is passion. This can only be demonstrated by the love, enthusiasm and intense desire that we demonstrate in our work. When you are passionate about your work, it will show. It shows when we arrive on time at our work-stations. It shows with the quality of work and support that we deliver to our immediate supervisors and our principals.  We can see it when people put in extra hours to deliver a good product. We can touch it when we see officials go beyond the call of duty. Then shall we agree, when someone says “I am a diplomat”.

Lastly, humility demands of us to be humble and posses the ability to acknowledge our own failings and limitations – for one can only grow into a better person when she or he acknowledges their own shortcomings and works on them. What does it cost us to be humble? We see humility when our security officers at the entrance gate treat our guests with pride and dignity. We can see a humble being behind the receiver; by the way he or she answers phone-calls. We embrace humility when we respond in kind to the catastrophes of our fellow human beings. What then stops you from saying “I am a diplomat”?
Programme Director, ladies and gentlemen

Let us remember that it was on December 11, 2009 that President Zuma stood on this podium and spoke at length about the life and times of a very special leader, Comrade Oliver Reginald Tambo.

Like President Zuma said “OR Tambo became the first Foreign Minister or Minister of International Relations and Cooperation sent by the people of this country”.

When we think back about the contribution of OR Tambo, we should also remember Johhny Makathini who was for many years in the forefront of the foreign policy of our liberation struggle.  We must also pay homage to former ministers Alfred Nzo and Nkosana Dlamini-Zuma who played an equally important role in laying the foundations for the successes we celebrate today. 

As we take stock of where we come from as a people and begin to define ourselves in this Department, it is important to reflect on our heritage and pay tribute to those whose contribution to our foreign policy was critical.  To be a South African diplomat, is to emulate these forebears.

A call has been made to all of us to be passionate about our various works in the Department; humble enough to acknowledge our own failings and limitations – so that we can grow into being better persons; patriotic enough to be devoted and dedicated to the perpetual success and security of our country; and lastly to demonstrate integrity of character by embracing such morals of honesty and truthfulness in all we do.

In his speech in 1990, OR Tambo left us a challenge that every generation of South Africans will have to live up to, when he said “It is our responsibility to break down barriers of division and create a country where there will be neither whites nor blacks, just South Africans, free and united in diversity.'  All of us in here today, have to embrace this responsibility and make it a success.

Programme Director, ladies and gentlemen

In conclusion, I wish to remind everyone in DIRCO that President Zuma last December instructed us all to “follow in the footsteps of OR Tambo”, by embracing and imbibing the values of patriotism, humility, integrity and passion.

So my message to you all is that for anyone amongst us to tell people that “I am a diplomat”, we expect of you to exude the values of being patriotic to the Republic, being passionate about your work, show humility in all your encounters with our various stakeholders, and demonstrate a likeable wholeness in your personality in the way you present yourself. 

Let me take this opportunity, on behalf of Department of International Relations and Cooperation to thank each and every one of you – from our security personnel, cleaners, tea-providers, newspaper delivery men and women, all line-function and administrative staff (both here at home and abroad), our DDGs, our DG and our two Deputy Ministers – for all the passion, patriotism, humility and integrity that you have demonstrated in your work this year.  I firmly believe that we can build on this strong foundations going forward.

I wish every single one of you, here at home and abroad, a very happy, safe and enjoyable Festive Season. Remember, don’t drink and drive!

Thank you!

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