Minister Nkoana-Mashabane’s Interview with Partnership Magazine, India
Interviewer: The interview of the Minister is for the Partnership Magazine. Madam Minister, is your visit to India a follow-up visit to President Zuma's visit and the agenda which was discussed at that time?
Minister Nkoana-Mashabane: The visit is a follow-up to President Zuma's visit but actually also it is a visit that was going to happen because we have a Joint Ministerial Commission together with India extending from previous agreements that we have signed. We use the Joint Ministerial Commission at the external affairs, international relations level as a clearinghouse or a mechanism that works like a clearinghouse to follow up on agreements that get signed during ministerial visits or during presidential visits, like the visit of President Zuma.
Minister Nkoana-Mashabane: Because that, in this kind of high level visits, we sign agreements and post the agreements we have to have programmes of action that are meant to follow up and implement that decisions. But in between this you would find that there are also other developments that might actually delay implementation of these good agreements. So, through the JMC we form working groups that help us to make follow-ups on all sectoral departments' commitments to the work that is aimed at strengthening the bilateral relations that's quite historic, both at the political, economic and cultural levels.
Interviewer: Yes. Honourable Minister, can you share with us some of the important issues, or the agenda which has been finalised in the Joint Ministerial Commission?
Minister Nkoana-Mashabane: We have had officials working for the past few days, working through the working groups. Seven working groups sat. You can get the outline of the working groups from the officials. It starts from the political, security and defence, going up to the immigration and population line, their matters. There were about seven in number. Of course that would include issues around trade, the issues around communications and, yes.
Interviewer: Yes, Okay. Minister, you made comment on Saturday about unexplored opportunities between South Africa and India. And I think Minister Sharma [phonetic] also mentioned the same. May I know, what are those unexplored areas between South Africa and India?
Minister Nkoana-Mashabane: One that I know that both our countries are working on is infrastructure development. India is on a very big drive to expand on our infrastructure development. South Africa is doing the same. We are working on overhauling our infrastructure. Our railway infrastructure has been under-utilised in the past and we believe that India, with expertise, we can take full advantage of this overhaul that we are busy with.
We have been reliably informed by the officials who are here from our Ministry of Transport that they are going to be calling for an international summit and inviting interested grouping who would be looking at our infrastructure development, particularly on roads, rail and ports. This will be facilitated by our Ministry of Transport. So this is just one example that you get.
Secondly, one can look at areas of e-government, for example, where India is quite strong. Not only for South Africa. We are talking about the ICT sector. India is quite advanced in that. And South Africa and largely many other African countries, India can use South Africa as a launching plateau to penetrate this area. And also there is some expertise that South Africa has in that field. The list is endless.
But I can also talk about beneficiation of coal. India has coal reserves that have not been tapped. South Africa has been mining coal for the past 200 years, so therefore not only experienced, but we have gained technological expertise. I remember one particular example on coal, on the technology on the reduction of ash content in coal and coal washing technology, which India might need direly.
South Africa is one of the diamond producers, but we are lacking on the beneficiation thereof, for example. We know for sure that Surat has almost replaced Antwerp in diamond cutting and polishing, particularly on small stones. So this is the kind of expertise that South Africa had already started tipping from India. But I was warning people that they must also remember that this is an art. It is not just a skill. So, you must have people who have the love to do this, to be able to acquire the skill. I mean, I can go on and on and on.
On the processing of fresh produce. When I left here almost 50% of agricultural produce in India was going to waste because of the lack of commercialization, preservation, processing of fruit products or agricultural produce.
Interviewer: Is it still the same level? Fifty percent?
Minister Nkoana-Mashabane: Yes. So we believe South Africa has quite a respectable level of expertise in that area. The list is endless. I can go on and on and on, but these are just a few examples.
Interviewer: Honourable Minister, I think it started in 2005, we had started hearing about this target of $10 billion trade between South Africa and India. I think finally it has been achieved. Are you satisfied? What is the next target?
Minister Nkoana-Mashabane: Well, I don't know. I mean, I am not a minister of trade. But, whichever target they set we will support. We believe that we really are still scratching the surface and we can triple that.
Interviewer: But coming to your area of expertise, is there's good news of South Africa joining BRIC, or we call it BRICS. How important is this development?
Minister Nkoana-Mashabane: We have to learn to call it BRICS.
Interviewer: Yes. How significant is it for South Africa and for the geopolitics of the world?
Minister Nkoana-Mashabane: I think it is important for both South Africa and the Continent of Africa, which I would say was totally excluded when BRIC was formed, where there was no single African country. We saw that also in the G20. But first, if South Africa wasn't there, they would have had no African country. So when we saw BRIC without 'S', we thought it was incomplete. You will note that there was more than one African country that had applied for the membership. But we are quite humbled that the members of BRIC had unanimously agreed to accept the membership of South Africa to join the BRICS.
Minister Nkoana-Mashabane: We believe that BRICS has a major role to play politically, as we are now all members of the Security Council, two permanent, two non-permanent. But, that is an opportunity to work together with other progressive countries within the Council, albeit it even at the non-permanent level, to push for reforms within the UN Security Council. So we will not only be working with countries within the Security Council, but even with those outside but who had supported us in joining. So, geopolitically, we believe that one of the issues, areas that we will be focusing on together, is the reforms of institutions of global governments, specifically here, or inclusive of that, the UN Security Council.
Secondly, with South Africa joining BRICS, we believe that we are moving towards closing the circle. We are moving towards living the dreams of our forebears who met in 1955 in Bandung and decided that it was time that, even as we had worked together as non-alignment, it was important that we should also look at South-South cooperation. We are beginning to see the fruits of cooperation. We are beginning to see the fruits of that South-South cooperation. Today the fastest growing economies in the world largely come from the South, led by India and China. So, we believe that politically the benefits will be that, but secondly, economically we will be working together with all emerging economies that are really calling the shots and maybe tilting the power balances for the first time. So, we are very excited to be part of that.
But culturally also it has strengthened and brought back the confidence of our people in that not all that is good has to come from somewhere. We also have the capacity to do that from the South.
Interviewer: As Foreign Minister of South Africa, by when do you see a multi-polar world?
Minister Nkoana-Mashabane: I think the period for a multi-polar world is now. And it has been confirmed by the emergence of BRICS.
Interviewer: Yes. Okay. Honourable Minister, I saw in the news very recently that the number of tourists from India to South Africa has increased by, I think, 27%, but even today we don't have direct flights from Delhi to go to Johannesburg and other towns in South Africa.
Minister Nkoana-Mashabane: Well, this is what India and South African Airways should work on. They have signed agreements. Government has done what government can do. Airlines take business decisions. We have done our part. All we can do is to keep encouraging them to see the opportunity that there is. We will keep doing that. But as for signing air services agreements, we had done that a long time ago.
Minister Nkoana-Mashabane: Yes.
Interviewer: One last question. In your comments on Saturday you made a very strong comment about South Africa and its role in the whole of the African Continent. What are you doing to promote African unity? What is South Africa doing to solve African issues?
Minister Nkoana-Mashabane: South Africa has never and will never try and solve the problems of Africa alone. And that is why we have changed the name of our Department. It is not full enough as it is. It is the Department of International Relations and Cooperation.
Interviewer: Yes. Yes.
Minister Nkoana-Mashabane: In that, we emphasise cooperation and collaboration. As I have said on Saturday, informed by "Ubuntu", "I am because you are", but also informed by history or the historical role bestowed upon us by the very same history, that the majority of African countries have made enormous sacrifices for South Africa's freedom. The only way we can pay back is to help sustain peace, security and development on our Continent, on our mother Continent.
Now, wherever you find a South African diplomat, you will hear that our foreign policy is anchored on the notion that South Africa's national interests are better safeguarded by South Africa not looking insular, but defending the interests of our region of SADC and of propagating for the African agenda, an Africa that is peaceful, that is secure, and that can then open room for development.
Working together in the African Union, in the African Union Commission through the Peace and Security Council of the AU, we now can confirm what economists have said, that Africa has become the third fastest growing region in the world. So, we believe that working together we can march together for a peaceful, secure and developed African Continent.