Statement by Honourable Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, Minister of International Relations & Cooperation, during the National Assembly Debate on President’s State of the Nation Address, 18 February 2014.

Thank you, Mr Speaker,
Mr President
Mr Deputy President
Honourable Members

Our freedom is a product of our people’s struggles and international solidarity. Tata Oliver Tambo would be satisfied that the foreign policy we pursue today resonates with what he and many other heroes like Johnny Makhathini envisaged.

In his State of the Nation Address, His Excellency the President spoke about the good story of how South Africa contributes to the creation of a better world.  A peaceful and prosperous world. A world without hunger, disease nor ignorance.  A world founded on our values of Ubuntu.  A world with global institutions that represent all.

Our vision of a better South Africa entails a vision of a better Africa in a better world.

Mr Speaker,

The foreign policy of our country has come of age in the past twenty years.  In 1994, the new government inherited a country which had suffered international isolation because of its apartheid policies.  But we also inherited a foreign policy of our people’s resistance and struggle which became the launching pad when our country was warmly received as a new member of the international community.

Twenty years on, South Africa is no longer a skunk of the world, a pariah state, but is now at the centre-stage as a valuable and respected global player. We achieved this thanks to our principled and an independent foreign policy that is rooted on the plight of our continent, and supported by strong South-South cooperation, as well as partnership with the countries of the North, and our active participation in institutions of global governance. 

In the five years of this Administration, we have taken these achievements to a higher level as we domesticized our foreign policy.  South Africa has successfully hosted major global events such as:

  • The 2010 FIFA World Cup, the first on African soil and the most successful;

  • In 2011 we infused new life into the climate change negotiations when we hosted CoP17/CMP7. We successfully placed the world on an unassailable course, through the adoption of the “Durban Platform for Enhanced Action”, which will culminate in 2015 with the adoption of a protocol or legal agreement that will be applicable from 2020. We are happy to report that the Durban legacy endures, and continues to be the basis of the future climate change response.

  • In May 2012 South Africa, successfully hosted the Global African Diaspora Summit, an event of historic significance in the relations between Africa and its Diaspora. The outcome of this Summit was the creation of sustainable partnerships between the African Diaspora and the African Continent through a Programme-of-Action; creation of sustainable dialogue, partnerships and strengthen Pan-African Solidarity, for a better Africa and her Diaspora; and the promotion South-South cooperation.

  • South Africa hosted the historic BRICS Summit in March 2013 – the first on African soil – whose key outcomes, Ethekwini Action Plan is being implemented under our chairship to the satisfaction of our BRICS partners. The key outcomes of the BRICS Summit: 
    • The launch of concrete measures towards the establishment of the BRICS-led  Development Bank;

    • The establishment of the BRICS Business Council and the BRICS Think Tanks Council; and

    • A Retreat between African leaders and their BRICS counterparts, hosted by His Excellency President Jacob Zuma under the theme, “Unlocking Africa’s potential: BRICS and Africa Cooperation on Infrastructure”.

  • We are currently the co-chairs of the Forum on China Africa Cooperation, which will host the Summit in 2015.

We have sought to strengthen our continental organisations, notably SADC and the African Union, as vehicles for the regeneration of Africa - to build a continent that is free of conflicts and underdevelopment.  Self-reliance and finding African solutions to African problems were our inspiration as we advanced the implementation of NEPAD and the APRM, and establish an African security architecture that is able to respond rapidly, and timeously, to crises, including unconstitutional changes of government.  

Through the NEPAD’s Presidential infrastructure initiative (PICI) that is chaired by our President, we give practical meaning to our conviction that infrastructure connectivity is key to the achievement of an integrated and developed Africa, which spearheads our economic diplomacy.

Our continent, Africa, is definitely on the rise!

Honourable Members,

We have just concluded the celebration of the Golden Jubilee of the existence of the OAU/AU. We noted with pride that the last fifty years of our Union witnessed the defeat of colonialism and the attainment of African unity as embodied in the OAU/AU.

Africa is determining its destiny of the next fifty years through Agenda or Vision 2063 which, will be our long-term road-map towards the social and economic development of our continent, building durable peace, consolidating democracy, and defining Africa’s place and future in the world. With Agenda 2063, Africa is taking charge of writing its own narrative.

Mr Speaker,

Peace is central to a better Africa. Through SADC, we have worked with the people of Zimbabwe and Madagascar for political normalcy in the two countries. 

South Africa remains actively engaged in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and South Sudan, among others.

We thank the President for appointing Mr Cyril Ramaphosa as his Special Envoy to South Sudan, in order to support the mediation effort led by IGAD and to encourage an environment of peace and reconciliation in South Sudan. We also welcome the appointment of Mr Ramphosa as the President’s Special Envoy to Sri Lanka to facilitate the sharing of our experience in nation-building and reconciliation with that sisterly country. 

Our brothers and sisters in some parts of North Africa are yet to fully recover from the painful process of the democratisation of their countries.  We have offered them our hand of solidarity and support.

Our country will assume its two-year membership into the African Union Peace and Security Council from April 2014.

Mr Speaker,

The durable peace we want in Africa is also important to other regions of the world.  South Africa supports international efforts aimed at the establishment of a viable Palestinian state, existing side by side in peace with Israel. Our international solidarity with Western Sahara, Cuba and Palestine continue to occupy an important place in our foreign policy.

The Syrian conflict has been raging for nearly three years with devastating humanitarian consequences.  We participated at the Geneva II conference, and fully support the efforts of the joint special representative of the UN and League of Arab States for Syria.

South Africa applauded the successful last round of negotiations in Geneva between the P5+1and the Islamic Republic of Iran.  We are hopeful that the current round of negotiations will be fruitful.

Mr Speaker,

South Africa enjoys warm and cordial relations with all regions and countries of the world.  Many of these relations are executed through well-structured bilateral mechanisms.  Some are at the strategic level.  Through these relations, we promote our national interest which includes our domestic priorities.  These bilateral engagements range from co-operation on the African Agenda, economic diplomacy, the exchange of cutting-edge technology, capacity-building, infrastructure programmes, to human resource and social development, and multilateral co-operation.

IBSA (our forum with India and Brazil) celebrated ten years of existence in 2013, and remains a solid platform for driving our South-South co-operation Agenda.

Mr Speaker,

We participate in institutions of global governance, notably the United Nations, informed by our belief that these institutions must be representative of the diversity of humanity, and be governed in a transparent and open manner to the benefit of all nations, big or small. 

When our second term on the UN Security Council ended in December 2012, South Africa left that body more convinced than ever before, of the urgency of the long-outstanding issue of reform.  We have therefore challenged the UN membership to not celebrate the 70th Anniversary of the formation of the United Nations in 2015 with an unreformed UN Security Council. The current formation is unfair to developing and small states, and disenfranchises the majority of the Member States of the United Nations, who form the majority of the General Assembly.

Our country took its seat as a newly elected member of the UN Human Rights Council on 1 January 2014.Our election to this auspicious body reaffirms our commitment to the achievement of human rights for all our citizens, the citizens of the continent, and the citizens of the world.

A better world is not only about peace, but also development.  Since mid-2012, South Africa has been playing a prominent role in preparations for the inter-governmental process that will shape the UN development agendas beyond 2015, which is the target date for the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). South Africa’s membership of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC)provides an opportunity to advance South Africa’s position on the post-2015 development agenda and, in particular, the acceleration of efforts and resources to ensure the achievement of the MDGs up to 2015 and beyond, as we move towards the target date for their achievement. South Africa will also support efforts to ensure that ECOSOC fulfils the mandate given to it by the outcome of the Rio+20 Conference to play a pivotal role in the elaboration of the UN development agenda beyond 2015.

South Africa will once again utilise its participation at this year’s G20 gathering to promote our national interest, including, as the only African member of the G20, raising issues of particular concern to our continent and the rest of the South. In this regard, our focus will aim to redress the negative impact of the global economic situation on our growth and development.

Honourable members

In the twenty years of our freedom, a better South Africa has become a good story to tell.  In the next five years and beyond, we must ceaselessly move South Africa forward!

The five decades of the independence of Africa have taken us closer to our goal of a better and united Africa. We are now on course towards Agenda 2063.

A better world is also in the making.  The countries of the South, including our own, are not spectators in this.  The pessimistic stories making rounds in some international media about the impending crush of some of our economies have no foundation in fact. The movers and shakers in the global economy today are in the Southern part of our world. 

The quest for a better world is a struggle that must continue.  The world we want was embodied in the persona of our Nelson Mandela. 

We were all witness to how the departure of Madiba was mourned by the whole world.  Both the Security Council and the General Assembly of the United Nations honoured Madiba in various ways after his passing. Currently the President of the General Assembly has initiated a process which, after proper consultations, will result in an international award in Madiba's name given to worthy candidates on a regular basis.

For its part, the African Union, at its January Summit, named the plenary hall of the New Convention Centre of its Headquarters, the Nelson Mandela Conference Hall.

Madiba’s inspirational words come to mind that: “For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others”.

Another son of our continent, Kwame Nkrumah, echoes similar words to his people when Ghana received its independence in 1957 that: “Our independence is meaningless unless it is linked up with the total liberation of Africa”.

This is the spirit of our foreign policy which is simultaneously rooted in our national interest, Pan-Africanism and internationalism. A better South Africa is for a better Africa and a better world.

I thank you.

For enquiries please contact Mr Clayson Monyela, Spokesperson for the Department of International Relations and Cooperation, at 082 884 5974.

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