Speech by the Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Ms Maite Nkoana-Mashabane,  on the occasion of a Public Lecture on : “Celebrating 20 years of South Africa’s Democracy: Reflections on Foreign Policy, Highlights and Challenges”, University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, Thursday, 10 April 2014.

Programme Director;
Honourable Vice Chancellor of the University of Witwatersrand, Professor Adam Habib;
Your Excellencies, Ambassadors and High Commissioners here with us this afternoon;
Honourable Professors and Lectures here today;
Members of staff;
Members of the SRC and other students’ formations;
Men and women of the media;
Fellow students; and
Ladies and Gentlemen;

Please allow me to take a moment and express my sincere gratitude and appreciation to the management and staff of the University of Witwatersrand for the warm and cordial reception. Our singular appreciation goes to the Vice Chancellor, Professor Adam Habib, who has warmly welcomed us in a way that makes us feel at home. As the Department of International Relations & Cooperation (DIRCO), we feel very proud and indeed honoured to be associated with a citadel of academic excellence such as the University of Witwatersrand.

As we celebrate 20 years of our country’s freedom and democracy, we must also acknowledge the role and contributions of this institution to academic excellence in South Africa. The origins of Wits lie in  the South African school of Mines, which was established in Kimberley in 1896. Its rich history is linked with scholarship excellence, political and civil activism.

For over 100 years, Wits has produced some of the greatest minds and leaders South Africa has ever witnessed. Some leading politicians and legal minds were honed at this institution to provide the much needed leadership. Our very own late President Nelson Mandela, veterans of our struggle, Advocate George Bizos and Comrade Ahmed Kathrada, all received their education right here where we are gathered today.

It was during their prime here at Wits that they learned more about politics, serving in various structures of the student movements and civic structures. In fact, much of their defiance campaigns were conceived when they were still students, with President Nelson Mandela regularly addressing other students during lunch breaks. It was during these early stages that they were disturbed by the plight of black people in this country – their subjugation by the white minority was evidently unbearable.

During this period, the young Nelson Mandela and others already had a vision of a united and prosperous South Africa that is non-racial and united in its diversity. As young leaders, they believed that the very diversity in this country should be the source of unity amongst those who were divided – black and white.

Programme Director;

In his speech at an ANC rally at the conclusion of the National Consultative Conference on 16 December 1990, the late President of the ANC Cde Oliver Reginald Tambo, upon inviting all those who love peace, prosperity and freedom to join in the struggle that is bound to result in the liberation of every single South African; said (and I quote):  


“We urge all those still harbouring doubts about a democratic future, to take courage in the knowledge that the generosity of the oppressed is matched only by their passionate hatred of the oppression of fellow          human beings. Working together as fellow South Africans, we have it within our power to transform this country into the land of plenty for all, where the nightmare of apartheid will just be a faint memory of the past”

We can almost be certain that almost four years before the dawn of Democracy in 1994, OR Tambo was prophetic in his statement, challenging us to work together in transforming this country to one we can all be proud of. This vision also resonates well with what young Madiba espoused during his hay days at this institution.

Ladies and Gentlemen;
I stand before you today inspired by the full breadth of the life lived by Comrade OR Tambo. Through his statesmanship, diplomatic acumen, and vision, he taught us that only unity and the spirit of Ubuntu can direct us to build a better South Africa.

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

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. 
Programme Director;

Over the past 20 years, this month of April has become synonymous with our struggle for freedom and liberation. As a result, it is now a month that marks a very important epoch in the history of South Africa’s struggle for freedom and liberation. The month of April not only represents all things good about where we come from, it also represents our bitter past, and brings back memories of how a brutal regime of apartheid can go to great lengths to eliminate its opponents. It was during the month of April that we witnessed the sad and untimely demise of one of South Africa’s colossal figures of our struggle – Cde Chris Hani.

Born on 28 June 1942, Comrade Chris was silenced through the barrel of a gun at the zenith of his political career on this day (10 April) in 1993. A leader of note who led the South African Communist Party, and also served as Chief of Staff of Umkhonto we Sizwe will be remembered for his fierce opposition to the erstwhile apartheid government. Like many who laid down their lives for our freedom and liberty, he never lived to witness the fruits of his sacrifices. Through his ultimate sacrifice, the flowing of his blood, the date of our first democratic elections was declared and South Africans choose a path to peace and development, thus forming a new society built on the foundation of freedom and democracy on 27 April 1994. The very month in which he died marked the end of apartheid rule and ushered in an introduction of a new Constitutional order, wherein all work towards a united, non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and prosperous society.

Knowing that he laid down his life for us to enjoy our liberty and freedom, it is in his memory that we should cherish and celebrate his life and times through ensuring that we participate fully in our festival of democracy. 
It is for this reason that I dare us never to forget that our road to democracy was not easy. Many lives were lost. It is the loss of lives of selfless patriots like Comrade Chris Hani that should reminds us never to undermine the depth, strength and meaning of our democracy.

Today, 38 years after the 1976 student’s uprisings, we are not here to recruit our youth for another uprising. We are here to recruit them to join us and participate in the full democratic processes and governance of this country. When Comrade Chris worked with student recruits in the 70’s, he was fully aware of their influence, and with us, this has not changed. It is the youth who changed the course of history in this country, and you too are poised to do exactly the same – and even much better since the circumstances have changed. The times have changed too. True Democracy is at play.

Programme Director;

The year 2014 truly presents a momentous occasion for us as a unified nation to reflect on how our freedom and democracy were achieved, the progress we have made thus far, and how we as South Africans are going to work together to implement Vision 2030. We are indeed a country that is better off today since our first democratic elections in 1994. 

One of the symbolic moments of the exodus from the past was the raising of the new flag in 1994. This moment aptly affirmed the pride and dignity of an unfolding country and a celebration of humanity. Another significant moment was the merger of “Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika” and “Die Stem” to form one national anthem in 1997. It was on 27 April 2000 that the new Coat of Arms was launched, embracing the collective historical essence of the people of the country.

When we finally witnessed the dawn of our freedom and democracy in 1994, we also marked the rebirth of our country’s foreign policy. A challenge of repositioning the country’s foreign policy was one of the great tasks ahead for our leaders. Our leaders knew that these great tasks ahead were not insurmountable.  Since 1994, the ANC – led government sought to reposition and project South Africa positively within the international community after years of isolation.

The objectives of the new government were clear - to establish an all-embracing and inclusive identity for the country. An identity we can all be proud of. An identity which could earn us respect from our neighbours, the continent, and indeed the international community. For this to be achieved, the new government had to boast a point of reference from which they could source key principles that would govern our foreign policy. This reference point was a foreign policy document compiled by the ANC in 1994, titled, “Foreign Policy Perspectives in a Democratic South Africa”.

This document presented 7 principles which have guided the rebirth of South Africa’s foreign policy, especially since the dawn of our democracy 1994.

These principles included a belief in human rights; a belief in the promotion of democracy world-wide; a belief in the rule of international law; a belief in the attainment of international peace; a belief that South Africa’s foreign policy should reflect the interests of Africa; a belief that South Africa’s economic development depends on the development of regional and international economic cooperation; and a belief that South Africa’s international relations must reflect a commitment to the consolidation of its democracy.

Ladies and Gentlemen;

Africa is the centrepiece of our country’s foreign policy. This policy is rooted in the principles of a united, peaceful and prosperous Africa. A principle espoused by the African National Congress (ANC).

In his 1993 journal, former President Nelson Mandela headlined “Our African destiny” which the African National Congress (ANC) was going to pursue once it assumed power:

(I quote)

“South Africa cannot escape its African destiny. If we do not devote our energies to this continent, we too could fall victim to the forces that have brought ruin to its various parts. Like the United Nations, the Organization of African Unity needs to be attuned to the changes at work     throughout the world. A democratic South Africa will         bring to an end an important chapter in Africa`s efforts to   achieve unity and closer cooperation, but it will not close the book”.


Indeed, the foreign policy of post-apartheid South Africa is determined in the structures of the ruling ANC.  As such, an examination of South Africa’s relationship with and policy on the African Union (AU) must begin with an understanding of our desire for a prosperous continent.

In 1994, the manifesto of the ANC declared to integrate South Africa back into the continent in order for the country to take its rightful place in world politics. In the 1999 manifesto the ANC acknowledged the great strides South Africa had made with regards to its friendship with the international community. In 2004, the ANC manifesto declared to hasten and strengthen democracy, peace, stability and economic growth and development in Southern Africa and the rest of the continent, to prevent conflicts and ensure the peaceful resolution of such conflicts, to enhance south-south cooperation and north-south dialogue, and to promote a multilateral approach to global challenges.

Finally, in 2009 the ANC manifesto committed us to contributing to the creation of a better Africa and a better world. Today, we stand proud for we have attained many of the promises we have made to our people over the years. Today, South Africa is better place than it was 20 years ago. Today, it can be argued that very few countries can set themselves to achieve what South Africa has achieved over the past 20 years. Indeed, we have come a long way in addressing injustice, inequality and poverty.

Programme Director;

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.

Programme Director
Our continent, Africa, is definitely on the rise!

2013 marked 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, once finalised, 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. Africa is taking charge of writing its own narrative.
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, the Central African Republic, and South Sudan, among others.

In order to support the mediation effort led by IGAD and to encourage an environment of peace and reconciliation in South Sudan, President Zuma has, in response to a request by the parties to the conflict, appointed Mr Cyril Ramaphosa as his Special Envoy to South Sudan.

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.

Ladies and gentlemen
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+1 and the Islamic Republic of Iran.  We are hopeful that the current round of negotiations will be fruitful.

We have to share our own experiences in nation-building and reconciliation with Sri Lanka.  We therefore welcome the request from Sri Lanka to learn about our own process in this regard. In order to take this process forward, President Zuma has appointed Mr Cyril Ramaphosa as his Special Envoy on Sri Lanka.

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, including 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.

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.

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 Vision 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.
A key strategy for development in Africa is regional economic integration. We believe that greater intra-regional trade will produce considerable economic gains for Africa, accelerate economic growth, reduce poverty, and enhance food and energy security. A major achievement towards this goal was the signing last year of  crucial treaty on the Grand Inga hydropower project signed between South Africa and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), which has the potential to eventually become the largest hydroelectric project in the world, with the potential to power half of the continent.
The quest for a better world is a struggle that must continue. We are concerned with current developments in the international arena which seek to take us back to the period of the Cold War, where we were forced to choose between power blocs. South Africa will continue to champion our independent foreign policy as espoused by our former President Nelson Mandela. 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.

Programme Director;

We have come a long way, in just 20 years, we have broadened our international reach from 34 missions abroad in 1994 to a staggering 126 missions throughout the world, but with a sharp focus on Africa. Our international trade has also escalated to higher proportions, playing a key role in the eradication of poverty, unemployment, inequality. But a lot still needs to be done to eliminate this triple challenge.

overnment gave sharp focus in ensuring delivery of basic needs for our people. Efforts have been made by all segments of government to deal with the triple challenges of unemployment, poverty and inequality. The release of the Census 2011 figures shows a definitive picture of a country that is rapidly changing. They paint the picture of a country that has increased income levels, an improvement in the roll-out of basic services and amenities, and increased levels of education. 

Programme Director;

Not only do young people make up a large proportion of voters in South   Africa, but also form part of the majority of our population. Thus, providing them with access to education is a critical element in making them understand the real impact of democracy in their lives.

One of the reasons we are here today is that we want to have some insights about how they feel about democratic participation in South Africa. This will in turn provide us with indicators on the extent to which they believe they can have the power to influence the direction the country should take.

Dear Students;
Many of you already have access to social media through which you express yourselves about things that happen around you. More often what many of you write on the social media is a true reflection of how you feel and how you see the world around you. This is a space that gives you the freedom, the liberty and the time to express yourself without a fear of judgment or intimidation. 

I am also aware that Wits University hosts a number of public avenues and platforms for you to engage in debates about politics, human rights and how you see the future of this country. These engagements are very key in the creation of real debate about the future and direction we want for our own development. It is a very healthy process that ignites and stimulates dialogue in the  public discourse. Our being here today must be seen as one of those initiatives that seeks to give you the space to express yourselves without any fear.

Twenty years ago, none of us would have been be afforded such an opportunity to express themselves. The apartheid regime was very harsh to those who undermined their regime.  We were constantly denied of our human rights. Today we live in a different society, where everyone is free to express themselves without any fear.

Unlike in the past, today we can cast our votes, and chose political parties of our choice. We can receive decent education and decide on our career paths without any restrictions. Today we can truly enjoy our liberties. Despite all these changes that have been championed by the ANC-led government in the past 20 years, we believe that more still needs to be done in the next five years.

Programme Director;

Our 2014 Manifesto is very clear about what we still need to deliver for the young people of this country. In the next five years, the ANC will provide job placements and internships schemes for youth.

Ladies and Gentlemen;

Our track record speaks for itself. Nothing stops us from rising to the occasion in the next five years and do what we did in the past. For the past 20 years, we have never betrayed the trust of our youth. We delivered on what we promised. Today, there are 1.7 million more young people (under 35) working than in 1995.

Clearly, in just 20 years, we have broadened our attention to youth development, and continue to play a critical role in the eradication of poverty, unemployment and inequality. A lot still needs to be done to eliminate this triple challenge, and the next five years will yet again give a test of character in what we are capable of doing for this country. We have been consistently vocal in our belief that the struggle for a better life is linked to the creation of a better future for the youth of this country.

As I conclude, while celebrating our achievements, we must also look forward to the next 20 years with great optimism and make use of all key strategies we have put into place for the development of this country. The National Development Plan (NDP) is our roadmap. This plan outlines the type of society we are striving for in 2030, where no one is hungry, where everyone is able to go to school and further their studies if they wish, where work is available, where everyone is making a contribution because each person has been provided with what they need to reach their full potential.

All these plans cannot be achieved if you do not exercise your democratic rights by casting your votes on 7 May 2014. Democracy is a nation ruled by its citizens towards a destiny they desire. As young people of this country, the destiny is in your hands. When you cast your votes on 7 May 2014, you must know that you are contributing to the democratic process and development of this country.

Making reference to President Nelson Mandela during the launch of the 2014 ANC Manifesto, President Jacob Zuma said:


“Comrade Madiba exemplified the importance of adherence to the core values and traditions of the ANC. He was unambiguous about the fact that the ANC has always been the organization best placed to unite the broadest cross-section of South Africans around the objectives of the National Democratic Revolution and put in place a united, non-racial, non-sexist, democratic South Africa as enshrined in the Freedom Charter”.

Programme Director;
As changes sweep across the globe and touch the lives of people in even the most remote of habitants, we cannot be mere spectators. Our people, our history and our diplomacy demand more of us. We will continue to engage in the international relations and cooperation with a sense of purpose, to effect change rather than to just be affected by it. In this time of rapid and constant change, interdependence amongst nations is self-evident. It is also evident that mutually beneficial co-operation is a necessity.

Consequently, the world is experiencing the practical necessity of making the philosophical paradigm shift from “power to partnership” in international relations. In short, the world is experiencing and discovering “UBUNTU” which, as our revered Chief Diplomat and Leader, OR Tambo outlined, “is an expression of the unity of purpose among concerned compatriots as equals engaged in a common endeavor to create a better future for us all”.

I thank you




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