Speech by Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane on the NDP Chapter Seven Tuesday, 25 November 2014, DIRCO Conference Centre

Programme Director
Ladies and Gentlemen

The National Development Plan (the NDP) is a living document.  It is a blueprint for where we want our country to be by 2030.  It has changed how we do business; how government functions; how we plan and monitor our work.

Like any plan, it will be constantly enriched by the lessons we gather as we implement it. As a vision, the NDP is bold and far-reaching, encompassing all the elements necessary to improve the lives of all our people.  As a living document, it is open to innovation and fresh perspectives that are intended to improve and sharpen it.  But its baseline and fundamentals are non-negotiable; and this non-negotiable is what is central to the NDP which is: “Writing a new Story for South Africa”.  This is what the NDP wants to achieve by 2030.

We are not here to write another NDP or another Chapter 7, because the NDP already exists.  What we are here to do is to give more life to this document that already exists – to own it, to make sure that its every intention sees the light of day.

In order to implement the steps that are necessary to fulfil our national vision, the Government has already incorporated the NDP into its Medium Term Strategic Framework (MTSF) and other planning instruments.

We therefore applaud Wits University for undertaking a series of discussions on the NDP.

The NDP would be incomplete without a special focus on the work that we do as the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO), because foreign policy is but the expression of what a country wants to achieve domestically in the international sphere.  It is for this reason that the NDP contains Chapter Seven which is entitled “Positioning South Africa in the World”.

DIRCO operates in a rapidly changing international environment that offers both opportunities and challenges to South Africa’s development plans and policies.  We contribute to the NDP particularly through our bilateral and multilateral cooperation as well as economic diplomacy.  Our missions abroad are in the frontline of our efforts in this regard.

From the perspective of the NDP, in 2030, South Africa, informed by its national interests, is a globally competitive economy, and an influential and leading member of the international community. South Africa promotes and contributes to sustainable development, democracy, the rule of law, human rights, and peace and security, within a safe, peaceful and prosperous Southern African Region and Africa, as well as a fair and just world

Programme Director,

In the build-up to the adoption of the NDP document various stakeholders in our country were engaged. In this regard the 53rd National Conference of the African National Congress, reflecting on Chapter 7, highlighted that:

  • the NDP’s content on international relations should be strengthened;
  • the ANC’s foreign policy objectives, particularly on the renewal of Africa, should be reflected in Chapter 7;
  • more emphasis be placed in the Chapter on the need to change the political economy of Africa that still reflects the legacy of colonialism and neo-colonisation, particularly with respect to mineral and natural resources of Africa; and
  • the global economic recession as depicted in the NDP Vision 2030 should be seen as an opportunity for Africa’s development and unity and for building an alternative continental and global economic system.”

As DIRCO, as part of this exercise, I appointed a Task Team of experts which highlighted eight key points that we should address in our NDP implementation framework, that : (i) our national interest must be underpinned by domestic imperatives; (ii) Africa is central to our foreign policy; (iii) South Africa must have a stake in shaping new global rules and institutions to reflect the concerns of South Africa, Africa and the developing world; (iv) Support for multilateralism and reform of global governance; (v) Boost regional integration in Southern Africa; (vi) Improve human security; (vii) Strengthen trade and investment ties; and (viii) Strengthen coordination in foreign policy and include business, labour and civil society;

In the MTSF, our work falls under Outcome 11 whose objective is to “Create a better South Africa, contribute to a better and safer Africa in a better world.”  The following are the NDP output priorities that we have identified for Outcome 11:

  • South Africa’s national priorities advanced in bilateral engagements;
  • An economically integrated Southern Africa;
  • Political cohesion within Southern Africa to ensure a peaceful, secure and stable Southern African region;
  • A peaceful, secure and stable Africa;
  • A sustainable, developed and economically integrating Africa;
  • An equitable and just System of Global Governance;
  • Strong, mutually beneficial South-South cooperation; and
  • Beneficial relations with strategic formations of the North.

We believe that if we were to achieve our targets in each of the above priorities, we will go a long way towards realising our 2030 vision.

Programme Director,

The Role of Economic Diplomacy remains central in repositioning South Africa in the world and ensuring that our international relations continue to support our efforts to deal with domestic challenges such as unemployment, poverty and inequality.

Economic Diplomacy, to grow the economy and create jobs, is fundamental to the implementation of South Africa’s foreign policy to the benefit of the people of our country, our region and the continent.  South Africa must therefore identify specific beneficial inward and outward trade, manufacturing and industrial niches globally in order to harness strong growth by its partners. Links must be developed and maintained between identified partner countries and the African continent. South Africa must work with other African countries to ensure these are mutually beneficial trade relations.

Finance and access to financial resources will remain key to service delivery and some of the mega-projects in strategic areas such as transport infrastructure within South Africa and across the continent.  Economic integration requires that we harmonise policies between South Africa’s regional partners, especially in SADC, SACU and the Tripartite Free Trade Area.

Coordination and cooperation must be strengthened across national institutions responsible for making foreign policy, conducting international relations and promoting foreign trade. This includes strengthening institutional capacity across government, as well as drawing areas like science and technology, culture and education closer to foreign policy making.

a significant accomplishment of post-apartheid South Africa has been to move the country from its pariah status to its current standing as a valued and respected player in world affairs. It is for this reason that the country today enjoys cordial relations with states in all corners of the world, and at every tier of international relations.

Most countries continue to support South Africa’s reconstruction and development efforts, while excellent progress has been made in aligning development co-operation agreements with South Africa’s national priorities.

We are a key partner in multi-stakeholder cooperation for development. In this regard, the establishment of the South African Development Partnership Agency (SADPA) will strengthen our coordination and cooperation on developmental projects of common interest.

It is essential, however, that policy-making remains in touch with South Africa's domestic capabilities and regional objectives. Given the pressing domestic priorities, the country’s role in international negotiations must focus on investment, diversification and continued progressive development in infrastructure, the agricultural value chain, the mining value chain, the green economy, manufacturing sectors and tourism and certain high-level services. We can now also say that in strengthening our implementation of the NDP, through Operation Phakisa, we must include the oceans and its resources – the so-called “Blue Economy”. 

South Africa plays a pivotal role in issues affecting the Global South where IBSA, BRICS and BASIC have joined established voices, like the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), in shaping new directions in inter-state relations.

South Africa’s focus on its relations with BRICS is of particular significance, while links with ASEAN, Mercosur and CIVETS cannot be ignored.

Countries of Europe and North America remain of strategic importance for the attainment of South Africa’s national priorities as major actors in their regional as well as in global politics and economics, through their membership of the P5, European Union, the G8 and G20.

South Africa’s influence in multilateral organisations is widely recognised and we have developed a strong voice for the reform of global governance in both the Bretton Woods Institutions and the United Nations.

It goes without saying that South Africa must play an active role in all forms of multilateralism and remain committed to reforming the global system of governance. The focus must be on strengthening the institutions and processes of multilateralism, especially the United Nations. Groupings G20 are crucial for shaping and influencing the decision-making processes of the UN.

Programme Director,

Our implementation of Chapter Seven has a number of tasks ahead of us, and I want to single out a few.

South Africa needs to develop a broadly shared understanding of the concept “national interest”, which is not too narrow in scope and not overly economic in its focus. This concept needs to be both critically examined and discussed for the development of common national objectives essential for international and domestic policy. This is essential both for the effective implementation of government’s mandate, as well as to coordinate and forge a common understanding across all government departments, entities and institutions that engage in international relations and cooperation.  We must therefore continue a wider dialogue on our national interest.

In order to reflect South Africa’s status and its standing in the world, the country’s national interests cannot simply be framed within the paradigms of realism or idealism. If the country is to find its own voice in international affairs, the opportunities offered by “ubuntu diplomacy” should be seized. The philosophy of Ubuntu is the recognition of our interconnectedness and interdependence and shapes our unique approach to international relations. It has played a major role in the forging of a South African national consciousness in the process of its democratic transformation and nation-building.

As we examine “national interest”, we should not lose sight of how South Africa can use and leverage “soft power” in international relations.

The strategic assessment of the country’s current and future diplomatic footprint across the world is an ongoing exercise that must continue. The assessment of the costs and benefits of maintaining or expanding South Africa’s 126 Missions, must be raised in the context of how each of these missions contributes to the achievement of our key domestic priorities.

Our Missions and structured bilateral engagements are oriented towards seeking opportunities for sustainable job creation, responsible trade and investment, partnerships for health, education, crime prevention and rural development. The departmental organisational structure, Missions and skill-sets have to be aligned to the changing world and South Africa’s foreign policy priorities, now and for the future.  This is an exercise that we are currently undertaking.

As a facilitating and enabling government department, DIRCO’s role is not confined to the implementation of Chapter Seven only.  We promote cooperation in fields such as health, education, science and technology.  We can and must therefore improve our coordination in government to ensure more efficient and effective relations with international partners that can contribute to the achievement of our national goals.

Furthermore, we must act on the recommendation in the NDP to establish a high-level task team to investigate South Africa's foreign relations, including studies on:

  • Understanding, appreciating and explaining the notion of “national interest” and its role as a tool of diplomacy;
  • Understanding South Africa’s place on the continent in the context of African geopolitics;
  • Clarifying South Africa’s role in the world; and
  • Outlining South Africa’s role in multilateral relations.

Ladies and gentlemen,

We value this engagement.  We thank Wits University for this initiative which is very timely as it happens at the time when our hands are on deck, implementing the NDP.  The questions that you will ponder are very relevant to us.

This relationship should continue.  The implementation of the NDP now and into the future will require forums of this nature for reflection and evaluating our work.

I thank you.


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