Speech by the Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Ms Nomaindiya Mfeketo, on the occasion of a Public Participation Programme, theme: “The importance of South Africa’s foreign Policy in meeting the country’s domestic priorities”, Cape Peninsula University of Technology, Western Cape, 11 November 2014.
Members of the Diplomatic Corps who have joined us today;
Management and staff of the Cape Peninsula University of Technology;
The Students Representative Council;
Representatives of other student formations;
Invited guests; and
Ladies and Gentlemen;
It gives me great pleasure to address you on this event which marks an ongoing relationship between the Department of International Relations and Co-operation (DIRCO), staff and students of the CPUT.
Over the past few months since my appointment in May 2014, I have had the privilege of being invited to address students and the academic leadership of universities in other parts of the world including last week’s lecture which I delivered in Kazguu, Astana, Kazakhstan. Today’s lecture is the first one that I have to deliver in a South African Institution of Higher Learning. To this end I wish to congratulate the leadership of CPUT for granting me the opportunity to address this gathering.
We are coming to share our foreign policy with you and the importance of that. We open doors for the private sector which is the center stage for job creation, ours is to create an environment that is conducive for business to thrive.
In every trip that I have embarked on as Deputy Minister of International Relations and Co-operation, there are always private business people who use the platform created by government to meet their counterparts and discuss mutual areas of development. Equally so it becomes important to note that at the center of our foreign policy is the concept of fostering people to people relations as the solidarity of people with common interest is a testimony of the global community in which we live in.
We as the Department of International Relations and Cooperation are proud to be associated with an institution that has for years produced responsible citizens who continue to play various leadership roles in society.
Our Foreign Relations Policy instructs us to pursue the vision of an African Continent, which is prosperous, peaceful, democratic, nonracial, nonsexist and united, and which contributes to a world that is just and equitable.
We are committed to promoting South Africa’s national interests and values, the African Renaissance and the creation of a better world for all.
South Africa’s relations with Africa and the world are driven by our commitment that peace and stability are critical for us to deal with our key challenges of fighting unemployment, poverty and inequality.
We pursue peaceful means of resolving conflicts whenever we are given an opportunity to do so. In this regard we are driven by our experience and pain of apartheid discrimination which denied peace to the majority of the country’s citizens.
Where other countries would prefer to desert and isolate countries at war, we accept the opportunity to mediate and explore peaceful means of resolving conflict. This we do as part of our orientation and as an expression of our historical experience that peace always benefits the majority whereas war only benefits a few.
We continue to nurture our historical relations with countries whose foreign policies were concerned with the human rights and dignity of our people at a time which supported us when it was not fashionable to do so. These are countries which embraced us when others called us terrorists. It is partly this orientation which drives what many see as a ‘look to the East and South’ slant in our foreign relations. Our relationship with China for example, which has had a lot of media attention, is at different levels such as the state, the private sector and civil society. Equally so we continue to enhance bilateral relations with countries of the West as is evident from statistics on the value of bilateral relations.
Twenty years after Nelson Mandela became the first President of a democratic, free South Africa, we have good reason to celebrate and to share with you our good story about the journey that we have travelled as a nation since 1994. This “Good Story” of ours, obviously, does not mean that South Africa today is a country without any problems, or challenges – that would be unrealistic! We merely wish to reflect on the progress that has been made since the dark days of our past and wish to share with you some highlights of the evolution of our young democracy over the past twenty years, which inter alia included the following:
The first democratic elections in 1994 and the subsequent inauguration of our beloved former President Nelson Mandela as Head of State and Government of the new South Africa.
We emerged from decades of brutal racism that raptured families and homes and the liberation movement carried our people’s hopes and we live to this day to realize those aspirations.
The adoption of our new Constitution in 1996, which is regarded internationally as one of the most progressive in terms of the guaranteeing of basic human rights and the protection of freedoms;
The conclusion of the “Truth and Reconciliation” process, which offered South Africans the opportunity to come to terms with our painful past and to seek to heal the wounds of a society traumatised by injustices, violence and divisions;
During the past twenty years, millions of poor South Africans benefitted - for the first time in their lives - from large-scale, country-wide social and infra-structural programmes which provided basic housing, water and sanitation, electricity, healthcare, education and other basic services. However, these centuries’ old inherited problems of poverty, unemployment and inequality remain critical in our country and inequality particularly is fast-threatening to pose threats for us and all those must actively address this looming crisis.
Since the dawn of our new democracy, the South African economy grew exponentially and now we are using this growth in the world to negotiate a democratic global governance in our formation as the BRICS countries.
As you might be aware, South Africa hosted several major international events during the past twenty years, these have proven that South Africa has decidedly moved from being a world crisis to solving world crises.
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.
The current Administration is already South Africa’s fifth since 1994, which is indicative of the stability, maturity and strength of our young democracy.
We need to find ways in which we can include South African in the planning and collective development of our country, including the social and moral regeneration of our country. These are not things that government can do it is the community that has the power to produce active citizenry.
Issued by the Department of International Relations and Cooperation
OR Tambo Building
460 Soutpansberg Road