Remarks by H.E Ms Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, on the occasion of the joint launch of the South African Council on International Relations (SACOIR) and the South African Association of Former Ambassadors, High Commissioners and Chief Representatives, 16 July 2015, DIRCO, OR Tambo Building, Pretoria

Programme Director

Excellences and Colleagues

Comrades and Friends

Today is a historic day for DIRCO. Today we launch two prestigious foreign policy organs of this department, namely:  the South African Council on International Relations (SACOIR), and the Association of Former Ambassadors, High Commissioners and Chief Representatives.

Today we give true meaning to our diplomacy of Ubuntu and realize the true purpose of the name given to this building - OR Tambo Building, named after a true cadre who left a legacy of true Ubuntu diplomacy.

At the outset, it is critically important to notice that this launch takes place just a day away from the celebration of Nelson Mandela International Day, yet another leader who personified Ubuntu diplomacy.

On this occasion, I am therefore reminded of President Mandela’s speech to the National Civil Society Conference in 2001, where he gave an account of the importance of partnering with civil society when he said, and I quote:

“One of the outstanding features of these first few years of our democracy has been the emphasis on partnership. Nation building, transformation and the creation of a better life for all are the main national tasks facing us. In each of these interdependent areas of the national project, we need to forge strong partnerships across sectors and across social divides” . Closed quote

Programme Director, what we are witnessing today can best be captured by an adage in my language that says: Mo go gatelego hlako ya pele, le ya bobedi e a gata (the second hoof steps where the first has stepped).

Indeed, the launch of these two platforms is a strong testimony that we remain consistent in practicing the values and traditions espoused by icons of our struggle for democracy, freedom and inclusiveness.

It is the testimony that we learn and must learn from the best.

Ladies and Gentlemen, 

Some of you might already be asking why we should have two organisations that seem to have similar functions. I should like to clarify upfront that these platforms are not similar; they should rather be seen as two sides of the same coin. It is therefore important to mention that in executing their different mandates, they would complement each another.

Indeed, SACOIR brings the voices of various segments of civil society to the foreign policy process, whilst the Association pools together the vast experience and knowledge we have available to continue utilising in various ways in the Department.

As a constantly developing organization, the experience we gather in the course of executing our mandate has taught us that in the complex interdependent world of today, practicing international relations is no longer the sole preserve of states.

Indeed, global corporations, civil society organisations, sub-national structures and even private individuals have increasingly become active citizens of the world in this highly webbed global village.

In the true spirit of consultation, inherited from the best tradition of the liberation movement, we indulged the service of our independent academics to ascertain the necessity for the creation of a platform for South African non-state actors to influence our foreign policy.  The discussions of these academics confirmed our belief that we were ready to establish a platform of   non-state actors.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As you know, our country is faced with complex domestic challenges that need multifaceted approaches to generate appropriate policies for sustainable solutions.

Thus, from the perspective that foreign policy is an extension of our domestic policy, we strongly believe that the creation of SACOIR will go a long way in offering practical opportunities for cooperation with civil society in tackling the triple challenges of poverty, inequality and unemployment identified as foreign policy priorities by Chapter 7 of the National Development Plan (NDP).

Indeed the creation of SACOIR also gives practical effect to President Zuma’s message in the State of the Nation Address (SONA) of 14 February 2013, when he said, and I quote:

“We [government] will engage business, labour and other social partners in pursuit of solutions as no single force acting individually can achieve the objectives we have set for ourselves”.

Close quote

Moreover, the appointment of the members of SACOIR will allow (DIRCO) to realise the objectives set by government to interact more and more with members of academia, labour, business and civil society on key foreign policy issues. 

SACOIR will therefore serve as an avenue and a platform for the generation of public debate on foreign policy; provide an opportunity for the regular open review of South Africa’s foreign policy through a consultative forum and make important recommendations to our Department.

In our Budget Vote Speeches of the last four years we mentioned that in order to consolidate the gains of our democracy there was a need to establish and operationalise SACOIR.

I should therefore hasten to add that these august members of SACOIR were appointed in consultation with Cabinet and they will serve for a period of three years.

It is foreseen that SACOIR will operate under the umbrella of DIRCO, conducting plenary and thematic Working Group meetings. SACOIR will also host an annual International Symposium called the Johnny Makhathini Dialogue Forum (JMDF) aimed at discussing relevant foreign policy issues with both local and international researchers and intellectuals in the field of International Relations and other relevant academic fields.

DIRCO will provide a Secretariat for the Council, which will serve as an administrative and follow-up support system.

Programme Director,

Without further ado, allow me to present to the audience the 19 members of SACOIR as follows:

Academia: Professor Maxi Schoeman; Professor Anthoni Van Nieuwkerk; Dr Siphamandla Zondi; Professor Shamil Jeppie; Professor Sekgothe Mokgoatsana and Professor Peter Vale.

Business: Ms Nonhlanhla Mjoli-Mncube; Dr Thandi Cynthia Ndlovu; Ms Chichi Maponya; Ms Danisa Baloyi and Mr Billy Masetlha.

Civil Society: Dr Somadoda Fikeni; Mr Jimmy Gotyana; Mr Tshepo Mashiane; Amb Griffiths Mandlenkosi Memela; Mr Kenny Morolong; Molly Dhlamini; Mr Aziz Pahad; General Maomela Motau; Dr Kuseni Dlamini and Mr Vasu Gounden.

Labour: Mr Dennis George and Mr Joel Mfingwana.

Programme Director,

As already mentioned, today we also launch the Association of Former Ambassadors, High Commissioners and Chief Representatives which deliberated yesterday on their programme of action and future activities.

Over the years, South Africa has produced high calibre Ambassadors, High Commissioners and Chief Representatives. The purpose of the new Association will be to create a platform for former Ambassadors, High Commissioners and Chief Representatives to lend their extensive experience and institutional memory on international relations and diplomacy towards the development and execution of our foreign policy. 

The former Heads of Mission will stimulate discussions on international relations and diplomacy so as to advance public understanding of, and support for, our country’s key foreign policy objectives and national interests. The Association will promote the exchange of policy views and information which will encourage greater understanding of global, regional and bilateral trends as well as provide inputs for government policy formulation.

The Association will be providing a forum for ongoing discussions and analysis pertaining to international political, economic and cultural matters as well as issues pertaining to science and technology.  The Association will therefore function as an independent, critical thinking and constructive analysis institution. It will mentor young diplomats, as well as serve as an institutional memory for South Africa’s foreign relations.

Further, the Association will strive to promote awareness within South African society on the global trends which affect our country as a nation-state in a globalized world and disseminate information on South Africa’s foreign policy. It will foster close and effective cooperation with the general public, including universities and non-governmental organisations. 

I would like to welcome both SACOIR and the Association to the DIRCO family and wish you all the best with the task ahead as we will together be unpacking and repackaging South Africa’s foreign policy to attain our vision of a better life for all..

These two organisations are our Public Diplomacy in action. They will speak for us. They will be our ears. But they will also offer a helping hand and advice as we move forward, together, for a better South Africa in a better Africa and a better world.

I thank you.

ISSUED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND COOPERATION

OR Tambo Building
460 Soutpansberg Road
Rietondale
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