Speaking Notes: Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Ms. Nomaindiya Mfeketo, on the occasion the Pre-Budget Vote Lecture.
Please allow me to warmly welcome, and thank you all for making time to be part of this important dialogue today.
Today I will speak on the topic “Relating the International to the Continental, Regional and Local.”
My purpose for this talk is to speak to different stakeholders about areas of mutual interest and benefit. Among other things, I want to make clear the connection between our work in the world and how it relates to our national goals. I also wish to make the necessary links with local role players such as yourselves and the impact, actual and potential that you have in the world and how it positions South Africa in the global map.
In doing this, I hope to demonstrate that government cannot do everything and we need vibrancy restored in our communities by important stakeholders such as yourselves.
These role players include: councillors, organized youth, women’s groups, African associations, schools, students at universities, local businesses and other important social actors.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I start first by addressing the Councillors. This is because I believe councilors are the most important players at the frontline of service in any country.
I must confess that I am probably biased here because I was once a member of a local council not too far from where are.
I must also state that because of my experience of serving as Mayor of a metro, that what I am about to say comes from years of experience.
As councillors, you are also representatives of national government at a local level, in fact, I would go as far as say you are also international representatives of your local areas. I say this because the Constitution makes provision for you to be in in charge of local economic development and social cohesion. If you serve your people well, you can set an example as a global model. For instance, Kerala in India and Porto Alegre in Brazil are world models for self-governance and public budgeting. I urge all of you to do your research about these communities. We can also set examples here, we can have a Khayelitsha or Langa model that is an international example.
In light of the xeno-afrophobic attacks, because these happen in wards, councilors have a greater role here. As councilors, you have provision to draft by-laws allow for proactive strategies. For example, if asylum seekers or refugees settle in your ward, councilors must be welcoming and inviting and capacitated to assist people affected who need proper documentation. Beyond the legal incorporation, councilors should also be able to facilitate broader and deeper integration of African nationals and locals in terms of economic, social and recreational initiatives.
There are already a few municipalities that are partnering with municipalities in Europe, we need to broaden this so that it includes Asia, Latin America and most importantly Africa because South Africa has a lot to learn from the continent.
It is my sincere hope that I will reach councilors to appreciate the broader scope and significance of their work and I will ensure that I continue dialogue with this very important stakeholder.
Programme Director; let me now address another very important stakeholder which is also very close to my heart, the women’s groups.
It is my firm view, Programme Director, that women are the life and true builders of the home and nation and that the best measure of any society must be the status of its women. As some of you in the audience might be aware, South Africa will host the African Union Summit in June 2015. In this year’s Summit, the theme is “Year of Women Empowerment and Development towards Africa’s Agenda 2063”.
Just two days ago, I was addressing the Pan African Parliament and I was relaying a similar message to them about the significance of women empowerment. I mentioned there that the Pan African Parliament subcommittees must make meaningful contributions towards women emancipation.
It is my hope here that we will have an interaction with the women’s groups stakeholders to not only interact with us as government, but to also interact between yourselves so that we consolidate our work on the broad mutual areas of interest.
FAITH baised missions:
The Programme Director, I now move to speak to another very important stakeholder – our religious leaders. As the South African government, we encourage interfaith cooperation between our churches, mosques, synagogues, temples, etc.
We know of the important role that religious leaders played in fighting against apartheid in South Africa and we call for a revitalization of this sector. You know when I go to church, we have, at any given moment, a lawyer, a teacher, a doctor, etc. and with this human resource pool, our religious leaders can put us at better service of our communities as leaders of moral regeneration.
For instance, we have church land across this country and it would be good to see religious leaders use that land with youth and women’s groups for agriculture for the poor to uplift themselves.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I now move to address very important guests in our audience, our fellow African brothers and sisters and in my case, sons and daughters. About a month ago, I was in Khayelitsha to address local communities from other townships who had gathered there about the issue of xeno-afrophobia.
Ladies and Gentlemen, we do and indeed must condemn xeno-afrophobia in all forms. It is not enough condemn however, we must work for long-term solutions that see to the proper integration of all our communities, united in our diversity.
In the audience we have groups that work with refugees, we have South African-based African associations from across Africa and my message is simple – we need to integrate and work together. We need joint economic ventures in our townships that work to develop the community and provide jobs. Also, the continental African associations can assist us as a government to help document people who are already here without documentation. So I appeal to the continental African associations to work closely with councilors, religious leaders and the women’s groups to properly care for our people.
My view is that we must also work broadly to socially integrate our brothers and sisters in South Africa, for example, to participate in sporting and recreational activities with locals or to co-organize with South Africans on Africa Day and we teach each other about our flags, national anthems, our cuisines, clothing styles, etc. This connection between peoples goes further than any laws we can create as political leaders.
Programme Director, allow me now to address the future, the youth in our audience.
As a Department, I can honestly say we created many opportunities for young people. You would be aware that BRICS has established a development bank and its African region quarters will be based in Johannesburg. Amongst many other things that the bank will be doing, it will also, in practical terms, provide jobs for South African and African graduates trained in the sector.
In department itself, we have internships and cadet learnership programmes that you must consult our website or ask our staff compliment to furnish you with more information. This is to train your people to be to be future diplomats of South Africa.
I stand here hopeful that I will inspire at least one young person to consider being a diplomat in the service of our country while being an ambassador abroad, and to the young people listen, let that young person be you!
I do leave a challenge for you though, and that challenge is that the organized segments of our youth must work to find ways to reach unorganized, unemployed and unemployable young people. This is a big challenge for the country and if it goes on unchecked for too long, we will sit with a crisis so I really implore you to come up with ways and engage the government on this. There is also a Ministry in the Presidency just for youth so please, engage us.
Through my department for instance, we have opened up opportunities for training of South Africans abroad and a lot of the times, there are more opportunities given than there are people taking them, and we must all admit that this is unacceptable. For instance, we have China and Russia offering our youth scholarships to study there and we have not been able to fill those vacancies and we must improve here, young people must take these opportunities.
I now move to the most precious guests program director, the high school learners. You know when I was in school, they used to teach us that Jan van Riebeeck and Simon van de Stel were great men who brought us civilization and gave our people spoons and pins in exchange for cattle and land. I hope yours is different now. When I was in school, we also did not learn a lot about Africa, in fact the apartheid government deliberately blocked content on Africa so as to psychologically separate black South Africans from the rest of the continent because they feared that we would learn about revolutions elsewhere in the continent and want the same here. The cost of this has been too expensive and the xeno-afrophobic attacks are in no small measure a result of that.
My hope is that the principals and teachers in the audience will take initiative in introducing content on Africa in the curriculum. The school principals must seek for exchange programs with African countries too and not just Europe and America, we have very good relations with all of the SADC group of countries and establishing exchange programs would not be difficult. President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya mentioned at the Pap African Parliament event two days ago about the importance of trading and exchanging with each other as Africans, we must also have people-to-people relations and not just goods. We must be pan-African in our orientation and learn from Zimbabwe to learn the best practices for education. Our learners must complete school knowing the number of countries in Africa and their names, they must know about the languages, the presidents, the histories of our people throughout the continent.
As I conclude Ladies and Gentlemen, I must indicate that tomorrow at about this time, myself and Honourable Deputy Minister Landers and Honourable Minister Maite-Mashabane will deliver our department’s budget vote speech before the National Assembly. In this occasion, we will report to the national assembly, expenditure of resources, and pleading for more funds to discharge our foreign policy mandate.
You must go back to your constituencies and report about this event. You must call us in your communities when you have dialogue, which is vital as an outlet.
We wish to make Agenda 2063 to be owned by all in Africa and not just governments so we need to empower ourselves and network and share ideas together.
I just want to say it has been my utmost joy and privilege to have you accept our invitation to this lecture and I hope you will engage with us in further building stronger stakeholder relations for the sake of our constituencies who collectively are the people of this great continent.
I thank you.
ISSUED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND COOPERATION
O R Tambo Building
460 Soutpansberg Road