Remarks by the Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, H. E. Ms. Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, on the occasion of the post-Budget Vote Speech Public Participation Programme, Imbizo Media Centre, Parliament, Cape Town, 03 May 2016

Programme Director,
Honourable Deputy Ministers Mfeketo and Landers,
All DIRCO officials present,
Our future leaders, the students

Today we presented the Budget Vote Speech of the Department of International Relations and Cooperation to Parliament. The speech outlined a number of programmes and activities that the Department will embark on in this financial year, 2016/2017, in order to build on the solid foundation that our forbearers had laid through blood and sweat.

The month of May bears particular significance for the African people. It was during this month in 1963 that the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), which has now transformed into the AU, was formed.

The OAU/AU united the African people behind the common vision of eliminating colonialism and apartheid so that Africans can claim their right to self-determination.  

The OAU was formed with the following objectives in mind:

a) Promote unity and solidarity of the African states

b) To coordinate and intensify their cooperation and efforts to achieve a better life for the peoples of Africa,

c) To defend their sovereignty, their territorial integrity and independence,

d) To eradicate all forms of colonialism from Africa, and

e) To promote international cooperation, having due regard to the Charter of the United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The matter of the commitment of the African people consistently through the years to the principle of international solidarity as well as the Charter of the UN and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is not new.

It is therefore no coincidence that the year 2016 was declared by the AU Assembly of Heads of State and Government in January in Addis Ababa as the “Year of Human Rights with specific focus on Women’s Rights”.  With its 54 member states, the 54th and newest being the Republic of South Sudan, the AU contributes largest members of any continental body to the UN.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Africa is a staunch supporter of the UN and the UN Charter. We remain convinced that the UN is the pre-eminent organisation for the maintenance of global peace and security. African leaders spoke with one voice last September on the occasion of the UN’s 70th anniversary regarding the importance of the UN system and the need for the UN to move with the times and adapt to new realities, key amongst which is that African states are now free and independent, ready to take their rightful place in world affairs.

The reform of the UN is thus extremely urgent. It dents the image and credibility of the UN that we can use its platforms to call for democracy whereas the UN itself remains undemocratic and unrepresentative.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The Africa of 2016 is vastly different from the Africa of 1963. Our focus has shifted from that of pursuing political independence, although not entirely, as we still have the case of Western Sahara. We are now also vigorously pursuing economic independence. In this regard, we cannot over-emphasise the need to ensure intra-African trade.

We cannot over-emphasise the need to ensure seamless connectivity between our borders so as to move goods, services and people quicker. The growth of the African economy must benefit Africans. The growth of the African economy must bring tangible benefits to the people. Together we can eradicate poverty.

We must radically alter the colonial/post-colonial pattern where Africa was a supplier of raw materials. Africa should produce value-added goods for exports into the global economy. It is only in this way that we can address the paradox of a rich-resource continent inhabited by a poverty-stricken population, and make a decisive break with the past!

In pursuit of the continental economic integration agenda, we have witnessed the launch of SADC, Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and East African Community (EAC) Tripartite Free Trade Area (FTA) in June 2015 in Egypt. This FTA, which merges 26 countries into a free trade zone with 625 million people and a total gross domestic product (GDP) of 1,6 trillion US dollar, will contribute immensely towards increasing intra-African trade. The Tripartite FTA represents an important milestone towards the conclusion of negotiations for the establishment of the Continental Free Trade Area.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

During the State of the Nation Address in February, H.E. President Zuma underscored the centrality of the National Development Plan (NDP), the overarching apex policy framework that guides the work of the fifth administration.

In the area of international relations, the NDP states:

“… in order for South Africa to achieve its national goals of eradicating poverty, lowering inequality, creating jobs and making transition to a resilient carbon economy, foreign relations must be driven by the country’s domestic economic, political and social demands, as well as our regional, continental and global obligations.”

In pursuance of this injunction, the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) has translated the NDP goals into a strategic programme that seeks to:

  • sustain political, economic and social relations

  • strengthen political and economic integration and development of the Southern African Development Community (SADC)

  • consolidate the African Agenda

  • strengthen and consolidate South-South relations

  • leverage relations with the North in advancement of national and continental priorities and agenda of the South

  • advocate for the reform and strengthening of the global system of governance.

Ladies and gentlemen,

We live in a turbulent world characterised by economic crisis on the one hand and political conflict on the other. These twin global challenges pose a serious threat to peace and development in the world. Peace and development are two sides of the same coin. According to the UN’s 2016 “World Economic Situation Prospects” publication, the global economy is expected to grow sluggishly by a mere 2,9 per cent in 2016 and 3,2 per cent in 2017. The global economic downturn has forced many governments to adopt fiscal consolidation measures side by side with stimulus packages.

Ladies and gentlemen,

South Africa is one of the developing countries whose economics are fully integrated in the global economy, hence the impact. This budget we are presenting here today incorporates the budget reduction of R153 million in the 2016/17 financial year and that will amount to a R1,8 billion reduction over the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF).

The hard choice before us in the light of these budget cuts, are to close down some of our missions as some have suggested and face the reality of losing momentum on the gains we have achieved as evidenced by increasing trade and investments.

DIRCO has been at the forefront of coordinating the country’s response to these challenges. Part of our response to this changing global economic landscape has been to identify economic development opportunities for South Africa.

In this regard, DIRCO has been central to the coordination of South Africa’s economic diplomacy programme. In anticipation of growth in both the African and Asian regions, we took a conscious decision to expand and strengthen our diplomatic missions in the two regions.

We increased our presence on the continent from seven diplomatic and consular missions in 1994 to 47 in 2015. Consequently, South Africa’s trade on the continent increased 39 times from R11, 4 billion in 1994 to R385 billion in 2015. We are targeting half a trillion rand trade with Africa by 2019. As at the end of 2015, 20% of our trade was conducted within the African continent.

Ladies and gentlemen,

With regard to Asia and the Middle East, South Africa’s trade and investment in these regions have grown considerably and continue to do so. In 1994, trade with Asia and the Middle East combined was approximately R45 billion and has increased to approximately R760 billion for Asia and R116 billion with the Middle East. Working together with other government departments, we can achieve a trillion rand trade with this region by 2019.

Based on the above, it can be deduced that there is a direct correlation between the growth of South Africa’s diplomatic missions and the phenomenal expansion of our trade and investment relations on both the African continent and in Asia and the Middle East.

At the same time, as we explore new markets, we continue to maintain close economic ties with the industrialised economies of the North which provide, inter alia, preferential market access to some of South Africa’s exports. Enhancing the economic and political dialogue is an important part of our economic diplomacy strategy as they remain a primary source of Foreign Direct Investment and Official Development Assistance flows into South Africa.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I would like to conclude by referring to the role that we play in multilateral organisations such as FOCAC, BRICS and the G77 plus China. Our membership of these institutions is very important for the consolidation and advancement of the agenda of developing countries, which share common challenges and common aspirations. 

The African continent continues to leverage relations with strategic partners such as China in order to achieve its developmental objectives as set out in Agenda 2063. In this regard, the first-ever summit-level meeting of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), held on the African continent in Johannesburg, focused on the objectives of Agenda 2063 and the China Two Centenary Goals. China pledged US60 billion for Africa’s skills training, socio-economic and infrastructure development from which South Africa and the continent at large will benefit.

Since we joined the Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS) formation, Africa’s developmental needs and aspirations have been fully incorporated into the BRICS agenda. The BRICS’s New Development Bank (NDB), headquartered in Shanghai, has recently started operations and its African Regional Centre will be located in Johannesburg.

As the chairperson of Group of 77 and China, South Africa was at the forefront of articulating and promoting the collective economic and developmental interests of the South within the UN System. We coordinated the G77 and China positions in the negotiations for the “2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”, which was adopted at a UN Summit in September 2015.

The following words of President Nelson Mandela addressing a Joint Sitting of Parliament to mark 10 years of democracy still ring true: “In a cynical world we have become an inspiration to many. We signal that good can be achieved amongst human beings who are prepared to trust, prepared to believe in the goodness of people.”

I thank you.


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