Address by Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Mr Luwellyn Landers on the occasion of the Budget Vote 6 Statement on Thursday, 25 May 2017
Honourable Chairperson of the House
Chairperson and Members of the Portfolio Committee on International Relations and Cooperation
Ladies and gentlemen,
I am humbled to address you on this important occasion. This session coincides with Africa day which is celebrated every year on 25th May to commemorate the establishment of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) which is now the African Union (AU). We are also commemorating the centenary of the birth of OR Tambo. OR's legacy remains that of a founding father, and one of the greatest patriots and diplomats in the world, on our continent and in our country. We pay tribute to this giant by continuing to vigorously implement the foreign policy principles which he fought and died for and embedded in the ruling party's DNA i.e. pan africanism, international solidarity with the poor and oppressed, Human Rights, democracy, good governance and peace, security, stability and development on our continent and globally.
We are living in a geo-political and economic environment that is extremely fluid, unstable and volatile. The effects of this have been the emergence and rapid rise of right wing, extremists and demagogic political parties, movements and leaders globally. This is why South Africa needs to be more vigilant, resilient and committed to diversify our relations particularly with other emerging progressive countries and forces of the left if we want to continue OR's ideals.
Ladies and Gentlemen
South Africa and Cuba have maintained longstanding relations, dating back to the struggle against colonialism, imperialism and apartheid in Africa.
To this end we remain resolute in our call for the immediate and complete lifting of the United States (US) economic blockade against Cuba. We remain grateful that Cubans have, under the most difficult circumstances, continued to provide support to us and the rest of Africa.
Since May 2012 over 3000 South African students have received medical training in Cuba and 520 South Africans have already graduated over the past years and are now providing critical healthcare services to our poor and rural communities. In addition, about 800 will be returning to South Africa in 2018 to finalise their last year of study in South Africa.
As a small contribution of our gratitude we entered into an Economic Assistance Package (EAP) with Cuba in 2012. I can confirm that we are making progress in its implementation and that our agreement has been extended until 20 November 2017.
We continue to strengthen our political and economic relations at a bi and Multi-lateral level with Brazil. In the last 6 years total trade between South Africa and Brazil has grown by approximately 15.63%. We will continue to cooperate through the Joint Ministerial Commission, IBSA, and BRICS as well as within the SACU/Mercosur Preferential Trade Agreement to strengthen our economic relations.
We have also consciously strengthened our relations with the African Diaspora and undertook high level visits to El Salvador and Honduras early in 2017. We will continue to visit other diaspora communities later this year.
We continue to monitor developments in the Americas including the change in Administration in the US in January 2017 and its impact on the geo-political economy. Having said that we remain committed to deepen our cooperation with the U.S. in multilateral and bilateral issues.
We also continue to enjoy strong economic ties with the EU. Despite the challenges to our country’s trade balance, exports to the EU have been increasing steadily over the years.
We will forge ahead in strengthening relations with our non-EU partners in Europe such as the Russia Federation, Turkey and Azerbaijan, to name a few. In this regard, the South Africa – Russia Inter-governmental Trade and Economic Committee (ITEC) was convened in November 2016 to review progress in various areas of cooperation.
In the current financial year, 2017/18, we will continue to explore opportunities in numerous areas in this region including:
Skills development, Vocational training and Scholarships, off-shore oil and gas exploration, Aquaculture, and Ocean governance, Ports development, Tourism Promotion, Alternative Energy technology, Water resource management and traditional Trade and Investment.
Ladies & Gentlemen
People of African descent continue to suffer from multiple forms of discrimination. As a result, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), proclaimed 2015-2024 the International Decade on People of African Descent under the theme recognition, justice and development. We commend the United Nations (UN) for this initiative.
To this end South Africa (SA) continued to lead UN efforts aimed at the promotion and protection of human rights of people of African descent. At the 34th Session of the Human Rights Council (HRC) the HRC which includes SA adopted a resolution calling on the UNGA to establish a forum on people of African descent. Going forward SA through the G77 + China group will lobby the annual UNGA to establish this forum.
SA also continues to play its leadership role in combatting all scourges of racism. We led the process of the HRC, during its 34th session earlier this year, in adopting resolutions renewing the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance; the Intergovernmental Working Group on the Effective Implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, and the Elaboration of complementary standards to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.
We believe that the Western Sahara question must be urgently resolved. We commend the countries that have recently implemented the EU court decision to ensure that Morocco does not continue benefitting from Sahrawi resources. We also commend our authorities for detaining a Moroccan ship in Port Elizabeth. The case will be heard in June 2017.
We remain committed to strengthening the AU and its institutions. This includes providing support to the Pan African Parliament (PAP). During 2016 we established a high level political intervention task team to address all strategic, tactical and operational issues of the PAP in an integrated manner. This has resulted in much progress in the effective operationalisation of the PAP.
Our mandate is implemented under severe budgetary constraints as a result of the budget reduction over the Medium Term Expenditure Framework period and the effect of the fluid market and a volatile Rand. We however continue to explore measures to mitigate against these constraints, through amongst others, the review of the property portfolio and staff establishment as well as the modernisation of our Information Communication and Technology infrastructure and systems.
Ladies & Gentlemen
In order to bring international relations closer to the people and to debunk the perception that diplomacy does not directly affecting the quality of life of our people we will continue to implement a robust public diplomacy strategy which uses both traditional as well as modern mediums. This includes our radio show Ubuntu, our newsletters, consistent media interviews and statements, our website, our social media platforms and engaging directly with our 3 spheres of government ,civil society and communities.
Let me conclude by paying homage to one of the founding fathers of the Cuban Revolution, Commandant Fidel Castro who passed on in 2017. His death has been a colossal loss for the cause of International Solidarity, revolutionary diplomacy and the struggle against imperialism and neo liberalism. OR Tambo during his address to the session of the non-aligned countries in Havana in 1979 said this about him: “An outstanding leader, whose name has become a household name, certainly among people who are struggling against imperialism, colonialism and all these vices”.
I thank you
ISSUED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND COOPERATION
OR Tambo Building
460 Soutpansberg Road