Budget Vote Speech of the Department of International Relations and Cooperation delivered by Deputy Minister Mfeketo: 25 May 2017, Cape Town
Honourable Chairperson of the House
Chairperson and Members of the Portfolio Committee on International Relations and Cooperation
Ladies and gentlemen
This year marks what would have been the 100th birthday of the liberation struggle stalwart and the longest serving President of the African National Congress, Oliver Reginald Tambo, South Africa’s chief diplomat in exile. OR Tambo laid the foundation for our foreign policy and was passionate about our solidarity with oppressed masses of the South in general and people of the Asia and the Middle East regions in particular.
As we mark 50 years since the occupation of Palestinian territories this year, I wish to remind you of OR’s speech on developments in that region during the Afro-Arab Solidarity Conference in Luanda in 1981. He said:-
“The enemy also seeks to liquidate the Palestinian people and their sole and authentic representative, the Palestinian Liberation Organisation…..the Conference has the responsibility to ensure that in future when the people of Palestine are under attack, those of South Africa do not stand idly by...”
We have indeed never stood idle but continued to support the Palestinian struggle. We note the demands of the families of Palestinian prisons, who have requested that the 24 hours they spend at checkpoints before they see their family members be significantly reduced. That the right to education in Israeli prisons be upheld and lastly that basic human dignity be restore for visitors who currently are not provided with basic services such as toilet facilities. In this context we continue to reaffirm our solidarity with the people of Palestine and call upon the international community to find a lasting resolution to this long standing conflict.
Similarly, we will continue to advocate for freedom and justice in support of the people of Western Sahara. This foreign policy position to support Western Sahara is founded on our own experiences of struggle of colonialism and subjugation. When we took a decision to recognise the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), South Africa has continued to render support to and lobby for the Saharawi cause on all multilateral platforms such as SADC, AU, UN, G77, BRICs and NAM amongst others that we participate in.
We acknowledge that it was through international support and solidarity that we could manage to free ourselves from the bondage of apartheid and colonialism. The people of Western Sahara shall not be failed in their cause for self-determination and freedom.
As such we wish to reiterate the urgent need for renewed efforts to facilitate an early resolution of the Western Sahara issue and call on the UN General Assembly to determine a date for the holding of the self-determination referendum for the people of Western Sahara. Equally we urge the UN Security Council to fully assume its responsibilities in restoring the full functionality of the UN Mission for Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO). This MINURSO is vital for managing the ceasefire and the organising of the referendum in Western Sahara as well as addressing issues of human rights violations.
We will continue to mobilise the international community to call for the acceleration of the referendum on self-determination.
Furthermore, we will continue to assist and share our experiences in peaceful settlement of conflict because any further delay in finding a lasting solution has consequences for peace and security in Africa.
Despite this challenge we believe that the re-admission of Morocco to the AU presents opportunities for all of us to work within the collective of this august body to resolve the Western Sahara issue.
In regard to Asian countries we believe that it is in our best interest to continue strengthening our relations, specifically in the area of economic diplomacy. The International Monetary Fund classified the Asia-Pacific region as a global leader in economic growth, with a projected 5.5 percent in 2017 and 5.4 percent growth in 2018.
The same however cannot be said about the Middle East region which together with North Africa experienced a slow growth of up to 2.7 percent in 2016. What is important in this regard is to note that economic growth has been negatively affected by ongoing conflicts in Syria, Palestine, Yemen, Iraq and as well as constraints in oil production. It is therefore crucial that we continue advocating for a sustainable and peaceful resolution of conflict in the Middle East.
Ladies and gentlemen
We engage with partners in various regions at bilateral and multilateral levels, this is the basis of our membership in the Indian Ocean Ream Association (IORA). As you are aware IORA is former President Nelson Mandela’s brain child. He viewed its establishment as a renewal of historic trade relations. In his address to the National Assembly of the Republic of Mauritius in September 1998 Madiba said:-
“With the end of colonial era, new conditions allow us to reach out to our Indian Ocean neighbours and revive ancient links of trade and interaction for mutual benefit”.
South Africa will, in honour of our iconic leader, assume the IORA chairship when the Minister of International Relations and Cooperation hosts the 17th meeting of the IORA Council of Ministers later this year in Durban. At this meeting South Africa will take over the chairship from Indonesia for a two-year period, and the United Arab Emirates will assume the Vice Chair.
The Ocean (Blue) Economy is a strategic focus area for South Africa, the African Union and IORA member states. To this end we will prioritise and implement the outcomes of the recently held first IORA Leaders’ Summit that President Zuma attended in Jakarta, Indonesia, in March 2017. Together with the “Jakarta Concord” and the IORA Action Plan of implementation.
Furthermore we will seek to align the activities of IORA to the “2050 Africa’s Integrated Maritime Strategy” (the AIM Strategy) in areas such as maritime security, capacity building, skills development, and technology transfer in the area of ocean economy.
We are also working in partnership with Oman to build the Port of Sohar in that country. This Port will enhance economic connectivity and bolster trade and investment between countries in the Indian Ocean Rim.
Ladies and gentlemen
I must underscore that the oceans economy is a key component of Operation Phakisa and as such we will continue to source skills and technology, and direct investment in support of its Delivery Units. As such we are exploring alternative and additional formal bilateral arrangements in order to realise this objective.
In the same vein, the 6th South Africa-China Bi-National Commission which was held in Cape Town on 22 November 2016 had agreed to establish an Oceans Economy Sectoral Committee to facilitate the on-going Ocean’s Economy Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) Projects.
During the 2nd Investing in Africa Forum on 7 September 2016 in Guangzhou, China, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between PRASA and the China Communication Construction Company (CCCC) Ltd. was signed. This will enable us to explore various infrastructure development initiatives, including the Moloto Rail Development Corridor linking Gauteng and Mpumalanga provinces.
Furthermore, we have just concluded the South Africa-China High-Level People to People Exchange Mechanism (PPEM) this past month, which aims to deepen mutual understanding between the peoples of South Africa and China and to enhance People-to-People exchanges and cooperation.
Ladies and gentlemen
This year marks the Twenty Year Anniversary of the Signing of the Red Fort Declaration between South Africa and India. This Declaration was signed by former President Mandela during his State Visit to India in 1997 and reaffirmed the Strategic Partnership between the two countries. A number of events are planned in commemoration of this celebration to highlight the strong bonds of friendship and shared history between our two countries.
The previous year, 2016 witnessed the Official Visit of Prime Minister Modi to South Africa. The visit was successful in strengthening the bilateral relationship and both leaders agreed that scope existed to increase trade, investment and tourism.
Ladies and gentlemen
In conclusion we are committed to enhancing efficiency, accountability and cost-effectiveness through the implementation of the Foreign Service Bill. This Bill has been presented to Parliament and we welcome the comments and guidance in this regard. We will accordingly engage in further consultations in order to enhance key elements of the Bill to ensure that an enabling legislative framework is created during this financial year.
I thank you!!
ISSUED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND COOPERATION
OR Tambo Building
460 Soutpansberg Road