Media Statement by L N Sisulu, Minister of International Relations and Cooperation on the occasion of the Budget Vote of the Ministry of International Relations and Cooperation, 15 May 2018, Parliament

Ambassadors, High Commissioners, Diplomats,
Ladies and Gentlemen

We meet shortly after the death of a great national and international leader Mama Winnie Madikizela Mandela. We soaked our flags in tears as we bid a sad and painful farewell to this great leader whose sterling devotion and dedication to the struggles of our freedom and the liberation of Africa will be missed and fondly remembered. In many ways she was unparalleled in her heroism and bravery. Farewell great soldier, martyr and activist!! 

Last month we also bid a tragic farewell to two of our diplomats, Ambassador George Nene and Ambassador Zola Skweyiya. We are eternally indebted to their dedication to duty and the service of their country and humanity. In the words of Oliver Tambo these three comrades never let their people down and when "condemned bell, book and candle, refused to forsake their posts and to shirk their responsibilities." We wish that you rest in eternal peace, you have earned it.

We will this afternoon deliver the Department’s budget vote at a time when the world faces a greatest threat in international relations. We meet at a time of mixed fortunes for the world. We celebrate the peace between the Republic of Korea (ROK) and the Democratic Peoples’ Republic of Korea (DPRK), that held a historic Summit at Panmunjom, which culminated in the signing of the “Panmunjom Declaration for Peace, Prosperity and Unification of the Korean Peninsula,” in which both leaders declared that there would be no more war on the Peninsula and declared that the nuclear build up will be dismantled.

As the world heralded this seminal moment, we were shocked by the announcement of the US administration on 9 May to withdraw from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPoA) between Iran and the P5+1.

The JCPoA is of great significance in that it upholds the integrity of the international non-proliferation regime, and eliminates the prospects of a nuclear attack across the Middle East. Essentially, the JCPoA limits Iran’s nuclear capability by restricting uranium enrichment, the stockpiling of enriched uranium and the technology that may be used in its facilities, and imposes strict international monitoring by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in exchange for lifting multilateral and unilateral economic sanctions.

From a worst case scenario it would be interpreted as the menacing re-emergence of rabid unilateralism that will rock the very foundations of international diplomacy. Unilateralism is an antithesis of an age-old tradition of international diplomacy hinged on multilateralism.  Unilateralism is a relapse of progress and is self-seeking with little regard for the common-good of humanity.

The action by the U.S. President to pull out of the Iranian Nuclear Deal that was sanctioned by the United Nations amounts to taking the world back by many decades onto the brink of conflict and tensions. The era of uncertainty and unpredictability which bodes ill for the sanctity of multilateral agreements has reared its ugly head. True strength is the protection of the vulnerable and fellowship with others in the resolution of world conflicts. For the fact that this deal was supervised and sanctioned by the United Nations should have been adequate binding on all signatories. We wish to urge the US to reconsider its position and seek to implement the Iranian Nuclear Deal.

South Africa views Iran as a strategic partner within the Middle East and Central Asian regions. Within the bilateral sphere, South Africa and Iran share a long historical relationship. At the same time it gives us an opportunity to sensitise Iran when its actions negatively impact on it.

In the marching orders that Kwame Nkrumah once gave to African leaders he advised that we “must march facing neither west nor east but forward!! We meet at a time when our beloved Continent of Africa is flexing its muscles and itching to reach new heights in its development and advancement. Africa and its people must take upon themselves the cudgels of their own development.  Africans are acutely aware that they can only advance and develop as a Continent and as a people through peace and security. A secure and peaceful Africa brings greater prospects for education, investment, economic growth and allocation of scarce resources to infrastructure development.

The African Continent is and will remain central to South Africa’s foreign policy imperatives. Guided by the principles and vision of the National Development Plan (NDP) and South Africa’s National Interest, we are driven by a vision to create and achieve a Continent that is peaceful, democratic, non-racial, non-sexist, united and prosperous, which contributes to a world that is just and equitable.

In pursuit of our National Interest and Strategic Objectives, our engagements and priorities on the African Continent remain focused and poised on the strengthening of bilateral relations, the promotion of peace, security and stability, economic cooperation and integration, and the enhancement of the African Agenda.

Bilateral relations between South Africa and countries on the Continent are grounded in a historic and fraternal context and narrative, which is rooted in the Continent’s support and solidarity in our fight against colonialism and apartheid, in order to achieve national liberation.

As we consolidated our political relations on the Continent by expanding our diplomatic footprint through 47 Embassies, High Commissions and Consulates General; South Africa has also rapidly advanced her economic relations in Africa, through the expansion of our trade volumes, investment portfolio and economic relations across the length and breadth of the Continent. In this regard, South Africa has grown her bilateral trade portfolio with countries on the Continent from R 11.4 billion in 1994 to the current R 429 billion.

This has resulted in Africa becoming a prime destination of South African originated goods and services; especially value-added goods – which assists in contributing to the R 198 billion trade surplus, creating much needed jobs and opportunities for our people within the manufacturing, retail, fast moving consumer goods, financial services and transport/logistics sectors. It is also worth noting that the Southern African Development Community (SADC) accounts for approximately 80% of our total trade with the Continent.

Despite the deepened levels of political stability and security on the African Continent, our region continues to be plagued by pockets of instability and conflict, which impedes the prospects of future stability, prosperity, integration and development.

In this regard, South Africa has actively participated, through both bilateral and multilateral efforts, to resolve some of the Continent’s pressing conflict areas; these countries include: Lesotho, the DRC, Madagascar, Burundi, South Sudan, Somalia, Central Africa Republic, Mali and Libya. South Africa also remains engaged in the peace and security dynamics of the Horn of Africa, the Sahel, the Great Lakes Region and the Lake Chad Basin.

South Africa will continue to play her part in conflict resolution in these countries and respective regions. In addition, South Africa reaffirms its continued solidarity to assist the people of Western Sahara in pursuit of their inalienable right to self-determination and decolonisation. South Africa remains steadfast in its rejection of all acts of terrorism and extremism that have increasingly affected countries on our Continent, contributing negatively on internal instability.

As a Continent we are doing quite well in holding regular and successful elections. We therefore take this opportunity to wish well all the countries that are scheduled to hold elections in 2018 and hope that they will do us proud in our efforts to entrench democracy, rule of law and good governance on the Continent. These countries include Zimbabwe, DRC, Madagascar, Cameroon and Mali.

One of the critical tenants of our foreign affairs policy is good governance and the adherence to democratic norms and ethos. This year a number of African countries will be holding elections. The people of these countries will be accorded their democratic right to elect the government of their choice. These countries are the DRC, Lesotho, Zimbabwe and Madagascar to name a few. We wish all the contesting parties well. 

We have played a leading and instructive role in formalising AU-UN peace and security cooperation at the institutional level, an initiative which South Africa continues to champion at the behest of the AU. Membership of the Peace and Security Council of the African Union (AUPSC) would provide an enabling platform for further advancing cooperation between the AU and the UN to a strategic level.   Furthermore, South Africa together with its regional partners in SADC, welcome the Institutional Reform of the African Union and believe that it will result in a more dedicated, leaner and cost effective Continental organization that is committed to the core values of Pan-Africanism.  We are hence of the view that these reforms must be member state driven and in accord with the Constitutive Act of the African Union.

South Africa is still the facilitator in Lesotho, but we have agreed with the SADC Organ that President Ramaphosa would identify a Deputy to act as Facilitator and who would be easily accessible. The President will announce the Facilitator in due course. The situation remains stable, but unsatisfactory.

I am pleased to indicate that as Chairperson of SADC, we have been assured that elections will be held in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2018. The necessary preparations have been put in place.

South Africa will continue to use its membership of the G20 to promote inclusive growth and development. In this regard, the country, as Co-Chair of the Development Working Group, will among others prioritise G20 support for addressing the scourge of illicit financial flows, Industrialisation in Africa and Least Developed Countries, the implementation of the G20 Africa Partnership and enhanced G20 support to developing countries by providing the means of implementation for achieving the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda. These initiatives are aimed at positively impacting the development trajectory of Africa and the developing world and contribute positively to achieving the global commitment of leaving no one behind.

We wish not to forget the African people in the diaspora and those in the Caribbean Islands in their many struggles for economic development and self-determination. Speaking at the Port Elizabeth rally of the ANC on the eve of the launch of the Defiance Campaign in 1952, Prof Z.K. Mathews said.

"Only the African people themselves will ever rid themselves of political subjugation, economic exploitation and social degradation". 

We take pride in the principle of solidarity with all the oppressed peoples of the world. We pledge solidarity and support for the people of Western Sahara in their struggle for self-determination and nation building. We accord unfettered solidarity to the people of Palestine and reiterate our call for a two-state solution.

This year South Africa will be hosting the 10th BRICS Summit from the 25th to 27th July at the Sandton Convention Centre. We have assumed the chairpersonship of BRICS from January to December 2018 and feel honoured by this call to duty.

We have proposed new areas of BRICS cooperation that includes the following:

  1. A working group on Peacekeeping,
  2. The establishment of a vaccine research centre,
  3. The establishment of the BRICS gender and women forum,
  4. BRICS strategic partnership towards the advancement of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and
  5. The establishment of the BRICS Tourism Track of cooperation.

South Africa has determined that an Outreach will again be held with African leaders to ensure both continuity from 2013 and BRICS support for African industrialisation and infrastructure development. In this regard, based on the formula agreed with the AU in 2013, Rwanda as Chair of the African Union (AU), Senegal as Chair of the NEPAD HSGIC, Gabon as Chair of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), Uganda as Chair of the East African Community (EAC), Ethiopia as Chair of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), Togo as Chair of the Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS), Burundi as incoming Chair of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), Namibia as incoming Chair of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), Angola as Chair of the SADC Organ, and the Chair of the African Union Commission have been invited.  The President of the African Development Bank, the Head of the NEPAD Agency and the Secretary-Generals of the six RECs, are also being invited to attend.

In the interest of ensuring maximum synergy between South Africa’s Chairship of BRICS and that of China in 2017, the BRICS Inter-Ministerial Committee determined that, as part of its BRICS Chairship in 2018, South Africa will also host the BRICS Plus Outreach on the margins of the 10th BRICS Summit. The countries invited in this regard are  Argentina (as Chair of the G20 and influential MERCOSUR member), Indonesia (as Co-Chair of the New Africa-Asia Strategic Partnership with South Africa and influential ASEAN member), Egypt (as Chair of the G77+China), Jamaica (as incoming Chair of CARICOM), and Turkey (as Chair of the OIC). The UN Secretary-General, Mr Antonio Guterres, is also being invited to attend the BRICS Plus dialogue session.      

In order to attain these lofty ideals, we need to improve the capacity and the quality of the services that we give as DIRCO. We need to ensure that all our staff in every corner of the world are a true exemplification of the quality that we pride ourselves with. We must conduct our business and responsibilities with greater care, professionalism and diligence. We must treat our peers with respect and deference in all our dealings and those of us who shun these values must know that they belong elsewhere and not at DIRCO.

Regional integration is the central aspiration of the African Union’s (AU) Agenda 2063 and remains a critical component of the Continent’s efforts to ensure sustainable economic development and inclusive growth. In this regard, the Protocol on the Free Movement of Persons in Africa and the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), launched in January and March 2018 respectively, are two of the Agenda 2063’s flagship programmes.

These two initiatives are a manifestation of the Pan African vision of continental unity and integration in line with South Africa’s vision of a better Africa and a better world.  

In March 2018, the AU Heads of State and launched the Agreement establishing the AfCFTA and its Protocols Government in Kigali, Rwanda. The goal of the AfCFTA is to promote intra-African trade and offer an opportunity to create larger economies of scale, a bigger market and improve the prospects of the African Continent to attract investment. For its part, the Free Movement Protocol is aimed at easing travel by Africans on their own Continent and is one of the central pillars of Agenda 2063.  

The AfCFTA will bring together the 55 member states of the African Union covering a market of more than 1.2 billion people, including a growing middle class and a combined gross domestic product of more than USD 3.4 trillion.  South Africa’s participation in the AfCFTA will assist South African businesses to expand into the African market and in so doing contribute to economic development on the Continent. For South Africa in particular, it will serve to address the triple challenges of unemployment, poverty and inequality as set out in the National Development Plan (NDP).

South Africa is fully committed to the AfCFTA and signed the Kigali Declaration launching the AfCFTA, which demonstrates South Africa’s political commitment to sign the Agreement and its Protocols, once it has fulfilled its domestic requirements, including consultations with social partners and ascension by parliament.

We have this matter on the agenda of Cabinet and we will use every opportunity to market the idea and ensure we have a very successful Summit. We want to bring a specific focus to the challenges and opportunities presented by the 4th Industrial Revolution. Furthermore, cognisant of our national interests and priorities South Africa will once again seek to highlight the African Agenda during its Chairship.

South Africa was well represented at the recent Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in London where we were able to put our opinions across. It provided us with an opportunity to market and promote South Africa as an investment destination and concluded with the adoption of the Final Communiqué, a Leaders’ Statement as well as a number of very important declarations.

We also used the opportunity at CHOGM to condemn the use of force against the Syrian people. The International Community has condemned the use of chemical weapons and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons has been successful in dealing with matters related thereto. We believe that this route should have been used in this case as well. In short, we condemn all forms of violent incursions.

I thank you


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