Remarks by L N Sisulu, Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, on the occasion of the Post-Budget Vote Breakfast, 16 May 2018, Cape Town International Convention Centre

Programme director;
Deputy Minister Mhaule;
Members of the Diplomatic Corps;
Our Former Ambassadors present;
Director-General and Senior Officials of DIRCO; All invited guests; Members of the media; Ladies and gentlemen;

We meet this morning as partners involved, one way or the other, in creating and sustaining South Africa’s relations with the rest of the world – friendships based on mutual respect; friendships that are mutually beneficial. We meet here in order to rekindle our working relationship and renew our commitment to play our part in the creation of a world that is safer, secure and more prosperous.

I will only refer to some of the matters we raised in Parliament yesterday, including (1) the volatile global environment we find ourselves in; (2) our role in the renewal and development of Africa; and (3) the role we play in multilateral forums.

1. Volatile global environment

  • We said to Parliament yesterday that the period we are in at the moment is characterized by mixed fortunes. On the one hand, we celebrate the peace between the Republic of Korea (ROK) and the Democratic Peoples’ Republic of Korea (DPRK). The two neighbouring countries recently signed the historic “Panmunjom Declaration for Peace, Prosperity and Unification of the Korean Peninsula,” thereby signalling their intention to end the standoff in the Korean Peninsula. On the other hand, we saw on Monday (14 May 2018) the shocking violence unleashed by the Israeli armed forces, targeting Palestinian civilians who protesting against the relocation of the Embassy of the USA from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
  • Given the indiscriminate and grave manner of the latest Israeli attack, the South African government has taken a decision to recall our Ambassador to Israel with immediate effect. Like other peace-loving members of the international community, we are disturbed by the latest atrocity and we believe that the only way to bring about harmony and lasting peace between Israel and Palestine is to work towards a two-state solution, with the countries living side by side and in peace. We reiterate our call to the Israeli government to exercise restraint.
  • The other area of concern that we spoke about is the decision by the U.S. President to pull out of the Iranian Nuclear Deal. We wish to once again 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.

2. Renewal and development of Africa

  • We recalled yesterday the words of one of Africa’s leading independence heroes, late President Kwame Nkrumah, who once said Africa must “march facing neither west nor east, but forward”!! As Africans, we are acutely aware that we can only advance and develop our Continent through peace and security. A secure and peaceful Africa brings greater prospects for education, investment, economic growth and allocation of scarce resources towards the socio-economic upliftment of the people.
  • Africa remains central to South Africa’s foreign policy imperatives. 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 overall enhancement of the African Agenda.
  • 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 with the continent through the expansion of our trade volumes and investment portfolio. South Africa has grown her bilateral trade portfolio with countries on the Continent from R 11.4 billion in 1994 to R429 billion currently. Africa is thus becoming a prime destination of South African originated goods and services, especially value-added goods. This is one of the factors contributing to the creation of job opportunities.
  • South Africa strives for peace, and we are working with other countries in our region and across the rest of Africa to bring about lasting peace and stability. Our continent is largely peaceful and stable. There are, however, areas of concern in some of our sister countries, including the Kingdom of 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.
  • 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.

3. South Africa in multilateral forums

  • South Africa is an active member of the global community and plays active roles within various multilateral forums. These include the G20, BRICS and the AU.
  • 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.
  • This year, South Africa will be hosting the 10th BRICS Summit from in July 2018 at the Sandton Convention Centre. We have assumed the chairpersonship of BRICS from 01 January to 31 December 2018. and feel honoured by this call to duty. We have proposed new areas of BRICS cooperation that includes the following: A working group on Peacekeeping, the establishment of a vaccine research centre, the establishment of the BRICS gender and women forum, BRICS strategic partnership towards the advancement of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and the establishment of the BRICS Tourism Track of cooperation.
  • In conclusion, I would like to refer to some of the steps we are taking to consolidate the African Agenda, working with the rest of the continent. 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 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 our 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.

I look forward to working with you all to reclaim South Africa’s role in the world, to renew our friendships and partnerships and place Africa right at the center of all our international efforts. I look forward to interacting with you.

I thank you.

ISSUED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND COOPERATION

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