Address by the Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Dr Naledi Pandor, during an event to welcome the new DIRCO Principals, Tuesday, 4 June 2019
Thank you very much Ambassador Losi and thank you to the Director-General.
Let me begin by showing you that I am learning.
Ambassador Losi, our programme director,
Deputy Minister Mashego-Dlamini,
Deputy Minister Botes,
I’ve had on occasion confessed to President Robert Mugabe that I have no diplomatic skills whatsoever. I used to tell him I’m very bad at protocol matters. I’ve promised President Cyril Ramaphosa that I am going to learn and I’m illustrating to you that this is my beginning.
Well, I must say that I am very impressed with the Director-General, because he obviously knew what was going to happen today. And he had a very good speech, thank you DG. So, as he was speaking, I wrote down short notes, which I shall try to speak to.
Let me begin by saying that I’ve been a Minister in four different departments and it is the first time that I’ve been a Minister in a department that has an auditorium with a proper sound system. So, I feel as though I’m suddenly making progress.
Let me begin by just saying a little bit about what I believe drives us as South Africans.
And of course I must begin by saying, and it’s important for you as the Department of International Relations and Cooperation, that we are driven to some degree by our history … by who we are … and what we seek to become.
Because you would know, as we waged the struggle for freedom, our leaders placed great reliance on the international dimension of the struggle. And were in fact masters and mistresses at persuading the international community that our struggle for freedom was one that the whole world should support. That we were a people who were experiencing a form of oppression that had to concern all humanity.
And so, as part of the liberation movement, we were able to persuade almost the entire world to join in. In some countries, it might have been hundreds of adherents. In some, it was less 20. In others, it was thousands.
But, everywhere where we laid our foot, we were able to persuade that an international dimension was key, strategic and imperative for us to win our place in history.
So, we must always remember, that our history, the nature of the struggle we put in motion, is extremely important and is part of the armour that we bring into our role as the Department of International Relations and Cooperation. It is part of what drives us.
I also think that we are driven by our aspirations as a people and a government and a department. Our aspirations for the world – our aspirations that the world can be a better place. Our aspiration that Africa can develop. Our aspiration that the fact that we are free, and the fact that so many were with us, side by side, as we walked to that freedom, means we must walk with others. So, our aspirations are always that we will have as a bastion, solidarity and interest in the condition of others.
But our aspiration is not just for ourselves as South Africans. It is for those who are oppressed in Myanmar, it is for those who suffer in Palestine. It is for those who have no democracy, in a range of conditions in the world. Our aspiration is that we make the African Diaspora’s cooperation a reality. That we will, as people who come from a community of the oppressed, use our numbers, our strength and our character to rise.
We have national ambitions as well. We want to see the condition of the people of South Africa change. And again, our department is strategically important to achieving that change. To securing again, international solidarity in support of changing the condition of the people of South Africa, and of the people of the continent of Africa.
Nothing we do, is for ourselves. So, when we travel and we are part of the Minister’s protocol, we are not just there for a visit. We are there to secure support for the aspiration. And we must always remember that. If our international work is not leading to ways of remediating our challenges, we are not succeeding in our work. If we are not securing more trade, more opportunities for human resource development, for our young people, more infrastructure for our country, for countries on the continent, if our region is not thriving, our work is just international relations, it is not cooperation.
So we have ambitions for our national aspirations. We have ambitions for our continent. We have a role to play in making the African Union the best continental organisation in the world. It is our ambition, it’s our aspiration. We must seek, in harmony with all the countries on the continent, to make this a reality. We cannot have a mediocre African Union, we must have a quality African Union, able to act on its mandate, able to execute our aspiration, our ambition.
We can’t allow a unipolar world to emerge. Multilateralism got us where we are. A cooperating world got us where we are. And we must be advocates that alone we cannot succeed, together we make a difference. So, the emerging attempt to create the notion that there can be some nation that is dominant in all our international ideas must be one we reject with contempt and strength. Because institutions and nations must work together for the betterment of all. And this must be a driver. That is why in all our documents, we talk of Africa and the world.
We are confronted by a range of very, very challenging tasks that must be addressed by South Africa. We’ve got to ensure that we find ways of responding to inequality, which confronts so many of our people – women, young people, and particular communities. We have to find responses to their concerns. We must address unemployment in our country. Our people cannot live in harmony if they have no livelihood, if they have no hope, if they have no opportunity. We must address poverty. All of this can only be done if we achieve growth in our economy. Our department is central, with others, to helping to make that happen. These things cannot be achieved without us becoming experts at our craft. And I rely on you as the professional wing, to help myself and the Deputy Ministers, to make a contribution to our country, acting on these very difficult, seemingly intractable, challenges.
I rely on you to say: “Minister, if you just concentrate on that corner of the world, there are 10 000 likely jobs. We will advise you on how you pursue them. We’ve been doing our reading, we’ve been gathering our intelligence, we’ve been talking to international colleagues. We think there are 10 000 job opportunities there.”
“Deputy Minister, there’s a likelihood of creating 500 entrepreneurs, if you could just concentrate for a while on this set of companies that are from countries A, B and C. They are keen to meet financiers around the country and the promise is entrepreneurship.”
We cannot be in the business of a tourist agency. No, we are in the business of pursuing those initiatives that will redress the challenges our country is confronted by. That will ensure we address these things. That they don’t become a part of our lexicon forever. We cannot for more than the number of decades we’ve had our freedom so far, keep referring to inequality and unemployment, without us saying we have reduced it by such a proportion. We have redressed it by such a proportion. We know that that change, that reduction, came from our international work. We must be results-orientated. And our country’s problems are the things we must address.
We look very good when we travel. “I see Minister Pandor is around! Speaks good English!” They’ll even be very happy and say … “Ja, the Minister from South Africa can even speak a bit of French. They’ll be very, very happy.”
But, we don’t seek them to know what we do. We seek them out to get them to assist us to change our people’s condition. And the more we do that, the more our people will understand why we exist. We here, have the intellectual capacity to derive those international activities which will give us the results I am referring to. I’m hopeful that as we report from year to year, we will be able to say we did these things, we impacted there. Because we understood that we exist for a purpose. We are a strategic department, playing an extremely important role. We have the possibility of effecting fundamental change in many, many international situations. We also have the opportunity to use the spaces we occupy to ensure fundamental change in the condition of our people using our expertise in the international domain.
So, I look forward to learning from you. I look forward to working with you. I’m going to ask you lots of very weird questions. I’m not good on protocol, I’m not good with diplomacy. I told the President I am going to really work hard to learn to not speak immediately. Not to react immediately.
So, I hope to learn from you. Don’t worry if I, from time to time, pop into your office. I have that funny habit. I sit down and have chats. “How do you see things? Where do you see this department going?”
Our President has great hope in us. He believes this is an extremely important department. He has reposed a great deal of trust in myself, in the Deputy Ministers, in the DG, in our DDGs and all senior management and in our Ambassadors, and I expect all of us will work really hard.
The last things about me. 08:30 means 08:30. And I’m not saying it because of the “New Dawn” or impressing anybody. It’s just something that I believe in. I also believe in values and ethics. I abhor corruption, and I abhor abuse of others. So, we must internalise in our heads, that women are not here for us as their toys, we must understand that. We must appreciate as well that we are a non-racial country that observes the principal of non-racialism. So, don’t come and use the race ticket with me. It doesn’t work. I believe in competence, I believe in hard work. If you work hard, I’ll try and work as hard as you. You won’t find me wanting. Non-racism, non-sexism, democracy, a united South Africa.
I also believe in intellectual rigour. So, from time to time, I hope that one of the things we will do, and I’m sure you already do it anyway, we will have seminars with external people and just learn more about international relations and refine our craft through exchange with others. We will enhance our intellectual attention and scrutiny to this area of our work. So that wherever we go, when we open our mouths, we will be among the best because we will know what we are talking about and it won’t be show-off.
Thank you very much for being here. Thank you for welcoming us.
The Deputy Ministers are part of the team. We have a Ministry. I am the political head. We have a Director-General, who’d better be good at being a Director-General. We have senior managers who must be good senior managers. We have middle management on whom we often rely because they ensure the processes are carried out properly. They ensure that we do comply with all the edicts of our laws, the PFMA and others. Some of them control budgets. They will execute the programmes properly in terms of the mandate they have been assigned. We have Supply Chain Management, not for our relatives but to ensure that the law is observed. Our support for employment and economic growth means if we contract any service we pay for it on time and properly. We will ensure that we don’t ask for a 10% from any contractor, and even if we ask for a 0,5%, we will face the Hawks. So, we will repose and do repose a great deal of trust in our Supply Chain teams to execute their role properly. One of the things we don’t want are qualified audit outcomes. We should be heading to be the best.
Wherever I am, I’ve always asked the team I work with: “Let’s aim for excellence”. There is nothing, not in any of the great books, which say we must aim for mediocrity. As human beings, we were created in the image of the Almighty because he thought we could be great. That’s what we must be. Excellence must be our driver.
I’m not a fancy person. I’m quite humble. But if I’ve got a job to do, I try and do it to the best of my ability. Until it’s done, I don’t sleep. I don’t take long with submissions. I hate twiddling my thumbs. I like to work because I believe our country needs us to work. Our people need us to perform. It is possible for us to change our condition. It is possible for all of us to make a contribution. But to do it, we must work hard, diligently and with excellence in mind. Looking at you here, I see excellence shining from your faces.
Thank you very much. I look forward to us working together.
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