Statement by Mr Alvin Botes, Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, on the occasion of the Budget Vote Speech of the Department of International Relations and Cooperation, 20 May 2021
Minister of DIRCO, Dr Pandor
Deputy Minister Mashego-Dlamini
Chair of the Portfolio Committee, Honourable Mahambehlala
Ladies and gentlemen
The values that inspire and guide South Africa as a nation are deeply rooted in decades of struggle for liberation. As a beneficiary of many acts of selfless solidarity in the past, South Africa believes strongly that what it wishes for its people should be what it wishes for the citizens of the world.
Our foreign policy therefore draws on the spirit of internationalism and is intertwined with our pursuit of a better Africa in a better world.
As we celebrate 27 years of freedom, as a generation we should always be conscious that there is a dialectical relationship between our 27 years of freedom and the 27 years of imprisonment, which sought to break the resilient spirit of Nelson Mandela.
As we celebrate the silver jubilee of South Africa’s Constitution, we are conscious of the constitutional values reflected in the Bill of Rights. Our foreign policy aims should not conflict with the realisation of these rights. The right to self-determination, social justice and freedom are unalienable rights. Political freedom is at the apex of our envisaged vision for a just and equitable world, which errs on the side of the most vulnerable.
It therefore holds that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians (Nelson Mandela). The objective of global solidarity and to deepen South-South cooperation become an important attribute in our foreign policy repository.
Today heralds 119 years of the independence of Cuba from the Spanish Empire and the end of the first US military occupation on 20 May 1902. Cuba remains a historical and strategic partner and our relations continue to display a good model of South-South cooperation and human solidarity. South Africa condemns the continuation of unilateral sanctions against Cuba and will continue to support the annual resolutions in the UN General Assembly on the “Necessity of Ending the Economic, Commercial and Financial Blockade against Cuba”. On 23 June 2021, the United Nations General Assembly will again consider the resolution to put an end to the US blockade against Cuba, which includes the Helms-Burton Title III Extra-territorial Act and it is a resolution, which will receive South Africa’s support. We trust that the leadership of President Biden will be inspired by the US foreign policy initiative of 2015, when President Obama authorised a process of back-channel negotiations and normalised diplomatic relations with Cuba.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the Cuban people and Henry Reeves International Medical Brigades have been an inspiration to humanity with their commitment to support other countries in their battle against this deadly virus. Even before the pandemic began, Cuban doctors and health professionals were already providing medical support in 59 countries; during the COVID-19 pandemic, Cuba deployed 187 of her most skilled medical practitioners to assist the South African people in our fight against COVID-19; treated 239 411 patients; and performed 40 391 nursing procedures and 1 215 surgical interventions. They saved the lives of 1 423 patients.
The Cubans provide this solidarity and ask for nothing in return, because they believe in global solidarity, and possess a genuine commitment to make our world a better place for everyone. They are instinctively multilateralist and progressive internationalists.
We must reiterate our unwavering support for the people of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. We call on the USA to reconsider its stance on Venezuela in light of the report of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Sanctions and Human rights, Ms Alena Douhan. She published her initial recommendations in February 2021, which called for the lifting of US unilateral coercive measures.
Within the Western Hemisphere, the Americas and Caribbean span a vast geographical area that includes developed, developing and least developed economies as well as regional and global powers. Stark contrasts exist among these countries, inter alia, in terms of territorial size, populations, economies, technologies and military power. The diversity within this hemisphere necessitates a nuanced foreign policy approach and offers a wide range of opportunities for engagement that spans the whole spectrum of South Africa’s foreign policy priorities.
The United States is a strategic partner for South Africa and a major export market for value-added products as well as a significant source of foreign direct investment (FDI), technology transfer, development assistance and tourism. The bilateral relationship continues to grow, and we must regain the momentum that was lost because of the COVID-19 pandemic and policy shifts under the Trump Administration.
South Africa believes that agreements reached through multilateral forums must be implemented in good faith. We are pleased, therefore, to note that the new administration in the United States of America, under President Joe Biden, has taken steps to return to the fold of multilateral by rejoining the Paris Climate Accord and the World Health Organisation (WHO), and her leadership on negating the matter of vaccine nationalism. South Africa and the United States have extensive relations that cover a wide spectrum of issues, which are aligned to South Africa’s domestic priorities, including in such areas as health (PEPFAR), education, science and technology, water and the environment. The house should note that the PEPFAR allocation for 2021 to 2024 by the USA has been cut by 11%, but still amounts to US$465 945 195.00. The AGOA agreement continues to facilitate trade between South Africa and the USA and amounts to R173 billion. Our citrus exports increased by 30% in 2020 due to the international need for Vitamin C nutrients, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. South Africa will be using the opportunity to reset the bilateral relationship with the United States in pursuit of our national interests. South Africa is unequivocal on her view that the deepening of multilateralism is paramount to world peace.
In addition, contact with the African Diaspora in the region would serve to enhance relations with South Africa and the African continent, especially with respect to the Caribbean countries. The African Diaspora in the Americas, particularly in the Caribbean, continues to have significance for South Africa in light of their support for Africa’s liberation and a shared vision of an equitable world.
Honourable House Chair,
Canada remains a vital ally in helping address our national priorities, including support for our efforts to build a capable state. South Africa and Canada have a shared commitment to multilateralism, gender empowerment and building social cohesion. We are also seeing continued strong investments by Canada in the mining sector and will be strengthening this cooperation further in the areas of mineral beneficiation, value addition and support for junior miners.
We look forward to enhancing educational cooperation with Canada, particular in vocational training and capacity-building in areas related to Information and Communications Technology, aviation and the cultural industries. South Africa and Canada have been cooperating on issues related to the current pandemic, especially on the equitable availability of vaccines, through the Ministerial Group on COVID-19, which was initiated by the Government of Canada.
Similar to South Africa, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to have a devastating impact in Latin America and the Caribbean with significant regional economic decline that has resulted in rising unemployment, poverty and inequalities and a significant loss of lives.
South Africa will build on the existing solid relations with the region to facilitate mutually beneficial cooperation in a number of areas such as agribusiness, biotechnology, blue economy, education and skills, energy (especially. biofuels and renewable energy), mining, health, pharmaceuticals, science and technology, water and waste management, human rights, South-South partnerships and multilateral cooperation to advance the development agenda of the South.
DIRCO will also partner with the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition to promote trade and investment opportunities in Latin America presented by the SACU-Mercosur Preferential Trade Agreement and the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement. We will strengthen cooperation with G20 countries in Latin America, such as Argentina, Brazil and Mexico to continue to coordinate and advocate for global coordination of the health and socio-economic response to the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
We congratulate Mexico on her recently election to the United Nations Security Council for the biennium 2021 to2022. South Africa will continue to strengthen cooperation with Mexico on UNSC issues of mutual interest, such as conflict prevention, the peaceful resolution of conflict, mainstreaming of gender in peace missions through UNSC Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security, as well as UN reform.
Pan-Africanism remains an important cornerstone of our foreign policy. In this regard, South Africa and Jamaica will collaborate on a series of four webinars aimed at enhancing the relationship between Africa and the Caribbean under the theme, “Conversation with Africa”. One of the four proposed webinars is a webinar, which is planned for Africa Day, 25 May 2021, and to which the Jamaican Prime Minister has invited President Cyril Ramaphosa as the keynote speaker.
The countries of Western Europe are well-placed to support South Africa’s post-COVID-19 economic recovery. This applies both to our bilateral relationship with these countries, as well as to the South Africa-EU Strategic Partnership, which continues to serve as the main platform of engagement between South Africa and the EU and its member states. This region includes some of our major trading partners, sources of FDI and tourism and providers of development assistance.
In the year ahead, we will focus more on developing relations in those areas that will assist us to address our domestic challenges. These include the promotion of investment, skills development, promoting exports, protecting our market share and promoting our country as a preferred tourist destination.
We will be working with the countries of Western Europe to support the President’s target to attract US$100 billion in investment over five years starting in 2018. Total investment from Europe is estimated at around R1.4 trillion, which represents approximately 77% of total FDI in the country. It has made a significant contribution towards job creation and industrialisation in South Africa.
The apex event in terms of our relations with Western Europe will be South Africa’s hosting of the Eighth South Africa-EU Summit, which will revitalise the Strategic Partnership between South Africa and the EU. The strength of this partnership is based on shared values and interests, including effective multilateralism, the promotion of peace and security, human rights, democracy, the rule of law, free and fair trade and sustainable development across both regions.
We trust that in the new South Africa-EU Multi-annual Indicative Programme for the period 2021 to 2028, which will be under the EU’s newly-created Neighbourhood Development and International Cooperation Instrument, the EU’s development support for South Africa’s national programmes will continue. For us, the critical aspects to be considered by the EU and its member states in terms of development cooperation are the targets as expressed in our National Development Plan, and our recently adopted Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan.
South Africa’s trade relationship with the United Kingdom continues unchanged after the UK left the EU and the country remains one of South Africa’s key trading partners. The strong and historic relationship that we have with this region will be an important advantage as we look towards rebuilding our economy and pursue our domestic, regional and international priorities.
The house should note that South African relations with the Organisation of Africa, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS) are undergoing an evolution. The organisation has undergone a reformation since the Revised Georgetown Agreement (Constitutive Act) came into operation as of April 2020. Membership of the OACPS affords South Africa the ability to be part of an organisation to further heighten South-South political solidarity, economic cooperation and social/cultural exchanges. Most importantly, countries from Africa, the Caribbean and Pacific jointly approach global governance, multilateralism and international partners with a common development agenda to achieve the SDGs.
The finalisation of the new OACPS-EU Partnership Agreement (Post-Cotonou Agreement) catapults relations with the European Union to a more structured, legally binding and mutually beneficial relationship. The African Regional Protocol will be region-specific and speak directly to EU support for the key pillars of Agenda 2063: The Africa We Want.
We will be undertaking the necessary legislative and Parliamentary processes required for the ratification of the Revised Georgetown Agreement establishing the Organisation of Africa, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS), thereby replacing the former African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) grouping.
We will continue to consolidate our relations with regional partners in the Nordics, Central and Eastern Europe and a review of cooperation programmes for alignment with the post-COVID-19 realities. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, collaboration in health, science, innovation, research and development will be prioritised in our engagements with the countries of Eastern Europe. The countries of this region made a considerable contribution of testing kits (Russian Federation); ICU equipment (Czech Republic); PPE (Turkey and Lithuania), to mention a few.
The scope of cooperation with the Russian Federation, South Africa’s strategic partner in Eastern Europe, resonates well with the priorities of the Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan. These include industrialisation through localisation; strengthening agriculture through food security; support for the recovery and growth of tourism, cultural and creative industries; and energy security.
These will be pursued in earnest as we prepare to host the 16th South Africa-Russia Intergovernmental Trade and Economic Committee (ITEC) this year. We are also looking to consolidation of the Strategic Partnership with Turkey with a view to hosting the inaugural South Africa-Turkey Binational Commission in the near future.
Finally, House Chair,
This year marks the 60th anniversary of the Non-Alignment Movement (NAM). With its 120-member states, NAM is the largest grouping of countries outside of the UN, making it an important role player in global and multilateral affairs. Since its inception in 1961, the movement has played a crucial and highly visible political role in representing the interests of developing countries, particularly in the eradication of colonialism, supporting struggles for liberation and self-determination, the pursuit of world peace and the search for a more equitable and just global order.
The Republic of Azerbaijan took over the chairship of the NAM at the 18th NAM Summit in Baku, held from 25 to 26 October 2019. The Chairship of Azerbaijan coincides with the 65th anniversary of Bandung Principles (2020). It will be Africa’s turn to chair the NAM in 2022. In this regard, Uganda has been endorsed as the incoming Chair of NAM and it is expected that the 19th Summit of the NAM will take place in Kampala, Uganda, in 2022.
The AU theme of the year for 2021 was adopted by the AU policy organs as: “Arts, Culture and Heritage: Levers for Building the Africa We Want”. Charlotte Maxeke posits that “cultural texts are necessarily ambiguous sites in the struggle to confer power over lived experiences … that we need leaders who will humble themselves, so that the nation may lift them up to be the stars of Africa for future generations. That is what Africa wants. That is what the women of Africa are weeping and praying for”.
We thank President Ramaphosa as the custodian of South Africa’s foreign policy and constitutional persona, and Dr Pandor, Minister of DIRCO, for her meritorious stewardship.
ISSUED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND COOPERATION
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