Deputy Minister Alvin Botes Debate on the Presidency Budget Vote, Parliament, Cape Town, 2 June 2021

Advancing the African agenda and seeking a Better World

House Chair,
President Ramaphosa,
Deputy President Mabuza,
Honourable Members,

On this 2nd day of Youth month this speech is dedicated to the memory of my former colleague and youthful firebrand, the late Deputy Minister of Minerals and Energy, Honourable Bavelile Hlongwa.

Lala ngoxolo BV, dadewethu!

South Africa continues to execute our foreign policy through the canon of Pan -Africanism, South-South solidarity, South-North cooperation and Multilateralism (global Governance). We do so knowing that our national interest is intertwined, interrelated and integrally infused with the stability, unity and prosperity of Africa.

The United Nations Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, in his speech to the United Nations General Assembly in 2018, warned that “our world is suffering from a Trust Deficit Disorder, and that trust in global governance is fragile”.

Mr President, trust must be earned.

Former Deputy Minister of DIRCO, Dr Aziz Pahad was instructive on the occasion of accepting his honorary doctorate degree from the University of Pretoria in April 2021, when he wrote and I quote “we would do well to remember at times like these that we remain bound together as never before as communities of fate, brought together by our mutual vulnerabilities and an abiding sense of solidarity, compassion, and interdependence”.

Mr President, by building back better, we are restoring the trust deficit.

Franz Fanon cautioned us in his seminal works entitled Black Skin, White Masks that without conceptualization and a new way of life, the struggle will rely on the memories of past battles and old formulas and fall back into an unhappy unconsciousness—what is called “Afro-Pessimism and Afro-optimism on the other hand.

We can no longer speak like our forbearers of the Monrovia State, Brazzaville Groups, Casablanca Powers, Anglophone and Francophone. Let us put an end to these terms.

We require a singular African identity, premised on the African Renaissance, Africa Unity and African solidarity.

House Chair,

South Africa assumed the Chairship of the African Union in 2020. The priorities its set when assuming the Chair included:

a) We supported continental integration, economic development, trade and investment in the continent. We are pleased that the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) came into operationalisation and commenced trading on 1 January 2021. The AfCFTA has a dialectical rooting from the Lagos Plan of Action and the Abuja Treaty, and is a potent de-colonial instrument we must use to negate our national grievance of unemployment, poverty and inequality.

b) We steered the implementation of the Presidential Infrastructure Champion Initiative in support of the AfCFTA.  Mr President, the AU noted with appreciation the Progress Report you presented as Chair of the Heads of State and Government Orientation Committee’s High-level Sub-Committee on the Presidential Infrastructure Champion Initiative (PICI).  AUDA-NEPAD must collaborate with the African Development Bank (AfDB) in order to support the Africa Co-guarantee Platform (CGP).

Lastly on the PICI, Mr President, do we contemplate a relationship with China’s Belt and Road initiative, given that it is anchored on infrastructure investment?

c) We strengthened cooperation between the African Union and United Nations.  South Africa has recently concluded its two-year term as an elected member of the United Nations Security Council, and occupied a particular proximity with other members of the A3, and other elected members in the E10 formation, with an emphasis on states from the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM).

d) We promoted peace and security and advanced efforts to SILENCE THE GUNS on the African continent. The AU Master Lusaka Roadmap of “Silencing of the Guns in Africa”, thereby advancing Aspiration 4 of Agenda 2063, acknowledge the dialectical relationship between peace and development. Patrice Lumumba reminded us that African unity and solidarity are no longer dreams. They must be expressed in decisions. The AU Assembly congratulated the decision of South Africa, together with Nigeria, Ghana and Senegal for their pledges to financially support the Peace Fund.

House Chair,

Systematic work is being done in South Sudan (unity government); Sudan (peace agreement); Libya (ceasefire agreement) and Burundi (United Nations Security Council removed the matter from its agenda). Unfortunately, there remain significant risks of instability and conflict on the continent. These include developments in Cabo Delgado (Mozambique); North Kivu (DRC); Tigray (Ethiopia); Sahel and the Great Lakes; resurgence of hostilities between Morocco and the people of Western Sahara; and potential tensions arising from the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.

e) We Deepened Democracy: The last few years has seen an increase in participatory politics across the continent with rising numbers of democratic governments emerging. Over the last year alone, over twenty African countries held elections (Guinea, Mali, Benin, Burundi, Malawi amongst others) and 25 more is destined for a renewal mandate (South Africa, Zambia, Uganda, South Sudan, São Tomé and Príncipe, amongst other) at either presidential, parliamentary or local level in 2021.

f) Advancing gender equality, the empowerment of women and the combating of violence against women and girls. South Africa has been chosen as the co-leader of Economic Justice and Rights Action Coalition of the Generation Equality Forum. This practically mean that South Africa will remain part of the global leaders aimed at accelerating gender equality and the financial inclusion of African women.

Deepening Multilateralism

South Africa continue to participate in many different pluri-lateral platforms such as the G7, G20 and BRICS , and we must be seized with the plight of the highly indebted states, and particular the Less Developed Countries, of which 33 are African states, including our immediate neighbours of Lesotho and Mozambique.

India’s Chairship of BRICS coincides of them being subjected to the worst of the Covid-19 pandemic and we should as a caring nation err on the side of the vulnerable and mobilise humanitarian assistance to our BRICS ally.

Mr President, I trust South Africa will utilised her humanitarian diplomacy to solidify our bonds of friendship with India and her people.

Mr President, there is high-level support from China and Russia for the operationalisation of the BRICS Vaccine Research and Development Centre, as approved by the Johannesburg Declaration of the 10th BRICS Summit in 2018.

Mr President, as AU-COVID-19 champion, how do you conceptualize the leverage between our own quest for vaccine manufacturing and the BRICS’ initiative?

Solidarity

South Africa must remain steadfast against the unilateral economic sanctions against Zimbabwe by the US and UK administrations. This economic blockade has severely strain the Zimbabwean economy, especially after Tropical Cyclone Idai that destroyed their economic infrastructure. South Africa, through the African Renaissance and International Cooperation Fund, pledged R50 million in humanitarian support to Zimbabwe and Minister Pandor on Africa Day, solidified our intent with substantive food security interventions. That is humanitarian diplomacy par excellent and translating our value system of Ubuntu.

Mr President, it may be important to express your attitude on the overarching mandate of your special envoy to realize dialogue between the state and non- state actors in Zimbabwe. In addition, given that you Mr President have been elected by the AU to steer the APRM. Could this mechanism assist to alleviate fears of governance challenges in Zimbabwe; noting that Zimbabwe together with Seychelles is the most recent accessions to the APRM?

South Africa must remain unwavering on the question of the self-determination of Western Sahara. Morocco has suspended all contacts with the German Embassy in Rabat and related German organisations due to “deep misunderstandings” over Western Sahara. We must hail Germany’s absolutely correct posture which underpins the right to self-determination of the Sahrawi people.

On Cuba, we must continue to solidify our economic diplomacy, through the Economic Assistance Package Agreement with Cuba, and indicate our unequivocal support for the annual United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) resolution entitled “Necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States of America against Cuba”. The vote is scheduled for 23 June 2021.

South Africa’s freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestine people (Nelson Mandela). The UN Human Rights Council has agreed to launch an open-ended international investigation into violations during the 11-day conflict between Israel and Palestinian groups in Gaza, and into “systematic” abuses in the occupied Palestinian territories and inside Israel.  We must heighten our advocacy work for the realisation of the Middle East Peace Process, without pre-conditions.

House Chair,

We are of course highly subjective when we speak about our President’s stewardship in Africa, but I thought it prudent to quote what the other 55 African Heads of States said about his leadership. Allow me to quote the 34th ordinary session decisions, as follows:

“The AU Assembly expresses deep appreciation to His Excellency President Ramaphosa for providing exemplary, timely, focused and effective leadership to Africa’s response to COVID-19;
Acknowledge the commendable and extraordinary efforts he invested during his chairmanship of the AU in the year 2020;
Expresses and Reiterates its profound gratitude to His Excellency President Ramaphosa, for his vibrant, visionary and sterling leadership of the Union during his term of office”

Meneer die President,

Die digter Jan F.E. Cilliers het gesê en ek haal hom aan “Ek hou van ‘n man wat sy man kan staan; Ek hou van ‘n arm wat ‘n slag kan slaan; ‘n oog wat nie wyk, wat ‘n bars kan kyk; en ‘n wil wat so vas soos ‘n klipsteen staan – ".

Mr President,

You have reset the trust button; you have earned your stripes. Ma’m Charlotte Maxeke would have been proud of you and confident about the inclusive Africa we envisaged in Agenda 2063.

Mongameli, usebenza kakuhle. Enkosi

ISSUED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND COOPERATION

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