International Relations and Cooperation, Budget Vote Speech, Deputy Minister Alvin Botes, 12 May 2022

Honourable Mahumapelo, Chair of the Portfolio Committee on International Relations and Cooperation,
Honourable Minister of DIRCO, Dr Pandor,
Honourable Deputy Minister Mashego-Dlamini
Honourable Members,

This speech is dedicated to the foresight and fortitude of one of the penholders of the South African Freedom Charter, Professor ZK Matthews.

South Africa like all countries face a range of conflicting pressures when making and implementing foreign policy. Balancing these diverse factors is, inevitably, a difficult task. The White Paper on Foreign Policy is instructive in this regard by stating that ‘The business of national interest cannot be the purview of the state alone, but it can encourage an enabling environment of dialogue and discourse among all stakeholders to interrogate policies and strategies, and their application in the best interests of the people’.

The best interests of the South African people are international peace, and where this breaks down, internationally agreed peaceful mechanisms to solve conflict should be resorted too.

The numerous conflicts between the big powers over the last few decades are also an indicator of the myth of the end of the cold war. These conflicts, however, took place in the territories of others, with competing former cold war adversaries exploiting discontent in mostly developing countries, through arming and often instigating violent conflict as they sought to cement government’s support for their respective agendas.

The war in Ukraine is the latest instalment of big powers contesting for hegemony. This why we called it a proxy war. Like the war in Ukraine, much of the most recent wars were illegal. This includes the invasion of Iraq, Afghanistan and Yugoslavia, which was unilaterally done, without the decision of the UN Security Council.

Over the last few weeks some of the most disturbing statements we have heard, included suggestions by European diplomats, that the war in Ukraine was worse than other wars as it was an autocratic country, invading a democratic country. The inference was that other countries were perhaps deserving of being bombed and their people suffering because their governments were not democratic. These diplomats hardly noticed the racism implicit in these statements, as most of these so-called undemocratic countries were either in Asia, the Middle East or Africa.

We need to unequivocally restate SA Foreign Policy Imperatives, particularly Multilateralism and the centrality of the transformation of Global Governance institutions; with specific reference the United Nations Security Council, that has the pertinent and express mandate on Peace and Security. The Africa Common Position, as encapsulated by the Sirte Declaration and Ezulweni Consensus is an essential reference as South Africa seek to enrich UN Secretary - General’s Guterres Common Agenda entitled the “UN We Want”.

South Africa must continue to be firm on her foreign policy principles. We are born out of a nation which was beholden to conflict, and we must be the vanguard of our Freedom Charter, which states that There Must be Peace and Friendship.

We must remain non-aligned in conflicts, urging the application of Peace Diplomacy as the most potent instrument in conflict resolution. Ukraine’s bilateral relationship with South Africa is three decades old and we value this significant member of the United Nations community of states, including appreciating her rights to territorial integrity as a sovereign state.

Russia is an esteemed member of the UNSC’s P5 and has a special responsibility to maintain the World Peace and Security Architecture.  It is for this reason that President Ramaphosa has called for the return to Mediation and Negotiations.  We value the view express by French President Emmanuel Macron, who also holds the EU Presidency, who have pointed to the 2015 Minsk Agreement between Kyiv and Moscow as the blueprint for a breakthrough in the Ukraine crisis.

However, there are also domestic issues that have international implications and demand the State to use their foreign relations in order to address the domestic matters.  An important responsibility of our foreign policy is to have a systematic focus on Economic Diplomacy. The Fourth South African Presidential Investment Conference took place on 24 March 2022, with announcements of R366 billion in new investment projects and investment.

Our strategic bilateral relationship with the United States of America is being fortified through the US’ improved foreign direct investment (FDI) in South African stock, which stood at $7.8 billion (ZAR 116 billion) in 2019, a 6.8% increase from 2018.  South Africa is therefore looking forward to the formal announcement of the Biden Administration’s Africa Strategy, including information on the US support for the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and the anticipated US-Africa Summit to be hosted by President Biden.

The total current investment stock from Europe is estimated at R1.4 trillion, which represents approximately 77% of total foreign investment in the country. It has made a significant contribution towards job creation and industrialisation in SA, through more than 2,000 European companies operating in South Africa, creating significant employment opportunities for South Africans.

South Africa’s relations with the Nordic region continues to deliver excellent results, and our recent regional tour resulted in a major positive surge in our relations. We continue to reap the benefits of committed partners on the multilateral and regional challenges we face though joint efforts on peace and security, the promotion of women and youth, the protection of our rules-based international system, as well as excellent growth in our bilateral cooperation, especially in the innovative and renewable energy space. We noted more than R20 billion of new investments announced from this region during 2021/22.

South Africa is committed to strengthened and comprehensive engagement with Latin America and the Caribbean. This includes South Africa’s foreign policy objective of South-South Cooperation and in pursuit of South Africa’s National Priorities, including standing in solidarity with Cuba and Venezuela.  Nelson Mandela reminded us that we must always ‘admire the sacrifices of the Cuban people in maintaining their independence and sovereignty’. We thus urge the US to reconsider the extra territorial sanctions levelled *against the people of Fidel Castro. We further urge the US to support the Oslo dialogue process, which is aimed to bring about unity between the government of Venezuela and Opposition Groups.

South Africa will also continue to use its membership and bilateral and multilateral engagements with groupings of the South to support foreign policy objectives, advocate for strong, mutually beneficial South-South cooperation, advocate for focussed regional integration in fast-growing markets and strengthen regional cooperation in areas of interest with countries of the South. Groupings of the South include BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa); IBSA (India, Brazil and South Africa); lORA (Indian Ocean Rim Association); the Group of 77 (G77) and China; and the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM).

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.

I wish to express a deep appreciation for the stewardship role, which Dr Pandor has played as Minister of DIRCO, and for the cordial working relationship between myself and DM Mashego-Dlamini.

On the occasion of the 54th Commemoration of the death of Zachariah Keodirelang (ZK) Matthews, we pledge to firmly remain non-aligned and that we will continue to be the vanguard of the Freedom Charter’s Peace and Friendship ideals.

I thank you.

ISSUED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND COOPERATION

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460 Soutpansberg Road
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