Address by the Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, H.E. Ms LN Sisulu at the Conversation with the members of the Hellenic, Italian and Portuguese Communities Alliance, Alberton, Johannesburg, 3 May 2019
Members of the Diplomatic Corps
The South African Hellenic, Italian and Portuguese Communities,
Ladies and Gentlemen.
This is a year in which we are going to our Sixth General Election full of hope of the future and determined to recapture the state and put it into the hands of the people, and recreate the country that Mandela bequeathed to us. It is an especially important year for us as we invite the world to focus on the example we have set for the rest of mankind. We need to keep on the path of this man who not only led us into this democracy, but one who captured the world’s imagination on what is possible. We had the most fertile ground on which to build further on the immense work done by both Oliver Tambo and Nelson Mandela and their peers, we especially acknowledge George Bizos, in our international relations. We chart our foreign policy in the new dispensation in remembrance of these men for what they bequeathed to us: freedom, equality, peace, justice, forgiveness and a very strong human rights ethos.
We once were a giant in the world and our reputation was well known, because of what we represented. The world was richer for having given us support and for us having given them the miracle of 1994. In honour of these men, we have a responsibility to regain that stature that they left for us and tread the path they have cleared for us.
We are a world in our own that encompasses and recognises all of us. Our differences make us richer for having embraced them.
I am here today with a community that represents the Hellenic people, Italian and Portuguese communities, which represents a rich part of our social fabric.
We no longer see South Africans of Greek ancestry, or of Portuguese ancestry or of Italian ancestry as anything but South Africans. Many of these people know this country as their own just as any South African who comes from different cultural backgrounds. When Archbishop Desmond Tutu referred to South Africa as a rainbow nation, he was inspired by the diversity of all the people of the country, whose different backgrounds make our society rich and dynamic.
I am particularly glad to be here again with you, to be inspired by your tradition of great heartedness and strong entrepreneurial spirit; a community steeped in how to empower and embrace. I have grown up knowing Advocate George Bizos as part of the greater family of our Progressive Movement and now I know why we have such strong roots of commitment.
I have known Dr. Luli Callinicos as a friend, fellow academic who took years of her life studying OR Tambo, unearthing the entirety of the man in ways that we could not have imagined. She shared with me some of her research and I shared some of my own views. She shared with me a letter that OR had written to his mother and before I could give her what I thought would be a cherry on top, she had already published the book. I have for her, an original hand written copy of the speech that OR gave at the Mogorogoro Conference in the hope that she will continue to Volume Two. Of course Stavrov, an integral part of the ANC, you make us richer as a people.
When Alex Moumbaris, together with Stephen Lee and Timothy Jenkins escaped from the apartheid jail in 1979, they inspired many South Africans because they showed an uncanny daring spirit.
We have in our policies a concept of Social Cohesion and we constantly debate exactly what it means. Actually we have rich examples of that, right here. All we need to do to execute our policies is to look at our best practices. We have it here and I wish I could borrow some of this to infuse it into our drive around the fight against xenophobia.
Over the past few weeks we have also had to deal with the unfortunate incidents of attacks on foreign nationals. Our response to this was to convene an urgent meeting with mainly members of the Diplomatic Corps from the African continent. We confined this meeting to African Heads of Mission because their citizens are usually the ones affected by these regrettable incidents. I wish to underscore that what we witnessed few weeks ago was purely criminal activities and not xenophobia. We also discovered that there were lot of visual material circulating in the social media which sought to portray our country and her people xenophobic.
We have established a task team of senior officials from the departments of Home Affairs, the Police, DIRCO and the dti which will continue to engage with the affected communities and civil society, and intervene on the reported cases. The organization which I am the member of does not and has never subscribed to xenophobic tendencies. We are of the firm belief that the success of our country is linked to the success of the entire continent.
I know that many of you here employ in your businesses foreign nationals who are in our country for various reasons. It is important that they feel protected by government and know that at all times; government will make all of its resources available to assist when they are problems. There is no reason for anyone who is in our country during this time of elections to fear anything. We are a peaceful country and will do everything in power our to leave up to the ideals of our forefathers, Oliver Tambo, Nelson Mandela and Albert Luthuli just to mention a few.
Donations for Mozambique in the wake of Cyclone Idai
As we gather here today, we should not forget our peoples in Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi who are still reeling from the devastation caused by Cyclone Idai. We remain indebted to those members of the business community and NGOs in our country and ordinary citizens of our country who responded positively to our call for help. Over the past few weeks, my department has been receiving donations ranging from monetary donations, food, clothes to medical supplies and we are extremely grateful. Your assistance has not been in vain.
Foreign policy priorities
To give you a context to the environment we work in, the key international issues facing us, I wish to highlight some of our key foreign policy priorities. Our domestic priorities necessitate that we as the Department responsible for representing South Africa’s interests abroad ensure that what we do and say in the international arena translates into action that serve the interests of all South Africans.
All our work is underpinned by Human Rights and we will not stray from that. Our diplomacy has to therefore promote our values and interests, from both a political and an economic perspective. We attach great value to our strong economic and trade ties with countries and key to our foreign policy approach is to pursue economic diplomacy.
President Ramaphosa has prioritised the repositioning and deepening of economic relations with our partners in order to address South Africa’s domestic challenges. It is our responsibility to create and expand trade opportunities and encourage investment in South Africa.
On the political front, we are striving to reposition South Africa and enhance our stature on the Continent and in the world. We are a proudly active member of numerous sub-regional, regional and international bodies, which form part of the global governance system.
We put forward out candidature for the United Nations Security Council, as we are convinced that we can make a positive contribution to international peace and security. We have chosen for our tenure the theme, “Continuing the Legacy: Working for a Just and Peaceful World”. The legacy that we wish to continue is the legacy of President Nelson Mandela whose values and commitment to peace were commemorated all over the world in 2018 during the centenary of his birth. We will thus be guided by Madiba’s legacy to contribute to peace, justice and reconciliation.
We also wish to use our term on the Security Council to continue the legacy of our first two terms on the Council in 2007-2008 and 2011-2012 where we worked towards the resolution of conflicts and stabilisation of post-conflict situations on the African continent and globally.
We are grateful that the Southern African Group and the African Union endorsed our candidature for our third term. An overwhelming number of UN member states voted for us thus once again illustrating the confidence that they have in our ability to play a leading role in resolving conflict. We will endeavor to use our time on the Security Council to advocate for the peaceful settlement of disputes and inclusive dialogue. This is in line with our own philosophy on the settlement of disputes and what our forbearers committed to in the Freedom Charter.
We will continue to encourage closer cooperation between the United Nations Security Council and other regional and sub-regional organisations, particularly the African Union. South Africa will also use its tenure as a non-permanent member in the Security Council to direct attention to the occupation of Western Sahara and Palestine. Furthermore we will utilise our term to emphasise the role of women in the resolution of conflict. South Africa will ensure that a gender perspective is mainstreamed into all Security Council resolutions in line with Security Council Resolution 1325 (2000) on Women, Peace and Security.
In pursuing its national interests and values, South Africa’s foreign policy orientation is inter-alia grounded in the ideals of Pan-Africanism and a commitment to African multilateralism with the African Union at its core. In all of these multilateral processes a fundamental principle of South Africa’s foreign policy is therefore the consolidation of the African Agenda, which means that all the work done in the multilateral arena will have this as a primary objective, in particular the promotion and realisation of the African Union’s Agenda 2063 and it’s First Ten Year Implementation Plan.
The 32nd Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union (AU) held in Addis Ababa on 10-11 February 2019 has endorsed South African as the Chairperson of the continental body in 2020. Based on the principle of rotation amongst the AU’s five regions, the Chairperson of the Union in 2020 is supposed to be held by one of the countries in the Southern Africa region. During a meeting held ahead of the summit, the foreign ministers of the region unanimously resolved to nominate South Africa as the Chairperson of the AU in 2020, with the Kingdom of eSwatini hosting the summit in the same year.
South Africa had the honour to assume the Chairpersonship of the AU for the first time when it hosted the 1st Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government in July 2002 in Durban. The seminal Durban Summit officially launched the AU, with the objective to strive for the promotion of accelerated socio-economic integration of the continent in order to promote development and strengthen unity and solidarity between African countries and peoples.
Our Chairship of the AU while serving on the UN Security Council will be an opportunity for us to work towards the achievement of this aspiration. We must silence the guns, there must be peace, without this everything else is compromised. Consistent with the vision of an Africa that is at peace with itself, South Africa will continue to make substantial contributions in support of peace, stability and development on the Continent in the area of conflict prevention, resolution and management.
South Africa will take the baton from current incoming Chairperson of the AU, Egypt, and is determined to take the project of Pan-African unity, integration, and development to the next level, guided by continent’s strategic political and development vision, Agenda 2063,
South Africa’s Chairship of the Union in 2020 will coincide with the goal of “silencing the guns by 2020”, which finds expression in the AU’s aspiration for a peaceful and secure continent as set out in Agenda 2063: The Africa We Want. As the Chairperson of the AU, South Africa will build on roles of previous chairpersons by accelerating actions aimed at contributing to a conflict-free Africa and end all wars in Africa by 2020. The assumption of the Chairship of the AU in 2020, will also coincide with the final year of its membership of the UN Security Council (UNSC), thereby providing the country with a unique opportunity to leverage the capacity of the UN in order to contribute towards ending conflicts on the African continent. This will be building on the priority of promoting cooperation between the UN and the AU, which South Africa championed during its previous stints in the UNSC.
Since 2020 will also mark the 20th anniversary of the UNSC Resolution 2025 on women and peace security, championed by Namibia in year 2000, South Africa will prioritise the position and role of women in the promotion of peace and security on the continent. In this regard, existing programmes and new ones to build the capacity of women in areas of preventive diplomacy, mediation and conflict resolution will be expanded and implemented as appropriate with concerned countries.
South Africa will also use its Chairship of the AU to accelerate the implementation of the African continental free trade agreement (AfCFTA). Already signed by 49 African countries, the AfCFTA is meant to create a tariff-free continent that can grow local businesses, boost intra-African trade, boost industrialization and create jobs. As President Cyril Ramaphosa said during his State of the Nation Address on 8 February 2019, “the agreement on the establishment of African Continental Free Trade Area offers great opportunities to place South Africa on a path of investment-led trade, and to work with other African countries to develop their own industrial capacity“. South Africa is therefore committed to deepen and expand its economic relations with fellow African countries for mutual benefit.
With Sierra Leone and the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic having deposited the instruments of ratification on Monday this week, the required threshold 22 ratifications have been achieved fur the CFTA to come into force.
We hail these two deposits as timely and significant steps towards removing the fragmentation of African economies and markets, a process that will create a large market that is critical to increasing trade and investments on the continent. The AfCFTA Agreement will in this regard enter into force on 30th May, 2019.
The agreement will create a single continental market for goods and services as well as a customs union with free movement of capital and business travellers. Countries joining AfCFTA have to commit to removing tariffs on at least 90% of the goods they produce. According to the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) if all 55 African countries join the free trade area, it will be the world’s largest by number of countries, covering more than 1.2 billion people and a combined GDP of $2.5 trillion. The ECA adds that intra-African trade is likely to increase by 52.3% by 2020 under the AfCFTA.
South Africa will therefore use its position as the Chairperson of the AU to support President Mahamadou Issoufou of Niger, the AU champion of AfCFTA to ensure the conclusion of the legal text of the agreement in June 2020, in accordance with AfCFTA Roadmap. The implementation of this agreement will pave the way for Africa’s renewal and its meaningful integration into the global economy, thus accelerating its development and prosperity.
We are extremely honoured to be accorded this responsibility at a critical stage in the continent’s development, and commits to do its utmost best to fulfil this supreme mandate to the best of its ability.
The AfCTA carries with it great promise for our continent. As you may be aware, Africa does more trade annually with the rest of the world than it does with itself. So, the conclusion and the coming into effect of the AfCTA is aimed at reversing this position. This is where I urge you and the rest of our business community to take advantage of this ground breaking development. With government by your side, you have great opportunity to export your products and services to the continent thus accessing a market of over 1 billion people and worth of three trillion US dollars.
A developing Africa is good for us. No one should be happy being an island of prosperity in a sea of underdevelopment. A growing Africa means a growing South Africa. We are committed to help building the economic future of our continent as a whole, using and sharing what we have achieved in resources and sharing the lessons we’ve learned.
So we will continue to build our economic ties and relations with our sister nations through helping grow their economic fortunes. I am sure many of you would not have missed the ANC’s campaign tag-line during these elections – let us grow South Africa together. It is therefore no surprise that we should seek to grow Africa together.
We have a huge task ahead of us to complete the work to which Nelson Mandela, George Bizos and their generation dedicated decades of their lives. Over the past twenty five years we have made significant strides. However there is more that needs to be done to uplift our people from poverty. I have no doubt that the organisation to which I belong is the only party to complete that task. With President Cyril Ramaphosa, we have begun the important work of renewal, to rid our organisation and our country of fraud, corruption and malfeasance that threatened to eat into our social fabric in the recent past.
We rely on you to help us move forward, strengthened by your support and encouragement. We need all of you to strengthen the hand of President Cyril Ramaphosa in this mammoth task of renewal and I urge you to be the true partners you always have been. This can be done by voting ANC next week so that we don’t reverse the process that has already started.
I thank you.
ISSUED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND COOPERATION
OR Tambo Building
460 Soutpansberg Road