Minister Maite Nkoane-Mashabane on name change to Department of International Relations & Co-Operation (DICO)


14 May 2009

Minister of International Relations and Co-operation, Maite Nkoane-Mashabane, briefed the media on the reasons for changing the name of the Department of Foreign Affairs to the Department of International Relations and Co-operation. She explained that the change was in line with international trends and that it provided greater clarity on the Department’s mandate.


Q: The Minister was asked about the name difference between the City of Pretoria and the City of Tshwane. The journalist stated that this was a divisive issue that may have stunted the growth and development of the city and the ability to exploit its multicultural, diplomatic core and realise its full potential as a multicultural, international or global city. He asked if her department could put impetus into the city so it could become a global city.
A: The Minister noted that this was not a question, it was a plea. She reminded people that South Africa was still a young country in the process of nation building and was yet to reach consensus on certain issues. The country was “getting there”.

Q: The Minister was asked what challenges she thought the country would experience and how she would conquer them. Also how would she strengthen international ties, specifically on the African continent?

A: The Minister stated that the challenge was that the new DICO was being established in a time of global recession. Therefore, some of the Department’s good intentions had to be curtailed due to constraints from the global meltdown. However, the global meltdown could be an opportunity for the country to work with the United Nations (UN), other established organizations and countries in the South. Her Ministry would continue to prioritise African countries and the Southern African Development Community (SADC). They also wanted to enhance relationships with the country’s allies and build relationships with other countries.     

Q: The Minister was asked if she would be advising the President of Zimbabwe that it was time he retired. 

A: The Minister answered that it would be better if the people in Zimbabwe advised their president. South Africa would support Zimbabwe in their efforts to rebuild its country.

Q: The Minister was asked what she envisaged the relationship to be like between the DICO and the Department of Trade and Industry (dti). What was the role of the dti in international relations? Would the Ministry be expanding, maintaining or curtailing international relations activities? 

A: The Minister stated that the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) always maintained a very cordial relationship with the dti and every other government department. There was no need for conflict. DICO’s main responsibility was to open doors for all South Africans and government departments. In order to realise the country’s goals, everybody had to work together to help develop it. DICO would be working with the dti as well as other government departments and the Planning Commission to coordinate the activities and responsibilities of all government departments. In terms of international relation activities, DICO would not be able to move at the speed at which it hoped. However, it would continue to address priorities. All government departments would have to tighten their belts in light of the global recession. 

Q: The Minister was asked if there would be any policy change towards China.

A: The Minister noted that South Africa’s relationship with China was very sound. DICO would be strengthening the relationship with China. The Department worked on the basis that there was mutual respect for each other’s country and did not foresee a problem.  

Q: South Africa had been criticized in the recent past for its UN position on Burma, its position on Zimbabwe and more particularly, on the Dalai Lama and China. Would there be any changes in the country’s position on these issues.     

A: The Minister thought it was important to clarify the country’s positions on these issues. In terms of the Dalai Lama, the Minister admitted that the government did not communicate to the people clearly at first about what had actually transpired. However, they felt that they had now given South Africans enough opportunities to clarify what actually happened. South Africa did not discriminate against any country.

Q: The Minister was asked how a change in the Department’s name would exert more influence on global and economic policies.

A: There would be more influence, as the change in the name provided people with more clarity on what the Department was actually about. The change would give South Africans more knowledge of what the Department was about

Q: A journalist asked if the two Deputy Ministers had been assigned their duties

A: The Minister stated that she and the deputy ministers would work as a team. The final details were internal and were still being discussed. When the discussion was completed, they would inform the media and the people.

Q: The premise for the last fifteen years was that the country’s foreign policy was based on the “plank” of respect for human rights. This was not mentioned in the Minister’s statement.

A: The Minister answered that the Constitution underpinned all actions and policies of Ministers and Departments.

Q: The Minister was asked if she envisaged any policy change towards Zimbabwe at all.

A:  The Minister stated that South Africa had put its foot down about Zimbabwe, together with other SADC countries. Democracy in Zimbabwe had to be given a chance. She appealed to South Africans and Zimbabweans to give Zimbabwe the chance to build its democracy.

Deputy Minister Sue van der Merwe addressed the media. She stated that it was important to follow the Minister’s guidance regarding the name change. They were giving emphasis to the cooperative nature of the work done in international relations. Africa was the Ministry’s primary focus and they had been working closely with many partners on the continent in terms of foreign policy. They were also involved in peace making and peace building in the continent. The Ministry would continue to work with the dti and the Treasury on matters to do with global financial institutions.

The briefing was concluded.


In announcing names of members of the new cabinet on Sunday 10 May, President Jacob Zuma, among others, referred to changes in the government structures. The changes are aimed at making the state machinery more efficient and service-delivery oriented. Similarly the changes will ensure alignment of government structures with the electoral mandate and our developmental needs. The thrust of these structural changes is to advance our central objective of creating a better life for all South Africans.

In this regard, President Zuma alluded to the name change of the Department of Foreign Affairs to the Department of International Relations and Cooperation. The name change to the Department of International Relations and Cooperation is in line with international trends and is informed by the need to give greater clarity on the mandate of the department. In this regard, over and above its normal functions the department will also engage in dynamic partnerships for development and cooperation.

These decision was informed by deliberations of the ruling Party’s Policy Conference as well as the resolution of the Ruling Party’s 52nd National Conference held in Polokwane in 2007.

The name change moves from the premise that foreign policy is based upon and is indeed an advancement of our domestic priorities at an international level. Accordingly, our foreign policy features still remain:

  • pushing back the frontiers of poverty and under-development in our country and Africa based on the continental economic and developmental plan, NEPAD
  • creation of peace and pursuance of peaceful resolution of conflicts
  • contribute to peace efforts in Africa and the world
  • building and consolidation of strategic partnerships to advance our developmental agenda
  • building and reform of African continental institutions
  • as well as the continued exertion of influence on global political and economic issues.

In pursuance of all these objectives listed above, South Africa recognizes that its destiny is inextricably linked to that of the developing world in general and in particular the African continent in particular. Consequently as South Africa seeks to attain its foreign policy objectives it should simultaneously pursue a developmental agenda both in the continent and the developing world.

This developmental agenda can only succeed to the extent to which strategic and mutual developmental cooperation is built with countries of the continent, the developing and the developed world.

In this context, discussions are ongoing in government regarding a possible establishment of developmental agency which would assist in the pursuit of the notion of a better Africa in a better world. It is our view that such an agency, if established, will enhance our developmental agenda which continues to rest on the key pillars of our foreign policy namely consolidation of the African Agenda, strengthening  South-South cooperation, strengthening North-South relations, strengthening political and economic relations as well as participating in the global system of governance.

The renaming of the Department as the Department of International Relations and Cooperation is a deliberate decision on the part of government to ensure a holistic approach to foreign relations which reflects on developmental agenda.


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