Department of International Relations and Cooperation Annual Report 2009/10: briefing

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Meeting Summary

The Department of International Relations and Cooperation’s key priorities for the reporting year were the continued prioritisation of the African agenda and strengthening of political and economical relations. The Department acknowledged that it still had a number of unfunded vacancies even though it had filled 319 funded vacancies. The Department also acknowledged that it was still struggling to meet its target on the women and disabled employment. The talent management of the Department had participated in career exhibitions at various schools, education training collages and universities to promote the work of the Department and highlight the career opportunities available. The Department also recruited university students for its Cadet Programme. The Department would be focused on establishing a spousal support office for spouses who left their family and friends to join their spouses in another country. A diplomatic training was offered and delivered which extended to all levels of public sector, semi state and private enterprise. The Department was engaged in the setting up of the Pan African Women’s Organisation headquarters in South Africa.

The accredited training institution, the Diplomatic Academy conducted policy research on priority issues for South Africa’s foreign policy. The Department explained that South Africa dealt with the European Union individually as a country and secondly in South Africa’s role as a member of African Union which was why its primary focus was on fully implementing the South Africa-European Union Trade, Development and Co-operation Agreement and implementing the South Africa-European Union Strategic Partnership Joint Action Plan. One of aspects of the Department’s participation in the global system of governance was disarmament which included high level talks on nuclear disarmament between South Africa and the United States of America.  The Department stated that South Africa had to start broadening its relationship with South America, especially with Venezuela. The Department’s specialised functions included State Protocol in which the Department enhanced and developed the capacity to manage and organised large summits and conferences like the South Africa-European Union Summit. One of the highlights of the State Protocol was when procurement processes of the new State Protocol Lounge at King Shaka International Airport in Durban were finalised. Some of the Department’s highlights included an unqualified report with no matters of emphasis for the third consecutive year and the purchasing of the O R Tambo house in London. The Department assured the Committee that it had improved its financial management despite difficulties in managing the Department’s assets in 120 states.

The Committee congratulated the Department on its unqualified audit report. The Members’ main concern was the relationship between South Africa and China, and China’s intentions in buying 20% of South African Standard Bank. The Committee questioned the strength of the African Union. They also wanted clarity as to why the Department took too long met its targets for women and disabled people in their managerial positions. Members suggested that the Department must have a workshop with the Members on the Pan African Parliament, the African union and other organisations. The Members were not happy that the Minister did not attend the meeting. The Department promised the Committee that a workshop would be organised to equip the Members on different organisation that the Department dealt with. The Chairperson reminded the Department that the Committee was still waiting for the amended charters it had requested.

Meeting report

The Chairperson opened the meeting by introducing the new member of the Committee Ms B Abrahams (DA) and informed her that she find the meaning of the abbreviations used at the back of the Department’s Annual Report.

Department of International Relations and Cooperation Annual Report 2009/10: briefing
The Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO)’s key priorities for the reporting year included the continued prioritisation of the African agenda and strengthening of political and economical relations, strengthening South-South relations and participation in the global system of governance. The Department also focused on strengthening provisions of operational support system.

Dr Ayanda Ntsaluba, Director-General, DIRCO, admitted that the Department still had a number of unfunded vacancies even though it had filled 319 funded vacancies. He also highlighted the vacant unfunded positions. The Department also acknowledged that it was still struggling to meet its target on the women and disabled employment. Dr Ntsaluba mentioned that they were on 33.3% on their target of employing women in the Department and were on 1.5% on people with disability which meant that the Department needed 0.5% to meet its target. DIRCO had 9% turnover which was attributed mostly by promotions and retirements.

The talent management of the Department had participated in career exhibition at various schools, education training collages and universities to promote the work of the Department and highlight the career opportunities available in the Department. The Department also recruited university students for the Cadet Programme. Dr Ntsaluba stated that DIRCO was rated as the second best employer of choice by the tertiary students studying towards qualifications in Humanities and this lead to DIRCO’s Human Resource encouraging youth to consider diplomacy as a career.

The Department would be focused on establishing a spousal support office for spouses who left their family and friends to join their spouses in another state or country and this was outlined as DIRCO’s full support for employees in hardship missions. The spousal office was also to provide a 24 hour crisis and support services for the people in hardship missions. A diplomatic training was offered and delivered by the accredited Diplomatic Academy, which extended to all levels of public sector, semi state and private enterprise. The Diplomatic Academy conducted policy research on priority issues for South Africa’s foreign policy. Protocol training and a language programme were undertaken in the academy. The Cadet Programme provided a channel for human resource needs and there were interventions that were made to enhance employee’s careers and directions. It also offered opportunities to 52 unemployed graduates and 15 unemployed youth had completed the human resource learnership and it also provided internships to 20 graduates in information technology. Dr Ntsaluba emphasised that 60 officials undertook Adult Basic Education and Training (ABET) programmes.

DIRCO was engaged in the setting up of the Pan African Women’s Organisation headquarters in South Africa (PAWO) under the African Charter on Democracy which was signed in February 2010. Dr Ntsalube stated that there was a New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) summit which established the Planning and Co-ordination Agency (NPCA). He assured the Committee that that Somalia was closely followed. Dr Ntsaluba highlighted the President’s visits to Nigeria, Ghana, Timbuktu and others, which aimed at strengthening political relationships in the region. He also stated the continuing need for South African relations with the European Union (EU) to be strengthened. He informed the Committee that South Africa was invited to join the Organisation for economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) as one of the highlights of the Department. Dr Ntsaluba mentioned that inclusion of South Africa in the G20 Summit would enable reforms of the multilateral systems, particular the Bretton Woods Institutions (BWIs).

As Dr Ntsaluba summarised South African relationships with various Countries he mentioned that China had increases its investment in South Africa and South Africa’s participation in the 4th Forum on China Africa Co-operation (FOCAC) which would be hosted by South Africa in 2015. The Bilateral Air Services Agreement was made between South Africa and Canada. He also mentioned that there were good relations between South Africa and Latin American Countries, and between South Africa and United States of America, especially since Ms Hillary Clinton had became Secretary of State of the United States of America (USA), and that South Africa made efforts to strengthen relationships with Central and Eastern Europe. The Department explained that South Africa dealt with the European Union individually as a country and secondly in South Africa’s role as a member of African Union, which was why its primary focus was on fully implementing the South Africa-European Union Trade, Development and Co-operation Agreement and the South Africa-European Union Strategic Partnership Joint Action Plan. One aspect of DIRCO’s participation in the global system of governance was disarmament which included high level talks on nuclear disarmament between South Africa and United States of America.  The Department stated that South Africa had to start broadening its relationship with South America especially with Venezuela.

The DIRCO’s specialised functions included State Protocol in which the Department enhanced and developed the capacity to manage and organised large summits and conferences like South Africa-European Union Summit. One of the highlights of the State Protocol was when procurement processes of the new State Protocol Lounge at King Shaka International Airport in Durban were finalised. Some of the DIRCS’s highlights were the Department having an unqualified report with no matters of emphases for the third time in three years and the purchasing of the OR Tambo house in London. The Department assured the Committee that it had improved its financial management despite difficulties in managing the Department’s assets that were in 120 states. 

Dr Ntsaluba said that, with the Minister’s approval, DIRCO would like to come before the Committee to seek advice and update the Committee on DIRCO’s progress.

Dr Ntsaluba gave a short background on China as Members were concerned about South Africa’s relations with it. He reminded the Committee that China was growing extremely fast in its economy, had became second in the world and it was not affected by depression as its economy grew by 9% during that time. Dr Ntsaluba stated that the African continent faced a challenge as the African countries dealt with China individually as they were too small. He explained that to have good economical and political relations with China, a country had to recognise and subscribe to the One China Policy and recognise Taiwan as part of China. Dr Ntsaluba also emphasised that when Chinese considered business deals they considered whether the country or company with whom they were dealing understand Chinese culture, were punctual, and understood protocols, and noted that Chinese reacted very badly towards arrogance. China was extremely efficient on public services whereas South Africa struggled extremely on the issue of co-ordination.

Discussion
Mr B Mnguni (ANC, Free State) wanted progress on the invitation that Members had received from Taiwan. He also wanted to know the response of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) on Somalian piracy.

Dr Ntsaluba informed the Committee that anyone who planned to go to Taiwan must inform DIRCO.
Dr Ntsaluba stated that not even military could solve the problem in Somalia but only a political solution could help.
Mr K Sinclair (COPE, Northern Cape) wanted an explanation on how South Africa related to China in a way that benefited South Africa in terms of business. He also wanted to know if the African Union (AU) was ineffective. Mr Sinclair suggested that a workshop had to be organised to educate the Committee about the different organisations, like the African Union, that DIRCO dealt with.

Dr Ntsaluba confirmed that indeed South Africa was benefiting from its relations with China as long as South Africa kept on recognising the One China Policy and accepted that Taiwan was part of China. He said African Union (AU) was ineffective because no African country had voiced its dissatisfaction toward AU but at the same time it would be wrong not to recognise AU. He also mentioned that one of the challenges of the AU was lack of resources.

Ms E van Lingen (DA, Eastern Cape) expressed her disappointment at the Minister’s absence in the meeting. She wanted clarity as to whether the Department had a programme on Cuba regarding the Cuban doctors.

Dr Ntsaluba stated that DIRCO played only a facilitating role concerning the Cuban doctors.

Mr J Gunda (ID, Northern Cape) expressed his appreciation of the Director General and the Department for the job well done on the unqualified report.

Mr Sinclair asked about the rumours of negotiations on Lesothos becoming part of South Africa.

Dr Ntsaluba assured the Committee that there were no such negotiations.
Ms Van Lingen wanted clarity on the rumour that one of the governmental departments was found guilty of breaking traffic regulations and was given parking tickets in London. She asked why South Africa was not making progress with Somalian piracy. She also asked whether a list of assets of the Department was listed on the Department’s website.

Dr Ntsaluba explained that London officials released information without contacting DIRCO and that the Committee should not be worried as the problem was not serious and the Department was dealing with it. He said DIRCO had the list of assets but it was not on the Department’s website and he promised to forward the list to the Committee.

Ms M Dikgale (ANC, Limpopo) asked why debts were written off and whether DIRCO exhausted all its options before writing off the debts.

The Department explained that the page in the annual report that showed written off debts showed a formula that could be used in writing off debts and not the actual written off debts.

Mr Sinclair wanted clarity on monies that were paid in advance of trips but were not funded as stated in page 83 of the Annual Report.

Dr Ntsaluba explained that these monies were accumulative, dated back to the 1990s, and had already been paid.  DIRCO agreed with the National Treasury that some of the monies had to be written off.

The Chairperson congratulated the Department on the outstanding job well done. He wanted clarity as to why the Department had not attained its target of employing disabled people. The Chairperson informed that the Department that the Committee was not happy with the fact that China had bought 20% of Standard Bank because it looked like a colonisation of banks.

The Department explained that one of the delays in employing disabled people was the fact that the buildings that the Department was using did not accommodate disabled people.

The Chairperson also agreed with Mr Sinclair on the matter of organising a workshop to educate the Committee on the African Union, the Pan-African Parliament, and other international organisations.

The meeting was adjourned.

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