The Department of International Relations and Cooperation provided an overview of the status of its Strategic Plan 2011-2014. The presentation looked at:
▪ Enhanced African Agenda and Sustainable Development
▪ Strengthen Political and Economic Integration of SADC
▪ Strengthen South-South Relations
▪ Strengthen Relations with Strategic Formations of the North
▪ Participate in the Global System of Governance
▪ Strengthen Political and Economic Relations
▪ Administration, Budget and Strengthening of Human Resources
It covered topics such as the crisis in North Africa and the Middle East, Chinese investment in South Africa, the crisis in Somalia, South Africa’s role in the United Nations Security Council, and the Free Trade Agreements with neighbouring countries. It called for South Africa to use its political position in SADC to promote democracy throughout the region in order to prevent the crises in Arab world from spreading to the rest of Africa and potentially threatening South Africa’s peace and security. On the reforms in the UNSC. This year India, Brazil, Germany and South Africa began a two-year tenure as non-permanent members of the UN Security Council. The Department argued that South Africa must decide whether it should support India or Brazil in their pursuit of a permanent seat or if South Africa should create its own bid for the permanent seat. Irrespective of the decision, it was believed that major reforms were coming to the UNSC and South Africa should do whatever was necessary to assist in the transition of global political power.
During the discussion, there was concern about the increase in Chinese investment in South Africa and whether China’s intentions were imperialist in nature. Other questions looked at the management of South African assets abroad and promoting security and democracy within the SADC region. The Department argued that since China was a global superpower South Africa must carefully construct its relationship with China. Instead of seeing China as a threat and an imperialist power, South Africa must see this growing relationship as an opportunity to develop the South African economy. India and China were the future powers and South Africa needed to work with these countries to secure its position in the international political sphere.
The Chairperson opens the session requesting the Acting Director-General to provide updates on the Strategic Plans and information on bills that may be tabled in Parliament this year.
Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) 2011 Strategic Plan briefing Ambassador Jerry Matjila, DIRCO Acting Director-General, noted his role as the Ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva. At the outset he stated the principles underpinning South Africa’s foreign policy was the promotion of human rights, democracy, justice and a commitment to international law, peace and the mechanisms for conflict resolution. South Africa was committed to promote the African Agenda in world affairs and economic development through regional and international cooperation
The priorities for the department remained the same: to enhance the African agenda, strengthen political and economic integration of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), strengthen South-South relations, strengthen relations with Strategic Formations of the North, participate in the Global System of Governance, and strengthen political and economic relations.
Enhanced African Agenda and Sustainable Development
The following would receive priority attention:
• The political and economic integration of Africa would continue to drive African Agenda. However he outlined his concerns over the crisis in North Africa, especially Libya. He said that the South African government would wait and see the fate of Libyan Leader Gaddafi.
• The strengthening of the African Union (AU) and its structures remained a priority in the continental integration process.
• The mainstreaming of gender issues into all activities of the AU.
• Efforts to revitalise the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) as a strategy for economic development on the African Continent, together with strengthening the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) as an instrument towards the improvement of governance in Africa.
• The implementation of NEPAD and APRM at the national level was situated within the overall South African national development framework and strategy.
• A key activity was the strengthening of NEPAD and APRM strategic coordination mechanisms in South Africa.
• The AU Assembly’s Decision regarding Heads of State and Government Priority Programmes of the AU/NEPAD Africa Action Plan 2010-2015 projects require that DIRCO focuses on the implementation of the President’s infrastructure project of the North-South Corridor, championing road and rail.
• DIRCO will also support the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA) as the APRM focal point in South Africa on the implementation of South Africa’s APRM National Programme of Action.
• The African Diaspora will be actively engaged, in particular, in relation to the promotion of the African Agenda
• Internationally, NEPAD and APRM have been positioned to form the core of Africa’s South-South and South-North relationships.
On the issue of Peace Missions and the Post-Conflict Reconstruction and Development (PCRD), as a member of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) for 2011-2012, South Africa would contribute to the work of the UNSC in the maintenance of international Peace and Security, especially in Africa. Mr Matjila mentioned the DRC, Sudan, and Comoros. Furthermore, under SADC and AU mandates, South Africa would continue to facilitate mediation and peace building efforts in Sudan, Zimbabwe, Madagascar and the Great Lakes Region.
Efforts would be geared towards deepening regional democratisation processes through participation in SADC Electoral Advisory Council (SEAC) whilst supporting the work towards the effective functioning of the Regional Early Warning Centre (REWC) as a key instrument for conflict prevention.
South Africa would continue its mediation efforts in Zimbabwe and Madagascar while encouraging the implementation of agreements reached.
The security and stability in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) would continue to be a key issue for South Africa and in the coming weeks there would be a high level visit to the DRC.
South Africa would continue to contribute towards the readiness of the South African Standby Force.
DIRCO was involved with the process of replacing the African Renaissance Fund (ARF) with the South African Development Partnership Agency (SADPA), which would inform and direct South Africa’s development assistance framework.
South Africa would continue to work towards deepening bilateral relations by means of high-level engagements to expand cooperation in the political security, economic and social spheres.
Mr Matjila said that DIRCO along with other departments had begun the process of reviewing a number of agreements signed with the world and would do all that was necessary to ensure their fulfillment. Nonetheless, Southern Africa remained a priority for DIRCO and all negotiations with DRC and Zimbabwe, including Zimbabwe’s Global Political Agreement (GPA), would carry the undertone of South African interests.
In West Africa, South Africa would continue developing economic relationships with Senegal, Mali, Nigeria, Ghana and Burkina Faso. Additionally, South Africa would pay special attention to Central Africa and would attempt to establish economic relationships with the countries in that region. In 2011 the government of South Africa would launch JCC Sessions with Equatorial Guinea and Cameroon. These two countries were washed with oil and in order to secure South African energy needs, it was important to development a strong relationship with the two nations, especially Equatorial Guinea.
In North Africa there were ongoing negotiations with Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. In the case of Libya, South Africa would assist the people in settling and developing a new pathway in a post crisis Libya.
East Africa was also very important as in a few weeks time a SADC conference would take place where negotiations over Free Trade Agreements would be discussed. South Africa will seek to further strengthen its diplomatic relations through existing structured bilateral mechanisms with Burundi, Rwanda Ethiopia, Uganda and Sudan
. South Africa would support efforts to maintain peace in Burundi.
Kenya was a key economic country in this region and it was important to establish a good working relationship with Kenya. The establishment of a Joint Commission on Cooperation as well as a State Visit by Kenya to South Africa was envisaged for 2011.
South Africa would support Sudan in establishing peace in the region especially the regions that were contested by both the North and South Sudan.
Somalia was another country where South Africa aimed to play a role in tackling the pirate issue by working inland. The problems should be solved on the land in order to eliminate the problems in the waterways.
Strengthen Political and Economic Integration of SADC
Mr Matjila said South Africa would work towards the consolidation of the SADC Free Trade Area (FTA) and develop proposals for the establishment of a model Custom Union (CU) with its implementation modalities, benchmarks and timelines. He stated that in 2008 when the FTA was established some roadmaps were created. SADC was in the period where the CU and its modalities were to be completed. These matters need further discussion to explore the feasibility of the CU and if South Africa should continue working towards establishing the CU.
Strengthen South-South Relations
Mr Matjila noted that South Africa’s relations with other countries in the Global South was of high importance. President Zuma had visited China for the BRICS Summit where he presented his case for the official inclusion of South Africa in BRICS. (This was an important development for strengthening the relationship with Russia. Together with Russia, South Africa could play an important role in assisting the shift of global powers and reconstructing the global economy). In a post 2008 world there was no way that the developed North could rescue the global economy. The North needed the South to be the engine for recovery. This coincided ideally with South Africa joining BRIC and becoming BRICS. This formation could assist in reconstructing global economic relations and powers relations - reconstructing new power poles.
It would continue engagement with organisations of the South, such as the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) and G77, to enhance cohesion and coordination.
In October 2011 South Africa would host the India-Brazil-South Africa (IBSA) summit where it hoped to continue to advance the reform of the Global Governance institutions.
Every year the IBSA countries contributed one million dollars each and invested it in social development projects in the poorest regions of the world; for example they had helped develop an HIV program in Burundi and education in Palestine.
The India-Africa forum was also an important platform to strengthen South-South Relations.
Strengthen Relations with Strategic Formations of the North
With its partners in the North, South Africa had to continue maintaining its ties for practical and logistical purposes. It was important to continue working with the European Union (EU), G8 and the OECD countries. South Africa was part of the G20 and through these mediums it could ensure that topics important for the development of South Africa were not ignored.
South Africa would continue its effort in WTO towards the conclusions of the Doha Round Table.
President Zuma’s role had been elected head of certain special committees in the G20 and he would use his position to strengthen South Africa’s position in the world.
Participate in the Global System of Governance
This year South Africa would host the Conference of Parties in Durban on the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The purpose of this was to explore the achievements of the Kyoto Protocol, more importantly to create plans for next year’s summit when the Kyoto Treaty expired.
Participation in Global Systems of Governance
aimed to enhance developmental objectives of the developing world via G20 initiatives, supporting efforts in the WTO towards the conclusion of the Doha Development Round of negotiations, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) and the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA).
There was a belief that in September 2011 there was going to be a significant push in reforming the UNSC. This year Germany, India, Brazil and South Africa would attempt to bring about significant changes in the UNSC.
South Africa was now in a precarious situation as it had to decide how it wanted to position itself during the reformation process. On the one hand, South Africa could support Brazil and India in their bid for a permanent seat but, on the other hand, South Africa could make its own case for a permanent seat as a representative of the African Continent. South Africa could also support another African nation to gain a UNSC seat. However, it put itself at the risk of diminishing its standing within the global community. These matters needed in depth discussions before September.
[See document for further details].
Strengthen Political and Economic Relations
Looking at the Americas and the Caribbean, Mr Matjila said that in 2012 South Africa would host the Diaspora Summit, which sought to actively engage the African Diaspora in the Americas to foster closer ties between the regions.
In Asia and the Middle East,
China was now South Africa’s largest trading partner. There was significant amount of Chinese investment in South Africa especially in the area of textiles. In South-East Asia, India remained South Africa’s anchor. India’s investment had steadily increased in South Africa.
In a recent meeting with Middle Eastern countries in Dubai, it was concluded that the cause of the recent Middle East uprisings had been that the leaders of each of these nations had stayed in power too long and the succession of power was kept in the family. Furthermore, the divide between the ruling class and the common masses grew immensely and that created a platform for the current uprisings.
This should be a reason for concern for South Africa as many of its neighbouring countries and countries around Africa have similar forms of leadership. In many cases, the wealth of these leaders was kept in Europe and other Western Countries. This money could be used to develop Africa; however it was being used by European banks for the development of Europe. The uprising in the Middle East could easily spread to rest of the African nations.
[See document for further details].
Financial Management: DIRCO had received an excellent audit report from the Auditor General. The department maintained unqualified audit reports and continued with improvements in the financial management environment.
Property Management: The government should seek to acquire more properties as rents continued to rise. South Africa owned a lot of property around Africa and should move to gain more assets in Africa. Mr Matjila argued that more should be committed in terms of capacity building and vocational training in this arena. South Africans should be provided training to manage the properties both in South Africa and elsewhere.
Due to time constraints, Mr Matjila was not able to complete the rest of the presentation which looked at DIRCO’s challenges, its budget (spending patterns for the past five years; budget allocations for its four programmes for 2011/12 and the changes in allocations from the previous year) and its plans for strengthening its Human Resources [see document for further details].
Mr B Mnguni (ANC: Free State) asked if South African foreign policy was determined solely by economic interests or if other motivations were involved. He wanted to know if China’s involvement in South Africa was purely economic or if there were colonial intentions underlying its involvement in Africa. He also wanted to know how successful SADC had been in resolving the Zimbabwe issue.
Mr Alf Lees (DA: Kwazulu Natal) asked why Swaziland was omitted from the presentation and what South Africa was doing to promote democracy in Swaziland. He asked what DIRCO was doing to compensate for the loss of commercial farmers to other African countries. What was the department doing to protect the farmers and food production in South Africa. He referred to the piracy crisis in Somalia and asked what was being done to provide additional security. Was South Africa going to increase its presence around the Somalia coast to protect its trade routes? Moreover, he asked if the department was doing anything to control the Chinese from dumping goods and hurting the South African economy due to job losses especially in the textile industry. He commented that the reason for the uprising in the Middle East was caused by the lack of democracy in the region. Finally, he asked what was the status of all the South African assets in the other countries. Were there any periodical assessments to monitor the status of all the properties?
Mr K Sinclair (COPE: Northern Cape) requested that ministers come and give presentations about some of the policies that South Africa had created. He raised concerns about the political situations in neighbouring countries that share a similar dictatorial nature as those in North Africa, especially Angola, Zimbabwe and Swaziland. What was South Africa doing in terms of the SADC region in addressing these issues?
He further expressed his concerns about immigrants from countries such as Bangladesh and Somalia coming and competing for the limited resources. What was the South African government doing to protect the interests of its own citizens?
His last question was about international terrorism. He asked what the South African government was doing to address the allegation made against South Africa that it was harbouring terrorists.
Ms Bev Abrahams (DA: Eastern Cape) asked about the numbers in terms of diversity and if there were any plans to promote more diversity in the job market. Also she asked about the nature of the disabilities that people who were involved in the employment program had.
Ms E Van Lingen (DA: Eastern Cape) asked if DIRCO should take responsibility to fund and finance the travel of local municipal officials overseas. Secondly, she asked about the costs of expanding South Africa’s sphere of influence and if the benefits outweighed the cost.
She reiterated the concerns over the politics in Swaziland. Finally she asked what role the department plays in monitoring the travel of South African diplomats on foreign missions.
Mr Asoogan Moodley (Deputy Director General on Corporate Service - DIRCO) responded that all assets fixed and movable were audited and accounted for every year. Furthermore there was currently an extensive audit underway and soon DIRCO would know the value and the status of movable and fixed assets.
Ms Bernice Africa (Chief Director: Property Management; DIRCO) explained that there was a register that contained all the title deeds for all the properties. At the moment they owned 112 properties and they were valued at R4.6 billion. The valuation was done every five years and there were no properties that had been abandoned and none had been affected by the conflicts in North Africa. All the properties were dealt with on a daily basis and there were sufficient funds available to renovate and maintain the properties. If the property was no longer required, Parliament was required to approve the disposal in accordance with the Property Disposal Act and this was managed by the Department of Public Works.
Mr Ganga Tsengiwe (Deputy Director General: HR; DIRCO) stated that the department had taken a longer term view on employment equity. They had developed a five year plan started in 2010 with clear targets. In January, 22 directors had appointed and about half of them were women which was a relatively new concept. In terms of employment equity for people with disabilities, the current rate was 1.5% and the target was 2%.
Mr Matjila responded that DIRCO was limited by its scope. Furthermore, South Africa should not see China as a threat but rather an opportunity. China was the second largest economy in the world and all evidence suggested that they would be one of the superpowers of the future. Therefore, it was important to approach China carefully and without perceiving it as a threat. Both countries could mutually benefit from this relationship. While China sought to increase its textile trade, South Africa too could supply China with resources. South Africa could use Chinese investments to target development in remote areas and in those towns whose the economy was struggling.
With respect to the South African diplomats, there were guidelines how a diplomat should behave. However, it was seldom followed and more legislation need to be drawn up regarding the conduct of diplomats.
Finally, South Africa should market itself as a brand internationally because South Africa had a story to tell.
Due to time constraints, the meeting had to end before all the questions could be answered.
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