The Department of International Relations and Cooperation presented the White Paper on South Africa’s Foreign Policy and highlighted that it drew on the spirit of internationalism, pan-Africanism, and South-South solidarity. It also pursued the quest for unity and the economic, political and social renewal of Africa. It rejected colonialism and other forms of oppression and abuse of power. The primary focus of the White Paper was on the development of South Africa’s economic diplomacy, Africa’s potential, and regional integration, and South Africa wanted to intensify efforts to be a successful leader in the international community, and to ensure that the African Union fulfilled its role in building an African unity and the social and economic development of the continent. The principles of ubuntu were stressed to reflect that South Africa did not have a narrow view on foreign policy and that the State also considered the interests of neighbouring countries. The South Africa Development Partnership Agency (SADPA) would be a means of engaging internationally on aid effectiveness, and promoting more effective development cooperation, to find equitable and multilateral solutions to global problems. It was noted that challenges in foreign policy development of individual states included increased competition among states, development of countries, gaps between emerging powers and the rest of the world, divergences in the world agenda and shifts in the global economics. Finally, it was summarised that South Africa’s economic diplomacy included providing guidance to government and business on economic development and markets, pursuing market access for South African products and enhancing their competitiveness, supporting development of larger markets in Africa attracting investments and tourism, removing trade barriers and pursuing fair international trade regimes.
Members appreciated the presentation and welcomed the guiding principles of ubuntu, but raised a number of questions, including why this White Paper was only now being presented to the Fourth Parliament, when it was about to rise. They asked about the role of the SADPA, commented on the changing role of BRICS, asked about the BRICS bank, and asked whether South Africa would be making announcements on developments in Russia and Ukraine, and what it was intending to do about situations in Rwanda and Zimbabwe, and whether there were now improved relationships with Nigeria. They asked about a comment that the waning influence of South Africa in international relations was due to the Department’s own stance, Members questioned the fact that the Department had rejected Chapter 7 of the National Development Plan, and asked how far it had gone with re-drafting. A COPE Member asserted that South Africa was getting a poor deal on international trade processes, particularly the agricultural sector, and a DA Member followed up on this by suggesting that some events in the country had not been conducive to investment and foreign trade, expressed concern about the possible ending of AGOA, and the citrus ban that would have significant effects on rural development and jobs. They were concerned about reports that officials tended to go on foreign visits without the knowledge of the Department, and said that issues within that Department also needed to be addressed and national interests prioritised. Members commented that there were areas where silk production would be viable, and questioned how the White Paper would address economic growth. They asked for comment on establishment of regional parliaments, and the concept of building partnerships as opposed to providing aid. They appreciated the problems with regionalism. Questions were also asked whether the Department had engaged with tertiary institutions to offer courses on international relations. It was noted that issues around SADC, the AU and neighbouring countries in building trade and relations would be on the agenda for later. Some suggestions were made by the COPE member for improving the wording to reflect the intention of the White Paper.
White Paper on South Africa’s Foreign Policy: Department of International Relations and Cooperation briefing
Mr Kgabo Mahoai, Deputy Director General: Human Resources, Department of International Relations and Cooperation, gave the presentation on the White Paper on South Africa’s Foreign Policy (the White Paper). He stated that the formulation of the White Paper began in 1996, and that it had already been approved by the Cabinet for submission to Parliament. He stated that one of the key concepts for the White Paper was that of ‘diplomacy of ubuntu’, as it was used to explain South Africa’s foreign policy approach of collaboration, cooperation and partnership rather than conflict and competition.
Mr Mahoai stated that the White Paper drew on the spirit of internationalism, pan-Africanism, and South-South solidarity, rejected colonialism and other forms of oppression. It also pursued the quest for unity and the economic, political and social renewal of Africa. Mr Mahoai stated that the White Paper also promoted poverty alleviation around the world. It expressed opposition to structural inequality and the abuse of power in the global system.
Mr Mahoai stated that it was the state’s vision to be a successful leader in the international community supported by a globally competitive economy that had in itself made significant inroads into addressing unemployment, inequality and poverty, and contributing to regional and continental development.
Mr Mahoai noted that one of the primary focus areas of the White Paper was on Africa’s potential. It stated that Africa’s regional integration was imperative for economic competitiveness and greater economies of scale. In this regard, he stated that South Africa was to intensity its engagements in the African Union in order that the African Union fulfil its role in building an African unity and the social and economic development of the continent.
Mr Mahoai said that the South Africa Development Partnership Agency (SADPA) would be a means of engaging internationally on aid effectiveness, and promoting more effective development cooperation. He said that cooperation was needed to find equitable and multilateral solutions to global problems.
Mr Mahoai outlined challenges facing the foreign policy development of individual states. These included the increase in competition among states, key developing countries graduating into developed countries, the gap between emerging powers and the rest of the developing world, the solidarity of Southern Africa states, divergences in the developing world agenda, and the shift in the global economic centre of gravity from North-West to South and East.
South Africa’s economic diplomacy included the provision of guidance to government and the business sector on economic development and markets, pursuing market access for South African products, attracting investments and tourism, removing barriers of trade, supporting the development of larger markets in Africa, enhancing competitiveness of South African goods and services in the major global markets, and the pursuit of a fair and equitable rules-based international trade regime.
Mr B Mnguni (ANC, Free State) stated that there had previously been no legislation on foreign policy and that, in that regard, the state had been acting within a vacuum. He questioned whether the SADPA would not be too restrictive when regarding South Africa’s development.
Mr K Sinclair (COPE, Northern Cape) thanked the Department for the presentation and noted that White Paper had already been accepted in principle by Parliament. He said that it was good to deal with the issue of foreign policy, but cautioned that there were various realities that South Africa would have to deal with. He made reference to the recent developments in BRICS, noting that South Africa was a proud member of BRICS, but that the ‘honeymoon’ was over and that the internal dynamics and power play would come to the fore more strongly. He said that South Africa would need to make an announcement on the development of matters in Russia and the Ukraine. Noting that the key focus of the White Paper was on ubuntu, he asserted that if that principle was kept as the guiding light, he believed that many of the challenges being faced would be able to be addressed.
Mr Sinclair raised the issue of the National Development Plan (NDP) and said that Chapter 7 of the NDP had been rejected by the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO or the Department), and that it was busy developing a replacement chapter. He said that the NDP was a crucial document and that it was necessary to know where the DIRCO stood on Chapter 7.
Mr Sinclair addressed the issue of international diplomacy by stating that South Africa got the ‘shorter end of the stick’ regarding trade processes. He stated that South African producers and farmers were not getting what was due to them due to international trade processes. He said that the concept of economic diplomacy should be linked to the principle of ubuntu. He added that White Paper document was one element and that the roll-out of the document was to be prioritised.
Ms E van Lingen (DA, Eastern Cape) expressed concern regarding the date of the White Paper, which was drafted in 2012, and the rejection of Chapter 7 of the NDP, as mentioned by Mr Sinclair. She asked whether any amendments had since been made to the White Paper, whether submissions had been made on it, and whether there had been any discussions on the White Paper by the National Assembly since the Cabinet had approved the policy document for submission to it. She also asked why this White Paper was being presented to the Select Committee so close to the end of the Fourth Parliament. She added that the National Planning Commission (NPC) had described the waning influence of South Africa in international relations, and said that the problem lay with the DIRCO.
Ms van Lingen stated that there was a problem between foreign policy and ideology, in that certain events within the country were not conducive to investment and foreign trade. She said that the attempts by the American private sector to push for the termination of the African Growth and Opportunity Act(AGOA) in 2015 would cost South African exporters a further R2 billion per annum. She said that the threat from the European Union to stop all citrus imports from South Africa would result in an immediate loss of R4 billion, and would lead to a crisis in rural development and job losses. She said that these factors did not encourage foreign investment.
Ms van Lingen stated that the reports that officials tended to go on foreign visits without the knowledge of DIRCO would have to be sorted out, as it was a serious concern. She said that the issues within DIRCO would have to be addressed, but that it would be difficult to do so if ideology was placed above national interests. She agreed that Africa was to be prioritised and that business was to be done within the Continent, apart from a greater international objective.
Ms K Kekesi (ANC, North West) stated that South Africa was rich in natural resources. She made reference to certain rural areas where silk cocoons in trees could become a business venture for the processing of silk. Such business could reduce unemployment.
Ms M Dikgale (ANC, Limpopo) agreed with the DIRCO that poverty alleviation was a global challenge. She added that the economic growth of the state was low, and that resulted in lack of employment. She questioned how the White Paper would address that specific issue.
The Chairperson noted that foreign policy was a topic raised often. He asked the DIRCO how it would respond to the issues within Rwanda, in light of the principles expressed in the White Paper on attempting to run with cooperation and collaboration over confrontation. Since South Africa was silent on the establishment of regional Parliaments, he asked what the DIRCO’s view was on the issue. The Chairperson asked what the policy would be on aid as opposed to building partnerships, and said that he had understood that there was a move to attempting to do away with reliance on aid. He also requested whether there had been better relations between South Africa and Nigeria since the visit of the Nigerian president. Referring to the growth within the DIRCO, he asked whether the Department had engaged with tertiary institutions to offer courses on international relations.
Mr Sinclair made reference to the writings of Dominique Moïsi, who notes that the changes in the world are based on “hope, fear and humiliation”. He stated that regionalism was an issue and that he understood the difficulties in establishing a Southern African Customs Union. He further stated that government had not as yet announced itself on the matter of the BRICS bank. He submitted that the formation of such a power block could be viewed negatively by institutions such as the World Bank. He noted that the hope that South Africa had expressed about working with Nigeria could cause fear in other states and international institutions. However, he added that it was important to debate those issues, as they were very complex.
Mr L Davidson, Deputy Director, DIRCO responded to the questions raised in general. He stated that the reason for initiating the White Paper process was due to recognition of the rapidly changing world and the developments. He stated that the policy had not been considered within a vacuum and that there had been inclusion of the principles expressed in both the Constitution and the Freedom Charter in the drafting of the White Paper, to ensure that the policy principles were sound. The White Paper further made reference to how South Africa had dealt with foreign policy over the past 20 years, and substantiated on those points in the White Paper by including ubuntu into diplomacy. This White Paper provided the world with insight into how and why South Africa had a particular approach to international relations.
He stated that the concept of ubuntu was used to show the world that South Africa did not have a narrow view on foreign policy and that the State also considered the interests of neighbouring countries. DIRCO was engaging with government on Chapter 7 of the NDP, so as to better align the White Paper with the NDP.
Mr Davidson responded to the comments on BRICS by stating that BRICS came about as an investment fund which had later changed into a political grouping of countries. However, he added that BRICS was now looking forward to considering how this organisation could grow, by the member states finding further areas of commonality through constant engagement.
He stated that economic diplomacy was a subject that was dealt with in detail within the White Paper. He recognised that South Africa needed to develop a better position in multi-lateral trade agreements, particularly in regard to agriculture. He added that it was an objective of the White Paper to get a better deal on agriculture trade.
The concerns and budget constraints to the roll-out of economic diplomacy had been noted, and DIRCO was commissioned to place a greater role on economic diplomacy. This, he added, included collaboration with Department of Trade and Industry in the training of officials. People with training in economic diplomacy were to be sent to the various missions where they would be needed. He added also that DIRCO was seeking to set structures in place to engage with tertiary institutions, academics, civil society, labour and businesses. He added the DIRCO also sought to incorporate those institutions so as to have greater engagements on the topics within the broader foreign relations areas. He noted that universities also provided Masters programmes, and courses on international relations.
Mr Mahoai added that the DIRCO had an in-house diplomacy academy which worked with the Department of Trade and Industry, and that trained people so that when they were deployed for missions they possessed the necessary skills. He added that the DIRCO was trying to ensure, with new School of Government, that the diplomacy academy maintained its position. He noted that SADPA was already established as a component of the framework of the Public Service Act.
Mr Davidson noted that the concerns of Ms van Lingen were quite specific concerns, and that the White Paper was a broad policy document with lasting principles. However, he stated that the White Paper dealt with the termination of AGOA. In regard to citrus exports, he stated that the White Paper provided insight into removing trade barriers which referred to that concern. He also stated that the White Paper discussed the topic of investment treaties which did not limit the space of the South African government. The White Paper also had a chapter on the managerial role of DIRCO in international relations. He stated that focus on Africa was evident.
Mr Davidson confirmed that another focal area in the White Paper was around natural resources and rural development. Foreign policy issues should be brought to bear directly on government priorities, which included poverty alleviation. Thus, areas for development would be identified, and DIRCO would be commissioned to find international actors to partner those business initiatives.
Commenting on the question of aid or partnerships, he stated that the White Paper reflected on how the State was moving to a multi-polar world which introduced opportunities for the State. Thus, partnerships would be formed by engaging with other states in efforts towards cooperation and collaboration. Those relationships would be geared towards achieving more mutually beneficial relationships.
The issue of the BRICS bank was stated as being a specific issue, and it was not included in the White Paper. However, he noted that the White Paper indirectly addressed some principles of the BRICS bank, when it referred to working with the South to leverage resources for financing infrastructure.
Mr Mahoai noted that questions had been raised about Rwanda but he did not have authority to respond on Rwanda, noting that it was a security issue. It was a situation which would have to work itself out. However, Mr Mahoai stated that it was an important question, to ask how South Africa would respond to that matter, as how it should respond was a serious concern and challenge.
Mr Mahoai also responded to questions around the role of DIRCO in the NDP, and said that Cabinet’s approval of the policy was an indication that DIRCO was indeed operating on constitutional principles. DIRCO would be working on dealing with the mechanisms for foreign relations.
Mr Mahoai stated that DIRCO would be also attempting to educate the state on the role of the Department, and that oversight visits by Parliament could be used as a means of understanding the foreign policy needs of the state. He added that closer DIRCO collaboration with Parliament would bring more knowledge on various issues, and the Department would be focusing on those. He urged that the White Paper process should be brought to its conclusion so that DIRCO could be held accountable for the principles espoused in it.
Ms van Lingen followed up by stating that nothing had been said about SADC, the AU and neighbouring countries in building trade and building relations. She asked whether there was some form of “diplomatic silence” regarding Zimbabwe.
The Chairperson noted that the issues raised by Ms van Lingen would be engaged with at another stage.
Mr Mnguni asked again why the White Paper was being brought before the NCOP only now, when Parliament was about to rise for the elections.
The Chairperson responded that he had asked the Committee Secretary to invite the DIRCO to make a presentation on the White Paper.
Mr Sinclair raised some issues regarding the wording in the White Paper. He noted that there was reference to ‘South Africa’s liberation history’ in the foreword, but suggested that the White Paper should speak of the State’s recent history, and not just liberation history. He stated that the term ‘through the looking glass’ in Chapter 4 of the White Paper made no sense, and stated that ‘through the eye of the needle’ may have been a better choice. In Chapter 3, which made reference to ‘South Africa’s values and national interests born in struggle’, he suggested again that reference should be made to recent history as well, as many of the national interests were not necessarily born from the struggle.
The Chairperson suggested that those grammatical issues needed to be addressed.
The meeting was adjourned.
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