Committee Report on Department of International Relations and Cooperation Budget

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International Relations

13 May 2015
Chairperson: Mr M Masango (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee considered and adopted its Draft Report on Budget Vote 6: Department of International Relations and Cooperation. Minor spelling and grammatical changes were affected to the Draft Report.  The DA noted the Draft Report and reserved its rights to vote otherwise in the House. The EFF noted the Draft Report and would reveal its stance on the 21 May 2015. The IFP supported the Draft Report in principle subject to amendments being incorporated. The COPE noted the Draft Report and reserved the right to vote otherwise. The ANC majority supported the adoption of the Draft Report. The Draft Report was adopted as amended. 

During the course of the meeting discussion ensued on various issues. Members were curious as to what the situation was regarding the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). South Africa was still part of AGOA but not in the same manner in which it had been before. Its attachment would now be reviewed every two years. The Committee also came to an agreement that political parties needed to have a united front when it came to the foreign policy of South Africa. It was suggested and agreed that a political party summit be held to give effect to this. The Committee furthermore agreed that the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) needed to provide members with progress reports/presentations on issues like the New Partnership for Africa’s Development, AGOA, the Brazil, Russia, India, China and SA Bloc Agreement, the Development Bank, the National Development Plan, the Pan African Parliament, African Union membership fees and anything else that the Committee might identify.

Members also spoke to the calendar of the Committee for the rest of the year and it was agreed that it was an operational issue which needed to be worked on. 

Meeting report

Draft Report of the Portfolio Committee on International Relations and Cooperation on the Budget Vote 6: Department of International Relations and Cooperation
The Chairperson stated that the Draft Report would form the basis of the Committee’s debate that was to take place on the 26 May 2015. He suggested that the Committee go through that document (the Report) page by page and that Members should raise issues.

Ms S Kalyan (DA) referred to page 3, paragraph 5 which dealt with responses by presenters, and felt that the information was incomplete.

Mr David Madlala, Committee Researcher, responded that the responses that Ms Kalyan was referring to were responses by the Committee officials and not the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) officials. He explained that the questions members had asked should have been directed to DIRCO officials and not to the Committee officials. It was for this reason that the response section was captured as it was.

The Chairperson noted that responses by DIRCO were captured later on in the Report. The responses tried to capture the concerns of the Committee. He noted that there were twenty observations and concerns of the Committee and there were thirteen responses by the DIRCO. Members could check on whether concerns were responded to.

Once the Committee had checked on the rest of the contents of the Report the Chairperson invited members to again raise issues.

Ms Kalyan once again referred to the paragraph on page 3 “Responses by presenters” and suggested that the last sentence in the paragraph be reworded. She also suggested a spelling change on page 1.
She furthermore made a grammatical correction on page 5.

Ms Kalyan referred to the last paragraph on page 8 and asked whether it was correct that DIRCO had stated that it would table the Foreign Services Bill over the medium term. Her recollection was that the Director General of DIRCO had said that the international scene was fluid, and that the Foreign Services Bill would not be tabled.

Mr Madlala responded that he did not recall the Director General saying that the Foreign Services Bill would not be tabled. What he did say was that there would be delays.

Ms Kalyan noted that it was captured in the Draft Report that the Foreign Services Bill would be tabled "in the medium term". She asked if everyone was aware that "the medium term" meant October 2015. Was this a correct statement?

Mr B Radebe (ANC) agreed with Mr Madlala that it had been said that the Foreign Services Bill would be tabled. He suggested that the paragraph be reworded by omitting the word “medium”. It would now mean that the Bill would be tabled during the term of Parliament.

The Committee agreed to the suggestion.

The Chairperson stated that on page 4 of the Draft Report it was stated that South Africa (SA) had 125 missions. However, page 15 stated that there were 126 missions. He asked Mr Madlala to check on which figure was correct. 

Mr Madlala checked on the figures and confirmed that there were 126 missions.

Mr M Lekota (COPE) asked what was happening on the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA).

The Chairperson stated that President Obama from the United States of America had called a meeting of African states, minus three states. One of those excluded was Zimbabwe. The intention of the USA was initially to exclude SA from AGOA. One reason behind its decision was because SA had objected to the dumping of chickens in SA. Another reason for justifying SA’s exclusion from AGOA was that the USA considered SA to be far greater developed than the rest of Africa. President Obama felt that the USA was threatened by the Brazil, Russia, India, China and SA (BRICS) Bloc Agreement and the establishment of the Development Bank. He furthermore felt that the USA wished to make only certain African countries part of AGOA, where the USA could derive benefit from them. He was not sure whether AGOA had been passed by the US Congress as President Obama had wanted.

Mr Radebe pointed out that the Minister of Trade and Industry, along with his envoy, had worked on the AGOA issue. He noted that SA did not have the same dispensation in AGOA as it had before. SA’s attachment to AGOA would be reviewed every two years. At present SA was still part of the agreement.

The Chairperson stated that the Committee needed to discuss the AGOA issue at another forum. Economic diplomacy needed to be strengthened.

Mr M Mcnwango (IFP) stated that Africa needed to sort out its internal conflict and had to look at development.

The Chairperson suggested that members highlight political substantive issues on which the DIRCO needed to give a workshop for members. Some of the issues thus far were AGOA, the National Development Plan, BRICS and the New Development Bank. 

Mr Mcnwango added that the Committee needed a progress report on the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD).

Mr S Mokgalapa (DA) noted that the DIRCO had said that it was busy with reprioritising and realigning embassies, due to its shoe string budget. He felt that the Committee was giving this Department a disclaimer on page 17 paragraph 12.7. He was not sure whether what was captured was accurate.

The Chairperson responded that he was not sure whether Mr Mokgalapa’s understanding was correct. He explained that the Director General of DIRCO had stated that a decrease in its budget would not affect its core mandate. The DIRCO would reprioritise but it would not affect the core mandate. The DIRCO would not reduce its number of embassies, but it would do other cost cutting measures.

Mr Mokgalapa reacted that the issue of reprioritisation surely meant looking at missions. Columbia was considered as a possible new mission. The statement in paragraph 12.7 might be in contradiction with what the DIRCO was saying.

The Chairperson explained that what paragraph 12.7 was saying was that SA had a large footprint around the world. If there was a reduction in the number of missions, then SA’s footprint would be smaller.

Mr Radebe said that the DIRCO’s response to what was being said in paragraph 12.7 was contained on page 18, paragraph 13.3. It stated that in London, embassy staff had been reduced, and they had been redeployed in Africa. There was a reprioritisation, given that Africa was a new growth area.

Ms O Maxon (EFF) suggested that the DIRCO provide the Committee with progress reports or presentations on NEPAD, AGOA, BRICS as well as other issues.

Ms Kalyan referred to page 17 paragraph 12.6 which spoke about the Pan African Parliament (PAP). She had asked the DIRCO to provide the Committee with the host agreement but the request was not reflected in 12.6.

The Chairperson asked whether the Committee should demand the host agreement or whether it should  be submitted along with the presentations that members had requested. He did point out that the host agreement was not between the DIRCO and the African Union (AU). The host agreement was between the South African Government and the African Union. The building for the PAP was the responsibility of the Department of Public Works. Staff and equipment was the responsibility of the DIRCO.

Ms Kalyan differed with the Chairperson. The Department of Public Works was responsible for identifying land on which the building was to be erected. The building itself was the responsibility of the DIRCO. She pointed out that there was still confusion over what fell under whose responsibility. She was convinced that the issue of the PAP premises would come up again. SA had taken on the obligation.

The Chairperson said that paragraph 13.10 dealt with the issue of the PAP’s premises. He suggested that the DIRCO update the Committee on the host agreement, the building as well as other issues.

Mr Radebe said that the Chairperson was correct. The PAP would, for the next five years, be based at Gallagher Estate.

The Chairperson reiterated that the Committee needed progress reports from the DIRCO on the NDP, NEPAD, BRICS, the Development Bank, the PAP and anything else that Members identified.

Mr Lekota pointed out that he had in previous meetings requested information from the DIRCO on how many African states paid their AU membership fees. Media reports had stated that only three African states paid AU membership fees - SA, Egypt and Nigeria. Nigeria and Egypt had stated that the financial situations in their countries had deteriorated and that they would no longer be able to pay their membership fees. The burden would now be heavier on SA. He asked what could be done to alleviate the problem. He noted that the PAP was another burden on SA. It was a matter which needed to be discussed internally.  He noted that regional organisations always had problems. The fact that SA was an economic hub made it difficult for itself as it found itself to bear much of the burden. Coté d’ Ivoire in West Africa had found itself in the same situation. The burden had become too heavy for it to bear. SA should be careful not to reach that point. He had thought that the DIRCO had been requested to provide the Committee with such information.

The Chairperson suggested that the issue be packaged with the PAP update/presentation. He added that the issue of international transfers to the AU could be covered when the DIRCO addressed the Committee on some of the other issues.

Mr Mokgalapa, following up on the issue of membership fees payable to the AU, pointed out that Nigeria had done a study over the matter and had compiled a report. The bigger the country’s economy in question, the greater the membership fee the country was to pay. He said the Nigerian study report would be adopted by the AU.

Ms D Raphuti (ANC) remarked that the issue was how much member states were paying towards the AU. He enquired how much SA was paying.

The Chairperson stated that the Committee had reached the end of its consideration of the Draft Report. He placed the Draft Report before the Committee for adoption. 

Mr Mokgalapa stated that the DA noted the Draft Report and reserved the right to vote otherwise.

Ms Maxon said that the EFF noted the Draft Report and would reveal its stance on the 21 May 2015.

Mr Mcnwango noted that the IFP supported the Draft Report in principle, subject to the amendments being incorporated.

Mr Lekota stated that the COPE noted the Draft Report and reserved the right to vote otherwise.

The ANC supported the adoption of the Draft Report.

The Draft Report was adopted as amended.

Mr L Mpumlwana (ANC) said that all political parties and South Africans in general must be seen to support SA.

Mr Radebe appreciated the qualitative inputs of members. The foreign policy of SA needed to be protected. In the US it did not matter whether a person was a Republican or Democrat, when it came to the national interests of the US there was a united front. Political parties needed to speak with one voice on the foreign policy of SA. He suggested that a summit be held for political parties in SA that would educate all on what the foreign policy of SA should be. 

Mr Mokgalapa agreed with Mr Radebe. The issue was about national interests. There was a need to describe in clear terms what national interests were. The summit would help to bring about agreement on what SA’s foreign policy should be. The DA was in no way unpatriotic. Every political party had ways of doing its business.

Other business
Committee calendar for 2015

Ms Kalyan noted that there was no Committee Programme for the year as there was supposed to be. She asked what was planned for the Committee for the rest of the year and, in particular, what oversight visits were being planned? She asked whether the Committee was invited to the AU Summit to be held in June 2015.

The Chairperson said that programme issues had been discussed with the Committee Secretary and the Committee Content Adviser. It was an operational matter and was part of the strategic plan of the Committee. He asked the Committee Secretary Mr Lubabalo Sigwela to work on the Committee Programme.

Mr Sigwela said that at the beginning of 2015 he had scheduled the strategic plan of the Committee but he was advised that parliament had to first adopt its own strategic plan before the Committee could consider theirs. The Speaker of the House had signed Parliament’s strategic plan and now the Committee would be able to work on its own strategic plan.

The Chairperson instructed Mr Sigwela to approach him regarding issues that should be on the calendar of the Committee.

The Chairperson noted that the Committee was to have a joint oversight visit with other committees on Border Management in the last week of May 2015.

The Committee had also been invited by the South African Institute of International Affairs to attend a lecture by Deputy Minister Landers on international affairs.

The meeting was adjourned.


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