BRICS Summit; AU Summit outcomes: Department of International Relations & Cooperation report, in presence of Deputy Minister; Al Bashir issues deferred

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International Relations

12 August 2015
Chairperson: Mr M Masango (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Chairperson added an additional agenda item, taking the opportunity to make remarks about the significance of Women's Day and Women's month. The Chairperson asked the Department to report on the number of female members in international bodies, such as the AU and the UN, whilst other suggestions were that the President should prioritise the appointment of women to Departmental appointments, recruit younger and older women, not pay lip service only to gender equity, and focus on recruitment, perhaps setting requirements for percentages of posts to be filled by women, and choosing the best person for diplomatic positions. The Deputy Minister, who was in attendance throughout the meeting, suggested that more on diplomatic training could be presented by the Academy.

The Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) reported back on the BRICS Summit in Russia, in July 2015, describing the meetings of the Business Council, the announcement of the New Development Bank (NDB) and the appointment of the President (from India) and Vice Presidents (from the other four countries), the capital structure

BRICS Summit Report by Department of International Relations and Cooperation

Mr Landers introduced his delegation.

Dr Anil Sooklal, Deputy Director General, DIRCO, said that President Zuma led the delegation to the BRICS summit in Ufa, Russia. The summit began with an informal dinner on 8 July. There was a meeting of the BRICS Business Council (BBC) followed by two sessions: one closed and one open. The establishment of the New Development Bank (NDB) was announced, as well as its Board of Governors. Mr KV Kamath of India was appointed to lead the Bank, and four Vice-Presidents were to represent each of the other four countries. The capital structure and sharing arrangements were outlined. Other Summit outcomes included the Parliamentary Forum for improved inter-governmental relations and civil society participation, and successful meetings of the Trade Union Forum and Youth Forum. The Department noted the importance of BRICS in balancing global power and pointed out that economic growth in BRICS remained generally strong despite some tribulations.

The Committee’s questions largely centred on BRICS’ relationship with the international community, especially the status of South Africa’s pursuit of a UN Security Council seat. They questioned the feasibility of civil society participation with BRICS allies, the state of the relationship with China, whether BRICS was a political or economic bloc, and the selection process for representation within the NDB. They also raised queries on where human rights was being addressed and the advantages of BRICS to the people of South Africa.

The Deputy Minister had been requested to brief the Committee on the Omar Al-Bashir matter and the AU Summit decision, but invoked the sub judice rule and felt that any discussion of the matter would be premature. The DA voiced its dissent, firstly on the basis of what the Rules stated, and secondly because a full briefing had been requested before the High Court's decision was appealed, but the Chairperson ruled that a full briefing would be deferred to an appropriate time.

DA Members protested that the agenda item on the AU Summit had been unclear, but the Department did eventually brief the Committee, in a presentation that was shortened due to time constraints. The major theme had been Women’s Empowerment. Major declarations discussed included migration, free trade, and funding, with emphasis on countries becoming more self-reliant. Other issues discussed included investment in higher education and UN reform. The Committee asked questions about the feasibility of self-reliance, how funding presently worked, and suggested that perhaps Committee Members could be invited to observe the Summit when it was held in South Africa. 

Meeting report

Chairperson's opening remarks and discussions on Women's Day
The Chairperson asked for a new agenda item on Recognition of Women's Day, noting that the entire month of August was a celebration of women. The President recognised both the achievements of women and the challenges still facing women, in a recent speech. The Chairperson pointed out that the 1956 march by women was non-racial. He highlighted that one of the points made by the President was that the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO or the Department) had moved from having 8% women in higher positions in 2001, to 29% in 2014. This progress was laudible, although he pointed out that more had to be done to reach demographic equality. He said that apartheid had not been the only cause of women’s problems, as patriarchy continued to plague women worldwide. The Chairperson asked the Department to report on the number of female members in international bodies, such as the AU and the UN.

Ms S Kalyan (DA) thanked the Chairperson for his remarks, and offered that perhaps it should fall to the President to make more Departmental appointments to women. Older as well as younger women should be recruited.

Ms T Kenye (ANC) agreed that the government must take gender equality seriously, and not just give it lip service. She said that, for example, women should be included in indabas. She also noted that important female leaders were not celebrated or remembered as well as their male counterparts.

The Chairperson reminded the Members to focus on women in the Foreign Service.

Ms DD Raphuti (ANC) asked for a report on the gender balance on the Foreign Service.

Mr M Lekota (COPE) suggested that rather than focusing on history, the Committee should focus on recruitment and thus asked about the state of recruitment programs. He suggested that a percentage of positions should be required to be filled by women, and that the percentage should be proportional to the size of the gender gap.

Mr Luwellyn Landers, Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation apologised for not having the demographic information with him today, but noted that diplomats must be both highly qualified and experienced. He noted that there is an academy run by DIRCO for the training of diplomats, and that the Committee could hear from the woman who ran this academy. He said that the Deputy Director General would best be able to answer these gender issues, and said that he felt confident that the Ministers were working on this issue. He agreed that 29% remained far too low.

Dr B Holomisa (UDM) noted that diplomatic posts were often awarded to "failed politicians or political allies", which was embarrassing for South Africa. He said that well qualified people must be chosen for such posts.

The Chairperson said that the selection process must be non-racial, non-partisan, and based on specialised qualifications. He agreed that a representative of the Academy should visit the Committee. He asked the Committee Section to catalogue the appointment and promotion of women in the past few years.

BRICS Summit Report by Department of International Relations and Cooperation
Mr Landers introduced his delegation.

Dr Anil Sooklal, Deputy Director General, DIRCO, said that President Zuma led the delegation to the BRICS summit in Ufa, Russia. The summit began with an informal dinner on 8 July. There was a meeting of the BRICS Business Council (BBC) followed by two sessions: one closed and one open. The establishment of the New Development Bank (NDB) was announced, as well as its Board of Governors. Mr KV Kamath of India was appointed to lead the Bank, and four Vice-Presidents were to represent each of the other four countries. The NDB has an initial authorised capital of US $100 billion, and this would be equally shared among members. South Africa would contribute $2 billion over seven years. Each member had equal voting power and equal access to a safety net financed by members. The NDB was officially launched in Shanghai on 21 July.

Leadership positions in the NDB were shared equally between BRICS members. Pre-summit meetings included BRICS Ministers of Finance, Trade, and Culture. Three agreements were signed: one on culture exchange, another on the establishment of a shared website, and the final on agreed cooperation with the NDB. The summit ended with the Ufa Declaration consisting of 77 paragraphs detailing all the outcomes and agreements of the Summit. Key themes included global politics and threats, regional issues, balanced development and economic growth, and humanitarian cooperation and inter-governmental cooperation.

Mr Sooklal noted that President Putin and that delegation took their responsibility very seriously and had organised some 26 upcoming events. Another key outcome was the “Strategy for BRICS Economic Partnership”; and here President Putin requested an Action Plan to be produced by the end of the year, for the period until 2020.

The BRICS leaders held an outreach meeting with the members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation; all member nations of this organisation showed eagerness to work with BRICS on development.

Russia hosted the first BRICS Parliamentary Forum, which discussed how legislatures could cooperate to share experience and prevent crises. Although South Africa had tried to create similar programmes in the past, it had not been able to create a civil society Track Three structure since 2013. He pointed out the irony of Russia’s lack of previous support for such a forum. South Africa had suggested that embassies, rather than government, help coordinate civil society participation. Russia instead went to the BRICS Think Tank Council, but at the end of the day there had been no objection to this.

The Trade Unions’ Forum, which South Africa started, and the first Youth Forum, were both very successful. The BRICS Strategy from 2012 was being revised to account for all the new entities, such as the NDB and various forums, and would help South Africa prepare for hosting the summit in 2018.

Mr Sooklal pointed out that BRICS economies are growing strongly, and produce a third of the world’s industrial products and one half of agriculture goods. He recognised that Russia and Brazil may be struggling, but that 7% growth in China on a $10 trillion GDP is massive. The top five GDPs in 2050 are predicted to be China, USA, India, Brazil, and Russia respectively.

Mr S Mokgalapa (DA) asked whether BRICS is a trade bloc or a political bloc. He enquired why there was not direct support of a Security Council. He said that he and some colleagues had visited a BRICS forum at the University of Johannesburg and had found it to be very contentious, so he asked how sure the Department was of good inter-country cooperation. He also wanted to know about the progress of the Russian nuclear deal. Finally, he enquired as to any mention of human rights.

Ms Kalyan asked what was being done to counter anti-BRICS international sentiment. She noted that China, which was the headquarters, had cut flights and reduced trade to South Africa, and wondered if that would affect South Africa's relationship. She asked if South Africa would support a reform of the UN. She asked how the location of these forums was selected. Finally, she requested that a copy of the Declaration be provided to the Committee.

Mr M Maila(ANC) asked about BRICS’ relationship with the World Bank and whether it was good that South Africa is a member of the World Bank. He called for a BRICS forum on women.

Ms Kenye asked about the role of Non Executive Directors. She expressed concern that South Africa’s economy was far smaller than those of other BRICS members and suggested that this could affect South Africa’s voting power. She asked for more information on the sustainable development goals of the Summit. She asked if the BRICS Council, as referred to on page 17, was the same as the "BBC" referred to on page 4.

Mr B Radebe (ANC) asked whether the international community had opposed the NDB and how investment in it would work. He also asked how the Vice President from South Africa for the NDB had been chosen. He praised the focus of the summit on beneficiaries rather than goods, and he also praised the creation of new forums and councils. He said that this statement must not be perceived as anti-west or anti-IMF, but felt that the support from China and BRICS was the way to go.

Dr Holomisa noted that South Africa contributed a lot of money to international conventions, but that South Africa rarely used this money for its own improvement. He asked for what specific purpose the government would use the NDB money, and what it would improve. He feared that South Africa could be used by larger economies and the people of South Africa might not see any benefit. He asked the Department to simplify and prioritise its goals.

Ms Raphuti appreciated South Africa’s membership in BRICS and saw the Department’s work as very beneficial. She was glad that the creation of a security council was being considered.

Mr M Mncwango (IFP) asked why some members were paying different amounts into the NDB and requested a breakdown of these payments.

The Chairperson spoke about the 1884 Berlin Convention on the development of Africa and how bad the legacy of this Convention had been. He resented the control imposed by the IMF and the World Bank. He praised BRICS as a way to balance power to support developing nations. He asked whether non-member BRICS countries would also benefit. He agreed with Dr Holomisa that the Department must be very careful to simplify these complex issues and protect the national interest. He asked whether there would be sharing of skills training. He noted that bridges from his childhood were built by Italians, and said that other skills could be imported.

Mr Sooklal said the initial focus of BRICS was purely economic, but that over time it began to institutionalise a global power bloc. He explained that the G7, and not the UN, had controlled global issues, and thus had left South Africa out. The Americans expressed concern that BRICS would undermine the UN, but Mr Sooklal felt that BRICS in fact would help multi-lateralism. He asserted that politics and economics were too interwoven in the inter-connected 21st century for BRICS not to address politics, both regionally and globally.

In creating the Summit Declaration, the delegation decided that BRICS must be more selective in its issues. The civil society area came closest to addressing human rights. Mr Sooklal noted that human rights could be a delicate issue with other BRICS members, and must be pursued carefully and gradually, to avoid mistrust.

Mr Sooklal said that not all BRICS countries had developed organised labour. As with human rights, he said this development would be a slow but promising process. He also said that a meeting on energy was set to occur soon.

Mr Landers addressed the UN Security Council (UNSC) reform issue by explaining that three BRICS members wanted to be members of the UNSC. This made the issue complicated and thus the members were silent on the issue; but this did not mean that BRICS opposed reform. President Zuma had strongly supported African representation on the UNSC.

Mr Sooklal gave an example of Russia’s voice at the G20 summit on Syria and how that voice from BRICS benefitted global stability. He said that BRICS must ramp up its diplomacy efforts.

Mr Sooklal pointed out that SAA cut flights to China for economic reasons; it was not China’s decision. A document was being prepared at the moment, to set out China and South Africa’s economic relationship for the next five years. He noted that the cost of manufacturing in South Africa was half of that in China and that the rand was at 2:1 to the Chinese Yuan. He pointed out that although China was slowing down economically, it had plenty of reserves and would stay strong.

He continued that BRICS countries would hold 60% of shares in the NDB, but this would leave plenty of room for other investors. He pointed out that Asia needed far more infrastructure money than Africa.

He noted that the National Treasury selected candidates for Cabinet endorsement for the position as Vice President of the NDB. By March of next year, the NDB would start granting loans, which meant that South Africa must develop projects by the end of August in order to be first in line. The Department recommended creating around five projects, in the interests of both South Africa and the Continent.

Mr Sooklal said that skills sharing and technology transfer was already happening amongst BRICS countries, through ministerial communication.

Mr Sooklal explained that there was a clear difference between money contributions to the NDB and the CRA; the CRA was based on GDP. The CRA was a safety net and did not disadvantage RSA.

In closing, Mr Sooklal noted that while any international body could be expected to have differences, he felt that cooperation between BRICS nations is very strong.

Omar Al-Bashir matter
Mr Landers explained that the State had made a late application for leave to appeal the High Court’s decision that demanded arrest, in the Omar Al-Bashir matter. The legal advice that he had received suggested that he should not speak any further on the matter at present, lest he fall foul of the sub judice rule. He could only state the result of the AU Summit.

Ms Kalyan did not accept that this matter could not be discussed in this Committee, since no discussions in this Committee could affect the outcome of the case. She noted that she sat on the Rules Committee and was convinced that they did not prevent discussion.

Mr Mokgalapa agreed with Ms Kalyan, and agreed that the Committee must fulfill its oversight role over the executive. He reminded the Committee that he had previously requested a briefing on this matter, which could have been given over a months ago. This matter had been debated in Parliament; the Committee had no intention of taking the Department to court. He said that this was a matter of public interest and importance.

Dr Holomisa suggested that the Deputy Minister should repeat what the President had said, verbatim.

Mr Landers pointed out that his concern was that the Committee would have additional questions on the President’s remarks, and any further questions could lead to compromising questions about the case, and result in the Committee impinging on the sub judice rule. He agreed with Mr Mokgalapa that the matter was of public importance, but pointed out that other important matters in the past had been legally prevented from being discussed, both in committees and in the House. He noted that the House debate occurred before the application for leave to appeal.

The Chairperson ruled that Mr Landers  keep his silence, with the understanding that a thorough presentation on the matter should be given as soon as possible to the Committee.

Mr Mokgalapa asked whether it would be appropriate to get a legal opinion in writing from a Parliamentary law expert, on the sub judice rule being applied to this situation.

Mr Radebe agreed with the Chairperson's decision and also supported the suggestion that the Committee should get the legal advice.

The Chairperson agreed and closed the matter.

AU Summit Outcomes: DIRCO briefing
Ms Kalyan raised a point of order to say that the AU outcome briefing did not appear clearly on her agenda.

The Chairperson disagreed and read the agenda item, then conceded that the two matters appeared in the same agenda item and admitted that the item could have been worded more clearly.

Mr Mokgalapa said that the Committee should not take this separate issue because it did not appear clearly on the agenda. He suggested that the Committee should add, and immediately take the briefing on, the AU Summit’s outcomes as a sixth item, separate to the matter of Omar Al Bashir’s disappearance from the AU summit.

Mr Radebe disagreed with Mr Mokgalapa and said that the Summit agenda item clearly appeared.

The Chairperson agreed that the description could have been better, but said that it did appear on the agenda. He agreed with Mr Mokgalapa that the Committee should hear the Summit’s outcomes.

Ms Kenye agreed that the Department must have two separate presentations and offered a rewording of the agenda.

Mr Sandile Schalk, DIRCO Director of the African Union Directorate, presented the key outcomes from the AU Summit on 14-15 June (the Summit). The President and selected ministers led the Summit. The theme of the Summit was "Women’s Empowerment". The previous summit had led to the adoption of a Declaration on Migration and Free Movement of Persons. This year’s summit adopted a ten-year adoption plan for Agenda 2063 and an agenda scorecard would be made to monitor the progress of projects empowering women.

The Summit adopted the Free Trade Negotiation’s plan. The Summit also addressed the return of Ebola survivors to their home countries. The AU extended the AIDS response road map, to both share responsibility and improve healthcare. The AU also founded a garden to promote conservation. Member states were requested to invest more in higher education. A meeting in Swaziland helped the AU formalise its position on UN reform. A Declaration on Self Reliance addressed the issue of funds coming from partners rather than member states.

Mr Schalk said that details of all decisions would be given to the Members; he had only highlighted the most significant.

Mr T Bergman (DA) asked about the Triangular Coalition referenced in paragraph 2.14 and the Middle East policy referenced in paragraph 2.21.

Ms Kalyan also asked about the Middle East and what was South Africa’s position on this. She asked whether this paper would come before the House for debate. She also asked if anyone from this Committee was invited as an observer?

Mr M Maila (ANC) asked what the decision was on veto rights. In regard to paragraph 2.19 he asked about the status of polio in Africa.

Ms Kenye expressed concern that this report had not been clearer on AIDS prevention.

Mr Radebe asked how South Africa’s report had been received. He asked how free trade had been improved, and how countries with small budgets could contribute to self-reliance.

Mr Mokgalapa emphasised the importance of Mr Radebe’s point on self-reliance.

The Chairperson asked when the Ten-year Implementation Plan would begin.

Mr Schalk replied that the next summit would discuss the start date, but it should be next year. He used the INGA Project as an example of a project being implemented currently. As for self-reliance, the report made clear that countries will give proportional contributions, and that countries will have to find alternative sources of funding.

The Summit had strongly advocated for two voting and one non-permanent seat in the UN. The Summit supported the UN declaration supporting Palestinian statehood.

Mr Landers said that while no Committee members were invited, this could be remedied for the future, if the Committee wanted to pursue the question of observer status. He noted that in the UN, the AU would always strive to vote as a collective to support Africa’s interest.

Mr Schalk said that the report was well received by heads of state.

Mr Lekota asserted that the Committee should not attempt to send Committee members to the AU only because the meeting was in South Africa.

Mr Landers noted that the AU controlled who would get invited, and Ms Kalyan agreed.

Committee programme
The Chairperson announced the term’s committee programme.

The meeting was adjourned.

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