The presentation on South African-French relations in the wake of the new French Presidency, was based on speculations that could possibly change with the legislative elections taking place in France in the upcoming week. The key election drivers included migration, the rise of nationalism, and Brexit. President Macron offers a moderate approach on migration. It is unlikely that France’s foreign policy toward Africa will change. The South Africa-France Joint Economic Commission is a platform to exchange views on trade and investment. It is important to address the trade imbalance especially by focusing on skills transfer and the localisation of market access for South African companies in France. The French President has expressed a desire to form genuine relationships with Africa.
Committee members said that South Africa needs to work with France to rekindle their relationship to benefit South Africa economically, specifically through trade. The relationship with France cannot only benefit France. Relations with France should be dealt with at a higher level than what they are being pitched at. The French President should have intentions to have genuine relationships with all of Africa, and not some countries. A meeting of the Ministers of International Relations and Cooperation and Trade and Industry about economic diplomacy needs to be prioritised. It is unacceptable that there has been a call for economic diplomacy and nothing has happened.
President of Rwanda, Mr Paul Kagame, had led a commission to report on proposed African Union institutional reforms. In January 2017 the AU Assembly adopted the Kagame Report and decided in order to ensure members honor their commitment to the Report, a legally binding mechanism should be established. The Report focuses on: political affairs, peace and security, economic integration, and Africa’s global representation and voice. The New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) and the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) should be strengthened and implemented. Recommendations to operate the AU efficiently include creating a transparent governance process for the election of the AU Commission Chairperson. There should be a fundamental review of the structure and staffing needs to ensure alignment with priority areas. The Kigali Financing Decision should be implemented immediately to ensure the AU’s financial sustainability.
Committee members asked for clarity about the Kigali Financial Decision suggested a plan needs to be put into place to ensure that countries who do not contribute to the financing are penalised. They said the AU needs to be streamlined to be sustainable in its funding; there needs to be better implementation of the APRM; AU countries need to be held accountable for issues of conflict; if the AU pulls out of the International Criminal Court (ICC), there needs to be something in its place that deals with security and conflict; there needs to be clarity about the African Volunteer Corps process; Africa needs to develop politically to develop good leaders and human rights. There will be a meeting in the future to clarify the questions about the Kagame Report that could not be answered at this meeting.
The Chairperson opened by saying African countries are the Committee’s first priority since South Africa is a part of the African continent. The elections in Lesotho were peaceful. One discrepancy was the presence of soldiers as citizens were voting. The soldiers were deployed for security, although voters did not like to see them there. There are elections on Thursday 8 June in Britain. A reading from Prime Minister May’s economist says the timing of the elections may not deliver what she wants them to. The extent of British trade and economics will be affected by Brexit, but the extent will be better understood when the election results are available. In the months to come, there will be elections in Kenya.
Mr S Mokgalapa (DA) said he hopes that the statement about the Lesotho election results will also highlight why the soldiers were involved. Democracy has not been achieved in Lesotho. Hopefully this coalition government will hold up until the end of its term. The British elections have come against the backdrop of Brexit and the Committee will need to wait and see what happens in the elections. Politics is a numbers games and things change day to day. The terrorist attacks in Manchester and London will also affect the elections.
A committee member said that the soldiers were at the elections to ensure that there was peace. What should concern the Committee are the resolutions. South Africa must nudge Lesotho towards a proper coalition. If their leaders are not transformed, there will be another election within the next five years. The French presidential election showed serious push back against right tendencies. The British attacks are condemned. The gimmicks of people being bombed are not democracy. South Africans will work with whoever is elected. The goals of DIRCO and the DTI are not aligned, and the Chairperson must organize a meeting to discuss these matters.
South African-French Relations: Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO)
Ms Yoliswa Mvebe, DIRCO Chief Director: Western Europe gave the presentation. She was accompanied by Mr Kgabo Mahoai, DIRCO Director General, Yolisa Maya, Deputy Director General: Americas and Europe, Ms Bongiwe Quabe Chief Director: African Union and Mr Zahier Amien, Head: Office of the Deputy Minister.
In the wake of the French presidential election, Ms Mvebe said the presentation would provide possible policy implementation of President Macron. However, these are only speculations as the French President only took office on 24 May. Legislative elections occur in France next week, which could change these speculations.
The key election drivers included migration, the rise in nationalism, and Brexit. President Macron won with 66.1% of votes. He offers a moderate approach on migration. His foreign policy will be demonstrated in time. South African-France relations are currently managed through the Forum for Political Dialogue at the Director-General level; which along with the Defence Strategic Dialogue will be elevated to a Ministerial level. It is unlikely that France’s foreign policy toward Africa will change. The South Africa-France Joint Economic Commission (JEC) is a platform to exchange views on trade and investment, and is important to address the trade imbalance especially by focusing on skills transfer, and the localisation and opening of market access for South African companies in France. Migration will be curbed causing a reduction in opportunities for African migrants. In the context of G20, President Macron expressed the desire to form a genuine partnership with Africa and wants to collaborate on security, climate change, education, infrastructure, energy, women’s rights, and access to water. In the context of G7, France will assist with stemming the flow of migrants across the Mediterranean.
Mr S Mokgalapa (DA) said that there are lessons to be learned from the French elections about the rise of the populists. Foreign policy is becoming the centre of international relations. It is good that the JEC has now been elevated to ministerial level. Is there a bilateral commission that is elevated to heads of state? South Africa has had fluctuating relations with France and Macron’s election creates an opportunity to rekindle their relationship. It is important to move France away from the stigma of North and Western African focus. If there is anyone that can move France to the south, it is South Africa. There is still work to be done, but this is their window of opportunity.
A committee member said that he had met a man from West Africa who said that it is an accident of nature that he is black, but he is a French man. If someone said that every country is a part of France, how true is that? What is the influence of France in relation to Morocco? How can the Department try and influence France in solving the Western Sahara problem? Economically, what is being gained in having a relationship with France?
Ms D Raphuti (ANC) stated that the French President is very young, and it makes a statement that he has no ties to a political party. If our political leaders are not engaging at a higher level, then something must happen. There needs to be a relationship with France. Past political leaders were not serious about South Africa; they only operated at a functionalist level. The ambassador must to try to assist in ensuring the relationship is not just cordial. South Africa’s relationship with France is currently dwindling.
A committee member said that the allegations that a country tried to influence the outcome of another country’s elections are serious. How true are the allegations? How will Africa advance in skills and development through these new plans? What does the fact that President Macron won without any political party tell the Committee?
The Chairperson said that slide eight states that the French President expressed his desire to turn the South African relationship into a genuine partnership. Is France or just South Africa expressing this? There is a lot of playing with words for former colonial powers in the African continent. The partnership needs to be a ‘win- win’ situation in an economic, diplomatic, and military sense for France and South Africa. France has been consistent with their international policy. They are very internationalist militarily. No French person would say they were black by accident if they were born in Africa because France assumed a segregation policy. On the black African issue of language, there are some small tensions over what is the language of communication, French or English. For example, some people do not like being called the Ivory Coast, they prefer Cote d’Ivoire. Germany was prepared to absorb 1 million migrants because they needed to solve their lack of work force problem. France says they will take skilled people from Africa. France is not the only one who has economic challenges. Why after so many years, does the JEC have South Africa’s relationship pitched at such a low level?
Ms Mvebe clarified that the Forum for Political Dialogue (FPD) is political relations at a Director General level. The JEC is the trading investment platform at the ministerial level. The FPD is the coordinating mechanism between two countries and is at the DG level, but with the state visit to France by the President last year, it was decided to elevate this to the ministerial level along with the Defence Strategy Dialogue.
The Chairperson asked at what level relations with France were before 1994. Since 1994, why were relations not at the ministerial level? This should have been pitched at a much higher level. To pitch it at this level involves trade and political implications.
Mr Kgabo Mahoai, DIRCO Director General, said there are lessons learned at a presidential level. It is highly unlikely to get at least an annual meeting because of the nature of this level. There are 123 signed electoral mechanisms with 110 countries. Only 44 are active and 37 are active but not per agreement. With regard to France, until last year there has been reluctance on their part. At which level is the relationship functioning? When they sign the mechanisms, they need to be implemented as agreed.
The Chairperson said if France regards South Africa as a partner, then France should also do the same with other African countries. If the French president does not go out to all of the strategic regions, such as the North where Nigeria is a force to be reckoned with, it will be revealing of where he stands in business. There must be an engagement with trade, particularly France or Germany. Where are the trade benefits?
Ms Mvebe replied that President Macron visited Nigeria and another country during his campaign trail, which indicates where his priorities in Africa are. All of the foreign policy indicators are just pronouncements made on Macron’s campaign trail. Macron says he is open to have partnerships with leaders in Africa as well as between the EU and AU. No one will know for sure what France will do until Macron starts implementing his policies and until after the legislative elections happen. The JEC will be inclusive of all ministers. It needs to have a strategy to advance South African relations. One of the areas that France is good at is agriculture. How does that find itself within this platform? France seems to benefit more from South Africa than South Africa benefits from France. Even though the relationship mechanism has been elevated, the foreign dialogue needs to be at a Director General level. They cannot wait for ministers to meet. They need a structured political meeting for both International Relations and Defence. At a presidential level, there have not been many state visits. To economically benefit from France, they need to look at what opportunities are in France for South Africa and how France latches onto South Africa’s opportunities. France will not shut the door around migrants, but they will be selective of whom they take on their shore.
Mr M Mncwango (IFP) asked why France is lukewarm towards South Africa. What does this mean for economic advancement?
Ms Maya replied that there are many missions that are key strategy components, whether the missions have trade attachments or not. There are a lot of conversations between government departments, especially DIRCO and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI). Hopefully one day they can coordinate as two departments so they can sit and answer the Committee’s questions. As DIRCO opens doors for South Africa, it has discussions the DTI. The Department always gets a straight response – that where the DTI sees value, is not always where DIRCO sees value. The priorities are extremely misaligned and DIRCO needs to be guided by the Committee as to how to deal with these issues.
The Chairperson said that he will talk to the Trade Portfolio Committee Chairperson and see if the DTI and DIRCO can get together with their ministers for a meeting. When South Africa has meetings with other nations, they must get trade out of them.
Mr Mokgalapa said that a joint meeting with the ministers of the two departments needs to be prioritised. It is unacceptable that there has been a call for economic diplomacy and nothing has happened.
Strengthening the African Union - Kagame Report: briefing by DIRCO
Ms Yolisa Maya, DIRCO Deputy Director General: Americas and Europe, said that in July 2016, the AU gave the President of Rwanda, Mr Paul Kagame, the mandate to address the challenges facing the African Union and submit a report on its institutional reform. An Advisory Team made up of experts from different regions of the continent assisted him. In January 2017 the AU Assembly adopted the report and decided in order to ensure members honor the commitment to the report, a legally binding mechanism should be established.
The report focuses on political affairs, peace and security, economic integration, and Africa’s global representation and voice. The New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) should be fully integrated, possibly as the AU development agency, and aligned with the agreed priorities. The Africa Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) should be strengthened to track implementation and oversee monitoring and evaluation in key governance areas of the continent. The AU summits should focus on no more than three strategic items. Recommendations to operate the AU efficiently include creating a transparent governance process for the election of the Chairperson of the Commission. There should be a fundamental review of the structure and staffing needs of the organization and ensure alignment with priority areas. The Kigali Financing Decision should be implemented immediately to ensure AU financial sustainability. It sets clear rules of financial management and accountability principles. Penalties for failure to honor the contributions should be enforced. The sequencing of reform is separated into three terms: short term 0-6 months, medium term 6-12 months, and long term 1-2 years. The short term includes implementing the Kigali Financing Decision, adopting a panel to enforce reform implementation, and reforming the working methods of the summit. The medium term includes enhancing the process of electing a Commission Chairperson and reviewing the structure of the AU Commission. The long term includes a review and update of the key organs and institutions as well as launching an initiative focused on increasing the AU’s relevance to citizens.
Mr Mokgalapa said a lot of work was done by the Kagame Commission and Report. Significant reforms were highlighted that need to happen to better the AU. Was the Kigali Financing Decision based on the recommendation of a previous report? Has it been endorsed as the AU financial contribution of member states? Is there consensus with National Treasury in terms of this implementation? What is the current status on the payment of membership fees? Can South Africa afford this? There needs to be sustainability in the AU. There cannot be so many programs without funding. What should be looked at is the streamlining of the bureaucratic institution to make it meaningful to save costs. What is the status in terms of contribution now?
Ms T Kenye (ANC) asked about the Kigali Financial Decision and the way that NEPAD and APRM are involved. There are some countries that contribute to the funding and some that do not. For sustainability of these programmes, what is in place to reinforce financing these systems? There must be penalties if people do not pay. On the medium term reforms, there needs to be clarity about the recruitment of the Chairperson of the Commission. What does it mean that African passports will be available to all citizens as quickly as possible? Is this a Home Affairs issue?
Ms Raphuti asked where the African Peer Review Mechanism is on peace and stability. There is no peace and stability. Some of the AU members are not complying with the APRM. There are so many conflicts on the African continent. Do the people of South Africa understand what the Department is doing? Botswana is the only other peaceful southern African country. The east is all conflict. Is the African Peer Review Mechanism practicing what is preaching?
The Chairperson said the word strengthening is used with reform; which word is the key operator? Strengthening is not used in the same way reforming is. Reform should be the right word used in the Report. There had been matters that had been identified but nothing had been done to implement fixing them. It is disappointing that heads of government can meet and make decisions that will cost money, but its takes them a while to realise that the policies need to be financed. The African Volunteer Corps brings people in to work with the AU, but the volunteers are being paid from their home country. There needs to be clarity on this process. Over the last 40 years, the EU developed its own bureaucrats that are trained in such a way that they understand the politics of Europe. When decisions are made, there are Directors General that have an understanding of Europe. With Africa, it seems that they do not have a cadre of their own. African countries cannot throw money into the continent only to reap nothing in return. The Court of Human and Peoples Rights is used interchangeably with the Court of Justice of the African Union; which one is it? If the AU moves out of the International Criminal Court (ICC) what will be put in place to prevent war crime? It is interesting that not many countries are keen to finance or deploy soldiers. Has the AU investigated any sources of conflict? Why is it when national elections are held and some groups feel the need to reject the elections? Then peacekeeping missions are launched after the groups arise. War is money, just like perhaps peacekeeping missions are money. The African continent is always without peace; there are not any peacekeeping missions in the US, France, UK, Russia, or China. Africa needs to develop politically to develop good governors, human rights, and not to reject elections.
Ms Maya replied that some reforms were omitted in her presentation. The proposal was to strengthen the role of the Peace and Security Council (PSC) in the prevention in crisis management and to strengthen the PSC working method. Article Five of the Constitutive Act proposes that all members comply with the AU principles, and if they do not, they cannot be a part of the Business Security Council. This needs to be enforced so the PSC can be more effective. The Report is a work in progress, but it is also a new proposal from January. So it is only now that there will be questions raised about its implementation.
Another reform is the Permanent Representative Committee (PRC) which is made up of ambassadors. The ambassadors will stick to monitoring the work of the AU Secretariat. It gets problematic because the Secretariat tells the ambassadors to leave them alone. There is a tendency for the Secretariat to push through decisions without getting ambassadors to discuss these. Solutions will take a long time to implement because of the required changes in legislation. These are the topics that still need to be addressed with unpacking this report. Some heads of state do not have time to discuss everything about the proposal. The DG attended a meeting to engage the team of President Kagame on questions that arose from reading the Report, but some of the questions could not be answered in time. There was an agreement to meet again and go into the details of the recommendations.
DIRCO is engaging with Treasury about finances. The Minister of Finance is supposed to see this implementation through. There is a levy that covers 6.4 times what must be paid to the AU. South Africa is meeting the requirements to the AU. If a member does not pay, what does that mean? These are questions that need to be brought up about the Kagame Report. The African Volunteer Corps will put in volunteers into the AU. The UN stopped this practice because the countries that could finance this were dominating the Secretariat. Is that what is wanted for the AU?
Ms Maya said that they do not have answers just yet to some of the Members’ questions, but they are being raised with the Secretariat and Treasury and the DG can attest to that. The Malabo Protocol must be ratified if South Africa pulls out of the ICC. With the Protocol, there will be a lot of legislative challenges domestically to South Africa that will need to be addressed. This matter has been forwarded to the Technical Committee on Legal Affairs. This meeting has been postponed, like the AU-Kagame meeting. It is being proposed that the Court of Human and Peoples Rights and the Court of Justice merge to ensure that the institutions are not dealing with related matters.
The Chairperson asked why there is support for the merging of the two courts. There is a legal challenge that must be addressed. The legal systems need to be made up of Africans so that way the people who are being tried is understood.
A committee member asked how far the implementation of the court would go. One person could commit a crime in one country, but be charged in another.
Ms Maya replied that she does not have the exact details. The matter has been forwarded to the Technical Committee on Legal Affairs in terms of trying to agree on an AU mechanism that could be accepted in all of Africa for implementation. The special court that was sitting in Senegal would be an example of how an agreement could be made. However, the details are not known by DIRCO at this time.
In response, the committee member requested that the reply from the Technical Committee be given to the Committee.
Mr Mokgalapa said that the Technical Committee reply could be included when DIRCO meets with the Committee to discuss the Malabo Protocol.
The meeting was adjourned.
Download as PDF
You can download this page as a PDF using your browser's print functionality. Click on the "Print" button below and select the "PDF" option under destinations/printers.
See detailed instructions for your browser here.