The Committee received briefings from the Department of Tourism and the Department of Science and Technology on the Foreign Service Bill.
The Department of Tourism supported the objective of creating an enabling administrative and management framework through which the Foreign Service would be managed and regulated in a consolidated and coherent manner by the Department of International Relations and Cooperation. The Department was concerned that public entities, such as South African Tourism, were not covered by the Bill as the definition of ‘National Departments’ excluded the public entities. It was pointed out that the Bill required national departments to enter into a Memorandum of Understanding with the Department of International Relations and Cooperation, prior to posting officials to South African Foreign Missions and but it needed to be clear that the Head of Mission was also responsible for officials from other national departments. The level of security clearance required had to be stipulated in the Bill. The Department reiterated its support for the Bill.
SA Tourism would work across the identified markets through a new, efficient operating model of ‘Hub and Spoke’. The 10 Hubs would take care of 44 priority markets. The international offices in Angola, Italy, Japan and Brazil were to be closed. The Department of International Relations and Cooperation had recently begun to embrace tourism promotion as a fundamental pillar of South Africa’s economic diplomacy.
Members expressed concern that the Department would be closing offices in various countries like Brazil, Japan, Italy and Angola. That was particularly concerning when one considered that Brazil was part of the Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa (BRICS) economic grouping. It was concerning that the Department currently did not have attaches to serve as members of the Foreign Service. Members wanted to know how many people were deployed in overseas offices and who was responsible for monitoring that South African interests were being properly represented. Members had questions about the training strategy to support individuals who were to promote South African tourism outside of the country. The limited presence of the Department on the African continent was a serious concern.
The Department of Science and Technology did not have any objections to the Bill and was in complete support of the Bill in its entirety. The Department already had attaches in various countries, such as Brazil. The position in Russia was currently vacant and would be filled as soon as possible. There was diplomatic training for people going into the missions. The Department was guided by the foreign policy, including the White Paper that provided guidelines on what needed to be done. The Bill was clear on the issue of secondments. South Africa was collaborating in projects in Africa, including the Square Kilometre Array. The Department was also collaborating with the Pan African University.
Members were disappointed that the Department had been unable to make a written submission as required by Parliament. The Committee asked about the processes followed in choosing those countries in which the Department would have a presence, both on the African continent and internationally. Members asked about intellectual property, physical property ownership, the number of people who were abroad on missions and the reporting mechanisms used. There was a concern that the Bill was going to affect the trade attaches. Members asked about the Department’s affiliation to international bodies promoting Science and Technology, and involvement with other African states in the promotion of indigenous knowledge.
The Chairperson welcomed everyone to the meeting and indicated that the Department of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries would not be able to make a submission as scheduled, as it had another engagement.
Briefing on the Foreign Service Bill by the Department of Tourism
Mr Victor Tharage, Director-General (DG): Department of Tourism, informed the Committee that tourism promotion and development constituted a significant aspect of South African economic diplomacy as noted in the 2011 White Paper on South Africa’s Foreign Policy: The Diplomacy of Ubuntu. The Department derived its mandate from the Tourism Act, 2014 (Act No. 3 of 2014), according to which the Department was responsible to provide for effective domestic and international marketing of South Africa as a tourist destination. SA Tourism was mandated to market South Africa as a domestic and international leisure and business travel destination in terms of Chapter 3 of the Tourism Act, 2014. The Department had a global presence in countries like China, India, Netherlands and Nigeria. The international offices in Angola, Italy, Japan and Brazil were to be closed.
Mr Tharage stated that SA Tourism would execute its efforts across the identified markets through a new, efficient operating model of ‘Hub and Spoke’. The 10 Hubs would take care of 44 priority markets. The Hubs were in South Africa, Nigeria, Australia, India, China and Germany, Netherlands, France, United Kingdom and the United States. There would be some markets, such as those in South America, that would be managed virtually, and in a prudent manner, via third-party marketing agencies. SA Tourism personnel employed in international offices were not recognised as members of the Foreign Service as they were not attached to the South African Mission nor was the intention of the Bill to subject them to the Foreign Service legislative framework. The Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) had recently begun to embrace tourism promotion as a fundamental pillar of South Africa’s economic diplomacy, as evidenced in its strategic plans and annual performance plans. DIRCO’s 2015/16 Annual Report stated that 94 tourism-promotion events were held where emphasis was also placed on promoting South Africa as a preferred destination for business and leisure travel.
Mr Tharage drew attention to the fact that the Department supported the objective of creating an enabling administrative and management framework through which the Foreign Service would be managed and regulated in a consolidated and coherent manner by DIRCO. The Department was concerned that public entities such as SA Tourism were not covered by the Bill as the definition of the ‘National Departments’ excluded their public entities. The Department was also of the opinion that Section 2 of the Bill, Foreign Service, should make it clear that the Foreign Service needed to serve the national interests. Section 3 dealing with requirements for members of the Foreign Service for operational and clarity roles, required that national departments posting officials to SA Foreign Missions entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with DIRCO, prior to sending officials abroad. A definition of the required level of security clearance should be included in the Bill. The Department indicated that Section 4 should make it clear that the Head of Mission was also responsible for officials from other national departments in the same way as occurred with locally recruited personnel.
Mr Tharage said that the Bill did not have any legal implications on the mandate of the Department as espoused in the Tourism Act, 2014 and the Department did not post officials to the Missions at that point. Should the need arise in the future, the Department might consider, in consultation with DIRCO, posting its officials as Tourism Attaches to serve as members of the Foreign Service. The Department believed that providing information to Head of Missions, and other officials deployed to Missions, on how to market South Africa as a destination of choice, was sufficient to mainstream tourism promotion in the South African Missions. Therefore, the Department reiterated its support for the Bill and hoped its recommendations would be considered in the finalisation of the Bill
Ms T Kenye (ANC) welcomed the presentation as it was insightful and covered a number of key areas. It was concerning that the Department would be closing offices in various countries like Brazil, Japan, Italy and Angola. That was particularly concerning when one considered that Brazil was part of the economic grouping of Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa (BRICS). What would be the impact of closing down the office in Brazil? It was concerning that the Department currently did not have the attaches to serve as members of the Foreign Service. What could be done to strengthen tourism attaches?
Mr B Radebe (ANC) concurred with the sentiments that the Committee was in support of the Bill, as it was important for all the government departments involved. In relation to the footprint of the Department, he asked how many people had been deployed in those offices. Was there a strategy in place to provide training to individuals before they left the country to promote South African tourism? Those persons representing the country should have a close relationship with the Head of the Mission. That was a standard in some countries, like Canada. Was there any particularly problem in using that strategy? It would be important to know if SA tourism belonged to any international bodies that promoted tourism. What protocol was used, if there was involvement in any of the international bodies?
Ms D Raphuti (ANC) asked about the possible implications if the level of security clearance was not stipulated for members to serve in Foreign Service. The ambassador was the key player tasked with the responsibility of representing the country and therefore it was critically important to avoid ambiguity in terms of the requirements.
The Chairperson said that his comments related not to the Bill, but to the operation of the Department. The diplomacy of promoting of Ubuntu was important and that was why the Committee needed to ask whether the officials were trained in trade, economy, culture and diplomacy so that they were able to represent the interests of South Africa. Who was responsible for monitoring whether South African interests were being represented? What was done if there was a breach in terms of the promotion of South African interests? Where were the officials trained? Where were officials located? It would be important to know if the Department was working with other government departments, like DIRCO, in the promotion of tourism.
The Chairperson noted that the Department was closing offices, including those in Brazil and Angola. There was a limited presence of the Department on the African continent. The Department should be promoting tourism, everywhere in the world, but there was a particular concern about the lack of presence in some regions, especially on the African continent. The Department drew attention to the fact that, before any regulations were issued by the Minister, there should be consultation with other affected national departments through a coordinating mechanism, as contemplated in Section 7. There needed to be clarity as to whether that consultation should be undertaken before or after the action of the Department. It was unclear if the Department had any assets abroad.
Mr Tharage responded that most of the questions asked by Members had policy implications. The Department did not have any assets as it was renting or leasing the property that was utilised. No physical structures in those countries belonged to the Department. The Department was of the view that there should be a sharing of resources. People were not sent to those countries, as only the Head of Mission was given the responsibility of going abroad. The Department was in the business of selling South Africa abroad. The Department was sending only one person to represent the interests of South Africa. The diplomats had access to a number of meetings and events happening in a particular country. Diplomatic training and protocol training was offered to those who represented the country as ambassadors.
Mr Tharage added that the Department was a member of the National World Tourism Organisation (NWTO), an international body, although that body was not on the same level as international bodies like the World Health Organisation (WHO). There was also a regional body within the Southern African Development Community (SADC). Immunities did not apply to the diplomats and therefore South African legislation was being taken into consideration, including in cases of criminal offences. The Department had made a request to open an office in China but the Chinese government required accreditation for the application to be processed. The Chinese government required that each individual who was a diplomat should have at least R1 million in a bank account, and that was a lot of money that the Department could not afford. The footprint of the Department in the continent was, indeed, lean and was something that the Department was looking into. There was a working arrangement in Brazil. Assets were not referred to as offices as that was costly in terms of renting. The Department was making use of BRICS and that was usually the case in situations where there were strict visa regulations. For example, the Chinese government had expanded the visas for the diplomats from one city to other cities, which was welcomed by the Department. There were inconsistencies in the security clearance in terms of requirements. The Department was supposed to know of the requirements for security clearance beforehand. The Department was currently not sending any diplomats abroad.
Mr Radebe appreciated the effort of the Department as it was doing a lot for the country. Was there a possibility of getting a report on any diplomatic visits that had been undertaken?
The Chairperson commented that there were some weaknesses in how the diplomats were sent to various countries and that should be noted. The Department of Trade needed to look at the issue of trade attaches. Cultural tourism could be combined with economic tourism as there were countries like Nigeria that had succeeded in that regard.
Mr Tharage replied that there was work in progress with the missions but the missions could not provide detailed information through a report. The information was usually available through DIRCO. There was a South African fund aimed at promoting a good level of understanding of South Africa. There was a trade balance of R30 billion because of the promotion of South African interests. General perceptions of South Africa were usually addressed during meetings and engagements.
Briefing by the Department of Science and Technology
Ms Phumelele Higgins, Director: Africa Multilateral Cooperation, Department of Science and Technology, apologised that the Department had not submitted a formal presentation on the Department’s position on the Bill. The Department did not have any objections to the Bill and therefore was in complete support of the Bill in its entirety. The Department already had attaches in various countries such as Brazil. The position in Russia was currently vacant and would be filled as soon as possible. Diplomatic training was offered to people going into the Missions. The Department was guided by the foreign policy, including the White Paper that provided a guideline on what needed to be done. Advice was provided on the kind of technology suitable for a particular country. The Department was present in 25 countries in Africa and 26 international countries. The Department was affiliated with international bodies like United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO). The Bill was clear on the issue of secondments, which had been the Department’s concern previously. South Africa was able to collaborate with projects in Africa, including the Square Kilometre Array. The Department was also collaborating with the Pan African University.
The Chairperson commented that there was a law in Parliament that required officials to produce a written submission rather than a verbal one. The Committee would request that the Department submit a written submission.
Ms Kenye also expressed concern that the Department had not made a written submission as that made it difficult for Members to engage with the submission. It would be interesting to hear about the process that was undertaken when the Department chose the countries in which it would have a presence, both on the African continent and internationally. It was also unclear as to how South African interests were being promoted in those countries.
Mr Radebe asked if the Department owned any intellectual property. What was the total number of people who were abroad in Missions? What reporting mechanisms were used?
The Chairperson asked if the Bill was not going to affect the trade attaches, especially the employees abroad. Was the Department affiliated to any international bodies that were promoting Science and Technology? It would be important to know if the Department was involved with other African states in the promotion of indigenous knowledge, especially in respect of traditional medicines that were used to heal diseases.
Ms C Dudley (ACDP) wanted to know if the Bill was helping, in any way, in terms of the work that was already being done by the Department in Missions. Were there any specific aspects of the Bill that could be amended?
Ms Higgins responded that the Department chose a country based on the foreign policy, for example by looking at the big five countries on the continent. It also looked into the economic aspects of a particular country. The main focus of the Department was on countries where there was the potential to build capacity within those countries. The Department was looking at the strengths of international countries and explored anything that could be learned and applied to benefit South Africa. The Department was involved in various international bodies and South Africa was currently chairing UNESCO and representing the interests of Africa. The Head of Mission was the one responsible for knowing everything that was happening in a particular country.
Ms Higgins added that the Bill strengthened the existing work being done by the Department which was why it was being supported. The Department did not own any infrastructure or property abroad as the main reliance was on leasing. Everything that the Department did was through DIRCO, and DIRCO knew what was happening abroad. The Department was working with various organisations especially on intellectual property. The Department was also involved in various organisations that were tasked with promoting indigenous knowledge on the African continent. There was a similar organisation in South Africa. The Department did not have any specific requirements for the improvement of the Bill as the main concern was initially on the secondment, but that had been adequately dealt with.
The Chairperson said that the Committee would not have a meeting on the coming Friday, as previously scheduled. The Department of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) had been unable to make the submission that day due to other commitments. The Public Service Commission (PSC) had made it clear that they had no interest in the Bill as it did not affect them. The departments that were not affected by the Bill could write to the Committee rather than coming all the way to Parliament.
The meeting was adjourned.
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