The Committee received briefings on the 2016/17 Annual Reports of the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) and the African Renaissance and International Cooperation Fund (ARF).
DIRCO received an unqualified audit opinion. In 2016/17, the final appropriation figure sat at around R6.838bn with actual expenditure being around R6.844bn. There was thus an over expenditure of just over R6m. The vacancy rate was 9.09%.83% of disciplinary cases were finalised within 90 days and 60% of lodged grievances had been handled within 30 days. The Diplomatic Academy had trained 974 officials from DIRCO and other departments.
DIRCO reported that it operated in a global environment that was characterised by unpredictability, insecurity, a rise in terrorism, growing political volatility and right wing populism. This was compounded by a slowdown in economic growth. Notwithstanding the aforementioned challenges the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region remained SA’s biggest trading partner. SA continued to participate in the G20 to advocate the interests of Africa and the developing world. SA was also a member of the African Union Peace and Safety Security Council. SA through its leadership of the G77 was key in the finalisation of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the agreement on Financing for Development. The second leg of the briefing spoke to performance information
The ARF continued to support the SADC election observer missions on the African continent. One of the major flagship projects implemented during the 2016/17 financial year was the Rice and Vegetable Project in Guinea Conakry which had officially been handed over to the Government of Guinea Conakry as a blueprint for SA as a model for the eradication of food insecurity on the continent. The briefing continued on the performance of the ARF. On the number of ARF structures and processes convened to identify and recommend projects the target had been met with a total of four committee meetings being held. To promote democracy and good governance the target of having 100% of approved disbursements distributed had been met. However for the period under review the target of having 100% of Project Oversight Committee Meeting Reports for active projects was not met with the actual figure sitting at 75%. The Fund maintained an unqualified audit report from the AGSA. Eleven out of twelve audit recommendations accepted by management in the prior year on matters included in the auditor’s report were implemented and actions taken to resolve the findings. The one outstanding matter affecting the Auditors opinion is “Any money in the Fund which is not required for immediate use must be invested by the Director-General, and may be withdrawn when required.
The Committee appreciated that DIRCO was able to secure an unqualified audit report from the Office of the Auditor General of SA (AGSA). Members however expressed disappointment over the manner in which the briefing had been done. The presented document was vague and provided no detail. DIRCO was informed that its delays in appointing a Parliamentary Liaison Officer had affected the schedule of the Committee as the present meeting was supposed to have taken place weeks ago. The DA at the outset of the meeting pointed out that it was yet to see Minister Nkoane-Mashabane attend a meeting of the Committee. Members asked that the DIRCO make provision for diplomatic training for members of the Committee. The Chairperson stressed the importance of orientation of members on international relations as it would amongst others allow members to understand the complexities of what was happening in Africa. Minister Nkoane-Mashabane was asked why she had granted diplomatic immunity to Mrs Grace Mugabe. DIRCO was asked how the negative economic outlook for the South African economy and the possibility of SA heading towards full junk status impacted upon SA’s international relations. Did the DIRCO have a plan in place? Members asked the DIRCO to speak to how Brexit affected SA, how BRICS had benefitted SA economically and the impact of financial outflows. Members also asked for an update on the Palestinian and DRC issues as well the situation of a South African journalist that had been captured in Syria. What was happening on the International Criminal Court (ICC) matter? Members did not consider Morocco becoming part of the African Union as an achievement. DIRCO was asked about its role in the repatriation of remains of South African freedom fighters from all around the world and Africa was. On scholarships that the DIRCO had awarded, members asked who the beneficiaries were and whether the processes were fair and transparent. The DIRCO was also asked whether learners in townships had been invited to participate in Public Participation Programmes (PPP). Members asked what the progress on the Draft Partnership for Development Bill was and how far the establishment of its agency was. Members pointed out that the briefing had been silent on the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) projects which included infrastructure development projects. How were efforts against human trafficking being coordinated? What was the DIRCO doing about empowering military veterans? Members conceded that South Africans were lacking in understanding on the importance of national interest. Members of parliament themselves lacked a unified approach on SA abroad. The DIRCO was asked to provide the Committee with greater information on what was happening in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region especially around Lesotho.
The Department was asked to provide written responses for unanswered questions.
The delegation from the Department comprised of amongst others, Mr Kgabo Mahoai, Director-General, Mr Ebrahim Saley, Chief Operations Officer (COO), Mr Caiphus Ramashau,Chief Financial Officer (CFO), Mr Gideon Labane, Chief Audit Executive and Ms Mathu Joyini, Deputy Director General: Training Development and Research. The briefing was shared amongst the delegation.
Briefing by Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) on its Annual Report 2016/17
DIRCO operated in a global environment that was characterised by unpredictability, insecurity, a rise in terrorism, growing political volatility and right wing populism. This was compounded by a slowdown in economic growth. Notwithstanding the aforementioned challenges the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region remained SA’s biggest trading partner. SA continued to participate in the G20 to advocate the interests of Africa and the developing world. SA was also a member of the African Union Peace and Safety Security Council. SA through its leadership of the G77 was key in the finalisation of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the agreement on Financing for Development. The second leg of the briefing spoke to performance information.
Programme 2: International Relations & SADC
A total of 22 out of the planned 34 structured mechanisms and 26 out of 46 planned high level visits had been achieved. The target of having 112 trade and investment seminars had been surpassed with the actual figure being 124.
With SADC as the focus area, the DIRCO participated in various SADC Structures. These included discussions on peace and security challenges in Lesotho, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Madagascar.SA was also elected as Chair of the SADC for 2017-2018.
Programme 3: International Cooperation, Continental Cooperation, South-South Cooperation & North-South Cooperation
On international cooperation, DIRCO had met its target of negotiating and influencing three Human Rights Council sessions for the Promotion an Protection of Human Rights. On continental cooperation with the focus area being the African Union, DIRCO had participated in African Union structures with one of the outcomes being the admission of Morocco to the African Union.
On South-South cooperation with focus area being BRICS, a meeting was held with BRICS leaders on the margins of the G20 Summit and exchanged views on global and regional issues in the economic and political sphere. On North-South cooperation with the target focus area being the Tokyo International Conference for African Development (TICAD VI), SA had prepared for and participated. Some of the focus areas were the Nairobi Declaration and the Ebola outbreak.
Programme 4: Public Diplomacy & State Protocol
On public diplomacy, 18 media briefings had been held. The Department released more media statements than targeted – 186 versus 160. In addition there were 14 over the target of 10 opinion pieces.
On state protocol, DIRCO provided protocol services for 64 incoming and outgoing international visits for principals as well as facilitating 27 333 dignitaries through State Protocol Lounges. The DIRCO had in addition responded to 847 requests for consular assistance and had legalised 52 445 documents.
On human resource administration, the vacancy rate was 9.09% compared to 12.9% in 2015/16. On human resource management and development, 83% of disciplinary cases had been finalised within 90 days and 60% of lodged grievances had been handled within 30 days. The Diplomatic Academy had trained 974 officials from the DIRCO and other departments.
On the financial performance, the final appropriation figure sat at around R6.838bn with actual expenditure being around R6.844bn. There was thus an over expenditure of just over R6m. DIRCO focused its energy in addressing the AGSA’s material findings on asset management in particular heritage and moveable assets. The asset register clean up was dealt with successfully. DIRCO accordingly received an unqualified audit opinion.
Briefing by African Renaissance and International Cooperation Fund (ARF) on its 2016/17 Annual Report
Ms Dineo Mathlako, Head: Operations, ARF, stated that the ARF continued to support the SADC election observer missions on the African continent. One of the major flagship projects implemented during the 2016/17 financial year was the Rice and Vegetable Project in Guinea Conakry which had officially been handed over to the Government of Guinea Conakry as a blueprint for SA as a model for the eradication of food insecurity on the continent. On the number of ARF structures and processes convened to identify and recommend projects the target had been met with a total of four committee meetings being held. To promote democracy and good governance the target of having 100% of approved disbursements distributed had been met. There was also 100% processing of approved disbursement to support capacity building and 100% approved disbursement for humanitarian assistance. However for the period under review the target of having 100% of Project Oversight Committee Meeting Reports for active projects was not met with the actual figure sitting at 75%.
The Fund maintained an unqualified audit report from the AGSA. Eleven out of twelve audit recommendations accepted by management in the prior year on matters included in the auditor’s report were implemented and actions taken to resolve the findings. The one outstanding matter affecting the Auditors opinion is “Any money in the Fund which is not required for immediate use must be invested by the Director-General, and may be withdrawn when required.
The Chairperson brought it to DIRCO’s attention that the delay in appointing a Parliamentary Liaison Officer (PLO) affected the Committee as the present meeting was supposed to have taken place weeks ago. He said that members represented provinces and needed to know what the DIRCO was doing in provinces.
Mr W Faber (DA, Northern Cape) said that he would like to see Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Ms Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, attend the Committee’s meetings. He was yet to see her in a meeting of the Committee. He felt that she should appear at least once a year appear before the Committee. He personally saw it as a slap in the face that the Minister had not yet attended a single meeting. The Committee after all did oversight over the Minister. Slide 22 pointed out that 974 officials had undergone diplomatic training. Members had asked to be invited to go on diplomatic training as well. Once members political careers were over they could be diplomats for SA. He asked that the Minister explain why diplomatic immunity had been granted to Ms Grace Mugabe. The High Court had reserved judgement on the matter. He pointed out that the economist Mr Dawie Roodt had predicted that the exchange rate was heading towards $1/R15.There was a negative future outlook for SA. SA was heading towards full junk status. He asked how these issues impacted upon SA’s international relations. Did the DIRCO have a plan in place? How could the impact of currency fluctuations be mitigated?
Minister Nkoana-Mashabane apologised for not attending meetings of the Committee earlier. She assured members that there was no place like home and that she preferred to be in SA. SA was leading Agenda 2063. Africa expected much from SA. SA also had its own National Development Plan (NDP) and the World Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to consider. On the matter of the Zimbabwean first lady, she said that one could not choose ones family and one could not choose ones neighbours. Both parties on either side of the issue had submitted their arguments and were waiting for the law to take its course.
Ms Joyini stated that DIRCO did international relations orientation with members of the Portfolio Committee on International Relations and Cooperation, so it could just as well be done with the Committee also.
The Chairperson agreed that diplomatic training for members would go a long way. It would allow members to better understand protocols.
Mr M Rayi (ANC, Eastern Cape) stated that he relied more on the actual annual reports of departments and entities than the PowerPoint presentations handed out. The presentations were always sparse on information. He however did not find DIRCOs 2016/17 Annual Report on its website. He asked that the DIRCO keep its website updated. He noted that the briefing had not spoken to what the Annual Performance Plan (APP) said on targets. Had targets been met or where they had not been met what were the reasons for not meeting them. He would have liked for DIRCO in its overview to have spoken about the effect that Britain’s exit from the European Union (Brexit) would have on SA. In addition, DIRCO should have touched on Palestine and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). He had read in the DTIs Annual Report that for the ten years that SA was part of the Brazil, Russia, India, China and SA (BRICS) Bloc Agreement, the country had not benefitted economically. He also asked for an updates on the International Criminal Court (ICC) issue, illicit financial out flows as well as Morocco becoming part of the African Union. He did not, as DIRCO viewed, consider Morocco becoming part of the African Union as an achievement. Morocco was only accepted into the African Union due to pressure mostly from France. DIRCO was asked to update members about the South African journalist that had been captured in Syria. When members had visited Singapore its Chamber of Commerce had informed members that they were hosting a summit in SA. The summit had taken place the previous week but members had not been invited. DIRCO was further asked what its role on the repatriation of remains of stalwarts of the South African freedom struggle from around the world and Africa was. He appreciated the achievement of DIRCO achieving an unqualified audit report but nevertheless asked why it had not been clean. What matters of emphasis had the AGSA raised?
Mr Mahoai was shocked that members did not have copies of the Annual Report 2016/17 as it had been submitted to Parliament. DIRCO had assumed that the Annual Report had been distributed. He would ensure that it would not happen again.
Mr Ramashau also apologised for the Annual Report not being distributed to the Committee. The reason why a clean audit was not achieved was because DIRCO still had issues around supply chain processes. However measures had been put in place to deal with the issues. In 2017/18, DIRCO would try to get a clean audit. On the impact that foreign exchange fluctuations had on the DIRCO spending funds, there was an arrangement with the Reserve Bank of SA. All funds that were sent to missions were done through the Reserve Bank. Efforts were being made to mitigate the vulnerability of the rand.
The Chairperson said that if the DIRCO was unable to respond to all questions asked then the remainder could be responded to in writing. He pointed out that there were local and provincial officials that participated in international programmes etc. There however needed to be greater inter governmental relations and synergy.
Mr Mohoai agreed that the DIRCO would provide responses in writing where questions remained unanswered.
Mr L Magwebu (DA, Eastern Cape) referred to slide 11 which spoke about 200 scholarships. Who were the beneficiaries? Were the scholarships awarded on a fair and transparent basis. More information was needed. He was disappointed with the manner in which the DIRCO was reporting to the Committee. It was vague and did not give detail. Slide 19 dealt with public diplomacy efforts. DIRCO’s Ubuntu Magazine had been provided in South African Airways’ lounges. Were they also made available at public libraries for children to read them? The slide also spoke about Public Participation Programmes (PPP). Had learners from township schools been invited to participate? He referred to slide 22 which spoke to human resource management. Ten out of twelve disciplinary cases had been finalised within 90 days. He asked for greater detail. What were the allegations and how much money had been lost? He congratulated Mr Ramashau on the DIRCO’s good financial performance.
Mr Mohoai said that the Ubuntu magazine was distributed. He explained that PPPs were done by the DIRCO’s political principals. There was real interaction with ordinary people. On disciplinary cases, the nature of allegations were outlined in the Annual Report.
Ms Joyini, on how scholarships were sourced and distributed, explained that the sourcing was done by Minister Nkoana-Mashabane through bilateral engagements. The Minister provided ideas on how DIRCO could engage with other departments. The idea was to provide scholarships in areas where there were skills gaps. Internal coordination was needed between departments and stakeholders. On the Ubuntu Magazine there was collaboration taking place. Young persons were always involved. School children were involved in outreach programmes. Career days were also held. On disciplinary action around financial misconduct she said that there were three cases and that it had been dealt with. Nine plagiarism cases had also been dealt with.
The Chairperson reiterated the issues raised by Mr Rayi. What was the economic value to SA for being part of the BRICS? He was aware that Minister of Trade and Industry, Mr Rob, Davies was engaging on the Brexit issue. How did the DIRCO see the situation? On the DRC, there was instability and SA was involved in peace-keeping efforts. SA had invested in the Grand Inga Dam Hydro-Electricity Project. Everyone was mostly relying on media reports on what was happening in the DRC. Members felt that Morocco’s acceptance into the African Union was not necessarily an achievement.
Minister Nkoana-Mashabane said that the Constitutive Act of the African Union stated that no African country could take over another country. There was no border dispute between the Western Sahara and Morocco. Morocco had simply absorbed Western Sahara into Morocco. When Morocco was accepted into the African Union there were literally fist fights taking place at the African Union gathering. Morocco had said that it was joining the African Union without any conditions. Prior to this Morocco had never been a member of the African Union. Morocco had belonged to the Organisation of African Unity (OAU). Morocco had not signed the Constitutive Act of the African Union. Britain was exiting from the European Union but the issue was where they were exiting to. There seemed to be no back-up plan. Migration in the European Union was a huge problem. European populations were ageing and their economies were stagnating. Efforts needed to be made to make economies grow. Europe had always been one of SA’s historical trade partners. With Brexit, SA could not expect too many things to happen.
On BRICS, SA was one of the founder members. Since 1945 there was no African country that had been assisted by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to grow. Yet European economies managed to grow. BRICS was an attempt to create a Bloc for developing countries. Trade with BRICS countries had grown so much. Collectively the figure sat at $260bn in nine years. SA had started exporting beef to China. There was also the New Development Bank (NDB) Centre located in SA. The first regional NDB was in Johannesburg. Two members of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) ie China and Russia belonged to BRICS. Through China and Russia, BRICS members could raise issues of peace and security in Africa with the UNSC. The world was complaining that Africans were emigrating via Libya to Europe and the rest of the world. It was unfortunate that Libya had been reduced to ashes. SA was chairing the Southern African Development Community (SADC). It seemed as if there were only concerns about the DRC when it had national elections. The real issue in the DRC was the fight over resources that the country had. SA’s soldiers stationed in the DRC were there under precarious circumstances. The Grand Inga Hydro-Electricity Project was expected to provide 600m Africans with electricity. From a South African perspective there was a need for politicians in SA irrespective of political party to put SA’s national Interests first. She had observed that in some African countries national interest was put first. Foreign policy played a big role in defending the national interest of a country. She was pleased that members wished to become experts on international relations. Members were welcome to be orientated on international relations at the diplomatic academy.
The Chairperson reminded DIRCO that if there were questions that were unanswered that written responses should be provided.
Mr M Mhlanga (ANC, Mpumalanga) asked what the progress was on the Draft Partnership for Development Bill. He also asked how far the establishment of the agency for the Draft Partnership for Development Bill was. He asked that the DIRCO speak to its organogram and its strategic plan as well as its governance framework. He pointed out that the briefings had been silent on the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) projects and infrastructure development projects of NEPAD. He asked how efforts against human trafficking were coordinated. On human resources, he asked how DIRCO was empowering military veterans. There was legislation in place that President Jacob Zuma had signed off on that departments should make provision for military veterans. He asked about schools that were to be established in Africa where SA was not a prioritised country.
On NEPAD, Minister Nkoane-Mashabane said the Office of the Director General could provide information on what work was being done. NEPAD dealt with integration of infrastructure in Africa. President Jacob Zuma had initiated the Presidential Infrastructure Coordinating Commission. Two of the projects included a Cape to Cairo rail initiative and another was a gas pipeline from Algeria to Nigeria. A great deal of things were happening. The African continent had the youngest population. Beneficiation needed to happen in Africa. She pointed out that 60% of Africa and the whole of SA was arable. The question that begged to be asked was why was Africa and SA was importing food when it should be exporting it. Work with military veterans was taking place.
Mr B Nthebe (ANC, North West), on material misstatements and non compliance matters raised by the AGSA ,asked Mr Ramashau to elevate them. He also asked that a lack of consequence management be addressed. He agreed with Minister Nkoane-Mashabane that South Africans was lacking in understanding on the importance of national interest compared to its African counterparts. Members in Parliament lacked a unified approach on SA abroad. Members did not understand the magnitude of placing national interest first. He stated that there was a cessation of hostilities in the DRC. Relating to the Grand Inga Hydro-Electric Project, Ethiopia was moving in on the terrain of electricity production and intended to export it. South Africa did not move in a unified way to understand the magnitude of problems. Greater information was needed on what was happening at the SADC especially in regards to Lesotho.
Minister Nkoane-Mashabane said that SA needed to hold a national summit on the issue of an energy mix. Ethiopia had a good relationship with Egypt on the matter of using the Nile River’s water. The Grand Inga Hydro-Electricity Project would not be disturbed by Ethiopia’s plans. Radical economic transformation was needed to bring in 80% of SA’s population that was watching the economy move along without them.
Mr Faber pointed out that Poland 23 years ago had been a communist state. Today Poland and Japan had deflation for the past five years. Poland was the fifth highest growing country in Europe.
The Chairperson noted that the orientation of members on international relations was important so that members understood the complexities of what was happening in the African continent.
Minutes dated 1 November 2017 was adopted unamended.
The meeting was adjourned.