Zimbabwe and Lesotho: DIRCO briefing; Foreign Service Bill: SA Association of Former Ambassadors, Stats SA & Departments input

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International Relations

22 November 2017
Chairperson: Mr M Masango (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) provided the Committee with an updated overview of the current political situations in the Republic of Zimbabwe and the Kingdom of Lesotho.

The presentation on Zimbabwe elaborated on speculation of what would happen after Robert Mugabe, the former President, announced his resignation. There was speculation that Mr Emmerson Mnangagwa, the Vice President, would take over the Presidential seat. Uncertainty over whether current political developments could be categorised as a coup was emphasised. The Department had been advised not to interfere in the political affairs of Zimbabwe.

The Committee commended the peaceful nature of Mugabe’s resignation, and agreed that South Africa should not interfere in the political affairs of Zimbabwe. On South Africa’s role in Zimbabwe’s affairs and the policy of “quiet diplomacy,” the Committee presented differing views. Members said that it would be interesting to see how international organisations defined the political developments. A concern was raised as to how the exodus of Zimbabweans leaving South Africa to return to their former home country would be handled by South Africa’s Department of Home Affairs.

The Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) responded that South Africa was rightfully entitled to have a perspective on the political developments in Zimbabwe. The Southern African Development Community (SADC) would have a continuing monitoring role.

The presentation on Lesotho highlighted that a number of institutional reforms were needed in Lesotho. These included its electoral and Parliamentary system, the Mixed Member Proportional system, and floor crossing, which were of particular concern. The Department referred to the killing of Lesotho’s army chief, Brigadier Maaparankoe Mahao, and the subsequent findings of a SADC commission of enquiry, which found that the murder did not have political motivations.

The Committee questioned the need for Lesotho to have an army, and suggested the South African defence force could perform a protective role for the kingdom. The political parties were of serious concern, as their conflict affected the country’s citizens. The issue of Lesotho’s borders and its existence as a sovereign nation-state was raised.

DIRCO responded that they would put the question of intervention on the table with SADC. Lesotho’s borders had been created by colonial powers and remained an issue. The role of Vice President Ramaphosa as a mediator was stressed.

The South African Association of Former Ambassadors presented input on the Foreign Service Bill. The Association supported the Bill. A major issue related to the harmonisation of policies of different departments, was that the Department of Public Works (DPW) made it difficult for DIRCO to carry out its mandate. There were deserted buildings in foreign countries that were formerly used by South African consulates, but these buildings could not be sold without the approval of the DPW. Another concern was that there were insufficient career diplomats. The Committee raised the issue of undisciplined diplomats and falsified diplomatic certificates. They also urged that the diplomatic school should remain non-partisan.

The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development presented its input on the Foreign Service Bill, and suggested certain terms on the Bill should be revised. It was stressed that harmonisation of different departmental roles was needed. The Committee felt that the input had been insufficient and missed the point, but understood the role of the Department. 

Meeting report

DIRCO on current political situation in Zimbabwe

Mr Luwellyn Landers, Deputy Minister: Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO), said that due to the announcement that Robert Mugabe had stepped down as the President of Zimbabwe, the presentation he had initially prepared for the briefing was no longer needed. He wanted to engage on “the way forward.”

There was a speculation of an interim government that would include “members of the opposition.” From his observations made in certain ZANU PF statements, it was clear that the interim government option had been shot down, as ZANU PF believed they were fairly elected as the majority party in the last elections. There were legal discussions on whether the coup was a coup, as some may argue that there were only elements of a coup. According to media reports, there was speculation that Mr Emmerson Mnangagwa, Vice President of Zimbabwe, would take the position as President. The South African Development Community (SADC) was playing a monitoring role.

From past experience with Zimbabweans, Mr Landers had been advised not interfering, as envoys had stuck to that. Yesterday, he had attended a summit on the developments in Zimbabwe where it was concluded that there was uncertainty on how Zimbabwe would proceed with the current political situation.


Mr B Radebe (ANC) said it must be appreciated that the Zimbabwean people had resolved problems without shedding blood. One must respect that Zimbabwe was not a province of South Africa. From his observations on social media, it seemed as if the military was ensuring the safety of Zimbabwe. In the past, outgoing political parties in Africa were treated badly. South Africa would not be where it was today if it had not been for the 1991 Harare Declaration. South Africa could not “go there as a country,” but should rather get involved as a collective member of SADC. Reference was made to Iraq, after external forces intervened. What was worse was the murder of Saddam Hussein. Libya was another example. Zimbabwe needed to be urged to resolve their issues properly. If Zimbabwean citizens requested intervention, only then could SADC intervene.

Mr M Maila (ANC) said that one must appreciate that no blood was spilt. Respect should also be directed at South Africa for not interfering. Despite the euphoria around Mugabe’s resignation, one must not forget that the situation of Zimbabwe could also be as a result of sanctions imposed on the country.

Ms C Dudley (ACDP) said an official statement was needed from Mugabe and SADC. She commended and respected Zimbabwe for the peaceful process undertaken towards Mugabe’s resignation. She respected South Africa for respecting Zimbabwe’s independence. Commenting on Mr Maila’s statement on sanctions, she said that sanctions were not targeted at Zimbabwean people, but at the people who had been “taking the money.”

Mr S Mokgalapa (DA) said the SADC had been nowhere to be found in 2000 and 2002. In addition, SADC had not got involved in Zimbabwe in 2008, when elections were rigged. The other question was where South Africa had been, when it had rather opted for quiet diplomacy. He emphasised the failure of South Africa or SADC to take leadership in Zimbabwe’s political affairs. SADC must give Zimbabwe the space to resolve matters for themselves. A transitional government should be installed. The elephant in the room was the “muted” status afforded to South Africa. The Democratic Alliance did not want Mugabe to get asylum, as it would be against the constitutional prescripts of South Africa.

Mr M Hlengwa (IFP) said that the presentation had been relevant, as it hadprovided a perspective of what could be regarded as a smart coup. In congratulating the people of Zimbabwe, Zimbabweans must also be mindful that they must not set a precedent of supporting coups. The coup in Zimbabwe must be viewed as an exception, but coups could not be condoned as a norm. Similarly, one must be cautious of the fact that Mugabe’s removal was also a ploy to save the ZANU PF. Zimbabwe had a highly politicised military. The other issue was the commitment of the new administration. The elections should be free and fair. The reality was that if things went wrong, South Africa was the one that had the international obligation to ensure stability. It would be premature to determine what would happen now. It was not necessary for Mugabe to be granted asylum -- Zimbabweans should decide what happened with him. 

Ms D Raphuti (ANC) commended the way issues had unfolded in Zimbabwe. One should rally behind what was happening there. She speculated that there would be positive outcomes.

Mr M Lekota (COPE) said the current manner of change in Zimbabwe appeared to be bloodless. He wanted to raise attention to the early killings by the Red Brigade in Matebeleland, and asked if there was a place to address these issues. There were many people from Zimbabwe who had invested a lot into South Africa. South Africa must consistently remember that the problems of Zimbabwe were their own problems, and that it had a duty to protect its own. South Africa was struggling with issues of xenophobia. The poor of our South Africa had felt they were disadvantaged unfairly. The government must heal wounds this side of the border first.

Ms S Kalyan (DA) asked where the details from the envoy were. What was being done about border control? Many people were packing to go back to Zimbabwe, and at the borders between South African and Zimbabwe there would be an influx of people. She asked how the large movement of Zimbabweans would be facilitated.

Mr L Mpumlwana (ANC) did not think it was correct that the Committee should say who asylum should and should not be granted to. He said that more were economic migrants, due to sanctions in that country.

Mr Lekota referred to an ex-political prisoner platform, where a letter had been published and signed by Mugabe. He could vouch for its authenticity, but it was signed and clearly written by Mugabe. The letter said that Mandela had sold out and had given all the land to the white people. Mugabe had hammered on the point that Mandela was a “sell out.” If the South African government had seen this letter, he wanted to know the government’s response.

The Chairperson said it would be interesting how SADC, the African Union (AU) and the United Nations (UN) would define the current political change in Zimbabwe. It had all the hallmarks of a coup d’etat. Coups d’etat came in various guises. The AU had to recognise the interim government. He was interested in the question of who the next leaders of Zimbabwe would be. What had affected the Zimbabwean government was the implosion of the party, and contestations over what faction must prevail. An official statement must be made by the South African government, including different political party perspectives. While different parties would have their say, there was a need for a non-partisan official statement.

DIRCO Response

Mr Landers said that while Zimbabwe was an autonomous independent sovereign state, South Africans had the right to express their views and they may be expressed strongly. The more the Committee spoke during this meeting, he gauged that Members respected the sovereignty of Zimbabwe, but spoke as if it was a province of South Africa. The people of Zimbabwe should resolve their own issues, and South Africa’s role was to provide assistance if requested. Mr Radebe had made the correct point that no external forces must interfere. At this meeting, Members were expressing their personal views, but some people could misinterpret it as interference.

In response to Ms Dudley, Mr Landers said that there had been no official statement from South Africa or SADC. The ANC had issued a statement welcoming the transition. It was important to consider what the developments in Zimbabwe meant for bilateral relations with South Africa. It could have been easy for this opportunity to be used as a means of vengeance by Zimbabwean citizens. He agrees that the intervention by the Zimbabwean Defence Force (ZDF) must be viewed as an exception.

He agreed that the scheduled 2018 elections in Zimbabwe must be respected. He was glad the opposition was not involved in the coup, because it could lead to a situation of violence. South Africa needed to be mindful and wary of becoming ‘Big Brother,’ like some countries from certain parts of the world. South Africa must endeavour to assist Zimbabwe, like the true neighbour that South Africa was. It must celebrate what had happened there and the positive outcomes for what they were. With regard to the “Matabeleland massacre,” at the appropriate time, the issue should be raised with the Zimbabweans.

Conditions of Mugabe’s resignation had not been received by DIRCO. If asylum was sought, it would not lead to South African courts getting involved, as courts in South Africa were independent.

He was certain that the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) and DIRCO were aware of the increased movement across the borders.

The so-called criminals referred to by ZANU PF had been incarcerated. Some individuals had been assaulted.

Mr Landers said that he had discussed the question of whether it was a coup or not with an advocate. He had made the point that there were elements of a coup, but this still begged the question of whether it could be defined as a coup. During an interview with Mr Cyril Greenland, a former advocate appointed by Mugabe in the 1980s, the AU and SADC made comparisons to the position of Mohamed Morsi, former President of Egypt. The current Egyptian government, who instigated the coup, was currently recognised as a government by the UN and AU.

DIRCO on current political situation in Zimbabwe

Mr Landers presented the current political situation in the Kingdom of Lesotho. Lesotho had recently participated in a SADC double troika summit, with a SADC facilitator of Lesotho.

The SADC facilitator had recommended the need for Lesotho’s government to undertake a number of reforms, including constitutional, governmental and media reforms. The management of the Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) system in Lesotho’s Parliament was of particular concern when it came to floor crossing. There was a time when South Africa allowed floor crossing, but at some point it came to a conclusion that it was not a wise thing to have. Lesotho had the purest form of floor crossing. At any time during a sitting, members could get up and cross the floor, and this had happened.

In a span of six years, Lesotho had had three general elections and this was not healthy. Diplomats in Lesotho said that they could not deal with the political crises any longer. Inevitably, the political turmoil cost money. Requests had been made for SADC to intervene. In 2015, the killing of Lesotho’s army chief, Brigadier Maaparankoe Mahao, resulted in the SADC instigating a commission of inquiry. The commission’s report was presented during a February 2016 summit, approving the enquiry’s recommendations, but the findings could not ascertain whether Mahao’s death was a mutiny, as parties were unable to testify. It could be concluded that the alleged mutiny might have been a fabrication.


Mr Mokgalapa asked how far the roadmap of the reforms in Lesotho was. If those fundamental reforms were not done, then the Committee and DIRCO were wasting their time. The issues in Lesotho sounded like a broken record, and it was tiring.

Mr Mpumlwana said he had an issue with Lesotho having a defence force, because there was nothing they could defend themselves against, apart from their own police and criminals. There should be a joint agreement related to the role of the army with the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) and the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF), in which it could be agreed that South Africa would also care of the defence of Lesotho. With reference to South Africa’s Freedom Charter, he said that it stipulated that Basutoland and Swaziland would decide on their own future, and in consideration of this, South Africa needed to consider three issues. Firstly, the LDF was the main problem. Secondly, the very existence of Lesotho as a sovereign state with its current borders was questionable. Lastly, the bone of contention was whether Lesotho’s government could be persuaded to drop floor crossing from the Constitution. The people of Lesotho surely expected South Africa to assist in solving Lesotho’s problems.

Mr Maila said that the main issue was the reforms. If those reforms did not take place, then one should expect another general election. There was an indication that the army had failed to provide evidence to the Commission.

Ms Raphuti said something must be done about political parties in Lesotho, as those in power were “playing marbles.” With the instability, the question remained if there was a government in Lesotho.

Ms Kalyan asked what the oversights and contingent mission’s terms of reference were. The Committee had shown determination for Zimbabwe’s independence, but now Members were saying floor crossing must be scrapped in Lesotho. Floor crossing was problematic, but the Committee had to be consistent if it did not condone intervention.

Mr Radebe said that there were more Basotho in South Africa than in Lesotho. He asked if it was not high time that South Africa learnt from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) by isolating the leadership ino a place with no food and no water until they decided to adopt the reforms.

Mr Landers said there was roadmap in place for reforms. He did not know what would bring about the political will for the reforms to take place. Lesotho was a sovereign independent state. The political will had to come from Lesotho. He did not know whether placing Lesotho’s politicians in a room, isolated from food and water, would resolve anything.

In relation to colonial borders and South Africa’s Freedom Charter, he emphasised that there was another problem to consider, whereby Lesotho claimed that the entire Free State province belonged to Lesotho. The Kingdom of Swaziland was no different, and claimed the Mpumalanga province belonged to Swaziland. Mr Mpumlwana was right that the issue of borders was a big problem, because the borders had been created by colonial powers.

He said that he would table the matter of intervention by the SANDF to the Ministry of Defence and Ms Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, Minister of DIRCO.

An oversight committee had been created to assist Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa as a mediator, because sometimes Mr Ramaphosa had too many responsibilities. After an investigation had been conducted on the political situation, no evidence had been found of a politically motivated assassination.

Foreign Service Bill: Input by South African Association of Former Ambassadors

Mr George Nene, former Ambassador, South African Association of Former Ambassadors, presented the Association’s input on the Foreign Service Bill.

Even though the Bill was being discussed, the Association had a bank account which had had no funds for the last two years. Thus, it had been awkward for him to be present and make his way to Parliament. He raised the issue that he was not properly prepared, because he had been informed to provide the input the previous night. He asked what the Committee actually wanted from the Association’s input.

He said that there was a need for this Bill, because public service entities were of a totalitarian nature. DIRCO was extra-territorial, so one could not have rules that governed DIRCO that were solely internal, and then have similar rules for DIRCO that also had foreign service responsibilities. In general, DIRCO could not stick to its mandate if it prescribed primarily to public service provisions. It had to have a Bill that allowed it to operate in the interests of the country and in alignment with international organisations such as the United Nations (UN) and African Union (AU). If the Bill was adopted, it would be possible for people in the Foreign Service to fully do what was expected of them.

Due to the Department of Public Works (DPW), there were many things that the Minister or the Head of Mission could not fulfil. For example, there were buildings where the embassy had been downsized or closed down. He referred to Zurich, where there was a consulate that had been empty for more than 20 years and had not been sold. DIRCO could not do anything with the building, because it needed collaboration with the DPW. As an ambassador, one could not renovate the building as the DPW had to be involved.

The Association was in support of the Bill to be adopted and passed by Parliament so that the country could fully benefit from the people that had the mission to do diplomatic and representational work.

Mr Nene said he was able to explain why the Bill was necessary.


The Chairperson asked Mr Nene to formulate his input in writing.

Mr Radebe referred to the Government Immovable Asset Management Act (GIAMA), which he suggested should be incorporated into the Foreign Service Bill, as ministers had too much discretion on what happened to assets. GIAMA stipulated that an asset plan must be launched by departments annually. He asked if Mr Nene was acquainted with GIAMA.

He raised the issue of the conduct of the diplomatic corps, as diplomats had embarrassed South Africa. He referred to South Africans who had falsified diplomatic qualifications in Canada. Canadian political officials asserted that if they became aware of those who falsified information, they would immediately fire the relevant person. He asked how the Bill could incorporate rigorous provisions so that no South Africans could falsify diplomatic qualifications in other countries or multilateral institutions.

Mr Maila said that Mr Nene had made a succinct observation on the disposal of assets. There were currently buildings located across the world that were dilapidated, and DIRCO could not do anything about it, because it did not have the funds. He asked for the Association’s view on the fact that the Bill sought to say that all foreign employees, irrespective of which department the relevant employees worked for, were under the category of “Head of Mission.”

Mr Mokgalapa said that one of the issues was to professionalise the diplomatic corps. The essence of the diplomatic school was to make sure that it was non-partisan. He asked for Mr Nene’s view on the fact that South Africa had 80% political deployees, and 20% career diplomats. One needed to make sure that diplomats were not deployed by “cadres,” thereby professionalising the diplomatic profession.

The Chairperson asked if only the residents of South Africa could be deployed in the Foreign Service, or if anyone who had become a citizen could be deployed. Referring to tensions between departments, he said that the DPW felt its core mandate was being annexed.

Association’s Response

Mr Nene responded that there was a need for certificates to be conferred to diplomats to ensure that qualifications were not falsified. On the issue of false and embarrassing conduct by diplomats, there should be a code of conduct. There should be a procedure, especially on how one appointed consuls general, or people to the position of Head of Mission. As far as he knew, there was a very rigorous code of conduct, and he did not know how people escaped this code. An ambassador was appointed by the Head of Mission, or Head of State.

Very few governments had 100% professional diplomats. There were too many non-diplomats under the Heads of Missions. With reference to professionalising diplomacy, he said tht the first problem was the culture of how to do business if one was in this profession, as there would always be clashes. He did not believe that there could be people working in DIRCO who were not career diplomats, as they had to know how to deal with issues that were extra-territorial. As far as he knew, people who were “quiet citizenry” worked in DIRCO and in other departments. He would rather not accept Heads of Mission who were not South African-born citizens, as there could be conflicts in carrying out work on behalf of South Africa, such as when one had to make a delegation to an international organisation or an international meeting.

Operational challenges that required attention in this Bill should be explored, because to apply public service rules to DIRCO or the Foreign Service was not enough, as there were peculiar challenges.

Foreign Service Bill: Department of Justice and Correctional Services input

Ms Berdine Fourie, Legal Adviser: Department of Justice and Constitutional Development (DJCD), presented the DJCDs input on the Foreign Service Bill. She apologised for not giving a formal presentation. As an introductory remark, she said she understood the need to attend to national departments, as there was a need to “speak with one voice” instead of departments voicing their own interests.

Ms Fourie referred to the Foreign Service Bill’s introductory remark, where it said: “To provide for the management, administration and functioning of the Foreign Service of the Republic of South Africa.” The word “coordinate” was more appropriate than “management.” It might be necessary for her to give a practical example of why there was a need to refer to “coordinate.” She referred to a case where a certain general from Rwanda had been in South Africa, and various states had indicated to the DJCD that this general was wanted for serious international war crimes, crimes against humanity and crimes of genocide. The DJCD had received a request for mutual legal assistance from a foreign state that was proceeding against this general. After the request was received, it was perused and then a memorandum was formulated for either the Director General (DG) or the Minister of the DJCD, and then DJCD had been able advise the DG or Minister whether the assistance should be rendered. The assistance rendered included obtaining evidence to be used in the investigation. The DG indicated that he was willing to cooperate with the relevant foreign state. However, DIRCO had advised that it was not appropriate to render assistance, due to South Africa’s relations with Rwanda. She had been responsible for the memorandum and had not been aware of South Africa’s relations with Rwanda, so she had had to stop the memorandum from being produced. Therefore it was important to coordinate with DIRCO, but the question was what mechanisms should be put in place for harmonisation.

The Bill was a good idea, but there were a few issues. She identified an issue with Clause 2(1b), saying that it was not clear what the definition of international relations was. She asked if the definition entailed international legal relations or not. It was very important this to be clarified, because if it was international legal relations as well, then DIRCO was responsible for conducting the work relevant to that clause.

She said that when the DJCD went abroad, it went to negotiate mutual legal assistance treaties to attend conferences regarding extradition and mutual legal assistance, and often attended yearly consultative meetings with its counterparts regarding mutual judicial assistance. Terminology in the Bill was very technical, whereby duties stipulated for the DJCD could not be something a DIRCO official would conduct, as the DJCD were the experts in this area. She referred to the multilateral unit, which attended the meetings of SADC or AU. In South Africa, they often had bilateral meetings with other states regarding particular cases. The DJCD also assisted with study visits and often negotiated mutual legal assistance. She was of the view that they should look at the definition of international relations. If it entailed legal relations, work done by lawyers, “conducting” could not be correct. If it did not entail “legal relations,” then the word “coordinating” was correctly placed. She proposed that the provision should be revised.

She read clause 2(3f), under the heading “Foreign Service.” She asked what “diplomatic communications” entailed. There were formal and informal communications. It often happened that her unit in the DJCD communicated with other states’ central authorities, particularly with foreign officials who were in the relevant foreign ministries of justice. In relation to mutual legal assistance, the Bill did not require that a diplomatic channel be used. What it boiled down to was that “all diplomatic communications” and “diplomatic communications” had to be defined.

Lastly, she read clause 11(2) and said the words “negligent manner” were problematic.


Mr Maila said her presentation helped him understand how DJCD worked as a unit, but it missed the mark on the Bill itself. The Committee was dealing with a Bill that sought to regulate the Foreign Service. Departments may be assigned to an international organisation to present something, but the Committee’s aim was to harmonise all operatives of South Africa in a particular country. Synergy was needed so that different departments knew who to report to.

Mr Mpumlwana said he does not understand the issue with Clause 2(b), where Ms Fourie had made a distinction between “coordinating” and “conducting.” The Committee had a problem with the DJCDs line of communication between provinces and departments. On the issue identified with the term “negligent,” he agreed that it should be revised. However, the term related only to employees and there needed to be a better explanation for that. He asked her to look at Clause 5, to assist the Committee on issues of dual interpretation.

Ms Kenye said that Ms Fourie needed more clarity on what kind of input the Committee was seeking.

Mr Mokgalapa said Mr Fourie was dealing with an issue of “para-diplomacy.” She had been right in providing mutual legal assistance for the relevant foreign state who wanted the accused Rwandan general to be legally investigated, but DIRCO had interfered with a political agenda.

The Chairperson agreed that some treaties did not support foreign provisional relations of South Africa. The input the Department was making seemed to be unaware of the mandate conferred to the Executive by the Constitution.

Ms Fourie said that in consideration of all the questions, she would rather reply more comprehensively in writing, as her answers would take time and proper consideration.

The meeting was adjourned.

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