International Relations and Cooperation Legacy Report

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International Relations

27 February 2019
Chairperson: Mr M Masango (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

Available here once published: Legacy Reports

The Committee was briefed by the Content Advisor and Committee Secretary on the draft Legacy report of the fifth parliamentary Committee on International Relations and Cooperation.

The Legacy report was a summary of the activities of the Committee from May 2014 to March 2019.

The Secretariat recapped some of the activities of the Committee such as; the successful legislation of the Foreign Service Bill; the study tour taken to Canada to compare best practices in foreign services; the organisation of orientation workshops; visits to different branches of the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO); the engagements with experts; Think-tanks, civil society groups, tertiary education institutions and the media on different foreign policy issues; briefings from DIRCO on diplomatic issues such as South Africa’s peace-making processes in Lesotho, Burundi and South-Sudan and the oversight visit taken to Namibia.

The Secretariat also briefed the Committee on the oversight role of the Committee over the African Renaissance Fund (ARF) and the budgetary constraint challenges of the Department, and the Information and Computer Technology (ICT) as well as Cyber Security Infrastructural challenges of South African Missions abroad.

The Secretariat also stated some challenges faced by the Committee in performing its parliamentary oversight roles, such as budgetary constraints and the operational challenge caused by the Committee’s inability to perform oversight functions outside the borders of South Africa.

During the tenure of the Committee, 140 meetings were held, one legislative process was completed, four trips made, one study tour undertaken, one internal agreement was processed, and no statutory appointment and intervention was considered.

The meeting did not meet quorum and therefore adoption of the Legacy Report and Committee minutes were deferred to the next sitting of the Committee.

Meeting report

Opening remarks

The Chairperson welcomed all in attendance.

Apologies were read out.

The Chairperson advised that the succeeding portfolio Committee Chairperson looks into organizing capacity building training on conflict resolution between members. He explained that this was important to enable Committee members to gain a better appreciation of issues around the nature and analysis of conflicts and peace building. The Chairperson stated that the principal agenda of the meeting was the consideration and adoption of the Committee’s Legacy Report and then the adoption of Committee minutes.

The Chairperson proposed an amendment to the agenda to read ‘Consideration of the Committee Legacy Report’ and omit the word ‘adoption’ because amendments are likely to be made on the Report in the course of deliberations, and as such adopting the report may not be possible until the corrections are made.

Ms D Raphuti (ANC) moved a motion as proposed by the Chairperson. Ms S Kalyan (DA) and Ms R Lesoma (ANC) jointly seconded the motion.

Presentation of Draft Legacy Report

The Chairperson Called on the Committee Content Advisor, Ms Dineo Mosala for the Presentation of the Legacy Report.

Ms Mosala informed the Committee that the Legacy Report captured the Committee’s activities for the fifth Parliament, from May 2014 to March 2019. She stated that not all the details on what transpired will be explained but only a summary which followed a template. She also explained that the Legacy Report was to serve as a handover note, expected to be tabled to the next Committee on International Relations and Cooperation to be constituted. Some of the activities she reflected on were;

  • The Committee strategic plan which was informed by the priorities of government, such as the State of the Nation Address (SONA), the medium-term targets of 2014, Parliamentary strategic plan etc.
  • The resolution taken to project a unified and common stance on all issues on matters of South African foreign policy.
  • Support from the Department of International relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) and Civil Society organisations regarding South Africa’s Solidarity and support for the peaceful resolution of the Israel-Palestine and other crises in Western Sahara.
  • Milestones such as the legislation of the Foreign Service Bill, which was adopted on 21 November 2018.
  • Some challenges faced in performing parliamentary oversight role was the inability to perform its oversight functions outside the borders of South Africa. However, the Committee went on oversight to Namibia, leading to outcomes on the issues of custodianship. Challenges faced by DIRCO include operational issues which the Committee responded to.
  • A study tour was also taken to Canada to compare best practice for foreign services.
  • The Committee assessed DIRCO and concluded that it had been excellent and constant, and commended it.
  • The Committee engaged experts, Think-Tanks, civil society groups, tertiary institutions and the media on different foreign policy issues.

Ms Mosala handed over to the Committee Secretary to reflect more on the other issues the Committee dealt with over the past five years.

Mr Lubabalo Sigwela, Committee Secretary reflected on some of the Committee’s programmes during the fifth Parliament.

In 2014 the Committee organised orientation workshops and visited different branches of the DIRCO. In 2015 the Committee processed the Foreign Service Bill; took an oversite visit towards the implementation of Joint Commission between South Africa and the Islamic Republic of Iran in May 2015; had a briefing from DIRCO on the strategic plan for 2015-2016; invited expert analysis on the strategic plan of DIRCO for the next year; had a briefing from the Department on the political situation in South-Sudan; had a briefing on the conflict resolution efforts in South-Sudan; had a briefing on the South Africa – Cuba relations; a briefing on South Africa’s peace-making processes in Lesotho, Burundi and South-Sudan and also had a briefing from DIRCO on diplomatic immunities and privileges.

In 2016 the Committee discussed the DIRCO’s strategic plan; had a briefing from the Department about South Africa’s diplomatic role in fostering South-South cooperation; had a briefing on the political situation in Lesotho and Burundi; invited expert analysis on the developments on ‘Brexit’; had a briefing on the strategic plan of the Department of International relations and Cooperation DIRCO as well as on the Country’s role in furthering Regional Integration; and a briefing by the South African Council of International Relations (SACOIR) as well as by the South African Association for Former Ambassadors and High Commissioners.                                                               

In 2017, the Committee undertook a study tour to Canada to assess International best practices foreign services, focused on processing the Foreign Service Bill; organised stakeholders’ seminars on the Foreign Service Bill; conducted an impact assessment on political developments in Zimbabwe, Lesotho and Burundi. Finally, in 2018 the Committee finalised the Foreign Service Bill and embarked on an oversight visit to Namibia.

Ms Mosala stated that some of the Committee’s focus areas in its oversight over DIRCO. She said that the Committee oversaw issues or areas such as the African Renaissance Fund (ARF); the budgetary constraints or challenges of DIRCO; addressing compliance issues of DIRCO, especially issues relating the Chief Financial Officer (CFO); engaged with issues around the below average Information and Computer Technology (ICT) as well as Cyber Security Infrastructure of South African Missions abroad, engaged with the issues of Asset Management and maintenance structure for assets and properties of South Africa Missions abroad; and also handled some operational challenges at DIRCO which led to the recommendation that the Chief Operations Officer (COO) be established. The Committee also made a recommendation on spending of leases, a recommendation that the Department contain its expenditure on the remuneration of employees and that a skills audit be commissioned to address the personnel capacity challenge of the financial sub-Department of the Department.

On International Transfer issues Ms Mosala stated that South Africa was paying its dues, but after the resolution by the African Union (AU) that the organisation is made self-sufficient, a new state of assessment was agreed upon. However, the Department and the National Treasury (NT) have not found a way to handle this issue. On the issue of filling employment quotas of South Africans, stating that compliance was rather slow. She stated that the Committee found that the payments of portfolios by other departments in international organisation committees were being made from the budget of DIRCO.

On recommendations and key areas for future work Ms Mosala noted that the organisation of orientation for incoming Committee members should be looked into. The issue of parliamentary oversight mandate as it relates and the impacts on the mandate of the Committee must be assessed, and the strategic plan of the Committee must be looked into. She added that engagement and focus must be placed on oversight over the financial and non-financial activities of the AFR fund, the migration of AFR into the South African Development Partnership Agency (SADPA), the strengthening of oversight over the low disbursement rate on the medium projects of the AFR and that efforts must be made to monitor the issue of the Headquarters of the Pan African Parliament. Furthermore, she also mentioned other areas of concern and continued engagement such as; the development of an implementation framework for the Foreign Service Bill; the continuation of the oversight activities of South African Missions abroad; the integration agenda of the Southern African Development Community (SADC); and the development of an oversight strategy on economic diplomacy as well as the investment drives in other parts of the world.

Ms Mosala added that a balancing act has to be made by Missions abroad between political relations and economic relations and that the Committee must look into the influence of businesses in foreign diplomacy. She mentioned that areas to look out for include the implementation and monitoring of the activities of bilateral Commissions of different countries to assess the state of implementation of the Foreign policies of South Africa and the assessment of links between peace building and the commercial-diplomatic interests of South Africa. She emphasised the importance of an engagement with parliamentary Committees on International forums, the oversight role to be played over the Department in terms of South Africa’s recent appointment to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), the elections in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the Western-Sahara and the political developments in those places and also the diplomatic role of South Africa in the African Union and SADC. A general recommendation was also made to the Committee on the importance of being flexible in the planning of its activities in light of the nature of its mandate which demands that the Committee acts as issues arise.

Finally, the following key statistics of the Committee during the fifth Parliament were highlighted by Mr Sigwela; 140 meetings held, one Legislative process completed, four trips made, one study tour under South African Association for Former Ambassadors and High Commissioners taken, one internal agreement processed, and no statutory appointments and interventions were considered.


The Chairperson thanked the Secretariat for a very detailed report. However, he noted some grammatical errors to which he recommended a re-examination in the preparation of the final Legacy Report.

Ms S Kalyan (DA) supported the Chairperson’s point.

Ms Kalyan noted that the issues on budgetary constraints faced by the Committee were not sufficiently addressed in the report. She stated that the oversite role played by the Committee demanded engagements with Missions outside the Country and recommended that motivation is made for an improved budget. She noted that the South African Development Partnership Agency (SADPA) Bill which was outstanding was not included in the report and recommended for its inclusion.

Ms Kalyan also said that the recommendations on the economic diplomacy issues in the report should be shortened. On the need for designation of Committee members to lead a subject matter and the changes to the membership of Committee noted in the report as having an effect on continuity, Ms Kalyan said these issues are ‘party’ issues which should not be included in the Legacy Report. She also expressed her disagreement on the section of the report on the technical, operational and content-related challenges faced by the Committee Secretariat, advising that these challenges be left out of the report as it reflected badly on the Secretariat whom had performed well during the fifth parliament. She commended the Secretariat for a well-coordinated and presented Report overall.

Ms T Kenye (ANC) thanked the Secretariat for putting together a good Report. She expressed concern on whether the Committee had paid enough attention to the issues of Youth and Women as a part of the African Union (AU) ‘Agenda 2063’. On the recommendation in the report on strengthening the oversight function on the solidarity and support for Western Sahara, she advised that the recommendation reflect the fact that the oversight role covers the pursuit of the African Union resolution on Morocco as well as Western Sahara. She also added that the Legacy Report should cover a recommendation from the Committee regarding the plight of South African businesses in other African Countries increasingly facing legal and financial discrimination.

Mr D Bergman (DA) expressed concern over some typographical and grammatical errors in the Report. He also advised against reporting that the oversight role played by the Committee generally over the Department over the past five years was ‘excellent’. He suggested instead that a better and more diplomatic adjective to use is ‘constant’ or ‘consistent’. On the stakeholders engaged by the Committee he said that the list seems exclusive. He recommended that the list should instead be made more inclusive to indicate all political parties involved in the dispute overseen. Mr Bergman added that this was important to remove the biased nuances in the Report. He advised that the recommendation on a continued collaboration with the non-governmental stakeholders of interest in foreign policy issues should be amended to reflect “continued balanced collaboration” in order to prevent putting forward a biased nuance on the issue.

Mr Bergman advised that the sixth parliament should be challenged to look more to domestic (i.e. continental) issues primarily before International issues, especially because they are cheaper and easier to achieve. Furthermore, he recommended that the sixth parliament be advised on the performance of South African Ambassadors at the United Nations (UN). He commended the Secretariat for a good job and offered thanks.

Ms D Raphuti (ANC) thanked the Secretariat for the excellent report put together. She inquired on the issue of public diplomacy which was stated in the report as active, noting that the engagements on fostering public diplomacy were rather sophisticated and inaccessible to the South Africa public. She inquired on how the subject can be brought to the view of the ordinary South African. Furthermore, she inquired on the steps taken towards influencing the United States economic embargo on Cuba.

Ms Raphuti noted that there were a lot of ‘blank cheques’ given in the furtherance of the activities of the Committee and recommended against giving ‘blank cheques’ to the Department going forward on targets, but rather look into giving them timed ultimatums.

Ms T Kenye (ANC) noted that there was nothing in the report about the activities of the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA).

Ms Kalyan reacted to the ‘blank cheque’ recommendation raised by Ms Raphuti stating that the Legacy Report in issue is merely a recommendation to guide the sixth parliament in the fulfilment of its mandate. She advised the Committee against making prescriptions to prevent being perceived as being too intrusive. She made inquiries on who the Legacy Report will be handed over to once adopted by the Committee.

The Chairperson noted the fact that there was no quorum and that adoption may be impossible at the meeting. He stated that the recommendations captured on the Legacy Report will be handed over to the Chairperson of the Committee in the sixth parliament as well as the office of the Chairperson of Committees to assess and act upon.

The Chairperson commented on the issue raised by Ms Raphuti, agreeing that there was a need for refinement on the strategy on public diplomacy because it was too elitist and inaccessible to the public. He also agreed with the comment by Ms Kalyan on time frames. He congratulated the Secretariat on a well put together report but noted that some typographical, grammatical and sentence restructuring was required. He asked for clarification on the oversight work done and the format or template used.

Ms Kalyan said that the template was clear enough since there are annexures in the report on the oversight work done by the Committee.

On the issue raised on South African businesses facing economic and financial discrimination, the Chairperson noted that these were a common reaction in African countries and that the incidences of discrimination are reactions to the xenophobic attacks against their ‘citizens’ in South Africa. He added that this was more of a trade issue and recommended on better liaising between the Committee on International Relations and Cooperation, the Committee on Trade and Industry and the Department of Trade and Industry (DT) on the issue.

The Chairperson noted in general that the work done was good and advised that the amendments be affected in time for adoption at the next meeting.

Mr Sigwela in response to the point raised on budgetary constraints informed the Committee that unlike the fourth parliament in which Committees had budgetary allocations, budgetary allocations for the fifth parliament were not provided. Committees were made to operate jointly under a consolidated budget.

Ms Kalyan advised that the Committee motivate for a budget allocation when a circumstance arises because there was important oversight work to be done.

The Chairperson pointed out that if there were budgetary allocations, there was a risk of its abuse by the Committees.

Ms Kalyan indicated that this risk was parliament’s problem to deal with.

The Chairperson called for the adoption of the minutes of the Committee meeting which was the next agenda item and was reminded by Ms Kalyan that there was no quorum.

The Committee decided that in the absence of a quorum, the minutes will be adopted at the next meeting.

The Chairperson thanked all in attendance as well as those who made presentations and participated in the discussions.

The meeting was adjourned.


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