DIRCO & ARF Quarter 1 & 2 2020/21 performance; with Deputy Ministers

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International Relations

10 February 2021
Chairperson: Ms T Mahambehlala (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee was convened in a virtual meeting to receive briefings from the Department of International Relations (DIRCO) and the African Renaissance Fund (ARF) on their performance reports for the first and second quarters of the 2020/21 financial year.

DIRCO highlighted its adaptability in using a digital platform when COVID-19 reached the country. The impact of travel restrictions, the lockdown measures and the severe socio-economic impact of the pandemic had required a shift in focus of South Africa’s structured engagements. However, it had reached out to the international community to garner support for its fight against the pandemic and helped stem the devastating economic fall-out. South Africa continued to accelerate its economic diplomacy through its diligent work in this area, and was growing its regional, continental and global trade and investment.

During the discussion, Members enquired about the current situation of those diplomats who did not want to return to South Africa at the end of their tenure; progress on allowing free movement throughout the African continent; the positions the country held in regional and international organisations; the status of the Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA); and the implications of the introduction of new international or regional treaties on the existing ones. They also wanted details on the students that were stranded abroad because of the pandemic; the R150 million loan to Cuba by the ARF; why certain information could not be divulged to Members of Parliament; whether the ‘silencing the guns in Africa’ objective was being realised; and the ARF’s accountability for humanitarian assistance to other countries in the form of personal protective equipment.

Other issues raised included the R10 million paid by DIRCO for damage caused by officials at its mission in Los Angeles; the progress on its tender to improve its information technology (IT) system and cybersecurity, the country’s approach towards the new Biden administration, the promulgation of the Foreign Service Act, and South Africa’s stance on the development of events in Myanmar.

A Member rebuked a colleague for using the term ‘Islamic insurgence’ to refer to radical terrorists in Mozambique, and another Member raised doubts over the benefits of South Africa being a member of the Commonwealth.

The government was urged to be accountable to the Committee and to consult it on international and diplomatic affairs, and to form a task team as an urgent measure to counter regional terrorism. Members also wanted more details on South Africa’s efforts in campaigning for positions at regional and international organisations.

Meeting report

Ms Candith Mashego-Dlamini and Mr Alvin Botes, Deputy Ministers of International Relations and Cooperation were both present in the virtual meeting to be briefed on the quarterly performance reports of the Department and the African Renaissance Fund (ARF)

Since the Chairperson struggled to get on to the virtual platform, she asked Mr T Mpanza (ANC) to chair the meeting instead.

Mr D Bergman (DA) made an apology on behalf of Mr M Chetty (DA).

The Committee had also received an apology from Dr Naledi Pandor, Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, as she was attending a Cabinet meeting.  

Chairperson’s opening remarks

Mr Mpanza read the Chairperson’s opening remarks.

She recognised President Ramaphosa’s efforts and leadership during this harsh pandemic. She said that South Africa had represented itself, the region and the continent well. As a result, the African vaccine team was established. An African continental free trade area had been launched, ushering in a new era of Africa integration.

She applauded South Africa’s missions abroad for securing vaccines.

As a non-permanent member at the United Nations, South Africa was recognised as a hardworking member. This was an important recognition, as the Committee had heard how well the Department had performed at the UN Security Council.

DIRCO quarterly performance report

Mr Kgabo Mahoai, Director-General, Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO), said Members would have noticed that there were targets that had not been achieved in the first quarter, but had been achieved in the following quarter.

Ms Delores Kotze, Chief Director, DIRCO, said the performance information highlighted some of the compliance issues in Programme 1, but the main focus remained on Programmes 2 to 4.

Under programme 2, she highlighted the adaptability of the Department in using a digital platform when COVID-19 reached the country. The impact of COVID-19-related travel restrictions, the lockdown measures and the severe socio-economic impact of the pandemic required a shift in focus of South Africa’s structured engagements. However, it had reached out to the international community to garner support for its fight against the pandemic and help stem the devastating economic fall-out. South Africa continued to accelerate its economic diplomacy through its diligent work in this area, and was growing its regional, continental and global trade and investment.

Ms Kotze outlined the mid-term progress that had been accomplished by the Department in Asia and the Middle East region, the Americas and Europe region, as well as the Africa region. The economic diplomacy targets, as well as the regional trade strategies in those three regional areas, were provided to the Committee.

The promotion of South African tourism was highlighted.

She explained the approach of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and South Africa to regional integration. The term of Office of the Executive Secretary and Deputy Executive Secretary would come to an end in August 2021. South Africa did not have enough points to compete for the position of the Executive Secretary, and was disqualified from competing for the position of Deputy Executive Secretary, given that the incumbent is a South African national. South Africa would not be represented at the executive management level of SADC for the next eight years.

Under programme 3, various forms of international cooperation were outlined to the Committee.

Programme 4 explained state protocol and public diplomacy.

Mr Caiphus Ramashau, Chief Financial Officer (CFO), DIRCO, provided a breakdown of the Department’s expenditure for Quarter 1 and Quarter 2 respectively, and provided his analysis.

(See attached presentation for details).

African Renaissance Fund (ARF) quarterly performance report

Ms Lerato Sempo, African Renaissance Fund Secretariat, provided the performance report of the organisation.

The African Renaissance and International Cooperation Fund had continued to be an important instrument in pursuit of South Africa’s foreign policy, particularly the African Agenda and, more critically, South Africa’s term as the chairperson of the AU. During the period under review, the focus of the ARF was on the funding of projects to assist African countries, in particular the fight against COVD19. This was done through the different organs of the AU and directly to the recipient countries. The Secretariat had continued to monitor the active projects in collaboration with missions abroad to ensure that funds were utilised for what they were intended, and in South Africa’s national interest.

Ms Sempo outlined the quarterly targets of the organisation for humanitarian assistance, the prevention and resolution of conflicts, the provision of human resource development and administration.

The financial report was also provided.

(See attached presentation for details).


The Committee Secretary read the Chairperson’s comments. She stressed the role that South Africa had played at the United Nations Security Council. She also commended South Africa’s efforts in tapping into emerging markets and increasing its trade relations with Asia and Latin America.

Chairperson Mahambehlala said she was aware from the media that some diplomats refused to return home after their end of duty. She wanted to know how those situations were handled and resolved.  

She wanted the Department to give an update on the progress of the Foreign Services Act 2019.

She asked why the building of institutional capacity to deliver the African Union (AU) and United Nations (UN) languages had been achieved only in Quarter 2, but not in Quarter 1 as anticipated.  

She also wanted to know why the consultation on regulations and directives had not been achieved in Quarter 1.

She stressed the importance of the review of structural bilateral relations in Quarter 2. It was imperative to align those bilateral relations to address domestic challenges, and this could not be neglected. In addition, she enquired about South Africa’s bilateral membership strategic review

Finally, she enquired about the collapse of the information communication technology (ICT) system in the Department. As the DIRCO handled sensitive diplomatic information, this situation could not continue.

Mr B Nkosi (ANC) asked about the Department’s approach to the newly elected Biden administration in the United States. He said that South Africa had not had a good relationship with the Trump administration. He was curious to know what the Department’s plans were to repair and restore the relationship between South Africa and America.

He commented that the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME) had welcomed the idea of government departments moving targets over to the next quarter if targets were not achieved in the current one. However, although moving over un-achieved targets related to COVID-19 was justifiable, moving over targets to the next quarter for reasons such as lack of performance should not be happening. He therefore urged the Department to stick to those targets and achieve what should be achieved.

He pointed out that non-disclosure of information in the missions should be regulated by relevant laws and bilateral agreements. It should not be at the manager’s discretion to decide what information to withhold and what to release. In the past, he had noted situations related to misconduct in the missions where such information was not shared with the Committee.

He enquired about the promulgation of the Foreign Service Act.  He anticipated the Department to provide an explanation to the Committee if the Act still could not be operationalised in two months’ time. The COVID-19 excuse would not suffice this time, as the Act would resolve a lot of issues once it came into effect.

Regarding developments in Myanmar, he noted that the Minister, as political head, was not present at the Committee, so he asked the Director-General to explain to what extent South Africa had been involved in monitoring the situation. Was it engaging with the Myanmar government directly? He also observed that the former National Party chief negotiator, Roelf Meyer, had been actively engaging with the government to build peace, so he wanted to know what the Department’s stance on the matter was.

He noted the ARF’s efforts in providing humanitarian assistance to help combat COVID-19 in battling countries. However, he found it hard to ignore the maladministration and total disregard of disaster management rules to procure vaccines in all government departments in South Africa. He thus asked what measures were in place to make sure that South Africa’s funding to those countries did not fall prey to corruption and looting.

Mr D Bergman (DA) expressed his disappointment in DIRCO, calling it a Department that had failed in both repatriation and rescuing South African citizens during COVID-19 pandemic. There seemed to be very unclear boundaries regarding which government department should be in charge of which duty. Currently, the Department of Home Affairs, the National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure (NATJOINTS), as well as the border management authority which was about to come into play, were all involved in the operation of missions abroad. It was almost like having three chiefs on the international stage. He therefore asked who the ultimate authority was. He pointed out the need to draw clear responsibilities. He recommended a presentation session for NATJOINTS to brief the Committee on what it does.

Mr Bergman commented on the numerous positions that the South African President had held at the African Union, the Southern Africa Development Community and the United Nations Security Council, on top of being the head of state of South Africa. The President therefore may not have had much time to look into the various issues to which he should be paying close attention. He made reference to some African leaders, such as those in Tanzania and Uganda, who had resorted to stealing power during elections, and questioned why the President and the various capacities in which he served had chosen to turn a blind eye. He recommended a presentation with an analysis of the levels of success of these different leaderships at those different international or regional organisations, and demanded to know what had been achieved.  Furthermore, he questioned whether or not it would have been more effective if former presidents or deputy presidents could have stood proxy for the current President.

Mr Bergman recognised the importance of counter-terrorism within the Southern Africa region. He remarked that the country had the right people, such as House Speaker Thandi Modise, who could form a task group in South Africa to make some important valuable points on counter-terrorism on this continent.

During December, the Committee had noted the exorbitant rental for the properties in Los Angeles leased by the Department. He found the R10 million to be an astonishing figure, and believed it unfair that it was paid, because the occupants of the property had damaged it. He asked why tax payers should pay for the damage diplomats and their staff had caused. He recommended that all diplomats and their working staff should sign an agreement to be responsible for all damage caused to leased properties in future.

Mr Bergman said that the IT system in the Department had been a prolonged issue. The longer the issue remained unresolved, the more compromised South Africa would find itself. He highlighted South Africa’s vulnerable position. Diplomats could not even safely pass messages through to South Africa, so the tender for the Department’s IT system was a priority.

Mr W Faber (DA) enquired about the R150 million loan to Cuba which had been referred to in the ARF’s presentation.

Rev K Meshoe (ACDP) asked the Department which legal services were confidential and contained classified information that could not be divulged to Members. If a Member of Parliament needed certain information from the Department, would there be any legal service that could withhold information from Members of this Committee?

He sought more details about the points system, since it was revealed in the presentation that South Africa did not have sufficient points to compete for the Executive Secretary position at the SADC. He wanted to know the minimum points required to compete for that position, and the points that South Africa currently had.

He asked why the ‘silencing the guns in Africa’ project had been extended to 2030, and whether this initiative had encountered any failures or challenges. He wanted an update on Mozambique’s declaration on the project, because there was a noise of guns in that country all the time. As a Committee Member, he wanted to know if there was any individual group of people who could be approached, and if any effort could be made to improve the situation.

He asked about the ARF’s provision of personal protective equipment (PPE) to the value of R288 million to 21 countries. He requested a more detailed breakdown of the allocation of funding for each country. Had accountability measures been put in place to ensure that the money that had been spent had been used for the right purpose -- for instance, were there reports from those countries to ensure accountability?

Ms T Msane (EFF) bemoaned the past year during which South Africa had held the African Union Chair. The presentation, in her view, had only mentioned successes, which did not do justice to the future, to this Committee and to the people of South Africa. The year had been a total dismal failure. Under the theme of silencing the guns, there had been a 43% rise in Islamist insurgency on the continent, and nothing had been done about it in response to such a situation. People on this continent had begged the African Union to intercede where human rights abuse issues were carried out by their own governments, but the AU had remained indifferent and kept silent, despite these calls.

She commented on the situation in Uganda and the political instability in Chad, and remarked that the 34th AU summit had come across as rather undemocratic. Despite all the failures of the AU, it beggared belief that Mr Moussa Faki had still been reinstated as the African Union Commission Chairperson. It seemed as if AU did not want democracy to happen on the African continent. She expressed deep concern on whether this pattern of electing senile politicians into AU positions would become the convention of the future.

Commenting on the commencement of free trade for Africans on the continent, she said the initiative was a move in a good direction which could boost the continent’s manufacturing capacity.

She enquired about the Security Council seat at the United Nations, and requested an update on whether South Africa had made any progress in securing that seat.

She commended South Africa’s effort in negotiating with the countries to the north to increase business growth in agricultural products such as wine exports, as well as the automotive sector. However, she pointed out that not much emphasis had been placed on infrastructure, such as the Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA). She wanted to know what South Africa was doing about that programme.

She noted that the presentation had included various regional agreements, so she wanted to know what would happen to existing agreements if a new agreement came into effect. For instance, would the AU agreement still remain in place if the SADC agreement was signed?

She asked about the progress of SADC and South Africa on their commitments to free movement within the region. She was of the view that free trade presupposed the free movement of African people. By November 2019, there had only been four countries which had acceded to this treaty. It had also been envisaged that an African passport would emerge in 2016, and was meant to be implemented in 2019. She expressed her disappointment over the lack of achievement on this issue.  

She complained that the government never informed or consulted the Committee when it signed international treaties with other countries or international organisations. She highlighted the important function of the Committee to monitor the country’s peace-keeping missions. She pointed out that there were overlapping areas that needed clarity as to which the Committee was responsible for. For instance, both the Committee on Mineral Resources and Energy and the Committee on Trade and Industry had signed international treaties which should be under the auspices of this Committee. She said that nuclear did not benefit South Africa from this Committee’s point of view, so she urged having those signed treaties incorporated in the Committee.

Ms Msane emphasised the importance of conducting a multi-lateral relations analysis, and expressed doubts over the benefits of South Africa being a member of the Commonwealth.

Ms Msane raised the issue of the students who were stuck abroad, with fees not having been paid. Currently no one was taking responsibility for getting them home.  

She requested for a list of the positions which South Africa held at international organisations.

Ms B Swarts (ANC) expressed concern about the ARF’s procurement process, as it was heavily dependent on the Department. She remarked that it was well known that the supply chain management (SCM) at DIRCO was ineffective, and consequently incurred irregular expenditure. She therefore wanted to know why the ARF did not develop its own procurement capacity. She said that it took almost three years for DIRCO to act to provide humanitarian assistance to affected countries because of the incapacity in the Department’s supply chain.

Ms Swarts emphasised the importance of the government updating Members of the Committee on its roles and actions on the international stage. For instance, South Africa’s efforts on the international stage had resulted in nothing at the African Union election. She believed that the government should inform the Committee, as the oversight body, how the government lobbied its candidates in the region and at international organisations, and what its strategies were.

Mr G Hendricks (Al Jama-ah) commented on South Africa’s diminishing influence in Africa, saying that the country was not even in a position to compete for the Secretariat position at SADC. He said that there was a need to re-establish the “African Renaissance” in order to strengthen the country’s position on the continent.

He noted that a Member had used the term “Islamic insurgents” to describe radical terrorists. He said that 70% of people in Africa practised the Islamic faith, and such a derogative term had no place in a democratic country like South Africa. He said that Members should find other terms to describe this type of insurgence, as people do not hear about Jewish or Christian insurgence. He described the Member’s description very hurtful.


Deputy Minister Botes recommended a separate session to deal with some questions that Members had raised – those which were very political, such as the African Union, as well as the Security Council seat at the UN.  

Mr Mahoai explained to the Committee that the briefing on the annual performance report (APR) covered the period from April 2020 to September 2020. Due to COVID-19, the Department was not able to present quarter by quarter in 2020.

He reported that building institutional capacity to deliver AU and UN languages was well under way. Since the Department had just begun to adapt to working remotely during the period which the report covered, it had just under taken a deep analysis to provide more accurate information on what needed to be improved. As for Members’ question around why this target had not been achieved, he the purpose then had been to ensure that this capacity would be developed by the end of 2020. The Committee would definitely receive a subsequent report on progress against this target when the Department presented its third quarter progress report.

Regarding the delay to bring Foreign Service Act into force, the Department would have to make a detailed presentation to keep Members more informed. The Department was working very hard on the Act. Tomorrow there would be a meeting chaired by the Minister to present the actual processes of the Act, and to determine the readiness and the areas which the Department should be targeting. He would be sharing the information from the meeting with the Committee.

He said the country currently had 139 bilateral agreements. A review of South Africa’s bilateral agreements would have to take a country to country and level to level approach due to their complex nature, since they were spread across all regions and were done by different line branches. The Department was very ambitious to complete them, despite the impediments. It was aware of the importance of having structured bilateral agreements, and had agreed to prioritise certain agreements and to re-negotiate some of them. As the Department had now mastered working remotely, he was optimistic that most of the delayed work would be fast tracked and completed.

The Department had embarked upon a review of South Africa’s international multi-lateral membership process, which would result in a detailed report which would be presented to the Committee in due course. This issue was highly relevant. The issue of South Africa’s membership in the Commonwealth had also been examined, and the process was still under way.

One of the key indicators in the Department’s APP annual targets was digital transformation. It enabled the Department to be aligned to its responsibilities. In terms of the Department’s progress to achieve that target, so far the strategy had been devised and concluded well ahead of time. However, there had been some delays in the roll out and implementation of the plan. The Department had experienced several delays in acquiring the equipment it needed to fast track procurement.

Mr Mahoai said that the procurement of the R288 million for PPE by the African Renaissance Fund had adhered to the standard procurement process that was prescribed to prevent irregular expenditure. Despite the irregular expenditure on PPE in other governmental Departments, DIRCO had so far managed to prevent it.

Ms Kotze explained to Members how the points system at SADC worked. Every SADC member state was given 157 quota points in total. South Africa had currently utilised 155 points, leaving it with only two outstanding points not having been used. Among the various positions at the SADC Secretariat, the Executive Secretary position accounted for 30 points, the Deputy Secretary for 23 points, Director level positions for 19 points, Senior Officers for 16 points and Officers for 13 points. A member state was not allowed to have both a secretarial and director position. Hence South Africa had a Deputy Secretary, six Senior Officers and three officers at SADC.

Mr Ramashau responded to the question on the rental deposit in Los Angeles. The lease agreement had come to an end at the end of October. The standard process was that any cost arising from damage to the property should be covered by officials. The Department was therefore reviewing its options to enforce those rules and seeking legal opinions on the issue as well. It would also begin to insert such legal clauses in the conditions of officials’ service, to tie up the loose ends.

Ms Sempo clarified that the ARF’s mandate was to work with other countries from an overall perspective. Members might be confused with the organisation’s particular focus on African countries. The assistance provided to Cuba also benefited South Africa, as it gave Cuba a chance to open its market to South Africa and purchase goods from South Africa, placing South Africa in the position of a supplier.

She said her organisation had had a consultative process with those affected countries. As a result, an inventory list of 10 items, which consisted mainly of drugs and masks, had been made. The recipients had been mainly SADC countries. Her organisation had also gone out to the market to do pricing research and measured the prices against the available funding. Once the procurement process was concluded, the distribution process would begin.

The ARF was very involved in monitoring all of the COVID-19 projects and acted very much in an oversight role in the projects for which the organisation had provided funds. It released funds only according to what objectives and outcomes were to be achieved. .

Mr Mahoai said that Members’ questions on the membership at the African Union and the UN Security Council could not be explained and adequately responded to in one answer. He therefore proposed that Members allow the Department to brief the Committee on the issue in a comprehensive report.

The Department was learning to work under non-contact circumstances. Some issues which Members had raised would have been resolved if a contact working environment had been permitted.  

The Department was still undertaking a comprehensive analysis of what was coming out of South Africa’s bilateral relations, and re-navigating its approach to those countries. He commended the fact that the Department that it had been one of the first 18 countries that had been called by the Secretary of State in the new Biden Administration. He believed that this was re-setting the tone for cordial relations between the two countries. The Strategy Dialogue would be revived, as it was the most important bilateral strategy between the two countries.

Mr Mahoai said that many of the targets could not be achieved from April to September due to the lockdown. He reminded Members that that was the time when the whole country was moving from Level 5 to Level 3 of the lockdown. He was sure that had the situation been different, those targets would have been achieved.

Regarding the disclosure of legal opinions, he reminded Members to understand labour relations within its own context. Some legal opinions may be related to a particular matter under international law. He could therefore not provide Members with a generic response on what could or could not be disclosed, as it was really a case-by-case matter.

Mr Mahoai said that he had noted the comment on DIRCO’s handling of COVID-19 repatriations, as well as the different lines of functions. He explained that during the lockdown and repatriation period, NATJOINTS was performing most of the responsibilities around travel restrictions. As for overseas missions, there were functions that were jointly provided by other government departments, such as Home Affairs. He agreed that those duties and different work streams needed to be clarified for different departments.

As to whether the South African President was serving on too many positions at various international and regional organisations, he said that the Department was glad that his tenure at the SADC had come to an end. He would not comment further on whether the Department could let former heads of state to deputise for the incumbent president on those positions. However, this question would be dealt with in the Department’s next briefing.

Mr Mahoai commented on the ‘silencing of the guns’ matter, and said that it would be included in the next presentation. He assured the Committee that the target would be monitored on a two-year basis -- it would not wait until 2030.

Ambassador Anil Sooklal, Deputy Director-General: Asia and the Middle East, DIRCO, said South Africa had reacted quickly after the military coup occurred in Myanmar. The government had issued a stern press statement expressing its deep concern over the Myanmar military removing the duly elected government, and had called for the immediate release of government leaders and to let the country return to constitutional democracy. He said Myanmar had a history of military rule, having been ruled by the military for 50 of the 72 years since its independence. Following Myanmar’s 2007 Saffron Revolution coup, the South African government had approached Myanmar and shared its own experience in transiting from an apartheid regime to a democratic state, as well as its own process of developing its constitution. Mr Roelf Meyer, through his own organisation, had also worked with State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi. The Department had also sent a stern message to the Myanmar ambassador in South Africa.

Ambassador Sooklal said that the difficulty in Myanmar was that the military held too much power. The country had had its first democratic election in 2015, but the agreement had been that 25% of the legislature seats were still reserved for military. The country was indeed progressing towards a democracy and had been holding transparent and fair elections with the support of the military regime. Under Aung San Suu Kyi, it had been proposed that the percentage reserved for the military in the legislature would be gradually reduced to five percent, and the country’s economic model would begin to move from a centralised planned economy to a free market one.

The coup was because the head of the military, Min Aung Hlaing, was due to retire. By constitution, he could not continue to serve as head of government. The party which he headed, the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), had been severely defeated in the general election last year, so the military had declared the election fraudulent and had started the coup. At the beginning of the coup, the military had imposed a curfew and there was a blackout on the internet. Both the European Union (EU) and the US had issued strong statements condemning the coup and pressuring the military general to return the country back to its constitutional democracy.

Adv Sandea de Wet, DIRCO’s Chief State Law Adviser, said that all treaty obligations were reported to Cabinet twice a year. Also, all the signing of treaties were followed in close contact with the line department to ensure that all decisions were approved and responsible departments were well informed. It was a standardised process.

Mr Mahoai referred to the diplomats who had refused to come home, and said he believed that a response had been submitted in writing to the Committee.

Further discussion

Ms Msane enquired further about the protocol for free movement on the continent. She was of the view that to enable this would require inter-departmental capacity, with political heads coming together to address the issues. She hoped that Deputy Minister Mashego-Dlamini could offer the Committee some insights on how far South Africa had come in enabling free movement of people on the continent.

She asked for more information on the students who had been stuck abroad. The responses given were unclear. What assistance did the Department require from the Committee to avoid such incidents happening in future? She believed that by avoiding such incidents from happening, it would also avoid ruining relationships which this Committee had established with other countries.

She asked about South Africa’s participation in the Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA).

Rev Meshoe clarified his question. He had wanted to know who the 21 recipient countries were that had received allocations, and a breakdown of how much funding each country had received. He also wanted to know whether those recipient countries had provided the Department with reports on how the assistance funding had been spent.

Department’s response

The Director-General said that diplomats not returning after their tenures ended was a very difficult task for the Department to manage. DIRCO had in the past had that sort of experience. Some colleagues who were supposed to return had requested stay on in a country for co-morbidity reasons. The Department felt that it would not be in the country’s best interest, as their stays were for a well-known defined period. It had declined the request, and those involved had taken the Department to court. DIRCO had won in both cases, and all those colleagues had come back. So far the Department had not met them physically, due to the COVID-19 protocol. He admitted that it had been a struggle, but fortunately nothing serious had happened.

He clarified that the humanitarian assistance provided by the ARF to 21 countries had adhered to due process. The procurement process had been advertised and bidders were selected on the merits of their competitiveness. Following the advertisement, the Department had received many bidders. However, due to complaints raised about the specifications on local content, it had attempted to apply to the National Treasury to exempt it from the local content requirement. National Treasury had initially granted approval, but had later withdrawn. By that time, the procurement process had been going on, and the Department had no option but to negotiate with the World Health Organisation (WHO) to assist it in procuring those PPE items, and to make sure that checks and balances were in place.

African countries’ ratification on free movement had been slow. The progress and positions held by different SADC countries were at different levels of development. In South Africa, DIRCO had had interactions with the Department of Home Affairs, which had drafted a document trying to align South Africa’s position on free movement close to the position of SADC. In order to give a full account on this issue, he would need additional time to verify some facts. He asked for the Committee’s permission to get full information and report back to it.

Mr Mahoai responded to the question about the students who were stuck abroad. He said that the Department had taken note of the issue. The Department was trying to coordinate and communicate with provincial governments to get more information. Having learnt from past experience, DIRCO found it difficult, as provinces were able to send students overseas on their own accord without any information being sharing with DIRCO. DIRCO was of the view that the Department should be informed of citizens’ whereabouts outside the country so that it could develop control measures when applicable.

In some recent events, it had been put into a difficult position as it had even been asked to interfere in the sovereign law of other countries, and to try and force those countries to review and give South Africans access again because those citizens had lost their places due to COVID-19 related restrictions. DIRCO would develop coordination with other Departments in future. It was also looking at ways, at the Director-General level, in which provinces could implement control measures so that unintended consequences such as students being stranded overseas could be prevented.

Deputy Minister Mashego-Dlamini summarised her team’s responses and offered a short closing remark, recognising the gap in supply chain management. She also commended the good work that had been done by the African Renaissance Fund.  

The meeting was adjourned.

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