ATC200717: Report of the Portfolio Committee on International Relations and Cooperation on the Supplementary Budget Vote 6: International Relations and Cooperation, Dated 16 July 2020

International Relations



The Portfolio Committee on International Relations and Cooperation (the Committee), having considered the impact of the Supplementary Budget Vote 6: International Relations and Cooperation of the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (the Department), on the Strategic Plan 2020-2025 and Annual Performance Plan 2020/21, reports as follows:


  1. Introduction


The Committee held a virtual meeting due to the restricted movement amid the Covid-19 pandemic. The Committee met on 21 May 2020 for the Department’s presentation on the impact of the adjusted budget on both the Strategic Plans 2020-2025 and the Annual Performance Plans (APP) 2020/21 of the Department and the African Renaissance Fund, together with the Department’s adjusted budget allocation for 2020/21.


1.1        The purpose of the Supplementary Budget review


On the 21st of April 2020, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced a R500 billion fiscal support package that includes spending towards COVID-19 priorities. It was further announced that the R130 billion of the package would be reduced from baselines from national and provincial departments[1]. The Supplementary Budget sets out the initial economic and fiscal response from Government to the COVID-19 pandemic. It fast-tracks processes to provide resources to frontline services, Provincial and Local Government, as well as businesses and households, with a specific focus on the most vulnerable South Africans[2]. Furthermore, the Supplementary Budget sets out a roadmap to stabilise debt, improve spending patterns, and creates a foundation for economic recovery.


The supplementary budget is also supported by section 12(1) and (2) of the Money Bills and Related Matters Act, 2009 (Act No. 9 of 2009). This Act provides for the tabling of a national adjustments budget, as envisaged in section 30 of the Public Finance Management Act, 1999 (Act No.1 of 1999), with an adjustments appropriation Bill, to make adjustments to the appropriations in an Appropriation Act.


This special adjustments budget reports on the COVID-19 fiscal measures, and the resulting adjustments to the departmental allocations. It also sets out government’s commitment to strengthen the public finances, and to position the economy for faster and inclusive growth[3]. Public spending priorities as proposed in the 2020 Budget have been reordered in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Government has prioritised saving lives, and took the difficult step of severely restricting economic activity at a time when GDP growth was already weak. The scale of the crisis, and the continued uncertainty of epidemiological and economic outcomes, have required rapid decisions in response to fast-changing conditions.


According to National Treasury, the response package identifies broad areas of funding, which cuts across multiple programmes and departments. To ensure that funds are efficiently allocated, departments are required to indicate resource requirements to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. Such proposals must be aligned to the response package as announced by the President and presented by the Minister of Finance in the “Economic Measures for COVID-19” published on 30 April 2020[4].


These would typically be programmes or activities that have already been put on hold during the lockdown period, projects where implementation dates could be moved out to the next financial year or projects and spending activities that are not critical to the core service delivery requirements of the Department. Such changes in baselines will only be effected in the 2020/21 financial year and will not at this stage be carried forward into the MTEF period[5].


In addition, the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME), in its Circular 2 of 2020, makes provision for departments to revise the Strategic Plan (SP) and Annual Performance Plan (APP), where required. Consequently, revisions of departmental plans are therefore in line to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic as well as the adjusted budget tabled by the Minister of Finance on 24 June 2020.





  1. Implications on the mandate of the Department


The Department has undertaken a process to consider adjustment to the planned activities to the adjusted budgets. Part of the process was to determine how the revised activities will impact on the current targets set in the Strategic Plan and the Annual Performance Plan (APP). In addition, guidelines form the DPME Circular 2 of 2020 were considered to determine what revisions are required to both plans, including that of the African Renaissance Fund.


2.1        Strategic Plan 2020-2025 and Annual Performance Plan


With regard to the Strategic Plan of the Department, it was found that the outcomes, outcome indicators and five year targets remain as set. Following the consultation sessions and taking into consideration the criteria and guidelines form the DPME, no revisions were required for the Department’s Strategic Plan and APP as the targets are output and outcome focused. Changes would be made at the operational level where activities are targeted[6].


The Department took comfort that the DPME revised planning framework, has made provision for a midterm review and revisions would then be made should it be required. It was reported that the revision to the Medium Term Strategic Framework (MTSF) would be undertaken in 2021, once such revisions are completed, the impact on departmental targets would be considered and revised where required.


  1. Analysis of the revised budget on each program


The Department reported that the notable impact of revised budget on programmes of the Department is that all programmes have a revised allocation. However, the was a commitment that the adjustments would not impact on service delivery on the set targets. The Department has planned to move targets to following performance quarters and achieve with less.


3.1        Programme 1: Administration


The implications of the reduced budget and the response to the changed working environment as a result of COVID-19, is on the operational activities. The Department had planned to modernise its ICT systems by procuring new computers and refreshing the data centre. There is suspension of spending on machinery and equipment, and this might delay the process further.


The other target was on positioning the Diplomatic Academy as a centre of excellence in foreign service training. The Department has reported that work to achieve this target was in process.


With regard to the target on the number of initiatives to mainstream gender, youth and people with disabilities, it was reported that work around mainstreaming gender, youth and people with disabilities would continue. Alternative platforms would be utilised where the contact sessions would not be possible.


The Department reported that with regard to the Portfolio Committee’s oversight recommendations for the full implementation of the Foreign Service Act (FSA), work for developing the codes, directives and regulations was in process. Some work was being done virtually. Once this process is over, the Minister would be able to set a date for the promulgation of the Act.

The legal advice and services provided in respect of international and domestic law, would continue being rendered.


3.2        Programme 2: International Relations


The Department reported that outcomes of structured bilateral mechanisms and high-level visits are aligned to the achievement of the National Development Plan (NDP) and MTSF. Revisions of the structured mechanisms were currently underway as part of the drafting of country strategies for international engagement. International engagements were also continuing on virtual platforms, under the constrained and changed conditions. The reduced budget implications were absorbed through the reduced travel which would not necessarily imply reduced international engagements.


The Department reported committed to continue contributing to increased Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) into South Africa and Africa. South African Missions abroad were finding alternative ways to engage the various role players in the respective countries to explore investment, trade and tourism opportunities which are much need in the South African economy at this time.


Two assessment reports were planned on South Africa’s contribution towards peace, stability, socioeconomic development, good governance, democracy; and the implementation of the SADC Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (RISDP). These reports would still be produced to reflect work being done. The Department reported that reduced budget implications were absorbed through the reduced travel which would not imply reduced engagements. SADC had already hosted a virtual meeting to continue the work in the region.


3.3        Programme 3: International Cooperation


The significant target under this programme is the plan by the Department to develop a long-term strategy for South Africa’s membership/candidatures in international organisations, and to identify which memberships to pursue. The Department has committed that the work around the long-term strategy for South Africa’s membership/candidatures would continue. This would assess value for money with regard to membership to international organisations.


In its multilateral work, the Department would still ensure that 85% of resolutions and outcomes of multilateral multistate organisations, reflect South Africa's interests. It would also reflect the African Agenda on Peace and Security, Human Rights, Economic and Social Development. In this regard, international engagements were continuing under the constrained and changed conditions, using virtual platforms. The United Nations (UN) has already decided that the General Assembly would have a virtual engagement in September/October 2020. Also in this regard, reduced budget implications were absorbed through the reduced travel which would not necessarily imply reduced international engagements. It was argued that once there are revisions to the MTSF, the impact on departmental targets would be considered and revised where required.


In its continental obligations as the Chair of the African Union (AU), one monitoring report on South Africa’s contribution to the operationalisation of identified Agenda 2063 flagship projects would form an important outcome. The Department has committed to continue monitoring how the country is contributing to the operationalisation of identified Agenda 2063 flagship projects.


The Department would continue to develop and deliver on the strategy for the AU Chairship. It was reported that in addition to other main issues, South Africa is continuing to deliver on its deliverables as AU Chair with a focus on the Continent’s response to the COVID -19 pandemic. These engagements were taking place on virtual platforms. Again the reduced budget implications were absorbed through the reduced travel which would not necessarily imply reduced international engagements.


As AU Chair, South Africa has committed to lead continental efforts aimed at resolving conflicts. South Africa would continue to honour commitments to resolve continental conflicts. As indicated, reduced budget implications are being absorbed through the reduced travel.


South Africa would continue utilising South-South cooperation to pursue South Africa’s national interest and advance the development agenda. International engagements were continuing under the constrained and changed conditions through virtual platforms. Reduced budget implications were being absorbed through the reduced travel.


North-South cooperation would continue to be utilised to pursue South Africa’s national interest and advance the development agenda of the Global South. International engagements are continuing under the constrained and changed conditions, through virtual platforms. Also in this area, reduced budget implications were being absorbed through the reduced travel.


3.4        Programme 4: Public Diplomacy and Protocol Services


The Department would continue to develop, implement and monitor the effectiveness of the Public Diplomacy Strategy. Public diplomacy work would continue exploring alternative platforms in order to implement the new strategy.


Rapid and timeous support to missions on domestic and global developments is one of the focus areas in this programme. Providing missions with timeous support on domestic and global developments remained important now more than ever, in this constantly changing environment and the situation brought by the pandemic.


Missions would continue to fulfil their mandate to assist South African citizens in distress abroad; and offer legalisation services. These essential services continued to be rendered even during lockdown.


  1. Adjusted baseline allocation per programme

The 2020/21 baseline reduction represents the following:

R thousand


Total Adjustments

Adjusted Appropriation

% inc/dec






International Relations





International Cooperation





Public Diplomacy and Protocol Services





International Transfers











R thousand


Total Adjustments

Adjusted appropriation

% inc/dec

Compensation of employees





Goods and services





Interest and rent on land





Transfers and subsidies





Payments for capital assets










Source: Department of International Relations and Cooperation 8 July 2020


4.1        Programme 1: Administration

The reduction of R199 million related to infrastructure projects. The remaining R15 million relate to travel budget mainly Ministry and Corporate Management such as outgoing visits by Executives and transfer of officials.


4.2        Programme 2: International Relations

The reduction of R83 million related to activities that were planned for first three quarters of the financial year such as hosting of National day celebrations including venues and facilities budget, entertainment budget as well travel and subsistence.


4.3        Programme 3: International Cooperation

The reduction of R10 million related to activities that were planned for first three quarters of the financial year such as hosting of National day celebrations including venues and facilities budget, entertainment budget as well travel and subsistence.





4.4        Programme 4: Public Diplomacy and Protocol Services

Subprogramme: Public Diplomacy

The reduction of R9 million related to travel activities in support of the Executive programmes.

Subprogramme: State Protocol Services

The adjustment was made within State Protocol to cover the repatriation costs from the outgoing and incoming state as well as hosting of AU summit.


  1. Reprioritisation of Infrastructure and Capital projects


The Foreign Service Act No 26 of 2019 was assented to by the President on 26 May 2020. The Minister of International Relations and Cooperation becomes the custodian of all immovable assets outside the Republic in terms of Section 9 of the Act. The Department has opted to delay the implementation of the capital projects in order to allow more time to revise the infrastructure implementation plan. National Treasury has agreed that R199 million will be reprioritised.


In line with the Portfolio Committee’s recommendation, the Department undertook to establish a work stream on property management, to assist the Minister to achieve the following:

  1. Development of property acquisition, maintenance and disposal strategy;
  2. Identify sources of funding and develop a financial model; and
  3. Establishment of a Construction, Built Environment and Project Management Unit.


  1. The African Renaissance Fund (ARF) Revised Annual Performance Plan


The Department reported that the implementation of the 2020/21 Annual Performance Plan of the ARF has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The targets in the APP o the ARF have been impacted upon and consequently revised. Some of the percentages of delivery targets have been revised up, while others down, to align the service delivery outcomes with the remaining timeframes. However, the overall budget allocation for the ARF for 2020/21 remained the same, at R 48 million.


The last couple of months have seen unprecedented lockdowns in various countries. The APP focused on two strategic objectives in line with the theme of the AU “Silencing the Guns: Creating Conducive Conditions for Africa's Development,” to support South Africa’s Chairship of the African Union during this period:

    1. Support socio-economic development and integration

    2. Prevention and resolution of conflict.

However, due to the restrictions on travel and the need for social distancing, the two events which were planned for May 2020 in an extraordinary AU Summit, had to be postponed to a later date (early in 2021).


The ARF has in the 1st quarter of year focused on humanitarian projects to address the COVID-19 pandemic. Four election observer missions were anticipated on the SADC calendar for the 2020/21 financial year. One election in Malawi has taken place without any observer mission from South Africa. The others, in Seychelles, Mauritius and Tanzania, are expected in the 3rd quarter of the year. The SADC Desk has recommended that these remain on the APP because travel restrictions might have been lifted by the 3rd quarter.


One project is under consideration to provide support for the operationalisation the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). It was also anticipated that South Africa might be requested to provide technical assistance for the elections to be held in the 3rd quarter. A project on prevention and resolution of conflict is also being anticipated.


For the other areas of its mandate, the ARF’s APP has adjusted the percentages for service delivery targets, and also shifted the timeframes to the 3rd quarter of the 2020/21 financial year.


5.1        Programme: Promotion of democracy and good governance

There is a target of 100% has been revised to 75% of SADC election observers to be funded by the Department. The downward revision is because one election has already taken place in Malawi, and there were no observers from South Africa. Other elections were scheduled in the 3rd quarter. There might be requests for technical assistance to support elections. The obligation has been increased from 20% to 100% of technical assistance to support elections funded. The target has been moved to the 3rd quarter.


5.2        Programme: Prevention and resolution of conflict

The ARF had a target of 80% requests for mediation and conflict resolution projects funded. This has been revised to100% requests for mediation and conflict resolution projects funded and it has been shifted to the 2nd quarter. This is in anticipation of an increase in conflicts and the need for assistance from South Africa as the current Chair of the AU.





5.3        Programme: Socio-economic development and integration

The plan was for 80% of projects funded to provide support for the operationalisation of the African Convention on Free Trade Area. It has been adjusted to 100% of projects funded to provide support for the operationalisation of the AfCFTA, and it has been shifted to the 3rd quarter. This would be in support of the delivery focus areas for President Ramaphosa as the AU Chair.


5.4        Programme: Provision of humanitarian assistance

The outcome of 100% of humanitarian assistance projects funded has been varied. The revision is such that 60% of humanitarian assistance projects were funded (relief for COVID-19) in the 1st quarter; while 40% of humanitarian projects would be funded in the 2nd quarter. This has been in response to the pandemic related African response to ensure that Africa is not left behind.


  1. Observations and findings


6.1        The Committee asked for detailed information on how the adjusted budget will affect its objectives. Clarity was sought on what criteria was used to decide which programmes to cut funds from. An amount of R 317 million has been deducted from the Department’s baseline.


6.2        The Committee pointed out that since the mandate of the Department is largely implemented abroad, the ‘new normal’ has presented an opportunity for other means of contact to facilitate diplomatic intercourse with partners abroad. It was the view of the Committee that reduced budget should not necessarily translate into a lesser appetite to still continue with international engagements with partners through virtual platforms.


6.3        Consular services largely kept the South African missions across the globe, very busy facilitating requests for repatriation of citizens with varying circumstances caused by the pandemic. Traditional diplomatic practice had to be replaced overnight by the ‘new normal’ of virtual engagements with the rest of the world.


6.4        South Africa’s Chairship of the African Union has not been without challenges, created by the arrival of the pandemic in the continent.

  • An extraordinary summit on silencing the guns has been postponed to early 2021.
  • The marking of the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area had to be postponed to early 2021. More information was sought on the readiness of South Africa to join the continent and benefit from the AfCFTA.


6.5        Members also asked about the state of readiness for the Department to fully implement the Foreign Service Act, and whether there was a roadmap in place to assist it to achieve this.


6.6        Members asked for more information on South Sudan’s suspension from the African Union.


6.7        The Committee noted that the revised budget has not been reduced on the compensation of employees. However, it was asked how the Department planned to address the issue of foreign exchange fluctuations which often impacted upon the compensation of employees.


6.8        Clarity was sought on whether the reduced budget and reprioritisation in capital infrastructure budget would affect the Department’s contractual obligations with regards to rentals of properties abroad.


6.9        The Minister was requested to clarify government’s position on the closure of South Africa’s embassy in Israel.


6.10      Clarity was also sought regarding the insurgency in northern Mozambique, and whether the matter was being addressed by SADC.


6.11      The Committee requested a roadmap and implementation plan for the Foreign Service Act to provide the Committee with specific time frames which allow the it to monitor the progress made.


6.12      The Committee had concerns with the way some South Africans abroad would wait until very late to request consular services, and exert undue pressure on South Africa’s missions abroad to facilitate repatriation at all costs.


6.13      The Committee also requested the Department to submit a report regarding its property management strategy team, to back up what information was given to the Committee by the Department.


6.14      A need was identified for a special meeting of the Committee to deal with security issues in norther Mozambique and on developments regarding the Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa forum (BRICS).


6.15      Some of the areas covered by the revision have a direct impact on the Portfolio Committee’s recommendations on the Budget Vote 2020/21. The Committee has been consistent in its oversight concern that the Department should prepare ahead and be ready to implement the Foreign Service Act with minimum delays. One area of intensified oversight has been to ensure that the Department has the requisite property management strategy and appropriate skills of the built environment. It is important for the Department to explain how it is going to navigate in this area.


6.16      One of the Committee’s recommendations was with regard to the modernisation of the ICT systems. The Committee said it has noted some positive adjustments and the Department was commended for that. The Department reported it has started implementing the recommendations from the Ministerial and experts task team towards modernising the obsolete ICT infrastructure. The plan was to initially procure equipment like laptops, computers, and refreshing the server environment to secure data. With the revised budget suspending non-essential spending on machinery and equipment, the Committee wanted to establish how the modernisation project would be affected by budget cuts, and that the urgent need as identified would not fall within the cracks.


  1. Responses by the Department


7.1        The Department noted that South Sudan has been suspended because of failure to pay membership fees. South Sudan remains a member but would not be able to participate in AU processes. This should be solved as South Sudan would make payment soon.


7.2        Everything is in place to ensure the Department implements the ICT strategy effectively. The Department committed that it would provide the Committee with a report after internal processes as part of Department’s accountability mechanism. The Department should be able to share the report with the Committee at an appropriate time when all the internal processes have taken place.


7.3        The Department has put measures in place to ensure that its internal control environment is strengthened. With regards to the implications the revised budget on programmes- the biggest problem is loss which was caused by COVID-19. The Department is also putting a number of measures to ensure that they mitigate the effects of foreign exchange fluctuations and the compensation of employees ceiling. The budget cuts mean the Department would have to work with what it has to ensure it achieves most targets.


7.4        On the issue on the Foreign Service Act, there is a plan in place and at an appropriate time, the Department would be able to report back and provide the Committee with that plan. There are clear time frames and an implementation task team has been established and it is a cross cutting team that would deal with aspects of the Act.


7.5        Although custodianship of properties had been placed with the department of International Relations and Cooperation, there will have to be a proper systematic handover that needs to happen in order for the process to be complete.


7.6        The Minister added that the foreign exchange fluctuations were a problem that affects all foreign ministries throughout the world and it is very difficult to convince National Treasuries to make adjustments based on fluctuations and foreign ministries have to work within the budget provided to them and make adjustments without disadvantaging employees and the programs they work on.


7.7        On maintenance of properties abroad, the Department noted that it has a maintenance programme, but on a much smaller scale. Most of the properties utilised by officials were leased property and it would be for the owner of those properties to carry out maintenance. The areas where the Department has to do a lot of work are properties owned by South Africa, but which has not been maintained and could be renovated for purposes of disposal.


7.8        On Israel, the Department noted that the decision by Cabinet was that South Africa should downgrade its Embassy in Israel, and this has been done.


7.9        On South Sudan, this was a decision that all AU members took in 2018, that if a country does not meet its obligations for a particular period then membership would be suspended. All member states agreed on this. This is an agreement of the AU and is part of the discipline of running an organisation effectively on the continent.


7.10      The matter of Mozambique was before SADC, a special meeting of the Organ was convened, and the sole subject was the issue in Mozambique. SADC would work together to withstand this and overcome the matter. There is an international terrorism strategy that SADC is part of under the UN, and that South Africa’s security organs were working on the matter.


7.11      The repatriation processes were operated under a cost-recovery process. The Department would request funding for about 12 flights, then advance the repatriated citizens after they would have signed ‘I owe you’ contracts, placing an obligation on the citizens to repay the Department once back at home. This was opened for only those who expressed in advance that they did not have adequate funds to purchase a ticket back home.


7.12      Team DIRCO is a hard-working and immensely professional team. Reviews on missions could be done virtually and visit when necessary. A directive has been issued that all non-compliance with supply chain management should be stamped out. Absence of travel has indeed proved that a lot of work is created by virtual platforms.


  1. Conclusions


After considering the presented report, the Portfolio Committee concluded that the COVID-19 pandemic has to an extent, impacted on the mandate of the Department. The consular services section was kept busy throughout, to facilitate the repatriation of South Africans from different parts of the world. Furthermore, the Department currently has to conduct diplomatic work on virtual platforms. The reduced budget would still be subject to foreign exchange fluctuations and it will affect some of the operations, but in the main the Department would still be able to achieve the required service delivery. Strategic plans of both the Department and the African Renaissance Fund did not need any revision and the five year targets remained as set. Furthermore, the Annual Performance of the Department also remained the same as its targets are outcome based. However, the Annual Performance Plan for the African Renaissance Fund has been revised, with percentages varied and targets shifted to the 2nd and 3rd quarters.


  1. Recommendations


Having considered the impact of the adjusted budget on the Strategic Plan 2020-2025 and the Budget Vote 6 of the Department 2020/21 and its entity, the Committee recommends that the Minister should consider the following and report on progress within three months of adoption by the National Assembly of this report:


9.1        Presenting the implementation plan of the Foreign Service Act with clear timeframes to enable the Portfolio Committee to enhance its oversight strategy on the Act.


9.2        Monitoring the repatriation processes as requested by citizens abroad, to guard against possible abuse of the good-will system.


9.3        Ensuring the continued processes for the moderinisation of the ICT systems to align the operations of the Department with the demands presented by COVID-19 for virtual existence.

9.4        Submitting a report regarding its property management strategy team, to back up the information given to the Committee.


9.5        Ensuring the recovery of all repatriation costs from all citizens who signed the contracts acknowledging debt for advance payments made by the Department.


  1. The Committee recommends that the Supplementary Budget Vote: 6 International Relations and Cooperation be passed.


Report to be considered


[1] National Treasury Supplementary Budget review 2020

[2] Ibid

[3] National Treasury Supplementary Budget review 2020

[4] Ibid

[5] Ibid

[6] Department of International Relations and Cooperation, Presentation to Portfolio Committee 8 July 2020


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