ATC210514: Report of the Portfolio Committee on International Relations and Cooperation on the 1st and 2ndquarters 2020/21 expenditure performance of the Department of International Relations and Cooperation and the African Renaissance and International Cooperation Fund, dated12 May 2021
Report of the Portfolio Committee on International Relations and Cooperation on the 1st and 2ndquarters 2020/21 expenditureperformance of the Department of International Relations and Cooperation and the African Renaissance and International Cooperation Fund, dated12 May 2021
The Portfolio Committee on International Relations and Cooperation (the Committee), having considered the 1st and 2ndquarters 2020/21 performance and submission to National Treasury, of the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (the Department), and the African Renaissance and International Cooperation Fund (ARF) on 10 February 2021, reports as follows:
1.1 Mandate of the Committee
The Portfolio Committee on International Relations and Cooperation is a committee of Parliament mandated by the sections 55 and 92 of the Constitution of South Africa, to oversee and ensure accountability in the formulation and conduct of South African foreign policy. Consequently, the Committee conducts oversight on activities of the Department of International Relations and Cooperation, and its entity, the African Renaissance and International Cooperation Fund (ARF), on policies, financial spending patterns, administrative issues, and it holds the Department and entity accountable for their operations and functions. The Committee is an important mechanism for ensuring oversight over the conduct of South Africa’s international relations and cooperation policy.
1.2 Purpose of the quarterly performance report
The quarterly performance report is a building bloc towards the Committee’s annual Budgetary Review and Recommendation Report (BRRR). In accordance with section 5 of the Money Bills Procedures and Related Matters Amendment Act 2009 (Act No.9 of 2009), the National Assembly, through its committees, must assess service delivery performance of each national department and submit the BRR Report for each department, for tabling in the National Assembly. The process allows the National Assembly to evaluate the effective and efficient use and forward allocation of resources; and may make recommendations on forward use of resources. These reports will be considered by the Standing/Select Committees on Appropriations and Finance respectively when they make recommendations to the Houses of Parliament on the Medium Term Budget Policy Statement (MTBPS).
In compiling this report, the Committee based its assessment of the Department and its entity, on tabled service delivery plans as outlined in the Annual Performance Plans 2020/21 of both; and the 2020 State of the Nation Address. The Committee linked domestic priorities to the Department’s Strategic Plan 2020 – 2025 and aligned the information to priorities and measurable objectives as set out in the National Development Plan (NDP).
The Committee also examined the expenditure report as published by the National Treasury. These reports are commonly known as section 32 Reports.
The report furthergives an overview of the presentations made by the Department and its entity, focusing mainly on its achievements, output in respect of the performance indicators and targets set for 2020/21 and the financial performance. The report also provides the Committee’s key deliberations and recommendations relating to the performance of the Department and its entity.
1.3 Mandate of the Department
The overall mandate of the Department is to work for the realization of South Africa’s international relations policy objectives. In terms of the provisions of the Constitution, the President of the Republic of South Africa bears the overall responsibility for the country’s foreign policy and international relations. However, the Department is entrusted with the formulation, application and implementation of South Africa’s foreign policy which is derived from South Africa’s domestic priorities. The Minister of International Relations and Cooperation (the Minister) assumes overall responsibility for all aspects of South Africa’s international relations, albeit in consultation with the President. The Minister also liaises and consults with members of the Cabinet on overlapping issues and on the priorities and programmes of other departments that bear an international relations element. In the same breath, other Cabinet ministers are required to consult the Minister on their international role.
1.4 Measurable objectives of the Department
The Department had identified the following strategic objectives for implementation during the reporting quarter, aimed at responding to the domestic priorities as announced by government for the reporting year as follows:
- Provide strategic leadership, management and support services to the Department,
- promote relations with foreign countries,
- participate in international organisations and institutions in line with South Africa’s national values and foreign policy objectives, and
- communicate South Africa’s role and position in international relations in the domestic and international arenas as well as to provide Protocol Services.
2. Performance of the Department in general
The quarterly report reflects the high level highlights of a number of diplomatic activities carried out by the Department including its Missions abroad. At the time of reporting, South Africa’s representative footprint had grown from 34 in 1994 to 125 diplomatic missions in 2020, situated in 109 countries throughout the world.
True to the fact that the Department operates in an ever changing international landscape, its work during the 1st and 2ndquarters was influenced by these events. The international turbulence was due to the rapid weakening of the rand against major currencies; the resultant impact on the global economic outlook,the plummeting oil prices and the advent of the Coronavirus pandemic.
Theactivities of the Department remained structured into the five programmes as elaborated in its Annual Performance Plan 2020/21. These are as follows:
- Programme 1: Administration
- Programme 2: International Relations
- Programme 3: International Cooperation
- Programme 4: Public Diplomacy and Protocol Services and
- Programme 5: International Transfers
2.1 Non-financial performance of the Department per programme: Achievements
2.1.1 Programme 1: Administration: It is aimed to provide strategic leadership, management and support services to the Department.
Within this programme, the Department was able to extend consular services to South Africans in30477cases reported to the missions abroad. These includedassisting citizens in distress; visiting new detainees/prisoners in places of detention; facilitating the repatriation of mortal remains; assisting in locating the whereabouts of missing South Africans; assisting in the recovery of children under parental abduction; repatriating citizens due to the pandemic and facilitatingextraditions where requested.
In terms of compliance with maintaining an ISO certified quality management system, ISO certificate was issued and is valid until September 2021. The Department undertook a gap analysis and developed an implementation plan on building institutional capacity to deliver the AU/UN languages, which was supposed to have been completed in quarter 1. Two outreach initiatives to support gender mainstreaming were undertaken.In this regard, the Department hosted a Roundtable discussion for Promoting Women's Empowerment and Gender Equality in the Public Service on 31 August 2020. A session/workshop on Sexual Harassment in the Workplace was facilitated and hosted on 30 September 2020. The Department also hosted an International Youth Day under the Theme “Youth Engagement for Global Action” on 12 August 2020.
In terms of legal services, it was reported that 100% (41) legal advice and services rendered100% (41) legal advice and services rendered related to international law. 100% (59) legal advice and services rendered related to domestic law.
The drafting of codes, directives and regulations as may be appropriatefor the implementation of the Foreign Service Act 2019 wasnot achieved.Some of the designated five work streams, charged with developing draft codes, directives and regulations in support of the FSA, did not complete their work. During its performance reporting in 4th quarter 2019/20, the Department indicated that it has established five work streams to develop draft codes, directives and regulations in support of the FSA, namely:
- Personnel Management Work Stream
- Property Management Work Stream
- Protocol and Consular Work Stream
- Diplomatic Academy and Training Work Stream
- Foreign Service Coordination Work Stream.
The Department had meantime planned for the promulgation of the Foreign Service Act in April 2021.
2.1.2 Programme 2: International Relations
The programme is aimed to promote relations with foreign countries to strengthen South Africa’s political, economic and social relations with targeted countries. This is achieved through the outcomes of structured bilateral mechanisms and high-level visits reflecting national priorities, the African Agenda and the Agenda of the South. These remain important vehicles for cooperation and promoting South Africa’s national priorities. The national priorities of government as well as the needs of Africa (such as the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) as espoused in the National Development Plan (NDP), are also pursued in bilateral relations. Focus is also placed on the strengthening of economic diplomacy initiatives undertaken by Missions for the promotion of South Africa’s trade, investment and tourism potential and opportunities.
The review of structured bilateral mechanisms to align it to the achievement of the NDP and MTSF, was not achieved. Progress reported reflected on 90 of 139 (65%) structured mechanisms at different stages of the review process. The process was to be finalised in quarter 4.
Three regional reports on outcomes of structured bilateral mechanism showing delivery against NDP and MTSF were completed.Three regional reports were fromthe Americas and Europe region whereengagements focussed on, amongst others:
- Repatriation and expatriation of nationals;
- A Cuban Medical Brigade of 217 medical specialists arrived in South Africa, to support the efforts against COVID-19;
- Germany, through a partnership involving the German Government and German automotive companies, constructed field hospitals in Gauteng and the Eastern Cape.
- The United Kingdom made a R50 million contribution to the Solidarity Fund, in addition to numerous other projects that they have.
- Denmark donated PPE, Mobile Units and free shipment of PPE into South Africa.
- Sweden prioritized the South African order for test-kits that were being manufactured by Cepheid in Sweden.
- Further contributions for PPEs and test kits were secured from the US, Turkey, Lithuania, Russia and many others.
- COVID-19 response efforts and the adjustment of priorities showed the need to shift from the immediate crisis response to cooperation regarding access, production and procurement of vaccines for South Africa.
Engagements with the SADCRegion revealed that:
- The term of Office of the current Executive Secretary and Deputy Executive Secretary is coming to an end August 2021.
- South Africa did not have enough points to compete for the position of the Executive Secretary and is disqualified to compete for the position of the Deputy Executive Secretary given that the incumbent is a South African national.
- South Africa would not be represented at executive management level of SADC for the coming eight (8) years.
Three regional investment quarterly progress reports achieved. They were from Asia and Middle East; Africa; America and Europe. Progress on the 2019 Presidential Investment Conference was such that:
Toyota South Africa Motors (TSAM) announced in July 2020 that including the original pledge they would invest R4,28-billion in its local operations up to the end of 2020. The lion’s share of the investment, the originally pledged R2,43 billion has been earmarked for gearing up for the production of a new passenger-car model at the Prospecton plant, in Durban commencing in October 2021. Production of the Corolla Quest would continue and would also include production of a Toyota hybrid synergy drive model.
At a time characterised by economic contraction due to the COVID-19 pandemic, South Africa’s promotional activities in the Asia and the Middle East focused on specific areas of opportunities, which included:
- South Africa’s rising production volumes for nuts and fruit - the fastest growing market for new volumes is Asia and the Middle East;
- South Africa’s efforts through BRICS to establish the National Development Bank (NDB) continues to pay dividends through the provision of USD 1 billion Emergency Support Programme to South Africa in the dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.
The impact of the pandemic has highlighted the need for greater cooperation in the areas of health, technology and cyber-security. The existing focus of cooperation in BRICS is well established in science and technology with development of an innovation platform underway. The NDB is also actively contributing to the efforts of BRICS countries to combat the economic consequences of the COVID-19 Pandemic. It was also agreed to fast track the establishment of the BRICS Vaccine Development and Research Centre as agreed in the 2018 Johannesburg Declaration.
The Africa region:
The outbreak of the global COVID-19 pandemic has severely constrained trade promotion efforts in the continent. International travel restrictions and lockdown measures introduced throughout the continent limited the implementation of planned trade promotion events and initiatives.
As SADC Facilitator to the Kingdom of Lesotho, South Africa participated in a peace mission to address issues with regard to peace, security and political stability in the Kingdom.The Ministerial Committee of the Organ (MCO), amongst others, reviewed the political and security situation in the Region, specifically in the Kingdom of Lesotho, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the Republic of Mozambique.
The 40th SADC Ordinary Summit of Heads of State and Government, held on 17 August 2020 approved the SADC Vision 2050 and the Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (RSIDP) 2020 – 2030.To operationalise the strategic documents; Member States were requested to undertake national consultations on the draft RISDP 2020-30 Implementation Plan and provide inputs to the Secretariat.
2.1.3 Programme 3:International Cooperation
Through this programme, the Department participates in international organisations and institutions. This was reported as in line with South Africa’s national values and foreign policy objectives. The programme assists the Department to enhance international responsiveness to the needs of developing countries and Africa. This is achieved through negotiation and influencing processes in the Global Governance System; towards a reformed, strengthened and equitable rules-based multilateral system.The Department continued to participate in various multilateral meetings to influence the outcomes of such meetings and remain an active member of the international community as espoused by the NDP.
The activities of the Department under this programme included participation in the following:
- Discussions on the development of the vaccine strategy for the continent;
- The establishment of the COVID-19 African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team (AVATT), in support of Africa Vaccine Strategy;
- The adoption of the Declaration on the AfCFTA, which forms the basis of inter-trade agreement with effect from 1 January 2021; and
- The adoption of the Declaration on Silencing the Guns, which extended the implementation of the AU Master Roadmap of Practical Steps for Silencing the Guns in Africa for a period of ten years (2021-2030), with periodic reviews every two years and further decide to extend the commemoration and conduct of the Africa Month during September of each year for a period of ten years (2020-2030).
The key focus areas remained on South Africa’s role as Chair of the African Union with the main focus on the Continent's response to the COVID -19 pandemic. The Chair of the African Union also facilitated the following key areas:
- The appointment of Special Envoys to mobilise the international support for the Continental fight against COVID-19;
- The Establishment of the African Medical Supplies Platform (AMSP): a platform developed to assist the AU Member States to tackle issues on the supply side of continent’s response to COVID-19 and access to medical supplies and equipment;
- The initiative of the Chair of the AU to engage international partners and financial institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank, European Union (EU), G20 Member States and others to support the issue of debt relief for African countries whose economies have been devastated by the pandemic;
South Africa prepared for and participated at the UNGA75 General Debate, 22 September 2020. Owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, the General Debate and high-level meetings of the 75th session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA75) took place virtually from 18 September to 02 October 2020, under the theme: “The Future We Want, the UN We Need: Reaffirming our Collective Commitment to Multilateralism.”
South Africa’s period on the Council was guided by the chosen theme: “Continuing the Legacy: Working for a Just and Peaceful World”. During South Africa’s term, there were some issues where the Council was active on and has been able to take actions, including support for political processes primarily through UN Special Political Missions, deployments and renewals of UN peacekeeping Missions and the implementation of sanctions.
As an elected member, South Africa forged close links with the other two African countries serving on the Council, the so-called A3, which in 2020 comprised of Niger, Tunisia and South Africa. The country has also worked with other developing countries that are part of the Non-Aligned Movement and has attempted to work with other elected members in the E10 formation.
The overarching issues that dominated the General Debate and of relevance to South Africa during UNGA75 included: the COVID-19 pandemic, the global fight and post-pandemic recovery; the 75th anniversary of the UN and past gains and challenges ahead. The other items included the maintenance of global peace and security; promotion of human rights and advancing development; the Decade of Action towards the implementation of the 2030 Agenda on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs); and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, the need to transition to green growth.
President Ramaphosa’s statement to the General Debate, as well as his interventions during various UNGA75 high-level meetings, addressed key issues facing the country, in particular the plans for the recovery from COVID-19. The President, in his capacity as the Chairperson of the African Union, also used UNGA75 to champion critical priorities of the Continent, reflecting on health, as well as broader socio-economic and political issues. The key message was of an African continent continuing with its strides to silence the guns and bring about peace and sustainable development to all countries.
The UNGA75 high-level segment reaffirmed the importance of multilateralism. It was an opportunity for the international community to display solidarity in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. COVID-19 brought to the fore, the reality that contemporary global challenges require global solutions and that no country acting alone is capable of resolving them.
The 6th meeting of the BRICS Deputy Ministers/Special Envoys on the Middle East & North Africa (MENA) took place from 25-26 August 2020.The meeting exchanged views and shaped consensus on:
- the current political and security situation and the humanitarian impact of the on-going conflicts affecting the two regions, focusing on developments regarding the situation in Libya and Eastern Mediterranean; Syria, Lebanon; the Middle East Peace Process (MEPP);
- the situation in the Gulf; the conflict in Yemen; and the situation in Iraq. They reaffirmed that the crises in these regions should be addressed through political mechanisms and in accordance with international law and the UN Charter;
Underlying their deliberations was the principle that lasting peace could only be achieved with due respect for the independence, territorial integrity and sovereignty of the countries involved.
South Africa prepared for, and participated in the Virtual 14th South Africa-European Union Ministerial Political Dialogue on 14 July 2020.The 14th MPD discussed a range of issues relating to further enhancing the South Africa-EU Strategic Partnership within the challenging context of the COVID-19 pandemic and its political and socio-economic impact on South Africa and the EU.
2.1.4 Programme 4: Public Diplomacy and Protocol Servicespin international relations in tperiod. uedt would ageonal Cooperation Fund (ARF)
The programme is meant to communicate South Africa’s role and position in international relations in the domestic and international arenas. It is also aimed to provide protocol services.
Ten (10)opinion pieces were targeted and achieved; and they were on the following topics:
- “Ten (10) were achieved, including the following:
- Middle East peace plan must guarantee sovereign equality between Palestine and Israel”, The Daily Maverick
- Let’s work together to create a just global order that radiates the values of Nelson Mandela” The Daily Maverick
- SA agreement with South East Asian bloc opens up a host of opportunities” The Daily Maverick
Within this programme, the Department provided protocol services per requests that were received.During the reporting period, no requests were received for international conferences.
2.1.5 Programme 5: International Transfers
Spending under the International Transfers programme has decreased however, mainly due to lower spending on goods and services. Transfers were made to the ARF and also to international organisations to which South Africa is a state party.
3. Financial performance of the Department
3.1 Quarter 1 expenditure
The Department’s actual expenditure for the first quarter amounted to R1. 880 billion or 29% of the programme’s total appropriation.Expenditure is 14% lower than projected expenditure of R2. 178 billion for the period.
This programme recorded expenditure of 20% lower than projected expenditure for the period. This wasreported mainly due to delays in the procurement of computers as well as non-travel due to pandemic induced lockdown.
Under this programme, expenditure was reported 6% lower than projected expenditure for the period mainly due to missions’ expenditure that did not interface into the Basic Accounting System (BAS).
The expenditure was reported to be 12% higher than expecteddue to challenges experienced keeping within the ceiling on the compensation of employees.
The expenditure was reported to be 44 % lower than projected for the period. This was mainly due to invoices for municipal services for foreign missions based in South Africa which were not received; as well as no travelling expenditure due to the pandemic related lockdown.
The expenditure was reported 23% lower than projected for the period. This was mainly due to non-payment of the outstanding payments for SADC and the AU due to insufficient approved budget.
3.2 Quarter 2 expenditure
The spending for Quarter 2 amounted to R1. 464 billion compared to the projected expenditure of R1. 588 billion representing a variance of 8%.
The actual expenditure was 25% below the projection. The low spending was attributable to lockdown restrictions that affected travel for final and interim audit of missions, transfer of officials to and from missions, international travel by internal audit section, delay in the procurement of computers and laptops and delays in the implementation of infrastructure plan.
Programme 2: The actual expenditure was 3% higher than what had been projected. The high spending was experienced under the compensation of employees.
The actual expenditure was 16% lower than what had been projected. The low spending was due to the delay in the June 2020 placement cycle, as well as lesser activities performed by Missions and Head Office due to COVID-19 pandemic restrictions.
The actual expenditure was at 14% lower than what had been projected. The low spending was due to no travel as a result of lockdown restrictions.
The actual expenditure was 11% higher than what had been projected. High spending was due to South Africa’s assessed contribution to the United Nations for Peacekeeping and Peace Support operations.
It was noted that spending trend on compensation of employees (CoE) depicted a higher expenditure trend by R21 million per month above the CoE ceiling. The projected expenditure for the year would increase to R3. 157 billion based on the current prevailing trend which would result in a projected budget shortfall of R276 million, subject to foreign exchange fluctuation.
4. African Renaissance and International Cooperation Fund (ARF)
During the 1st and 2ndquarter reporting,the African Renaissance and International Cooperation Fund has continued to be an important instrument in pursuit of South Africa’s foreign policy, particularly the African Agenda and, morecritically 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 countries in the continent, particularly with the fight against COVD-19, this was done through the different organs of the AU and directly to the recipient countries.The Secretariat has continued to monitor the active projects in collaboration with Missions abroad to ensure that funds are utilised for what they were intended and in South Africa’s national interest.
During the reporting period, the ARF supported disbursements, among others, for the following:
1. South Africa’s contribution to the COVID-19 Special Fund for R 35 600 000.
2.South Africa’s contribution towards the Africa Centre for Disease Control for R 71 200 000.
3.Provision of Personal Protective Equipment to 21 African countries for R 288 566 900.
4.Pledge by President Ramaphosa at EU pledging Conference for the access of COVID-19 tools.
5.Presidential and legislative elections in the Central African Republic was supported.
5. Findings by the Committee
After due deliberations on the contents of the 1st and 2nd quarter reports for 2020/21of the Department and its entity, the Committee made the following findings:
5.1 The Committee needed more information on the role that South Africa had played at the United Nations Security Council. The Committee also commended South Africa’s efforts in tapping into emerging markets and increasing its trade relations with Asia and Latin America.
5.2 The Committee became aware from the media, that some diplomats refused to return home after the end of their tour of duty. The Committee sought clarity on how those situations were handled and resolved.
5.3 The Department was instructed to give an update on the progress towards the entering into force of the Foreign Service Act 2019.
5.4 Clarity was sought on why the gap analysis to determine 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.
5.5 Clarity was further sought on why the stakeholders’ consultation on regulations and directives had not been achieved in Quarter 1.
5.6 The Committee noted the importance of the review of structural bilateral relations in quarter 2. It was noted as imperative to align those bilateral relations to address domestic challenges, and this could not be neglected.
5.7 Clarity was sought on the reasons for the delay in commencing processes towards the strategic review of South Africa’s membership to international organisations.
5.8 A concern was raised regarding the collapse of the information communication technology (ICT) systems in the Department. As the Department handled sensitive diplomatic information, this situation should not continue.
5.9 The Committee asked about the Department’s approach to the newly elected Biden administration in the United States, and noted that South Africa had not had a good relationship with the Trump administration. The Committee was curious to know what the Department’s plans were with the Biden Administration, to mend and promote the relationship between South Africa and America.
5.10 The Committee noted 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 condoned, therefore the Department was urged to stick to those targets and achieve what should be achieved.
5.11 The Committee 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, the Committee had noted situations related to misconduct in the missions where such information was not shared with the Committee.
5.12 The Committee sought clarity on the promulgation of the Foreign Service Act. The Committee asked the Department to indicate if the Act still could be operationalised in two months’ time (April 2021). The COVID-19 excuse would not suffice, as the Act would resolve a lot of issues once it came into effect.
5.13 Regarding developments in Myanmar, the Committee asked the Director-General to explain the extent to which South Africa had been involved in monitoring the situation, and whether it was engaging with the Myanmar government directly. The Committee also observed that the former National Party chief negotiator, Roelf Meyer, had been actively engaging with the government of Myanmar to build peace, so the Department’s stance on the matter was required.
5.14 The Committee noted the ARF’s efforts in providing humanitarian assistance to help combat COVID-19 in battling African countries. Clarity was sought on the measures in place to make sure that South Africa’s financial assistance to those countries did not fall prey to corruption and looting.
5.15 Clarity was sought on why tax payers should pay for the damage to rented properties that diplomats and their staff had caused. The Committee recommended that all diplomats and their working staff should in future sign an agreement to be responsible for all damage caused to leased properties. Currently the Department had to pay about R10 million in damages to rented properties abroad.
5.16 The Committee 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. The processing of a tender for the Department’s IT system should be a priority.
5.17 More detail was requested about the R140 million loan to Cuba which had been referred to in the ARF’s presentation.
5.18 The Committee sought more details about the points system in SADC. This was revealed in the presentation that South Africa did not have sufficient points to compete for the Executive Secretary position at the SADC. Clarity was sought on the minimum points required to compete for that position, and the points that South Africa currently had.
5.19 Clarity was sought on why the ‘silencing of the guns in Africa’ project had been extended to 2030, and whether this initiative had encountered any failures or challenges. The situation in the Northern Mozambique was cited as a case in the region where there is instability.
5.20 Clarity was sought on the ARF’s provision of personal protective equipment (PPE) to the value of R288 million to 21 countries, and the Committee requested a more detailed breakdown of the allocation of funding for each country.
5.21 A view was expressed that 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. It was said that people on the 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.
5.22 The Committee commended South Africa’s effort in negotiating with the countries to the North, to increase business growth in agricultural products such as in wine exports, as well as the automotive sector. It was also pointed out that not enough emphasis was placed on infrastructure, such as the Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA).
5.23 Clarity was sought on the progress within SADC on the commitment to free movement within the region. It was the understanding that free trade presupposed the free movement of African people. By November 2019, there had only been four countries which had acceded to the Protocol on Free Movement. It had also been envisaged that an African passport would emerge in 2016, and was meant to be implemented in 2019. Disappointment was expressed over the lack of achievement on this issue.
5.24 The Committee pointed out that there were overlapping areas that needed clarity in terms of international treaties. 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.
5.25 Concern was raised on the issue of the students who were stuck abroad, with fees not having been paid. At the time, no one was taking responsibility for getting them home.
5.26 The Committee asked for a list of the positions which South Africa held at international organisations.
5.27 The Committee expressed concern about the ARF’s procurement process, as it was heavily dependent on the Department. It was noted that it was well known that the supply chain management (SCM) at the Department was ineffective, and frequently incurred irregular expenditure. Therefore, clarity was sought on why the ARF did not develop its own procurement capacity. It was noted that the Department took almost three years to act to provide humanitarian assistance to affected countries because of the incapacity in the Department’s supply chain.
5.28 The Committee emphasised the importance of updates from the Department on its role and actions on the international stage. For instance, the issue of lobbying for candidates was regarded important.
6. Responses by the Department
6.1 The Department explained that the briefing on the annual performance report (APP) 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.
6.2 It was 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 undertaken 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, 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.
6.3 Regarding the delay in processes towards the entry into force of the Foreign Service Act, the Department would have to make a detailed presentation to keep Members more informed. The Department was working very hard on the Act. The next day, 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.
6.4 It was 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 determined 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.
6.5 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.
6.6 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.
6.7 It was 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, the Department had so far managed to prevent it.
6.8 It was 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.
6.9 In response 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.
6.10 It was clarified that the ARF’s mandate was to work with other countries from an overall perspective. The ARF’s particular focus is 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.
6.11 The ARF has 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. The ARF 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.
6.12 The ARF was involved in monitoring all of the COVID-19 projects. It 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.
6.13 It was 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 issues in a comprehensive report.
6.14 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.
6.15 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. It was commendable that the Department had been one of the first 18 countries that had been called by the Secretary of State in the new Biden Administration. It was 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.
6.16 It was said that many of the targets could not be achieved from April to September due to the lockdown. Members were reminded that it 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.
6.17 Regarding the disclosure of legal opinions, Members were reminded to understand labour relations within its own context. Some legal opinions might be related to a particular matter under international law. It was not possible to provide Members with a generic response on what could or could not be disclosed, as it was really a case-by-case matter.
6.18 The Department said that it had noted the comment on Deparment’s handling of COVID-19 repatriations, as well as the different lines of functions. It was 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. It was agreed that those duties and different work streams needed to be clarified for different departments.
6.19 As to whether the South Africa’s President was serving on too many positions at various international and regional organisations, it was said that the Department was glad that his tenure at the SADC had come to an end. The Department 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.
6.20 The Department commented on the ‘silencing of the guns’ matter, and said that it would be included in the next presentation. The Committee was assured that the target would be monitored on a two-year basis.
6.21 It was 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. It had called for the immediate release of government leaders and to let the country return to constitutional democracy. It was 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.
6.22 It was said that the difficulty in Myanmar was that the military held too much power. The country 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. It was also mooted that the country’s economic model would begin to move from a centralised planned economy to a free market one.
6.23 An assessment on the matter was that the coup was because the head of the military, Min Aung Hlaing, was due to retire. In terms of the 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 in 2020, so the military had declared the election fraudulent and had staged the coup. At the earlier stages of the coup, the military had imposed a curfew and there was a blackout on the internet. Both the European Union (EU) and the United States had issued strong statements condemning the coup and pressurising the military general to return the country back to its constitutional democracy.
6.24 It was reported that all treaty obligations were reported to Cabinet twice a year. Also, all the processes for the signing of treaties was followed in close contact with the line department. This was done to ensure that all decisions were approved and responsible departments were well informed. It was a standardised process.
6.25 The Department referred to the diplomats who had refused to come home. It was believed that a response had been submitted in writing to the Committee.
The Committee is of the opinion that despite some challenges, overall the Department was able toperform according to the goals it had set itself for the 1st and 2ndquarter of 2020/21 reporting period. The 2020/21 budgetary allocations of the Department were generally aligned to the national strategic priorities outlined in the 2020 State-of-the-Nation Address, as well as its strategic direction in terms of its Medium Term Expenditure Framework.
The unpredictable foreign exchange portfolios and the ceiling on compensation of employees have been negatively affecting the operations of the Department, especially in the Missions, where the bulk of its activities take place. The Department has accordingly operated within a tight budget despite its growing responsibilities, and is facing overspending on the compensation of employees.
In order to further assist the Department to enhance its performance, the Committee recommends that the Minister ensures that the Department implements the following and report to the Committee within one month of the adoption of this report by the National Assembly:
8.1 Fast-tracking the modernisation project of the ICT infrastructure and related matters to minimise the risk to security of information, and to respond to the virtual demands of the ‘new normal’ necessitated by the advent of COVID-19.
8.2 Investigating the cause of delays by some Missions to report and interface into the Basic Accounting System (BAS) of the Department.
8.3 Expediting the coming into force of the Foreign Service Act 2019.
8.4 Prioritising the development of a property management strategy.
8.5 Finalising the review of the structured bilateral mechanisms entered into by the country with its counterparts, to ensure they advancenational interest and address domestic imperatives.
8.6 Finalising the country strategy on membership to international organisations to assess value-for-money and also address the needs of our country including giving exposure to our youth for internship and future employment opportunities in international organisations the country is party to.
8.7 Developing, in consultation with National Treasury, a strategy with a detailed implementation plan, to find a workable solution to stay within the ceiling on compensation of employees without compromising service delivery.
8.8 Leading the implementation and domestication of the region’s blueprints in the country, including the Revised Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (RISDP) 2020-2030.
8.9 Presenting comprehensive reports giving updates on the activities of the Department in the following:
The UN Security Council during its 3rd term as a non-permanent member
The African Union with South Africa as the AU Chairperson
The implementation of SADC Regional Integration strategy
The African Union ‘Silencing of the Guns by 2030’
8.10 Adhering to set targets and achieving what the Department set itself to realise within the stipulated timeframes.
8.11 The Committee recommends that the 1st and 2ndquarters performance report be passed.
Report to be considered.
- Department of International Relations and Cooperation-Annual Performance Plan 2020/2021
- Department of International Relations and Cooperation- Strategic Plan 2020-2025
- African Renaissance Fund- Annual Performance Plan 2020/21
- African Renaissance Fund- Strategic Plan 2020-2025
- National Treasury, Vote 6: International Relations and Cooperation, 1st and 2ndquarter expenditure reports 2020/2021
- Presentation by the Department of International Relations and Cooperation on 1st and 2ndquarters expenditure performance 2020/2021.
- Presentation by the African Renaissance Fund on its 1st and 2nd quarters expenditure performance 2020/2021
Constitution of the Republic of South Africa 1996
 Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) 1999 (Act 1 of 1999).
Department of International Relations and Cooperation Annual Performance Plan 2020/21
Department of International Relations and Cooperation Strategic Plan 2020-2025
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