ATC210519: Report of the Portfolio Committee on International Relations and Cooperation on Budget Vote 6: International Relations and Cooperation, dated19 May2021
Report of the Portfolio Committee on International Relations and Cooperation on Budget Vote 6: International Relations and Cooperation, dated19 May2021
The Portfolio Committee on International Relations and Cooperation (the Committee), having considered Budget Vote 6: International Relations and Cooperation of the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (the Department) 2021/22, reports as follows:
The Committeeheld a virtual meeting due to the restricted movement amid the Covid-19 pandemic. The Committee met on 5 May 2021for the Department’s presentation on itsStrategic Plan 2020-2025 and its Annual Performance Plan (APP) 2021/22. The Committee further discussed the Strategic Plan 2020-2025 of the African Renaissance and International Cooperation Fund (ARF) and its Annual Performance Plan 2021/22, together with the Department’s overall budget allocation for 2021/22.
- Opening remarks by the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee of International Relations and Cooperation, Honourable Ms TandiMahambehlala
In her opening remarks, Honourable Mahambehlala welcomed all the attendees. She further reminded the members that the Committee was in a virtual meeting because of the Covid-19 pandemic and all its related circumstances.
The Chairperson observed the challenges facing the Department, of remote work and digital diplomacy occasioned by the new normal, necessitating a hybrid approach to international work.Ms Mahambehlala noted that the Committee had noted that the Department had identified policy initiatives including the reduction of missions; organisational review; and the revival of the Partnership for Development Bill, as deliverables for the 2021/22 financial year. She highlighted the strategic importance of these policy initiatives, and urged the Department to accomplish the work it has set for itself.
She emphasisedthe challenges created by the archaic nature of ICT systems of the Department. While noting the existence of the digital strategy, she cautioned that it should be implemented to gauge its effectiveness. Personnel should be availed the tools of trade in order to drive service delivery on the mandate of the Department, she said.
Ms Mahambehlala said the Committee was looking forward to the Department fulfilling its undertakings, regarding the review of the structured bilateral mechanisms, review of membership to international organisations, and the promulgation of the Foreign Service Act 2019.
The Chairperson observed that Africa remained central to South Africa’s Foreign Policy, and that the Committeeexpressed a desire to witness the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area for a self-sufficient Africa, that would have a thriving inter-Africa trade. The importance of having progress towards regional economic integration with immediate neighbours in SADC was emphasised.
It was indicated that the Committee remained convinced that the Department should keep the reform of the UN systems, especially the UN Security Council, on the agenda. It should maintain relations with the Global South, and the historical relations with the North.
The Chairperson pointed out that South Africa’s Foreign Policy continued to be perceived as elitist. The Department should thatforeign policy decision making process include outreach activities to communities, and create access for Public Participation.She further observed that the pandemic has opened up increased need for consular services by South Africans abroad. She again applauded the work of the Department and Missions abroad in this regard.
- Overview of theAnnual Performance Plan 2021/22 by the Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Mrs C Mashego-Dlamini
The Deputy Minister thanked the Chairperson for her succinct opening remarks which would help guide the work of the Department. In her overview, theDeputy Minister hastened to acknowledge that the COVID-19pandemic has brought about challenges in carrying out international work.The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic severely impacted on the Department’s ability to meet pre-determined objectives. It was however expected that, during 2021-22, many of the restrictions that were put in place last year in an attempt to contain the pandemic, would remain, such as limitations on international travel and face-to-face meetings. This has had an impact on how the Department approached its work during the 2020-21 financial year, and are still doing so at the start of the currentfinancial year. The Department had to find innovative ways, such as making use of digital diplomacy, to achieve its objectives.
Deputy Minister highlighted that in the midst of the pandemic, during November 2020, the Department held its annual strategic planning session to review its achievements in terms of the Strategic Plan 2020-2025. At the conclusion of the Session, it was agreed that the following value proposition would serve as the guiding principle in the execution of our foreign policy:
“Reposition South Africa as a respected global leader and as a key contributor to the achievement of our domestic priorities.”
She went further to point out that despite the “new normal” that all have grown accustomed to, the Department still remained “a Department committed to the excellent execution of South Africa’s foreign policy, placing South Africa as an influential actor and partner on the international stage, while effectively contributing to the delivery of the country’s domestic priorities and advancement of the African Agenda”. The Department has, therefore, had to reflect on how to achieve this in the midst of the pandemic.
- Briefing by the Department on Budget Vote 6: International Relations and Cooperation
- Presentation by the Department on its 2021/22 and Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) expenditure focus
The Department presented on its work towards the realization of South Africa’s Foreign Policy objectives. This was reported done through:
- coordinating and aligning South Africa’s international relations,
- monitoring developments in the international environment,
- communicating government’s policy positions,
- developing and advising government on policy options, and creating mechanisms and avenues for achieving objectives,
- protecting South Africa’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,
- contributing to the creation of an enabling international environment for South African businesses,
- sourcing developmental assistance; and assisting South African citizens abroad.
- Strategic linkages to the National Development Plan (NDP) 2030
It has been highlighted that South Africa’s Foreign Policy finds its inspiration on the country’s domestic agenda. It endeavours to address the triple challenges of poverty, inequality and unemployment through the implementation of an independent foreign policy, within a highly volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous (VUCA) and dynamic international environment.
According to the Annual Performance Plan(APP), the conduct of South Africa’s foreign policy would be driven by the quest to realise the aspirations of the NDP Vision 2030 and its development trajectory. This would be done with full recognition of the challenges posed by international environment the Department operates in.
With regard to international relations and cooperation Chapter 7, the NDP focuses on the need to enhance South Africa’s position in the region and the world, and to increase trade and investment. The plan further states that the country’s foreign policy should be shaped by the interplay between diplomatic, political, security, environmental, economic and regional dynamics that define international relations. The plan envisions the country positioning itself as one of Africa’s powerhouses, leading development and growth on the continent; and deepening integration with the Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa (BRICS) group of countries.
There has been a clear and deliberate move to ensure there is a link between the activities of the Department and the implementation of Chapter 7 of the NDP Vision 2030. The NDP underscores the importance of building a nation that contributes to the prosperity of the southern Africa region, the African continent and the betterment of the lives of the marginalised throughout the world.
The NDP further requires that South Africa build a resilient economy which would contribute towards creating a working nation, in order to narrow and eventually eliminate the gap between the rich and poor. The Department recognises that the national priorities as contained in the NDP are inextricably-linked to the aspirations of the African continent. Hence, economic diplomacy would be used to promote the country as a trade and investment destination, thereby attracting foreign investment and also boosting its tourism sector.
The aspirations of the NDP have also found expression inthe Southern Africa Development Community (SADC)’s development mechanism, the Revised Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (RISDP). These aspirations are also found in the continental programme as encapsulated in the African Union’s (AU) Agenda 2063 Vision, and in the UN 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development Goals. The economic development integration of SADC remains a key focus area.
- Planned policy initiatives
The Department intends to enhance its operational capacity in three key areas in the medium term:
- The revival of the Partnership for Development Bill
- Review of organisational structure
- Reduction of Missions
- Legislative mandates of the Department
According to theStrategic Plan 2020-2025, the Department is further responsible for regulation and implementation under the following Acts:
- The African Renaissance and International Cooperation Fund (ARF) Act, 2001 (Act 51 0f 2001): The Act establishes the Fund to enhance cooperation between the South Africa and other countries, in particular, African countries. This is achieved through the promotion of democracy, good governance, the prevention and resolution of conflict, socio-economic development and integration, humanitarian assistance and human resource development.
- The Foreign States Immunities Act, 1981 (Act 87 of 1981): This Act regulates the extent of the immunity of foreign states from the jurisdiction of courts of the Republic and provides for matters connected therewith.
- The Diplomatic Immunities and Privileges Act, 2001 (Act 37 of 2001): This Act provides for the immunities and privileges of diplomatic missions and consular posts and their members, heads of state, special envoys and certain representatives of the United Nations and its specialized agencies, and other international organizations and of certain other people. Provision is also made for immunities and privileges pertaining to international conferences and meetings held in South Africa.
- The Measures and Guidelines for Enhanced Coordination of South Africa’s International Engagements and its annexures, approved by Cabinet in 2009, establish more effective measures and mechanisms to coordinate the conduct of international relations and the implementation of South Africa’s foreign policy.
- The White Paper on Foreign Policy, approved by Cabinet in 2011, assesses South Africa’s foreign policy against the rising expectations of the critical role of foreign policy to meet domestic priorities.
- Foreign Service Dispensation (FSD) is implemented in terms of the provisions of Section 3(3) (c) of the Public Service Act, 1994 (Act 103 of 1994), as amended, and is applicable to designated employees who serve in a foreign country at a South African mission abroad and fall within the scope of the Public Service Coordinating Bargaining Council.
The Department is also a custodian of international agreements (bilateral and multilateral) concluded by the Republic in terms of relevant constitutional provisions (sections 231(2) and 231(3) of the Constitution.
- Overview of the Department’s strategic outlookand budget for 2021/22; and theMTEF expenditure focus
5.1 Strategic outlook in theStrategic Plan 2020-2025
International responsibility is to build the country’s role as an influential continental and global actor and partner. Key deliverables would be around the participation of South Africa in theSouthern Africa Development Community (SADC) Organ on Politics Defence and Security Cooperation (Troika)as an in-coming Chairperson of the SADC Organ.
The key priority areas of the Department for the next five years were reported as follows:
- Enhancing the African Agenda and Sustainable Development;
- Enhancing the African Agenda and Sustainable Development;
- Strengthening political and economic integration of the Southern African Development Community (SADC);
- Strengthening of South-South Relations;
- Strengthening of Relations with the strategic formations of the North;
- Strengthening of Political and Economic Relations; and
- Participation in the Global System of Governance.
- Annual Performance Plan 2021/2022 (APP) of Department
Performance delivery environment
At the outset, it was highlighted that, in 2020-21, the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic severely impacted on the Department’s ability to meet pre-determined objectives. It was expected that, during 2021-22, many of the restrictions that were put in place the previous year would assist contain the pandemic.
As South Africa’s foreign policy implementation is guided and shaped by its national interest, South Africa would, during 2021-22, continue to utilise high-level multilateral and bilateral meetings to advance the national interest.
In order to contribute to the Economic Recovery and Reconstruction Plan, announced by President Ramaphosain 2021, the Department would, continue to focus on the following objectives, in line with the MTSF 2019-24:
- Increase Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) into South Africa and Africa;
- Improve South African access to foreign markets;
- Contribute to increased tourism arrivals to South Africa; and
- Improve investor confidence.
Africa remains central to South Africa’s foreign policy. In this context, it is therefore important that, in 2021-22, there should be a continuation of the focus areas identified in terms of the Strategic Plan for 2020-25, namely:
- A united and politically cohesive continent that works towards shared prosperity and sustainable development;
- Enhanced regional integration with increased and balanced trade within SADC and on the Continent by supporting the creation of the African Continental Free Trade Area;
- Promotion of greater peace, security and stability on the continent; and
- Using South Africa’s membership and engagements in various international forums to advance the Africa Agenda.
South Africa would, during 2021-22, continue to fulfil its obligations towards SADC and the African Union (AU). This would include South Africa’s obligations as Incoming Chair of the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation, providing, once again, a greater opportunity to influence regional policies and outcomes.
During its Chairpersonship of the AU during 2020, South Africa actively sought to promote equal access for all African countries to COVID-19 vaccines. The 34th Ordinary Assembly of the African Union (virtual) on 6 and 7 February 2021 appointed President Ramaphosa as the Champion for the COVID-19 vaccine strategy and acquisition. In his role as the Champion for the COVID-19 vaccine strategy, the President is expected to advocate for an equitable and timely, access to the COVID-19 vaccine for all Member States of the AU, which would require additional mechanisms to ensure at least 60% of the Continent’s population is vaccinated.
During The APP provides that the Department would continue to seek to strengthen bilateral international relations through Structured Bilateral Mechanisms, high-level visits and political work aligned to the NDP and MTSF. During 2020-21, the Department introduced the concept of country strategies, which will be finalised during 2021-22. The aim of the strategies is to focus South Africa’s engagement with its political partners to ensure that these relations contribute towards the achievement of the objectives of the NDP and MTSF.
The economy of South Africa, like the rest of the world, was negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The focus of bilateral relations during 2021-22 would, therefore, be to increase investment in South Africa, through focussed investment promotion; pursuing increased exports and identifying new markets; and promoting South Africa as a preferred tourism destination.
South Africa remains firmly committed to multilateralism and would, continue to advocate for the reform of international multilateral organisations, inter alia, with a view to their becoming more representative of the changed world order.
According to the APP, South Africa would, therefore, continue to pursue the focus areas identified in the 2020-25 Strategic Plan namely:
- Active participation in institutions of global governance;
- Peace, Security and Development Agenda;
- South-South Cooperation; and
- Cooperation with the countries of the North.
The focus of these engagements is integral to the promotion of the African Agenda.
In order to effectively deliver on the mandate of the Department, a need was identified for a better Department, that is well equipped to deal with the current challenges, with expertise that can contribute to achieving South Africa’s foreign policy objectives. It is provided in the APP that the Department has committed to sound corporate governance and has developed various internal control mechanisms to strengthen corporate governance.
In the 2019/20 financial audit, the Department was qualified on current receivables. As a result, it would implement effective financial management through the application of good financial management systems, including financial accounting, supply chain management, and risk and internal controls in line with the requirements of the Public Finance Management Act, 1999.
The Department would continue to communicate South Africa’s role and position in international relations in both the domestic and international arenas. The Department would also continue to provide the requisite protocol and consular services.
During the financial year, the Department would continue with the closure of identified Missions, in an attempt to deal with the reduced budget at its disposal.The drafting of regulations, codes and directives to operationalise the Foreign Service Act would also be finalised and approved.
- Expenditure trends for programmes of the Department
Table 1 Budget Allocation-Vote 6: International Relations and Cooperation 2021/22
1 470 051
1 687 558
2: International Relations
3 147 201
3 207 408
3: International Cooperation
4: Public Diplomacy & Protocol
5: International Transfers
6 314 968
6 452 372
Source: 2021/22 Annual Performance Plan of the Department
According to Vote 6 of the 2021 Estimates of National Expenditure,the Department received a total budget allocation of R6 452 372. In terms of allocations per programme: Programme 1 received a budget allocation of R1 687 558, Programme 2 received a budget allocation of R3 207 408, Programme 3 received a budget allocation of R513.7 million, Programme 4 received a budget allocation of R294.6 million and Programme 5 received a budget allocation of R749.1 million.
6.1 Program 1: Administration
The Diplomatic Academy would be a centre of excellence in foreign service training and the plan is to conduct a gap analysis on delivering training in AU/UN languages.
The Department recognised that ICT is the foundation of an effective Department. It would also improve its digital environment through its Digital Strategy. Through a process of digital transformation, the Department could utilise it as an avenue to positively respond to the fiscal constraint and innovate and improvise, and yet still be effective in what it does.
It is further committed to place ICT as an enabler in the process to improve organisational functioning, working towards the automation and modern digitisation of business processes, to reduce turnaround time and improve service delivery. This has become more urgent in the light of the new normal the world is operating in. There is an increasing demand for secure online platforms which was necessitated by the dramatic increase for virtual engagement.
Due to the reducing budget for the compensation of employees, it has been difficult for the Department to fill current vacant posts. This has led to a further process to review the structure of the Department to find ways to optimise the current staff establishment to maximise delivery on its ever-increasing mandate.
International law provides the rules regulating diplomatic interaction and relations between states and the operation of international organisations. In this regard, the APP provides that the Department, through the Office of the Chief State Law Adviser (IL), would continue to support the Government to achieve its foreign policy objectives by providing legal advice on international law.
The Foreign Service Act is in existence. The Department has reported currently in a process to draft the required regulations, codes and directives to enable the implementation of the Foreign Service Act, 2019. However, the Committee noted that the Department has missed its deadline of April 30, 2021 for the promulgation of the Act.
The allocated budget for Administration amounted to 26.2% of the total Departmental budget for the 2021/22 financial year. The budget allocation for this Programme would increase from R1 470 051 the previous year, to R1 687 558 in 2021/22The increase is mainly for capital infrastructure for the construction, refurbishment and renovations of State-owned properties abroad, as well as the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) budget for the implementation of the ICT strategy.
6.2 Programme 2: International Relations
The APP provides that the Department is to review structured bilateral mechanisms to align them to the aspirations of the NDP and MTSF. The review was aimed to be completed in quarter 2 of 2020/21. So far 9,42% (13 out of 139) of structured mechanisms have been honoured and reported on.
The Department has planned to strengthen political bilateral relations through Structured Bilateral Mechanism and High level visits. In this new reality, the APP provided that the Department would aggressively embark on economic diplomacy in order to contribute in a more direct and concrete manner to achieve poverty eradication, job creation and socio-economic development and growth, primarily by utilising the resources it has in its missions abroad. This would ensure that political work is aligned to the NDP and MTSF as identified in the country strategies. There would be bi-annual assessment report of South Africa’s contribution towards: Peace, stability, socio-economic development, good governance, democracy; regional integration; and the implementation of the Revised Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (RISDP).
In the APP, the Department has reported having a dynamic role to play in the improvement of the lives of South Africans. It would utilise its bilateral relations and global footprint in identifying strategic opportunities for South Africans. These would include skills and knowledge development, targeted investments and growing markets for South Africa’s products and services, in an integrated and inclusive manner.
The budget allocation for Programme 2 would increase over the MTEF from R3.1 billion (2020/21) to R3.2 billion in 2021/22 and includes allocations for 120 missions in the Africa, Americas, Europe, Asia and Middle East regions. The increase in the budget allocation for this programme is mainly on goods and services. This is reported due to the escalations on contractual obligations for the leases of offices and residential accommodation abroad.
6.3 Programme 3: International Cooperation
The Department has planned to develop a long term strategy for South Africa’s membership and candidatures to international organisations. This would enable it to identify strategic international organisations that would respond to national interest; and which strategic positions to campaign for.
In the 2020/21 financial year, the Department had aimed to review and identify which memberships to pursue. This was crucial as it would enable the Department to assess the continued relevance and usefulness of existing memberships. This financial year, the indicator talks to the implementation of the approved strategy for South Africa membership on which membership to pursue. Bi-annual progress report on the implementation of the approved strategy would be the output.
The Department would ensure that South Africa’s interests are promoted and reflected in the outcomes of multilateral and multistate organisations dealing with Peace and Security, Human Rights, Economic and Social Development. It would also ensure that the country complies with its international reporting obligations. It would further maintain 60 positions on identified influential multilateral bodies. It would also produce bi-annual monitoring reports on South Africa’s contribution to the operationalization of identified Agenda 2063 flagship projects.
In terms of continental cooperation, the Department would contribute to the operationalization of identified Agenda 2063 flagship projects. It would also support Africa partnerships to be recalibrated for the effective implementation of the African Union’s (AU) Agenda 2063. The Department would ensure South Africa’s fulfilment of its obligations towards the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the AU. South Africa would also honour its commitment to support efforts to resolve continental conflicts. South Africa would continue to extend support for elections through the SADC mechanism, SADC Election Observer Mission (SEOM).
In terms of International cooperation, the Department would ensure that South–Southcooperation is utilised to pursue South Africa’s participation and interest including that of the African Agenda. On the other hand, North – South cooperation would be utilised to pursue South Africa’s participation and interest including that of African Agenda.
The budget allocation for Programme 3: International Cooperation has experienced an adjustment with an increase in allocations to sub-programmes 1, 2, 3 and 4. From R489.7 in 2020/21 to R513.7 million in 2021/22.
6.4 Programme 4: Public Diplomacy and State Protocol
According to the APP, the Department aims to implement and monitor the effectiveness of the Public Diplomacy strategy. Through this programme, the Department would ensurerapid and timeous support to missions on domestic and global developments. Key messages would be distributed to missions on domestic and global developments. Several platforms would be utilised to inform and promote South Africa’s foreign policy to domestic and international audiences, thus making an effort to ensure that foreign policy decision-making process reach the grass roots.
The budget allocation for Programme 4: Public Diplomacy and Protocol Services has experienced a decrease in allocation; from R304.0 million in 2020/21, to R294.6 million in 2021/22.
6.5 Programme 5: International Transfers
The Department would continue to transfer payments, which arise from obligations undertaken by South Africa at international, regional and subregional multilateral levels, and to its entity, the African Renaissance Fund. The MTSF (2019 – 2024) requires that South Africa contributes to a better South Africa and better region and to secure the advancement of South Africa’s national interest. This could only be realised through the payment of South African contributions to international organisations in full and on time.
Therefore, under its Outcome, “Agenda 2030 and Agenda 2063”, it is required that South Africa honours its obligations towards the UN, SADC and the AU, including the institutions hosted in South Africa (i.e. Pan-African Parliament, New Partnership for Africa’s Development, African Peer Review Mechanism, African Commission on Nuclear Energy and Pan-African University on Space Science (PAUSSI) and trans-frontier conservation areas. This would require the settlement of all assessed contributions as required by the respective international organisations.
The budget allocation for Programme 5: International Transfers for the 2021 MTEF, consists of the Departmental Agencies’ allocation to the African Renaissance and international Cooperation Fund (R50056 million), as well as international membership contributions to organisations such as, among others, the AU, SADC, UN, India-Brazil-South Africa Trust Fund, and the Commonwealth of Nations. The allocated budget amounts to 11.6% of the total departmental budget for the 2021/22 financial year. The budget allocation for this programme is determined based on the assessment letters from each organisation South Africa is a member of. The budget allocation for Programme 5: International Transfers experiences a decrease from R904 million in 2020/21 to R749.1 million in 2021/22.
- The African Renaissance and International Cooperation Fund (ARF)
- Strategic Plan 2020-2025 African Renaissance Fund
The Department has one entity, the African Renaissance and International Cooperation Fund (ARF). After 1994, the democratic government took a deliberate decision to establish a Fund, to promote development assistance and consolidate peace and reconstruction in Africa. The African Renaissance and International Cooperation Fund was thus established in 2000 pursuant to an Act of Parliament, the African Renaissance and International Cooperation Fund Act (Act 51 of 2000). The fund’s mandate is to enhance cooperation between South Africa and other countries, particularly African countries.
The ARF continues to be an invaluable instrument in pursuit of the priorities identified in the MTSF. As foreign policy is an extension of national priorities, the ARF will contribute to the seventh priority of “A Better Africa and World” through “enhancing cooperation between the Republic and other countries, in particular African countries, through the promotion of democracy, good governance, the prevention and resolution of conflict, socio-economic development and integration, humanitarian assistance and human resource development”.
Therefore, as South Africa engages with the region, continent and international community, it seeks to build an environment in which we can realise our national socio-economic agenda as well as South Africa’s political and security interests.
ARF projects are implemented outside of the country and require regular monitoring, to ensure that the funds that are utilized are accounted for in accordance with the concurrence granted by the Minister of Finance. The monitoring of ARF projects and ensuring that supply chain prescripts are adhered to during project implementation continues to be the core focus of the Secretariat, whilst also managing other aspects of the Fund and positioning South Africa as a development cooperation player on the continent.The Strategic Plan is a roadmap, which serves as a guide to realise the strategic objectives of the ARF in pursuing South Africa’s foreign policy.
- Annual Performance Plan of the African Renaissance Fund
The APP of the ARF appreciated the strain exerted on the fiscus, as South Africa continue to battle the pandemic. It further conforms to the mandate that is assigned to as the entity in terms African Renaissance Fund Act.
For the 2020/21 financial year, the ARF has mainly funded humanitarian assistance projects in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Department anticipated performing successfully in other objectives, in line with the ARF Act.
The Department has noted the urgency regarding the finalisation of the Partnership Fund Bill which would be the guiding tool in the migration into SADPA, and discussions were currently under way on the approach to be adopted to ensure progress on the matter.
7.2.1 African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA)
In the next five years, the ARF would focus on projects that support the operationalisation of the AfCFTA. This would be in line with the socio-economic strategy. In terms of participating countries, it would be the largest free trade area since the formation of the WTO, has the potential to boost intra-Africa trade. The objective is to create a single continental market for goods and services. South Africa is of the view that AfCFTA would accelerate progress towards continental unity and integration for sustainable growth, trade, exchange of goods, services and free movement of persons and fast-track economic integration. The ARF would implement projects that would improve the socio economic conditions of citizens. The funding of projects that would fast-track the operationalisation of the AfCFTA would realise a shared prosperity for Africa.
The ARF would continue to provide technical support for elections in the SADC region. South Africa’s participation in the Southern Africa Development Community election observer missions (SEOM) demonstrates its commitment to free, fair and credible elections, and further encourages democratic practices and good governance in the region. South Africa’s participation in SEOM also contributes towards creation of constitutional frameworks and a climate conducive for holding credible elections.
8. Findings by the Committee
8.1 The processes for the implementation of the Digital Strategy are painstakingly slow. The Department still has to acquire the necessary tools of trade like, laptops, tablets, desktops; to enable it to embrace the 4th industrial revolution ushered in by the COVID-19 pandemic. It had issued tenders three times for the procurement of the tools of trade, without success. It was however, observed that the critical position of the Chief Information Officer was filled, and there was hope for improvement.
8.2 The implementation of the 2009 Cabinet decision for the establishment of the South African Development Partnership Agency is still outstanding. The issue also featured to be achieved in the 2020/21 financial year.
8.3 The Department has missed its deadline of 30 April 2021, for the promulgation of the Foreign Service Act 2019. There was no explanation, nor a roadmap for the entry into force of the Act in the APP 2021/22. This is despite the fact that the Act brings about many new important roles, including coordination of international relations, custodianship of state-owned properties abroad.
8.4 The Committee sought the criteria followed in the identification of Missions in five countries for refurbishment. It was further noted that those Missions, except for Namibia, were all in Europe.
8.5 It was observed that the Department was planning to undertake infrastructure projects without a ‘milestone report’. Such a report would be necessary to clearly outline how it would detach itself from the professional assistance in the built environment which was provided by the Department of Public Works (DPW). The milestone report would also serve as a handing over document from the DPW detailing the state of affairs in the property portfolio which they had been managing. It should also inform the Department how many properties there are, monies spend on maintenance and rentals, cleaning and all other related matters. In essence, the Department would not be able to take over with custodianship of state owned properties abroad without some form of a handing over report.
8.6 The Committee has on several occasions asked the Department to develop a turnaround strategy responding to the challenges raised in the successive reports of the Auditor-General and the Committee, regarding the inadequacies in the Finance and Asset Management branch; and to separate Property Management from Finance.
8.7 A need was identified for the Department to develop a plan aimed at improving office and residential accommodation for transferred officials abroad.
8.8 The breakdown of cost of renting properties abroad, was needed, especially where there were vacant state-owned properties and land parcels.
8.9 The compensation of employees ceiling remains a challenge. The budget is therefore lower than the current employees in the Department. Upskilling of personnel was regarded as an ad-hoc solution, which would not address the real root cause of challenges with maintaining the cost within a determined ceiling.
8.10 There would be a need for a review of South Africa’s Foreign Policy, and how it will be aligned to the post pandemic global order.
8.11 It would not be a strategic move to subject the decision for the migration of the ARF to the South African Development Partnership Agency to a mere name change, without taking into consideration the governance structure of the ARF, which is one of the key objectives for the migration.
8.12 There were many responsibilities to be performed by the Office of the Chief State Law Adviser. More information was needed on whether it was well capacitated to do its work, and whether it was transformed.
8.13 The Committee should have been taken into confidence and informed of the decision to close down some of the Missions abroad, as opposed to such announcements being heard from the media. The process should not impact on Missions in Africa.
8.14 A request was made for an update on the consequence management processes in the Department, and in particular the suspension of the DG and the Chief Financial Officer and related charges against them, if any. A further follow-up was made for the Department to confirm whether the suspension of the two officials was related to the irregular expenditure incurred in the New York project as alluded to by the Acting DG in her presentation. It was subsequently so confirmed by the Acting DG that it was the case.
8.15 South Africa, in collaboration with other SADC countries, should be more supportive to the people of Mozambique, because of the insurgency in the Cabo Delgado province.
8.16 The Department was called upon to report, within a month, on the following:
- The roadmap with timeframes for the entering into force of the Foreign Service Act 2019, in terms of processes for consultations on the regulations, codes and directives, with relevant stakeholders
- Briefing on South Africa’s performance during its tenure as a non-permanent member of the Security Council for the 3rd time
- South Africa’s performance in conflict resolution during its Chairship of the African Union in 2020
- Implementation plan with timeframes developed in line with the Digital strategy
- Turnaround strategy to stay within the compensation of employees ceiling as set by the National Treasury
- Filling of critical positions, including building capacity in the property management unit with skills in the built environment field
- Progress report on implementation of consequence management
- Quarterly reports on the implementation of the Digital strategy
- Progress on improving of residential and office accommodation for transferred officials abroad
- South Africa’s implementation of international obligations borne out of international agreements
- Regional integration reflecting on South Africa’s contribution to peace, stability, good governance and democracy and on the implementation of the SADC’s Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan
- Outcomes of high level visits and how they contribute to MTSF priorities and NDP objectives
- South Africa’s contribution to the operationalisation of the identified Agenda 2063 flagship projects
8.17 It was felt that the Department needed to be more proactive and visible through Public Diplomacy initiatives, and educate South Africans on the importance of relations with other Africans in and outside the country. It was said there ought to be open support for, and condemnation of ill-treatment of, African foreign nationals in South Africa.
8.18 It was noted with sadness that a South African national, Mr LindaniMyeni, was shot dead by police in Honolulu, Hawaii in the United States. The Committee expressed discontent and displeasure on the United States, for ill-treatment of black people, more so, after the murder of a South African. The Chairperson had already issued a statement expressing condolences to the bereaved family. The Department was asked to assist the family in every way possible for justice to take its course.
8.19 It was noted with appreciation that South Africa was leading an initiative in the World Trade Organisation (WTO), requesting for a temporary TRIPS waiver for patents on COVID-19 vaccines. Parliament would express its support and present a political view on the matter. Furthermore, the Department was asked why among the BRICS countries, South Africa only sought COVID-19 vaccines from India, and not also from Russia and China.
8.20 An update was requested on the proposed withdrawal by South Africa from the International Criminal Court.
8.21 It was recalled that the Committee had initially, during the law making processes, agreed with the Department that it would be given an opportunity to be part of the stakeholders’ consultations on the draft regulations.
8.22 There was a concern that the Chief Director: Property Management was allowed to resign without having been put through consequence management for the issues identified in both the Committee’s and the Auditor General reports on the New York project.
9. Responses by the Department
9.1 The Department confirmed that in the organisational review project, the Property Management unit is established as a stand-alone, separate from the Finance branch.
9.2 The Department is doing all in its ability to finalise the processes towards stakeholders’ consultations on proposed regulations, codes and directives aimed at the entry into force of the Foreign Service Act 2019.
9.3 The media reports on the closure of some South African Missions abroad were as a result of a leak. The information was not an official announcement and was regrettable. The Department still wished to formally inform the Committee. Indeed 11 Missions were earmarked for closure in 2021. Cabinet took the decision in 2020 that the Department should explore how to save costs, while ensuring that relations and services to the affected countries remained the same. The other departments and other clients also had to be consulted, just as the Minister had to engage the affected countries politically, to assure them that relations would remain the same. With regard to the Locally Recruited Personnel (LRPs), the Department had to comply with retrenchment laws of those countries, where some had a moratorium on retrenchments during the pandemic.
9.4 Indeed, the Department missed its deadline of April 2021, for the promulgation of the Foreign Service Act 2019. The 5 work streams are busy with a target of having draft regulations by 15 June 2021; by 15 July there would be a stakeholders’ forum, with a target of end of August 2021, as the timeframe for the completion of the process.
9.5 The Department does not have an approved property management strategy. It has a draft framework property management to carry on the repairs and disposals identified in the interim. The repairs, renovations and intended disposals were agreed upon in consultation with affected Missions. There are 19 properties to be disposed of by the end of July 2021.
9.6 The ICT unit has aproject implementation plan, progress made would be presented to the Committee on a quarterly basis. The project is estimated to overrun into the next financial year, and ICT hubs would be consolidated from six to three. The procurement of tools of trade like laptops, desktops, is with the supply chain management unit for processing.
9.7 With regard to the infrastructure plan, the capital projects that were planned for 2020/21, were rolled over to 2021/22. This was because the Department had to surrender money for the adjusted budget. For renovations, each affected mission was consulted and asked to submit their maintenance plans, to show how much the Mission would have available to do the repairs, and the rest would be taken over by the Department. The responsible DDGs were also involved in the decision making. At the end of the exercise R155 million was allocated for the 2 capital projects identified in the APP 2021/22.
9.8 Following the resignation of the Chief Director: Property Management, Ms Africa, at the end of April, the Department wrote to National Treasury for a secondment of a person with requisite qualifications in the built environment for a period of 6 months to a year. Once a head of the unit is recruited in alignment with the Foreign Service Act, then other relevant personnel would also be recruited. Currently the Department spends R949 million a year on rentals; R21 million on rentals where there are state-owned land parcels; R16 million per year where properties are not used. Properties have been identified for renovations in Europe, Africa and Asia.
9.9 With regard to disposal of properties, the mandate was still with the Department of Public Works because the Foreign Service Act is not yet in force. The Department has done an assessment with the help of Public Works, resulting in 19 properties having been identified for disposal in July 2021. There is an interdepartmental committee with Public Works, which is assessing the economical usefulness of the properties.
9.10 There are discussions aimed at assisting with the migration from the ARF to SADPA. The ARF Act would be repealed to pave the way for the new agency. Challenges with staying within the ceiling on the compensation of employees persists. The Department is reviewing the organisational structure coupled with the closure of some missions as a turnaround strategy.
9.11 The transferred personnel are now required sign an indemnity certificate which makes them liable for any damages caused to buildings, utensils, and deposits are being collected. A deposit amount of R10 million has already been lost.
9.12 The partnerships such as IBSA, IORA, BRICS, remain relevant to the interests of South Africa and the African Agenda. All BRICS countries are committed to reaping the benefits from the BRICS Bank, South Africa has benefitted twice with R2 billion for addressing the pandemic. South Africa is in BRICS for a long haul, as it supports South-South cooperation and the grouping is working together to have a representative multilateral system. The IBSA Fund is very effective as a new template for development assistance. Projects have been funded in Africa and Palestine among others.
9.13 President Biden has had a telephone conversation with President Ramaphosa, and the US Secretary of State Blinken also called Minister Pandor, undertaking to work with South Africa to reverse the damage in relations by former President Trump. They also undertook to assist in the matter of LindaniMyeni.
South Africa and India have led discussions at the WTO, asking for the temporary waiver of patent controls to allow developing countries to produce the vaccines to cope with the demand for global need for vaccines. President Biden has said that the US will support the temporary waiver for the benefit of the developing world.
After discussions during the briefing, the Committee concluded as follows:
The Department has received an increased budget for financial year 2021/22. The budget would still be further affected by the imminent foreign exchange currency fluctuations and unavoidable mandates and responsibilities in its diplomatic intercourse and conduct of international relations. Its main operations abroad have previously been affected by currency fluctuations.
The situation with COVID-19 has meant that, like other departments, this Department would have to work within a tight budget and reprioritised targets. The mandate of the Department is largely abroad, most of the activities it had planned would be severely impacted upon as there would be no travel due to the travel restrictions and lockdowns in many countries.
However, the Committee was encouraged by the Department’s commitment and resolve to achieve its strategic objectives albeit with budgetary constraints. Graduation from the qualified audit opinion baseline to a clean audit should be the Department’s goal for the medium term; and it should implement the audit action plan and adhere to the cost containment measures it has agreed to with the National Treasury.
The Department has to carry out its mandate within unpredictable, at times turbulent, external environment to advance South Africa’s national interest. The National Development Plan prescribed that the Department should position itself to assume greater leadership role in Africa, leading development and growth in the continent. The interplay between foreign policy and national interest continue to be the baseline for the Department’s success in the conduct South Africa’s foreign policy. Following from the above conclusions, it has, therefore, become important for the Department to have continued with clear and focus driven plans which remain aligned to the budget allocated, and the continued vigour to respond to the domestic challenges as per the aspirations of the NDP.
The Committee has accepted the challenges imposed on its oversight work by the pandemic restrictions on travel. It has continued its trend of a robust approach to oversight over the activities of the Department, South Africa’s Missions abroad and the entity, the African Renaissance Fund, through a virtual oversight visit. More of such oversights would follow. The Committee would also engage in various issues aimed at enhancing the conduct of South Africa’s foreign policy.
The Committee would continue to make a number of recommendations to the Department, as part of its oversight, and in an effort to enhance the way South Africa relates and engages in international relations. The Department has responded positively in some aspects, and benefitting from guidance from the Committee. There is room for improvement, as the Committee is encouraged by the responsiveness of the Department to the oversight interventions.
Having considered the Strategic Plan 2020-2025 and the Budget Vote 6 of the Department 2021/22 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:
- Conduct a full assessment of the effect of COVID-19 and its impact on the budget allocation of the Department, predetermined objectives, and service delivery.
- Finalise the implementation plan and relevant processes and meet the deadline of end of August 2021 for the promulgation of the Foreign Service Act 2019 to come into force.
- Oversee the implementation of effective financial management through the application of sound financial management systems, including management and financial accounting, as well as supply chain management.
- Improve the internal control environment in line with the requirements of the Public Finance Management Act, 1999.
- Obtain a milestone report from the Department of Public Works as a handing over brief on state owned land and properties abroad.
- Ensure that a property management strategy is developed as a guiding framework for the custodianship of the property portfolio, in line with the Foreign Service Act.
- Develop an implementation plan with timeframes, in order to determine the course of action needed for all state owned land parcels and properties abroad.
- Develop an implementation plan with timeframes for the Digital strategy to have the necessary impact, prioritizing the procurement of tools of trade and the ICT infrastructure to respond to the demands for robust digital diplomacy, a situation created by the pandemic.
- Utilize the bilateral mechanism with the US to express concern on the fatal shooting of Mr LindaniMyeni by the US police, and seek assistance in bringing to justice those involved.
- Develop a strategy for South Africa’s engagement with the United States, in order to benefit from the open door policy of the Biden Administration, and reporting on the progress made in advancing South Africa’s national interest.
- Revise the strategy for South Africa’s participation in BRICS, to ensure the forum’s continued relevance in advancing South Africa’s national interest and the African Agenda 2063.
- Finalise the processes aimed at reviewing the responsiveness of Structured Bilateral Mechanisms existing between South Africa and other countries, to achieve the objectives of the National Development Plan.
- Ensure a clearly defined process and criteria for the implementation of the cost-reduction initiatives through closure of some South African Missions abroad.
- Finalise the strategy for South Africa’s membership in international organisations, guided by the continued relevance and value-added for participation in such bodies.
- Conduct a review of South Africa’s Foreign Policy, and how it will relate to the post COVID-19 pandemic world order.
- Negotiate with all members of BRICS, for the procurement of COVID-19 vaccines.
- Finalise the process of review of the departmental organisational structure and prioritise the filling of critical posts in order to align with the implementation of the Foreign Service Act, 2019.
- Ensure continued leading role by South Africa and India in the World Trade Organisation (WTO), on the request for a temporary TRIPS waiver for patents on COVID-19 vaccines, and reporting on progress thereof.
- Finalise and report on all processes regarding matters of consequence management in the Department.
- Fast-track the processing of the Partnership for Development Bill including the repealing of the African Renaissance and International Cooperation Fund (ARF) Act 2000, in order to operationalise the South African Development Partnership Agency (SADPA).
- Consult with Minister of Public Works for the fast-tracking of the processes for the provisioning of a headquarters for the Pan African Parliament.
- Ensure that the Diplomatic Academy is established in line with the criteria outlined in the Foreign Service Act.
- Seek a secondment from the Department of Public Works for an official with requisite qualifications in the built environment and who will be able to carry forward the duties relating to property and facilities management.
- Report within a month on the items listed in paragraph 8.16 of this report.
To the National Assembly
- The Parliamentary Oversight Model must be reviewed to allow the Portfolio Committee on International Relations and Cooperation to have more regular oversight visits to South African Missions abroad, in order to have a holistic approach on the performance abroad of the Department of International Relations and Cooperation. Being mindful that cost considerations may not allow oversight visits to all the South African Missions abroad, the Portfolio Committee has adapted to the new normal, and has conducted a novel oversight visit, virtually. It is the hope of the Committee that Parliament will embrace this innovation into Oversight and Accountability Model.
- The Parliamentary Oversight Model should allow the Portfolio Committee on International Relations and Cooperation to have more regular oversight visits to project areas of the African Renaissance and International Cooperation Fund (ARF), in order to have a holistic approach on the performance abroad of the entity of the Department of International Relations and Cooperation.
11.26 The Portfolio Committee should be allowed to conduct oversight visits to international organisations that the Republic of South Africa is a state-party. This would enable the Committee to assess the impact of the Department’s participation on the overall outcomes at such forums.
11.27 The Committee recommends that Budget Vote: 6 International Relations and Cooperation 2021/22 be passed.
Report to be considered.
Sources and references
- National Treasury, 2020 Estimates of National Expenditure Budget: Vote 6 International Relations and Cooperation
- Constitution of the Republic of South Africa 1996
- Department of International Relations and Cooperation: Strategic Plan 2020-2025
- Department of International Relations and Cooperation Annual Performance Plan 2021-2022
- African Renaissance and International Cooperation Fund: Strategic Plan 2020-2025
- African Renaissance and International Cooperation Fund: Annual Performance Plan 2021-2022
- State of the Nation Address, February 2021
- The National Development Plan 2030: Chapter 7
- Government’s Medium Term Strategic Framework 2019-2024
- Priority 7 of Government’s Medium Term Strategic Framework 2019-2024
Annual Performance Plan 2021/22, Department of International Relations and Cooperation
National Development Plan 2030, Chapter 7 thereof
 Annual Performance Plan 2021/22 of the Department of International Relations and Cooperation
Strategic Plan 2020-2025, Department of International Relations and Cooperation
 Estimates of National Expenditure 2021
Estimates of National Expenditure 2021
 Annual Performance Plan 2021/22, Department of International Relations and Cooperation
 Estimates of National Expenditure 2021
Annual Performance Plan 2021/22, Department of International Relations and Cooperation
 Estimates of National Expenditure 2021
 Strategic Plan 2020-2025, African Renaissance Fund
 Strategic Plan 2020-2025, African Renaissance Fund
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