Department Budget Vote 3 Report: consideration & adoption; Swazi Visit & SADC Draft Protocol

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International Relations

23 May 2007
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Meeting Summary

A summary of this committee meeting is not yet available.

Meeting report

23 May 2007

Mr D Sithole (ANC)

Documents handed out:
Protocol on SADC Parliament – Part 1 and 2
US Leadership in a time of Global Crisis
The following documents will soon be available at Tabled Committee Reports:
Draft Report of the Portfolio Committee on Foreign Affairs on the DFA Budget Vote 3
Draft Report on the Hearings by Experts on the DFA’s Budget Vote

The findings of the Draft Report on Foreign Affairs Budget Vote 3 were summarized and adopted.
Deliberation took place on a proposed visit to Parliament by the Swazi government, and a suggested reciprocal visit by the Committee.

The Committee agreed to further discuss the case for a regional SADC Parliament. The remainder of the meeting was spent discussing travel plans to Tanzania regarding Sudan, and the Palestine regarding the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Draft Report on Department Budget Vote 3
The Chair began by summarising the main findings of the Draft Report on Department Budget Vote 3. Given committee members familiarity with the report, both he and the Chair of the Internal Affairs subcommittee, Mrs F Hajaig (ANC), urged the committee to adopt the report, which was unanimously agreed to.

Regarding the minutes of the Budget Vote, a number of members raised concerns relating to their attendance.

Mrs Hajaig remarked that she had been deployed to the Pan African Parliament on the day of the meeting, which was not reflected in the minutes.

Dr P Mulder (FF) concurred with Mrs Hajaig, saying that he had also been deployed elsewhere by his party.

Mr M Ramgobin (ANC) questioned whether the date of the minutes was correct, as he did not recall being absent as indicated, and suggested that the attendance register be revisited.

The Chair suggested that the minutes be rewritten so that the document flowed in such a way that questions and responses followed each other.

Referring to a discussion minuted about Swaziland, the Chair highlighted a sentence relating to an explanation by Dr Ntsaluba (Director General: Foreign Affairs) regarding the Swaziland Foreign Minister, which required further clarity in the minutes. The Chair clarified that the DG had mentioned that the Minister or Deputy Minister may need to approach the committee to further discuss the issue regarding Swaziland, and reiterated the DG’s concerns regarding the fact that the committee meetings were open, which may create a constraint for the counterparts in Swaziland. The Chair mentioned that the committee was in agreement that they needed to further pursue whether the meeting with the Swaziland officials would be handled in a closed session in order to obtain the confidence of neighbouring Swaziland, without being worried about the media.

Swazi Visit and SADC Draft Protocol
Mr Sibanda (ANC) emphasised the importance of the meeting in obtaining a broader picture of what was happening, since things were happening in Swaziland which was not known to the people. He made reference to an alleged incident that took place on Workers Day where people were ‘sjamboked’.

The Chair clarified Mr Sibanda’s proposal that both the Swaziland Ambassador and civil society be invited by the Committee, which Mr Sibanda was in agreement with.

The Chair concurred with Mr Sibanda, but suggested that the Committee work on this, but as part of a broader strategy for the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region. The Chair also proposed that members of the Committee visit Swaziland.

Mrs Hajaig (ANC) mentioned that Ministers from Swaziland had made presentations in the past on the new Constitution, and civil society, youth groups and churches briefed the committee, and said that it would be beneficial to have them present to the committee once again. Based on meetings attended at the Pan African Parliament, Mrs Hajaig mentioned that duties were assigned to the member state, and emphasized that at no stage during any of the meetings were the problems in Swaziland ever mentioned, and in so doing, urged the committee to be sensitive and strategise about the best way to engage with their Swaziland counterparts.

Mr B Holomisa (UDM) suggested that the Committee needed to have a policy regarding its interactions with neighbours in the SADC region. He cautioned against South Africa and the legislature being perceived to be ‘big brother’ in the region, clarifying that being ‘big brother’ was the last thing that South Africa wanted. He emphasized that a policy was necessary in order to prevent the situation from getting out of hand.

Mr Ramgobin concurred with Mr Holomisa, stating that an Ambassador in any one country is a representative of the Head of State, and in the case of Swaziland, the King. He asked whether committee members could imagine a situation where the South African Head of State would interact directly with civil society.

Secondly, Mr Ramgobin remarked that the Committee needed to take cognizance of the position of the AU and Protocol. He vehemently maintained that if they were not careful, it could create more problems between South Africa and Swaziland. He highlighted the sensitivity by mentioning that the Ambassador had said that he would rather the Minister of Foreign Affairs visit South Africa. Mr Ramgobin expressed his view that subjecting Swaziland to civil society would be out of order, as it would be too confrontational.

Mr J Seremane (DA) expressed disagreement with Mr Ramgobin, and highlighted the fact that it was dialogue that was important, and mentioned that it would not be confrontational, but rather for the understanding of the Committee.

Mr Gibson (DA) concurred with Mr Seremane, stating that South Africa was not ‘big brother’ in Africa, and nobody owed the South African Parliament an explanation. He further added that the Protocol should not be elevated to an importance that was not deserved; in the past the Committee had not hesitated to ask other people to make presentations. Mr Gibson referred to the Ambassador from Zimbabwe who was invited by the Committee, told “a whole lot of lies and got away with it.”

Mr Ramgobin objected to Mr Gibson’s assertion, stating that as a committee of South Africa’s Parliament, it was out of order to insult an invited guest by accusing them of telling lies. Mr Ramgobin maintained that the Ambassador simply had a differing point of view. Mr Ramgobin expressed his disgust and totally condemned the comments made by Mr Gibson and urged him to withdraw his statement.

Mr Gibson refused to withdraw his statement, as the Ambassador to Zimbabwe mentioned that when one drove out of Harare, one would see ample food and maize, which was a factually incorrect statement which he felt insulted by. He further added that both the Belgian and French Ambassadors were invited to speak about the DRC and the history of colonialism, and expressed his view that one did not need to proceed with caution when inviting an Ambassador, and that they (Swaziland) did not necessarily have to accept the invitation if they did not want to; that the committee would not interrogate them. Mr Gibson further emphasized discussions around various topics - the Pan African Parliament, the United States of Africa, and other regional bodies - and the need to meet the neighbouring countries in order to promote a good understanding between the South African Parliament and them.

Dr Mulder expressed his agreement with Mr Holomisa on the Ambassador representing the King, feeling that there was scope for dealing with Swaziland subtly, and proposed that it be concurrently with civil society, as was the case with the French Ambassador.

Mr Nkosana (IFP) understood Mr Holomisa (UDM) as saying that if you combine the two (civil society and the Ambassador’s invitation), then it would be a problem. He mentioned that the committee meetings between those two groups was quite normal, and used the example of Britain and the United States, where Ambassadors would be called to appear in front of the foreign relations committees. Mr Nkosana raised a new matter relating to the Minister’s Budget Vote presented last year, and the committees’ response to the Budget Vote, where he recalled that the Minister responded that it would be most appropriate for the Minister and a group of elderly statesmen (such as Mr Mandela) to visit Swaziland, and open a dialogue with the King with regard to democracy. Mr Nkosana further added that traditional leaders should also go on a state visit such as the one proposed, since their issues were more “common” with those of Swaziland.

Mr Kalako (ANC) highlighted the fact that the Department of Foreign Affairs was currently over stressed, and that some matters slipped off the agenda. He mentioned that South Africa had an institution of traditional leaders which had been incorporate into a modern democratic process that could be of great assistance to Swaziland, aside from the activities of the Pan African Parliament (PAP). Mr Kalako was in agreement with Mr Nkosana that the proposal from the Minister needed to be pursued seriously.

Ms Hajaig reported that Swaziland was currently setting up processes and suggested that, in that light, the committee express an interest in what was happening in Swaziland, and what civil society was saying. She added that she did not believe that the Swazi’s were going to take exception, since the committee was genuinely interested in how South Africa’s neigbouring country was managing its democratisation process. She stressed the importance of not having a situation where Swazi counterparts felt under attack, and urged the Committee to engage with Swaziland in a non-confrontational manner. Agreeing with the Chair, she also believed that this needed to form part of a broader SADC Parliamentary liaison strategy in the region, since they had not visited any of the other SADC countries either.

Mr Ramgobin again emphasized that that civil society should play an adjunct role, and emphasized that he was a member of the ANC and would strongly object to any move by the committee that was against good manners and diplomacy. He further added that he would not tolerate the Committee being used as a vehicle for NGO’s to embarrass South Africa’s neighbours.

Mr Seremane responded to Mr Ramgobin’s concerns by stating that the Committee needed wisdom and prudence, and emphasised that in a democracy, other people could have different views.

Summarising the discussion, the Chair sought consensus from the Committee saying that members needed to rely on their own past experiences, and follow the same processes that had been followed in the past. The Chair also emphasised that is was important not to create the impression that the Committee had invited their neighbours to account for what was happening, but rather that it should be about constructive engagement, taking into account the DG’s comments. He further asked whether members agreed to take a broader approach as part of a SADC regional strategy, and that the Committee should consider a visit to Swaziland after those meetings.

Members agreed with the Chair.

Regarding other concerns of the minutes, a number of members raised the fact that there was a lack of resource allocation made by the National Treasury to the Department of Foreign Affairs, which according to members was a mistake on the part of National Treasury.

Mr Ramgobin mentioned that it was too late to raise it with the Department, but emphasisd that the Committee should make it clear that they were highly concerned about the lack of allocation of resources, and raise the fact that the budget was not adequate, especially not to house the UN family.

The IFP also mentioned the fact that the capacity of the Department was limited, and that resources were inadequate, which needed to be raised with the Department.

Ms Hajaig agreed, and questioned why there were a number of vacancies which were not being filled by the Department. She further added that a breakdown relating to NEPAD was promised by the Department, but still had not been received.

Chair suggested that these issues be raised again, and requested for members to think of the process of hosting a gathering of civil society and interrogating their roles in foreign policy.

Mr Ramgobin suggested that the Committee needed to go one step further, and look at the lack of the role of civil society in the foreign policy process. He questioned whether they were simply a pressure group, or whether they should be active in the processes of Parliament. He mentioned that representative of civil society acknowledged that they were doing virtually “zilch” regarding the Renaissance Fund. He again question how civil society enhanced the process for the implementation of South Africa’s foreign policy, and urged members to consider how they wished to involve civil society in the next quarter.

Mr Seremane said it was important to determine what the expectations that the committee had of civil society.

The Chair suggested that each member of the committee submit an abstract from each party in order to obtain consensus regarding what the expectations are from civil society.

Regarding the Protocol on the SADC Parliamentary Forum, the Chair mentioned that it was a case of having a regional Parliament, so that the region, the continent and Parliament could continue to develop. He further added that when an economic community was rationalised, it had an impact on what a regional Parliament looked like. He suggested that the Committee consider this at a later stage, to which all of members agreed.

Referring to a conference organized by the Nigerian Parliament relating to Sudan which the Chair was invited to attend in Tanzania which was intended to be amongst Chairpersons of the Portfolio Committees, the Chair mentioned that, given his lack of availability, he had requested two representatives to attend on his behalf.

Regarding the Committee’s proposed trip to Palestine, the Chair reminded the Committee that the last time members were meant to travel, Israel had dissolved its Parliament, and three days before they were meant to leave, a war had started between Israel and Lebanon. The Chair mentioned that they were in discussions with the Ambassador of Palestine regarding the visit, and said the Ambassador had suggested the end of July as ideal. He further suggested to limit the number of members visiting to 10, and clarified, that for the purposes of application with the Palestinian authorities, names of committee members had to be attached. The Chair made clear that these were not necessarily the people that would be going to Palestine, and that it was merely for the purposes of application.

Mr Gibson expressed his concern regarding the Chair sending two representatives to Tanzania, and suggested that the usual arrangements for committee trips be followed. Mr Gibson said that it was not correct that nobody from the DA went to Tanzania. Regarding the second travel trip to Palestine, Mr Gibson suggested that the Chair consult with the relevant parties that should be attending the trip.

Responding to Mr Gibson’s concerns over the Tanzanin visit, the Chair clarified that he had received the invitation as the Chairperson, and the costs were being sponsored. He also reiterated that the names submitted for the Palestine trip were merely for the purposes of application, and that as soon as the necessary steps have been finalised, he would make the necessary consultations with the committee.

Mr Nkosana mentioned that a colleague of his had gone to a meeting in Bali, and returned with a document which referred to a Parliamentary International Relations Committee; he asked if any of the other committee members were aware of this.

The Chair responded that the matter was being handled by the rules committee, and that the recommendation comes from the ex-Speaker Ginwala’s term. He reported that as far as he was aware from the minutes he had read, the committee that was suppose to be dealing with Parliaments International Relations engagements had not been established as yet.

The Chair mentioned that a document prepared by Mr Holomisa regarding his input at a conference was being distributed for the benefit of the committee members.

The meeting was adjourned.



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