During this financial year, the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) will focus on the following objectives, in line with the Government’s Medium Term Strategic Framework for 2019 – 2024:
- increase foreign direct investment into South Africa and Africa
- improve South African access to foreign markets
- contribute to increased tourism arrivals to South Africa
- improve investor confidence.
- In our five-year strategic plan, we have said that we are striving towards:
- a united and politically cohesive continent that works towards shared prosperity and sustainable development
- enhanced regional integration with increased and balanced trade within the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and on the continent by supporting the creation of the African Continental Free Trade Area
- promotion of peace, security and stability on the continent
- using South Africa’s membership and engagements in various international fora to advance the African Agenda.
We are pursuing these objectives in a global environment that continues to grapple with the effects of COVID-19. We are making use of innovative ways, such as digital diplomacy, to achieve our objectives within a global environment that continues to come to grip with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The department is working on a strategy, which focusses on developing, renovating and refurbishing the state-owned properties housing our missions abroad.
In his first speech to the United Nations as President of a free and democratic South Africa, delivered in October 1994, President Nelson Mandela said: “South Africa will help to create for themselves and all humanity a common world of peace and prosperity”. This is a mission we continue to pursue, especially on our continent.
In our own neighbourhood, we continue to focus not only on the situation in Mozambique, but we also remain seized with the political and security situation in the Kingdom of Lesotho. We cannot overemphasise the importance of a stable, secure and prosperous Lesotho. It is in our mutual interest as South Africans and Basotho that our neighbourhood is safe and secure.
President Cyril Ramaphosa, in his capacity as SADC Facilitator to the Kingdom of Lesotho, appointed a facilitation team led by retired Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke, assisted by three deputy ministers, to support him in his facilitation in the Kingdom of Lesotho as per the decision of the SADC Double Troika Summit, held in Luanda, Angola, in April 2018. The 40th Ordinary SADC Summit of Heads of State and Government, held virtually on 17 August 2020, decided that the role of the SADC Facilitator, President Ramaphosa, should continue.
The summit also recognised the important role played by the SADC Facilitation Team to the Kingdom of Lesotho, leading to the inauguration of the National Reforms Authority on 6 February 2020, which will manage, coordinate and lead the national reform process from 1 October 2020 until 30 September 2021, with a possible extension until 30 April 2022, if circumstances require.
The latest visit by the SADC Facilitation Team to Maseru took place from 11 to 13 March 2021. The objective of the visit was to receive a status update on the implementation of the reform process since the last visit in November 2020. The current mandate of the SADC Facilitation Team to the Kingdom of Lesotho is valid until the next SADC Ordinary Summit of Heads of State and Government in August 2021, where the facilitator is required to report on the status of this process.
In July 2021, the Republic of South Sudan marked 10 years of its existence. South Africa enjoys cordial bilateral relations with South Sudan and the two countries have a long-standing historical relationship that predates South Sudan’s independence from the Republic of Sudan in July 2011. An agreement establishing official bilateral relations was signed in September 2012.
In 2019, South Africa committed to provide humanitarian assistance to the Republic of South Sudan through the African Renaissance Fund (ARF) in the form of food aid and medical supplies. These initiatives were intended to address socio-economic challenges facing vulnerable communities, including the refugees and internally displaced persons, comprising mainly women and children who were negatively affected by the conflict in South Sudan. The last intervention we made was to send a consignment of food items donated by the South African Government to the people of South Sudan. This humanitarian aid package formed part of a series of other interventions by South Africa towards alleviating the humanitarian challenges facing the people of South Sudan.
At the request of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, David Mabuza, Deputy President of South Africa, in his capacity as the Presidential Special Envoy to the Republic of South Sudan, was invited to facilitate a series of meetings between the parties to the Revitalised-Agreement on the Resolution of Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan (R-ARCSS) to resolve the impasse. His mediation efforts significantly contributed towards an amicable political settlement among the signatories to the R-ARCSS.
On 22 February 2020, the parties to the R-ARCSS reached an agreement, which paved the way for the establishment of the Revitalised Transitional Government of National Unity (RTGoNU). On 22 February 2021, the country marked the first anniversary of the RTGoNU.
The Middle East region is very important economically. Our trade with the Middle East for 2020 amounted to R122 billion. There has been export growth in a number of key areas, particularly in agriculture products such as live animals, citrus, nuts and vegetables. We are also exporting precious metals, iron, steel, aircraft and machinery to a number of countries in this region.
South Africa is intensifying its economic diplomacy efforts, and we are looking at some of the economies that continue to grow despite the difficulties associated with COVID-19. Some of these are found in Asia.
South Africa’s bilateral trade with India amounted to R108.7 billion in 2020. There are more than 130 Indian companies present in South Africa. Our strategic partnership has important dimensions beyond the bilateral facets, and also relates to multilateral institutions, of which both countries are members. These institutions include the G20; Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS); and India, Brazil and South Africa; (IBSA).
DIRCO does important work to provide assistance to South Africans in distress abroad. Following the rapid spread of the COVID-19 pandemic early last year, we set up the Consular Incident Command Centre to facilitate assistance to South African citizens who found themselves stranded abroad due to unforeseen circumstances and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The other instance was during the insurgence attack in Mozambique.
During the 2020/21 financial year, the total number of consular cases attended to were approximately 700. In dealing with South African citizens in distress abroad, it became evident that the concept of Consular Services was misunderstood by the South African society and many of our citizens are unfamiliar with the nature of assistance they can expect when stranded, destitute and distressed abroad hence the ongoing need to encompass consular awareness campaigns, especially for citizens travelling abroad.
The department has created an application for South Africans to register themselves during a major disaster, be it natural or manmade, so that an accurate database of South African citizens globally can be maintained. This database will assist to expedite the process and time to render consular assistance to our citizens abroad. The training phase of this application will commence during the course of the current financial year.
These are some of the measures to ensure that we remain of service to South African citizens wherever they find themselves in the world.
South Africa is committed to remain 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.
Please click the latest issue of the Ubuntu Magazine 2021 to read more.