Thank you, Programme Director,
Ladies and gentlemen of the media,
Allow me to take this opportunity to send, on behalf of myself and my department, our deepest condolences to the family, friends and Cdes of Mr Geoff Doidge, my former Cabinet colleague and former ambassador to Sri Lanka and Thailand. Sincere condolences to the family of former ambassador Johannes who served at our embassy in the Vatican.
We called this media briefing today to reflect on the work we have been doing during the year 2022 to advance South Africa’s foreign policy. The intention is to highlight some of the achievements we have made, the challenges we faced, and the year ahead.
We will focus on:
- South Africa’s chairing of the BRICS in 2023;
- the African Union, which remains the primary vehicle through which we conduct diplomacy and trade with the rest of Africa;
- the United Nations, the premier international organisation through which the world pursues peace and development; and
- the strengthening of bilateral relations with key partners.
1. South Africa as Chair of BRICS for 2023
From 01 January 2023, South Africa will assume the role of Chair of BRICS. This role rotates on an annual basis among the member states of BRICS, and we will be taking over from the outgoing Chair, the People’s Republic of China.
The main objectives of South Africa’s engagement in BRICS are to enhance the future growth and development of South Africa and to strengthen intra-BRICS relations and mutually beneficial cooperation.
South Africa will continue to emphasise concrete cooperation that contributes both directly and indirectly to the priorities of a better South Africa, a better Africa, and a better world through its partnership with key players of the Global South on issues related to global governance and its reform, and development.
A country that Chairs the BRICS has the following responsibilities, among others:
- To provide strategic leadership during the tenure as BRICS Chair, in close consultation with other Members, based on the Chair’s agenda/priorities and previously agreed-upon decisions,
- To schedule Summit, Ministerial, Sherpa and other BRICS meetings and events based on consensus,
- To undertake specific tasks relevant to the Summit, upon consultation with other Members, including, inter alia, selecting the Summit Theme, proposing the Summit Agenda/Programme and submitting the zero draft of the Summit Declaration, and
- To ensure coordination and continuity in BRICS work and activities, especially through the Sherpas/Sous-Sherpas channel.
South Africa’s membership in BRICS has contributed to further expanding BRICS’ geographic reach, representivity and inclusiveness.
BRICS countries now constitute the largest trading partners of Africa and the largest new investors, and the exponential growth potential of the BRICS-Africa economic partnership is well recognised.
2. South Africa in the African Union
We began the year 2022, as is tradition, with preparations for the annual Assembly of Heads of State of the African Union, which took place in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in February 2022.
Among other decisions, the Assembly elected 15 members of the African Union Peace and Security Council (AUPSC). South Africa was elected alongside Cameroon, Djibouti, Morocco, Namibia, Nigeria, Burundi, the Republic of Congo, Uganda, Tanzania, Tunisia, Zimbabwe, Ghana, Senegal and the Gambia.
Members of the AUPSC hold terms of two and three years, and they are all non-permanent. The Presidency of the AUPSC rotates among its members every month, and South Africa is due to assume the role of Chair in February 2023.
The AUPSC is tasked with the following, among other responsibilities:
- Undertake peace-making, peacebuilding and peace-support missions
- Recommend intervention in a Member State in respect of grave circumstances, namely war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity
- Promote coordination between regional mechanisms and the AU regarding peace, security and stability in Africa, and
- Support and facilitate humanitarian action in situations of armed conflicts or major natural disasters.
The role of Regional Economic Communities (RECs), such as SADC, in conflict resolution on the continent, cannot be over-emphasised. The RECs are closest to the action and must always be the first to raise alarm and act.
During the year (in August 2022), South Africa relinquished its role as Chair of the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation. This is the mechanism through which SADC addresses threats to regional peace and stability.
As Chair of the SADC Organ Troika, South Africa and the other organ members and the rest of the region continued to provide support to the Republic of Mozambique as our neighbouring country combats terrorism and acts of violent extremism.
In October and November, South Africa was honoured to host the negotiations for an agreement on the cessation of hostilities between the Government of the Federal Republic of Ethiopia and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).
The negotiations were led by the former President of Nigeria, HE Olusegun Obasanjo, supported by the former President of Kenya, HE Uhuru Kenyatta and the former Deputy President of South Africa, HE Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka.
The Agreement signalled a commitment to ending the use of force to settle differences and disputes and confirmed the correctness of South Africa’s principled position that political differences are best resolved through meaningful dialogue and diplomacy.
South Africa believes that this Agreement paves the way for the silencing of guns not only in Ethiopia but in the immediate region and throughout the continent.
We said during the signing of the agreement that peacebuilding is more difficult than waging wars. The real heroes are those who work towards building peace and sustaining it. We, therefore, call on the leaders of both sides to continue to work towards maintaining this peace by implementing the Agreement in full.
3. South Africa in the United Nations
Through the course of the year, we have seen the United Nations (UN) face one of its biggest tests as conflict broke out in February 2022 between Russia and Ukraine.
The Preamble to the UN Charter says that members of the UN will:
- “practice tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbours,
- unite [their] strength to maintain international peace and security, and
- ensure, by the acceptance of principles and the institution of methods, that armed force shall not be used, save in the common interest, and
- employ international machinery for the promotion of the economic and social advancement of all peoples.”
Article 24 of the UN Charter says that the 15 members of the UNSC, five of whom are permanent members, have the “primary responsibility” to “promote international peace and security”.
The composition and functioning of the UNSC, in its current form, is not representative of the world we live in today and is not in a position to discharge its main Charter responsibility.
The ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine has starkly exposed the inadequacy of the UN system and highlighted the need for serious attention to our repeated calls for substantive reform of the Security Council and indeed, the United Nations.
Notwithstanding all the challenges facing the UN, South Africa believes that this international organisation remains the only viable mechanism through which the global community must strive for peace and common development.
South Africa will continue to play an active role in the UN, including its organs, such as the Human Rights Council. In October, South Africa was elected overwhelmingly by members of the UN General Assembly to serve as a member of the UN Human Rights Council for the period 2023-2025.
The UN Human Rights Council consists of 47 Member States, which are elected directly and individually by secret ballot by the members of the General Assembly. The membership is based on equitable geographical distribution, and seats are distributed among regional groups, with the African group having 13 seats.
South Africa has undertaken to promote respect for the integrity and dignity of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). We will also support the regional office of the OHCHR in Pretoria. The South African Government has signed a Memorandum of Intent with the Office and is currently processing the Host Country Agreement.
We will continue with our unwavering position to advocate for a balanced Sustainable Development Programme within the human rights framework as underlined in the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action (VDPA). In this regard, South Africa will be one of the chief proponents of a balanced agenda of the HRC, which reflects, among others, the primacy of achieving the realisation of the right to development as well as moral human rights issues such as the eradication of poverty and underdevelopment.
4. Strengthening of bilateral relations
The promotion of economic diplomacy is a necessary intervention given the domestic challenges facing South Africa, which include poverty, unemployment and inequality. Improving economic and trade relations with many of South Africa’s key partners will go a long way in attracting more foreign direct investment and creating jobs.
During 2022, South Africa ensured that existing structured diplomatic and trade mechanisms are activated with key trade partners such as China, the United States, Germany, the United Kingdom, Korea, Japan, Singapore, Nigeria, Kenya, Mozambique and Botswana. I wish to thank our deputy ministers for the energetic role they have played in strengthening bilateral relations.
I will lead a South African Delegation to the Second United States – Africa Leaders’ Summit, scheduled to take place from 13 – 15 December 2023 in Washington DC, United States, where I will represent President Ramaphosa, who, owing to a busy schedule, is unable to attend the Summit.
The last US – Africa Leaders’ Summit was convened in 2014 under former President Barrack Obama.
Forty-nine (49) African states and the Chairperson of the African Union Commission are expected to participate in the Summit. The renewal of the US-Africa Leaders’ Summit follows President Biden’s intervention during the 34th Summit of the AU, in February 2021, wherein he underscored the US “commitment and readiness to partner with the Continent in taking the relations to new heights.”
The Leaders’ Summit will discuss three thematic topics, namely, Partnering on Agenda 2063, Multilateral Partnerships with Africa to Meet Global Challenges, and Promoting Food Security and Food Systems Resilience on 15 December 2022. I will deliver remarks on the first topic, i.e., Partnering on Agenda 2063.
On Tuesday, 13 December 2022, the following events will take place:
- the “African and Diaspora Young Leaders Forum” which will be held under the theme – Amplifying Voices: Building Partnerships that Last.
- “Peace, Security and Governance Forum, under the theme – Delivering Democracy and Security Dividends and
- Conservation, Climate Adaptation, and a Just Energy Transition under the theme – Building Our Green Energy Together.
Wednesday, 14 December 2022, will start with the “US-Africa Business Breakfast meeting, followed by the inauguration of the US – Africa Business Forum and discussions on various topics, which include “Charting the Course: The Future of US-Africa Trade Investment Relations; Growing Agribusiness: Partnerships to strengthen Food Security and Value Chain and Advancing Digital Connectivity: Partnerships to Enable Inclusive Growth Through Technology.
President Joseph Biden will deliver a keynote address at the Business Forum on 14 December 2022.
The delegation comprises Minister of Trade, Industry and Competition, Mr Ebrahim Patel and senior officials from the Departments of Higher Education, Science and Innovation; Defence and Military Veterans; and Health.
Apart from attending and participating in the above-mentioned events, I will also have bilateral meetings with some of my counterparts and leading captains of industry.
Our engagement with the world is multifaceted. We have strong relations with all the major countries and regions, and we are a significant factor in global governance matters. We remain a champion for multilateralism that is guided by the Charter of the United Nations and International Law. We have stated very clearly to partners with whom we may have disagreed on some issues, that if International Law is applied evenly and not selectively, it will it play its full role in holding all, including the most powerful actors on the global stage accountable and be a platform for building peace.
In conclusion it is our hope that a peaceful negotiated outcome to the war in Ukraine will become a reality soon.
I thank you.
ISSUED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND COOPERATION