Parliamentary Question: DIRCO: Budget vote Speech


Budget Vote Speech of the Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Maite Nkoana-Mashabane


Honourable Chair of the Portfolio Committee on International Relations and Cooperation;

Honourable Members of the Portfolio Committee on International Relations and Cooperation;

Your Excellencies Ambassadors, High Commissioners and Representatives of International Organisations;

Distinguished guests;

Ladies and gentlemen;

Fellow South Africans;

Comrades and Friends,

We are standing in an incredibly privileged position today, where we can witness Africa’s epic comeback. We are all aware of Africa’s history. Many of us have even been closely intertwined with Africa’s struggles, pain and suffering. But today we can stand here and proudly watch Africa finally rising. There is no doubt that these are only the first rays of light, glorious Africa is yet to reveal itself.

These are the words of President Jacob Zuma at an Africa Dialogue event recently at Sun City.

Honourable Members, today we stand before you to say, and proudly so, that South Africa is one of the rays of light of this glorious Africa that is revealing itself. We are on course towards creating a better South Africa and contributing to a better and safer Africa and the world.

In the three years of the Third Administration, we have been building on our achievements and lessons learnt on the foreign policy front since 1994 through an approach based on both continuity and change. We continued to consolidate our strategic advances and areas of strength in our foreign policy and, at the same time, found novel and innovative approaches to improving on our work by tackling new challenges. Eighteen years on since 1994, our country is standing tall in the global family of nations.

This is the task of the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO). As reflected in our strategic plan and the Annual Performance Plan (APP), we execute this task by enhancing continental development and integration, with a focus on South Africa’s role in consolidating the African Agenda, including Southern African Development Community (SADC) integration and the promotion of peace and security in Africa; advancing South Africa’s national interests through the enhancement of South-South and North-South Cooperation; and advancing South Africa’s national interests through participation in institutions of global governance.

In the past year, the department managed to achieve milestones with the budget allocation passed by this House. We have to do our work within the constraints imposed on us by our limited financial and human resources, as well as conditions prevailing in the world, including the international balance of forces which are not always favourable to the pursuit of our vision of a better South Africa, Africa and the world.

The period we live in today is faced with significant challenges that affect the entire human race. All over the world, our people are concerned about the multiplicity of global crises, ranging from the decline of major economies of the North; an ecological crisis due to climate change; rising food prices; the energy crisis; to the heinous, mass and random killing of innocent people through acts of terror; and the fact that for the poor of the world we will not meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). In the midst of all these challenges and uncertainties, we are indeed inspired that the work we do – including our contribution to global politics – plays a part in giving our people hope for a better world.

Honourable Chairperson,

When our forebears formed the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) almost fifty years ago, they gave the people of this continent hope in their struggle against colonial rule and in pursuit of the right to self-determination. When our leaders transformed the OAU ten years ago into the African Union (AU), they gave our people more hope in their quest for democracy, development, and a continent free of wars, poverty, ignorance and disease.

South Africa was there when the OAU was formed, represented by the leadership of our national liberation movement. The AU was formed in this country, in the city of Durban, with South Africa as a full member. Africa is the centrepiece of our foreign policy to this day.

It is our considered view that based on the experience of the first ten years, the AU must do more in:
l focusing on the development of the African continent, including fighting and reducing poverty, inequality and underdevelopment;
l eradicating conflicts on our continent by providing African solutions to African problems;
l building sustainable economies and enhancing continental interconnectivity through infrastructure to promote intra-African trade, among others;
l consolidating democracy and good governance in our respective countries;
l providing for our people in the spheres of education, food security, health, shelter and job creation;
l accelerating our integration in all spheres with the Regional Economic Communities (RECs) as the building blocks;
l advancing and defending the interests of Africa in global affairs; and
l with 2010 to 2020 being declared by the AU as the Decade of Women, developing and implementing clear programmes to ensure the emancipation of this sector of our population.

These priorities inform the contribution that South Africa will continue to make to the programmes and activities of the AU.

It is with this agenda in mind that we accepted with humility the request of SADC to field Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma for the position of the Chairperson of the Commission of the AU. The election of Dr Dlamini-Zuma to this position will ensure that the Southern Region is also given an opportunity – for the first time in the five decades since the formation of the OAU and its successor, the AU – to contribute at the highest level to the affairs of our Union.

The principle of rotation and regional representation is entrenched in the internal democratic processes of the AU. If elected, Dr Dlamini-Zuma will serve all AU Member States as a loyal servant of Africa. She is not being fielded as a candidate to pursue the interests of any particular country or region. She will be guided in her work by the statutes of our Union, our programmes, as well as decisions of AU Policy Organs, especially the Assembly and Executive Council.

Together with SADC, we are working with the Government of Malawi for the successful hosting of the July Summit of the AU in our region. We are in solidarity with the people of Malawi following the passing of their President, His Excellency Prof Bingu wa Mutharika; and once again congratulate Her Excellency Madame Joyce Banda on her elevation to being the first female President in our region and the second in Africa.

Honourable Members, when the OAU summit met in July 1990 in the midst of the end of the Cold War, the independence of Namibia, and the beginning of the transition to a new South Africa, it adopted its historic Declaration on the Political and Socio-Economic Situation in Africa and the Fundamental Changes Taking Place in the World, in which it proclaimed, and I quote:

At this crucial juncture when our continent is emerging with difficulty from a phase in its history that focused mainly on political liberation and nation building, and is about to embark on a new era laying greater emphasis on economic development, we need to strengthen the Organisation of African Unity so that it may also become a viable instrument in the service of Africa’s economic development and integration. Consistent with this goal, we rededicate ourselves to the principles and objectives enshrined in its Charter, to our faith in ourselves and to our continent, with greater determination to be masters of our destiny. In this spirit, we reaffirm our commitment to revive the ideals of Pan-Africanism and commit ourselves to maintain and strengthen our unity and solidarity and to pool our resources and wisdom in order to face the challenges of the decade of the 1990s and beyond, change the bleak socio-economic prospects of our continent and guarantee a better life for all peoples and future generations yet unborn… (end quote).

More than two decades since the adoption of this historic Declaration, we are still determined to change the bleak socio-economic prospects of our continent. Accordingly, the last Summit of the AU, that took place in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in January this year, focused on what we must do to promote intra-African trade and infrastructure development.

Our President currently chairs the AU/New Partnership for Africa’s Development (Nepad) Presidential Infrastructure Championing Initiative; and he is responsible for championing the North-South Road and Rail Corridor project. Addressing the infrastructure backlog on our continent will be a giant step towards guaranteeing a better life for all African peoples and future generations yet unborn.

Africa is stronger when it is united. Africa’s voice is heard when we speak as one. We prosper better and faster when we work together as a continent, for our unity and integration.

The Southern African Development Community-East African Community-Community of Eastern and Southern Africa (SADC-EAC-COMESA) tripartite formation is testimony of how RECs can serve as building blocks for the unity and integration of our continent. While SADC is working towards full implementation of its Free Trade Area and the establishment of the SADC Customs Union, we have commenced with negotiations to establish this tripartite formation which is a recognised pillar of the roadmap developed towards the operationalisation of the African Free Trade Area by 2017.

Honourable Members

The recent events in Mali and Guinea Bissau remind us of the challenges still before us and the fragility of democracy and peace and stability on our continent. In this regard, we are at one with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the AU in rejecting unconstitutional changes of government and secessionist tendencies. We have availed ourselves to the Government of Mali to provide the necessary support to their transition. We support the on-going ECOWAS and AU mediation efforts in Guinea-Bissau to resolve the situation there. We urge the Bissauan military to allow its people to continue with the electoral process of electing a new President.

In the past year, South Africa continued to contribute to peace and security in Africa, utilising in particular our second tenure as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, and our membership of the AU Peace and Security Council, and the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security.

NEPAD has been our flagship program on the development front, and the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) provides us with a concrete example of how we can help each other, in a constructive way, to build and consolidate democratic institutions in our respective countries. South Africa will be preparing its third report on the implementation of the national APRM Programme of Action for submission to the APR Forum during 2013.

In this regard, I would like to congratulate Ms Baleka Mbete, our former Deputy President, on her appointment to the APR panel of eminent persons for a four year period.

Over the past year, NEPAD has been celebrating its first decade of existence. Today NEPAD has been fully integrated into the structures, processes and programmes of the AU. The foremost achievement of NEPAD over the past ten years has been to redefine the development agenda for the continent, to overturn the Afro-pessimism that pertained in the past. Today, as President Zuma observed in Sun City, Africa is viewed as a continent of hope and opportunity – a continent emerging to be the next major global growth pole.

Looking forward, besides focusing on infrastructure in attaining regional integration and opening up intra-African trade and investment, NEPAD is emphasising the importance of self-reliance and of mobilising the domestic resources that are available on our continent. This is particularly important in terms of the current global environment and the need for African ownership of its own development.

South Africa remains committed to supporting the implementation of NEPAD. We will continue to provide a home for both the NEPAD Planning and Coordinating Agency (NPCA) and the APRM Secretariat, and will ensure that we meet all our commitments in this regard.

Similarly, the draft protocol of the Pan-African Parliament (PAP) that seeks to make this institution more effective, is in the process of being validated. It will then be submitted to the next AU Summit, in July 2012, to be considered for adoption. South Africa will continue to discharge its host country responsibilities to the PAP.

However, we must be concerned that with three years remaining to the 2015 deadline for attainment of the MDGs, our continent is the region of the world least likely to meet these very basic targets. Therefore, we must do more individually as countries and collectively as the RECs and the continent in the measures we have taken to achieve these MDGs.

Honourable Chairperson,

The SADC region is progressing well in the areas of peace and security, development, and democratisation. The successful elections in our region recently in Seychelles, Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are pointing in the right direction for the political future of SADC. The DRC has had a difficult past and will need the support of all of us, including our international partners, in its efforts to consolidate democracy and overcome challenges of post-conflict reconstruction and development.

On our relations with our SADC neighbours, in the past year, we convened high level engagements at Heads of State level during which we had diplomatic consultations on areas of mutual concern on our continent. We also used the opportunity to follow-up on progress made in various areas of cooperation.

As member states of SADC, we remain seized with finding a lasting solution to some of the challenges in our region. We have witnessed significant progress with regard to the implementation of the SADC-endorsed Roadmap on Madagascar. South Africa, as Chair of the SADC Organ Troika, and through our Special Envoy on Madagascar, Deputy Minister Marius Fransman, remains hopeful that stakeholders in Madagascar will demonstrate the required determination and will to fully implement the Roadmap.

We continue to work with the leadership and people of Zimbabwe within the SADC-determined framework for the full implementation of the Global Political Agreement.

As the Kingdom of Lesotho prepares to hold its elections on 26 May 2012, we wish them well and trust that this election will usher in new hope for the people of Lesotho.

In the context of the Joint Bilateral Commission, South Africa continues to engage the authorities in Swaziland towards the resolution of their domestic challenges.

Honourable Chairperson,

Our country is engaging the new leaderships in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya with a view to strengthening our bilateral relations and promoting cooperation on continental and global issues. We are ready to share with these countries our experience in transitional justice and constitution-making, among others.

In Libya, and as we had warned, the collapse of the government of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi resulted in a worrying security development in the Sahel region. Countries in the Sahel region such as Chad, Niger, Mauritania and Mali, are at the receiving end of the impact brought about by the disappearance of arms from Libyan military depots and the forced return of migrants from that country.

Combine these factors with drought, then you will understand what the Sahel countries are going through. The AU Peace and Security Council convened a ministerial session in Bamako, the capital of Mali, ironically a day before the coup, as an act of solidarity with these countries and to mobilise continental and international support. South Africa has heeded the call by these countries for humanitarian relief.

South Africa remains seized with the issue of the status of Western Sahara. We will continue to support the peace efforts of the AU and the United Nations on that protracted conflict.

Our relations with sister countries of Central Africa are another priority on top of our agenda.

The same goes for our relations with countries of West Africa which are progressing in the right direction, with Nigeria as one of our strategic partners in that region. In this regard, we pledge our solidarity with the Government and people of Nigeria in their struggle to defeat the menace of terrorism.

We must also use this opportunity to once again congratulate the people of Senegal on a very successful election; and His Excellency Macky Sall on his election as the new President.

In the Horn of Africa, we remain concerned about the tension between Sudan and South Sudan. We will continue our engagement in post-conflict reconstruction and development support to both countries in the interest of peace, development and prosperity. We are hopeful that the mediation efforts by the AU High-Level Implementation Panel, Inter-Governmental Authority on Development, the AU Peace and Security Council, and the United Nations Security Council, will yield positive results towards restoring normalcy in that part of our continent.

On Somalia, we worked closely with our SADC neighbours, civil society and corporate South Africa to provide humanitarian relief to the people of that country. I had an opportunity to engage with the President of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) of Somalia recently. I also received my Somali counterpart in South Africa, during which time we signed an agreement to establish Diplomatic Relations between our two countries. We have pledged R100 million towards capacity-building and skills development projects for Somalis, as well as the development of democratic institutions of governance, nation-building and reconciliation. This pledge is to support efforts of the TFG and complement the noble security contribution by AMISOM and Ethiopian troops.

Another result of instability in Somalia has been the growing scourge of piracy. Cooperation with our SADC neighbours along the Indian Ocean shoreline, especially the Indian Ocean island states of Mauritius and Seychelles, will be enhanced to address this challenge and support efforts in the region to safeguard the sea routes from pirate attacks. We firmly believe that the solution to this problem lies on land and therefore our enhanced political strategy on Somalia will seek to build capacity to find a political solution, while at the same time combating piracy, prosecuting perpetrators and establishing the necessary correctional institutions to deter such activities in future.

In this regard, I wish to pay homage to our compatriots being held captive in Mali and Somalia. To Steven McGowan, Bruno Pelizzari, Deborah Calitz, and your respective families – I want to say, we are with you. Furthermore, finding and returning the remains of our late brother, Anton Hammerl, is still a priority for us.

Honourable Chairperson,

The growing importance of Asia and the Middle East in the global economy cannot be over emphasised especially in the context of the current global financial crisis. The Middle East remains strategic in the global supply of oil, and developments there affect the price of oil, a factor which has an impact on our own economy and the general wellbeing of our people. This region also possesses significant sovereign wealth funds that we source for our own development. We continue to pursue our economic and political objectives in the region through, among other means, two-way high-level visits.

This region is also on the global peace and security agenda, at the centre of which is the Israel-Palestine conflict. The South African Government supports a two-state solution with Palestine and Israel existing side-by-side in peace within internationally recognised borders (based on 4 June 1967 borders), with East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine.

We are concerned that the patience exercised by the people of Palestine is wearing out and there is mounting fear that hope will soon be replaced with hardened attitudes.

On Syria, we welcomed the announcement by the Government there that it has accepted the proposals by the United Nations and League of Arab States Special Envoy, former UN Secretary General Koffi Annan, for the restoration of peace in that country and responding to the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people. We call on all parties involved in the conflict to accept the proposals of the Special Envoy and commit to a peaceful and an all-inclusive dialogue. We are encouraged that the UN monitors are already on the ground.

South Africa continues to encourage the peaceful resolution of disputes surrounding the nuclear programme of Iran and encourages further discussions, negotiations and cooperation in order to promote mutual confidence. Cooperation between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is indispensable in contributing to build the required confidence.

Honourable Members,

Asia provides significant opportunities for growth in the global economy currently and in the future. In the context of South-South cooperation, we shall continue to develop and deepen our cooperation with the countries in that part of the world to take full advantage of the trade, investment and human resource development opportunities provided for our country and people by this region.

The holding anchor of our South-South cooperation strategy is the Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS) partnership mechanism with China, India, Brazil and Russia. President Zuma has just returned from the Fourth BRICS Summit in India, and South Africa will be hosting the Fifth BRICS Summit in early 2013. The BRICS is becoming an increasingly important formation of like-minded countries.

Our membership of BRICS has three objectives in mind, namely: to advance our national interests as outlined in the President’s recent State of the Nation Address; to promote our regional integration programme and related continental infrastructure programmes; and to partner with key players of the South on issues related to global governance and its reform. As the host of the next BRICS Summit, we have a contribution to make to the realisation of the objective of establishing the BRICS Development Bank.

The India – Brazil – South Africa Dialogue Forum (IBSA) continues to play its unique role as a body bringing together three democracies of the South from three continents.

Equally, we remain committed, as part of our South-South agenda, to our relations with countries of South and Central America, as well as those in the Caribbean. We must expand our diplomatic footprint in that part of the world. Furthermore, we continue to join the international call for the lifting of the US-imposed economic embargo on Cuba.

South Africa has been given the distinct honour of hosting the historic African Diaspora Summit which will take place next month on Africa Day (25 May). This summit will help create sustainable partnerships between the African Diaspora and the African continent through a realisable Programme of Action; create sustainable dialogue, partnerships and strengthen Pan-African solidarity for a better Africa and the Diaspora; and promote South-South cooperation in the betterment of the African continent and the Diaspora.

It will draw, among others, on the outcomes of the African Diaspora Ministerial conference co-organised by South Africa, the AU and the CARICOM in Jamaica in 2005, as well as the important contribution of Conferences of Intellectuals from Africa and the Diaspora held in Senegal in 2004 and in Brazil in 2006.

Honourable Chairperson,

Ties with the United States of America are one building block of our partnership with countries of the North. The Strategic Dialogue with Secretary Clinton is proving to be a sound platform for strengthening our bilateral relations and the discussion of global issues of mutual concern. Secretary Clinton and I plan to meet later in the year to develop this dialogue further.

Canada is another North American partner whose contribution to our economy and national priorities we continue to appreciate.

Europe remains South Africa’s partner in terms of trade, investment, tourism, technical cooperation, and development partnership. Despite current economic challenges in the Eurozone, we are hopeful that we will build on the successes of the past year and continue to consolidate relations with some of our key strategic partners in the region, especially the European Union, as a bloc, and individual states such as France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Russia, the Nordics, and Turkey. Increasingly, the Central and Eastern European region is also beginning to contribute in a significant way to our country’s national priorities. We have to focus more resources on this region and tap into what it has to offer, especially in the areas of skills development, science, technology and agriculture.

We are humbled that Japan continues to strengthen its partnership with South Africa and the rest of the African continent in spite of the hardships brought about by a national tragedy in the form of an earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster.

Honourable Chairperson,

South Africa believes firmly in multilateralism and that our institutions of global governance must be reformed with a view to making them more representative and sensitive to the interests of developing countries. This is a perspective that informed our priorities during the 66th Session of the UN General Assembly. We supported the candidacy of Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala of Nigeria for the presidency of the World Bank because of the urgency we attach to reforming the Bretton Woods institutions. Nevertheless, we congratulate the newly appointed President of the World Bank.

Our non-permanent membership of the United Nations Security Council for the period 2011 to 2012 continues to provide opportunities to contribute to international peace and security. We had an opportunity to serve as the President of the Security Council for the month of January 2012 during which we convened a High Level debate on strengthening the relationship between the UN and regional organisations, in particular the AU, in the maintenance of international peace and security. President Jacob Zuma presided over this debate whose conclusion unanimously adopted resolution 2033 (2012).

Honourable Chairperson, you will be pleased to know that our country is currently leading the process of developing a new United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF) for the period 2013 to 2017.

This is collaboration between our UN partners, national departments, provincial governments and civil society. This framework will ensure that all assistance from the United Nations agencies operating in South Africa will be aligned with our own identified national priorities.

As part of its continued and strong commitment to multilateral disarmament and non-proliferation, DIRCO is in the process of finalising a host-country agreement with the African Union for South Africa’s hosting of the African Commission on Nuclear Energy (AFCONE) in terms of the African Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty, otherwise known as the Treaty of Pelindaba.

Furthermore, we seek to use our membership of the G20 to promote and strengthen the interests of Africa and of the South. As the co-chair of the G20 Development Working Group (DWG) since its formation in 2010, we have played a key role in helping to monitor the implementation of the Seoul Multi-Year Action Plan for Development (MYAP) which directs the initiatives undertaken by this working group.

Honourable Chairperson,

South Africa, Brazil and India – as hosts of the climate change, sustainable development and biodiversity international conferences, respectively – have been working together to coordinate positions as part of the bloc of developing countries, and also to share experiences.

We must reiterate our appreciation to all South Africans for their support in successfully hosting the historic 17th Conference of the Parties and the 7th Meeting of Parties (COP17/CMP7) in December last year. Not only did we secure the second Commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, a key outcome for Africa, but we also made history with the unanimous adoption of the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action.

The Durban Platform for Enhanced Action in effect resets the multilateral system while the second Commitment period on the Kyoto Protocol stabilises the transition to the future on the basis of the Durban Platform. We took a significant step in the implementation of the Bali and Cancun decisions, including on difficult issues such as response measures and loss and damage. In addition to this, we managed to achieve the establishment of the Green Climate Fund; the Adaptation Committee and the Technology Mechanism.

South Africa’s COP Presidency continues until we hand over to Qatar in Doha at the end of this year. Between now and then, a lot has to be done to ensure the establishment of the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action while phasing-out the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long Term Cooperative Action under the Convention.

The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, also referred to as the Rio+20 Summit, which will convene in Brazil in June 2012, will coincide with the 10th anniversary of the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) which took place in Johannesburg. I am confident that its deliberations and final outcome will take into account the report of the High-Level Panel on Global Sustainability which had our President as one of its two Co-Chairs.

For its part, in October this year, India will host the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity which will address key strategic issues relating to access to genetic resources and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from their utilisation.

Honourable Members,

Our State Protocol Branch remains committed to coordinating major national and international events. The successful hosting of flagship events such as the SADC-EAC-COMESA Tripartite Summit and COP17/CMP7 serves as a good follow up to the successes of the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

South Africa is looking forward to hosting the 2013 African Cup of Nations in January next year.

Our intergovernmental work has further strengthened and given impetus to our relations with different Provinces. We will work harder and smarter to create synergies between provincial and national activities, especially the Premiers’ Offices and Local Governments. We must coordinate better on our engagements with Foreign Governments.

We will keep on strengthening our public engagements through the various programmes coordinated by our department’s Public Diplomacy Branch in order to raise awareness about our foreign policy implementation. Our outreach and public participation programmes throughout the country are a platform for DIRCO’s dialogue with all South Africans on our foreign policy.

Honourable Members,

The department is entrusted with responsibility to foster partnerships through the African Renaissance and International Relations Fund (ARF). In the past year, the department continued to support various partnerships. For example, in Sierra Leone, we have partnered with Cuba for the deployment of 29 Cuban doctors and nurses for the provision of adequate primary healthcare. We are also engaged in a rice project with Guinea in partnership with Vietnam.

The necessary modalities regarding the establishment and implementation of the South African Development Partnership Agency (SADPA) are now in place. Once established, the SADPA will replace the ARF.

We value our interaction with Their Excellencies representing the various missions accredited to South Africa. The Minister’s Annual Dinner and the Annual Diplomatic Fun Fair are our flagship events in this regard. Our two Deputy Ministers and I will continue the practice of meeting with the different regional groups of diplomats accredited to our country.

Our draft White Paper is currently before Cabinet for approval. Consultations with relevant stakeholders have been concluded. The process towards the establishment of the South African Council on International Relations (SACOIR) has been through Cabinet and this body will be operationalised in due course. Furthermore, we remain seized with the work of finalising the different phases of our Foreign Service Bill (FSB), which is intended to regulate the establishment, administration, organisation and control of the foreign service in line with international conventions.

Honourable Members, all these achievements have been possible because we work as a team at DIRCO. Each and every member of our department is an embodiment of our “I am a South African Diplomat” campaign. The quality of our Human Resource Capital is indeed key in ensuring that DIRCO achieves its objectives. We have filled most of our key Management positions and are in the process of doing the same for other outstanding vacancies.

The department has improved its employment equity status with regard to the employment of female SMS members. We continue to provide support to employees and their families, especially in countries which experience difficulties as a result of either political conflict or natural disasters.

We are committed to ensuring that the quality of training of our diplomats is among the best in the world.

Team-DIRCO attaches great importance to a good working relationship with our Committee, Honourable Members. We must thank you for your invaluable support without which many of our achievements would not have been possible.

The department received an unqualified Audit Report from the Auditor General for the 2010/11 financial year. We are giving careful attention to areas identified in that Report requiring improvement.

Honourable Chairperson,

This year is historic for a number of African countries that are celebrating the 50th anniversary of their independence from colonial rule. I have in mind here Algeria, Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda. In this regard, we wish to reiterate our condolences to the people and government of Algeria on the sad passing of one of the stalwarts of our liberation movements and Algeria’s first President, His Excellency Comrade Ahmed Ben Bella. His selfless contribution to our continent will always be remembered.

This month is also historic. 38 years ago today, on 25 April 1974, Portugal experienced what became known as the “Carnation Revolution” – an event which was precipitated by the anti-colonial struggle in Portuguese colonies. Following this revolution, the new government in that country withdrew its troops from the colonies, thus creating conditions for the eventual liberation of Mozambique, Angola, Cape Verde, and São Tomé and Príncipe. Today, as our country celebrates the centenary of the African National Congress, we also pay tribute to countless heroes and heroines who helped liberate our region from Portuguese colonial rule. The independence of Angola and Mozambique in 1975 opened a new chapter in the struggle for freedom in our own country.

As we celebrate our Freedom Day the day after tomorrow, we will remember our national heroes, among them Comrades Solomon Mahlangu and Chris Hani, for their ultimate sacrifice.

Another tribute must go to the founders of the OAU. They ensured that the apartheid question was amongst the important resolutions adopted by the inaugural Summit of the OAU. These courageous African leaders were convinced of the imperative and urgent necessity of coordinating and intensifying their efforts to put an end to the criminal policy of apartheid. For this immeasurable contribution to our struggle for liberation, today we must take a moment, pause and look back at what this glorious organisation, the OAU, and its leaders have contributed to the struggle for liberation in our country, especially its Liberation Committee.

When we observe the 50th anniversary of the OAU next year, we will remember the prophetic words of OR Tambo in his address to the Liberation Committee in Arusha, Tanzania, in February 1983, when he said, and I quote:

Africa is pledged to the total liberation of our continent. Accordingly, she has an obligation to continue to mobilise the necessary political and material resources to ensure that this objective is achieved in Namibia and South Africa. The OAU, itself an eminent product of Africa`s liberation, remains the one vehicle we have at our disposal to coordinate and mobilise this continental effort aimed at the completion of the task of finally expunging colonialism and racist domination from our continent, consolidating our independence and proceeding with our development programme. (end quote)

Yes, with South Africa and Namibia now free countries, Africa is today consolidating its independence and proceeding with its development programme. Ours is a century full of promise and hope in our quest for a better South Africa, and a better and safer Africa and the world.

I thank you