Extracts from a speech by Luwellyn Landers MP during a debate in the National Assembly on Wednesday on the occasion of the Debate on Vote-1 The Presidency
23 May 2018
“SOUTH AFRICA’S ROLE IN THE INTERNATIONAL ARENA”
Honourable Chairperson & Deputy Chairperson,
I am humbled to be afforded this opportunity to debate on a matter that forms the crux of our work.
In keeping with this period of renewal, of change, of adherence to good governance and responsiveness to our people, it is also time for a review and re-energising of our foreign policy
Writing in the Foreign Affairs magazine in 1993, Nelson Mandela argued:
“The pillars upon which our foreign policy will rest are the following:
- That issues of human rights are central to international relations and an understanding that they extend beyond the political, embracing the economic, social and environmental;
- that just and lasting solutions to the problem of humankind can only come through the promotion of democracy worldwide;
- that considerations of justice and respect for international law should guide the relations between nations;
- that peace is the goal for which all nations should strive, and where this breaks down, internationally agreed and non-violent mechanisms, including effective arms control regimes must be employed;
- that the concerns and interests of the continent of Africa should be reflected in our foreign policy choices;
- that economic development depends on growing regional and international economic co-operation in an interdependent world”.
South Africa’s role in the international arena has to be predicated upon Nelson Mandela’s pronouncement in 1993.
Honourable Deputy Speaker:
We want South Africa to be a moral compass and a voice of reason in a world increasingly overcome by selfish narrow interests. Indeed, of late we have witnessed an alarming rise of unilateralism, with a concomitant weakening of diplomacy. This has resulted in a global crisis of leadership and governance.
Our foreign policy has evolved over many years, crafted by no less than the late O.R. Tambo. The foreign policy foundation laid by Oliver Tambo was built upon and given expression to by Nelson Mandela as he put South Africa firmly on the international stage.
It is fitting that this debate takes place a few days before we commemorate Africa Day, which marks the continent’s independence, freedom and liberation from colonial imperialists. Africa Day symbolises the first union of African countries on the continent which laid the foundation for the Organization of African Unity (OAU) on 25 May 1963, which is now the African Union (AU). This year our august continental organization celebrates 55-years of resolute efforts for unity among the African people, justice, equality and socio-economic freedom from colonial domination.
Similarly, this year we are also celebrating the centennial of two of Africa’s greatest struggle icons, Nontsikelelo Albertina Sisulu and Nelson Mandela. Honouring their legacy would mean, among others, drawing inspiration from their wisdom and dedication.
Nelson Mandela understood what had to be done for us to succeed in pushing back the frontiers of poverty in a post-colonial nation. His words expressed in the narrative of a foreign policy article in 1993 are as relevant today as they were then:
“Although this process of global change is far from complete, it is clear that all nations will have boldly to recast their nets if they are to reap any benefit from international affairs in the post-Cold War era”.
Today we live in a globalised world which Madiba envisaged and therefore our priority is to “recast our nest” through a systematic and planned review of our foreign policy. In this way we will be able to further leverage economic opportunities that are presented by the ever changing and challenging international environment.
Ladies and Gentlemen
National identity is central to any country’s foreign policy formulation and implementation. Our African identity is not only premised on geographical location but also because of our inherent belief system and our adherence to Pan African values and principles. South Africa shares a common history with African countries. As you are aware, we were subjected to a long history of colonial minority rule which at one stage was entrenched in a colonial arrangement of a special kind called apartheid.
Inevitably, the lengthy period of colonialism led to a lengthy period of struggle for freedom and justice. Apartheid architects had their own version of coexistence which in essence meant formalised subjugation and humiliation of the African majority. The
support we received from African independent States which culminated in the demise of the Apartheid regime is well documented.
As Africans we all share this tragic history with our brothers and sisters in the global South. Certainly, our future as a country cannot be divorced from the future of the continent and the entire humanity. I can confirm that our foreign policy principles that are mainly predicated on our African destiny remains relevant. However, we need to assess and revise our strategies and tactics for maximum benefit.
We are a developmental state which was founded on constitutional principles following the 1994 democratic elections. Attainment of democracy in our country was a culmination of a long protracted struggle and a negotiated settlement which helped avert bloodshed.
The time had come to reconstruct our country and the region while playing a responsible role in pursuing global peace and prosperity. South Africa’s national interests were defined broadly to include those of the Southern African region and the continent for reasons I have already alluded to. We had to transform from an apartheid pariah status to a responsible global developmental citizen. This undertaking found expression in the preamble of our constitution which states that we seek to:
“build a united and democratic South Africa able to take its rightful place as a sovereign state in the family of nations”.
In this regard, our foreign policy principles mirror the past and the future we collectively aspire to as Africans. These are principles upon which our foreign policy pillars rest:
- Promotion and protection of human rights is the thrust of our foreign policy and these rights include political, economic, social and environmental rights;
- Promotion of democracy is an important impetus to finding lasting solutions to the problems of humankind;
- Commitment to justice and respect for international law should guide the conduct of relations between states;
- Commitment to international peace and the utilisation of internationally agreed and nonviolent mechanisms to resolve conflicts;
- The African continent is at the centre of South Africa’s foreign policy choices; and
- Commitment to pursue economic development through regional and international economic cooperation in a just and interdependent world.
Ladies and Gentlemen
We move from the premise that our development shall never undermine the aspirations of our partners in the region, the continent and of humanity, particularly the less privileged in the world. In this regard, we will utilise our chairship of SADC which we assumed last year in August to continue to bolster economic growth in the region. In essence we recognise that both SADC and the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) are primary vehicles to regional economic integration.
Our focus in this purview is clear as enumerated in our chairing theme: “Partnering with the Private Sector in Developing Industry and Regional Value Chains”. We are working towards the implementation of the identified deliverables, these include:
- Control and management of the Fall Army Worm and other diseases which will contribute towards addressing regional food security challenges;
- Enhancing capacity at the SADC Secretariat including the identification of regional centers of excellence. This is geared towards improving the implementation of SADC strategic blueprints, with a primary focus on the Regional Industrialisation Strategy and Roadmap;
- The establishment of a regional Natural Gas Committee to promote the inclusion of gas in the regional energy mix and in the promotion of industrial development;
- Project Preparation and Development Facility (PPDF), managed by the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA) to take projects to bankability stage and therefore unlock opportunities that exist in the region (industrial and infrastructure development); and
- The formulation of a nutritious instant and ready-to-mix product (NUTRI-DRINK) from indigenous food ingredients
It is my belief that these regional efforts will augment our endeavours to enhance intra-African trade which sadly stands at 11% as we speak. We are encouraged and proud to have been part of the adoption and launching of the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) in Kigali in March 2018, as well as the signing of the Kigali Declaration.
We would like to commence with our domestic ratification processes as soon as the outstanding legal issues surrounding the CFTA have been finalised.
As Africans we understand that our identity is not based on geographical composition and that our engagement with other
formations must benefit the continent. This includes the BRICS formation whose chairship we assumed on 01 January 2018 and will conclude this role on 31 December 2018. Preparations are progressing well for us to host the 10th BRICS Summit which will be held from 25 to 27 July 2018 under the theme:
“BRICS in Africa: Collaboration for Inclusive Growth and Shared Prosperity in the 4th Industrial Revolution”.
This theme underscores our commitment to Africa’s development and prosperity
Ladies and Gentlemen
In this year of Mandela we are honoured to pursue his vision of forging stronger ties with countries in the Indian Ocean Rim through our chairship of the Indian Ocean Rim Association(IORA) for the period 2017-2019. The theme:
“Uniting the peoples of Africa, Asia, Australasia and the Middle East through enhanced cooperation for peace, stability and sustainable development”, further demonstrates our resolve to preserve Madiba’s legacy during his centenary year.
I must stress that our relations with countries of the global South are not pursued at the expense of stronger ties we have with countries of the global North at bilateral and multilateral levels. To this extent, we are engaging with the United States to resolve issues around recently announced tariffs on steel and aluminium imports into the US and hope to find an amicable solution soon. This is significant although we account for only two percent of US imports because we need to create and preserve jobs here at home.
Despite challenges such as sluggish economic growth in the developed world and elsewhere, the European Union remains South Africa’s largest trading block. Total trade with the EU has increased from R150 billion in 2000 to R599.86 billion in 2017. South African exports to the EU increased from R64 billion in 2000 to R262 billion in 2017 and foreign direct investment (representing 77% of total FDI in the country). This has made a significant contribution towards job creation and industrialisation in South Africa. The Europeans Union’s total development assistance provided to South Africa from 1994 to 2017 amounts to more than €3 billion.
The geo-political situation the world finds itself in is characterized by growing tensions between the U.S.A. and China; growing tensions between NATO and Russia; the escalating proxy war in Syria; the escalating proxy war in Yemen; the growing tensions between the United States and Iran; the growing tensions between the U.S.A. and North Korea; and finally, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction which could lead to a nuclear conflageration between major powers which threatens the very essence of our existence.
It is within this unpredictable, highly volatile environment that we have presented our candidature to serve as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council for the period 2019-2020 as endorsed by the African Union. This will afford us an opportunity to utilise our experience in the prioritisation of diplomacy, mediation, the peaceful settlement of disputes, conflict resolution and peace building.
We will also utilise this membership to actively contribute to achieving an Africa at peace by 2063 by pursuing and promoting Africa’s goal of “silencing the guns by 2020”, while promoting peace and security across the globe.
We believe that in carrying out the legacies of President Mandela and O.R. Tambo of democracy and equality, we must continue our advocacy for the transformation of the system of global governance. The needs and aspirations of humanity can only be realised through a responsive system.
I thank you!!!