Remarks by Minister Lindiwe Sisulu on the occasion of the DIRCO monthly media briefing, Media Briefing Room, OR Tambo Building, Pretoria
Welcome members of the press. In our midst we have Deputy Ministers of International Relations and Cooperation, Mr Landers and Ms Mhaule, our Director-General Mr Mahoai and DIRCO senior officials.
It is our commitment that we continue to engage with you on what we are doing as the Department of International Relations and Cooperation in our resolve to implement our country’s foreign policy. We strongly believe this will go a long way in keeping our people here and abroad informed on our foreign policy positions.
1. UN General Assembly
1.1. We have just recently returned from the 73rd Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA73). Our delegation to UNGA was led by President Cyril Ramaphosa and comprised of several Cabinet Ministers.
1.2. The strategic focus framing South Africa’s participation was the promotion of the ideals and legacy of former President Mandela of working towards a peaceful, just and prosperous world.
1.3. This was symbolically done through the unveiling of the Nelson Mandela Statue, now permanently installed at the UN Headquarters, and the convening of the Nelson Mandela Peace Summit which culminated in the adoption of a political declaration. The political declaration stemming from the Nelson Mandela Peace Summit committed UN member states to reinvigorate efforts to ensure the maintenance of international peace and security and set the course for the next decade, most importantly the Decade of Peace from 2019 to 2028.
1.4. We once again thank members of the United Nations for dedicating the entire day on 24th September 2018 to Nelson Mandela, the first democratic president of the Republic of South Africa. We remain committed to living up to his ideals.
1.5. With regards to the General Debate, its focus was on renewing the commitment to multilateralism and the need for countries to work collectively to address global challenges, including poverty, conflict resolution, migration and climate change.
1.6. During his address, President Ramaphosa covered important domestic and international issues interlinked with the theme of the session: “Making the United Nations relevant to all people: Global leadership and shared responsibilities for peaceful equitable and sustainable societies.” He highlighted the triple challenges that continue to plague the world, namely poverty and inequality, under development and environmental degradation.
1.7. The President also reiterated South Africa’s principled position on the situation in Palestine and the Western Sahara, and stated that we must do all we can to consolidate our solidarity and work towards a just and sustainable solution for the Palestinian and Saharawi people.
2. South Africa’s UN Security Council membership
2.1. South Africa has begun observing UN Security Council meetings from 01 October, ahead of the assumption of its non-permanent seat for the period 2019-2020 on January 1st.
2.2. We will continue to promote Africa as a resilient continent and will aim to consolidate Africa’s ownership and leadership on peace and security matters on the agenda of the Security Council. During its membership South Africa aims to further bridge cooperation between the African Union (AU) and the United Nations and to place emphasis on the importance of women, peace and security.
3. High-Level Ministerial Meetings
3.1. We also used UNGA73 to participate in a series of Ministerial meetings which included the NAM Ministerial meeting on Palestine; a Private Briefing on the Middle East Peace Process; the Annual Ministerial Meeting of the Group of 77+China; the 17th Commonwealth Foreign Affairs Ministers Meeting (CFAMM) and the Coordinating Committee meeting of the Global Counter Terrorism Forum.
3.2. I also had the opportunity to participate in the Women Foreign Ministers’ meeting on 21 and 22 September 2018 in Montreal, Canada. The event was co-hosted by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Canada, Ms Chrystia Freeland and the High Representative of the European Union (EU) for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice President of the European Commission, Ms Federica Mogherini.
3.3. The meeting focused on women’s empowerment, political participation and leadership; strengthening democracy and resilience in peaceful and inclusive societies; advancing global peace, security and prosperity within the framework of a rules-based international order; and global efforts to eliminate all forms of gender-based violence, including in conflict and post-conflict situations.
4.1. Prior to the UNGA73 in New York, we attended the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) which was hosted in Beijing, China, from 3 to 4 September 2018 with the theme: “Toward an even stronger China-Africa community with a shared future.”
4.2. The Summit was co-chaired by the President of the People's Republic of China, Xi Jinping and President Cyril Ramaphosa; and attended by 47 African Heads of State and/or Government (HoSG) and the Chairperson of the AU Commission.
4.3. Importantly, during the Summit South Africa also relinquished its co-chairpersonship of FOCAC and is succeeded by Senegal as the African Co-chair for the period 2019 to 2024.
4.4. The salient outcomes of the Summit were the 8 new measures to be implemented during the following 3-year period of the FOCAC, i.e. from 2019 to 2021. These include the Industrial promotion initiative, Infrastructure connectivity initiative, trade facilitation initiative and People-to-people exchange initiative.
5. Regional issues
5.1.The Southern African Development Community (SADC) Facilitation Team under the leadership of Retired Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke continues to work with the stakeholders in the Kingdom of Lesotho towards the holding of the National Dialogue and implementation of National Reforms in accordance with SADC Summit decisions.
5.2. On 8 October 2018, the Facilitation Team visited the Kingdom of Lesotho and engaged with the Basotho stakeholders on progress made in implementing SADC decisions on Lesotho.
5.3. The issue of the withdrawal of the Coalition Opposition Parties from the National Dialogue triggered by the suspension of the Chief Justice by the Prime Minister, as well as the strategic preparation for the start of the National Dialogue, is being attended to by the Facilitation Team. We are also happy with the stated commitment by all stakeholders to the National Dialogue.
5.4. On countries going through or preparing for elections, such as Madagascar, Cameroon and the DRC, we will continue to monitor and support all efforts towards regular democratic elections on the continent. As is the norm, the AU and SADC send election observation missions to countries undergoing elections to monitor observance of electoral laws and continental prescripts
6. RSA/DRC Bi-National Commission
6.1. President Cyril Ramaphosa will lead a South African delegation to the 11th Session of the Bi-National Commission (BNC) between the Republic of South Africa and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to be held from 13 to 16 October 2018 in Kinshasa. The BNC between South Africa and the DRC was established in 2004 essentially to promote political, economic, and social co-operation between the two countries.
6.2. Since the establishment of the BNC in 2004, the two countries have strengthened their bilateral cooperation in various fields. As a result, 33 Agreements have been signed over the years covering various fields.
7. Heads of Missions Conference
7.1. From 21st to 26th October 2018, we will be hosting the biennial Heads of Mission Conference. The heads of South African diplomatic missions abroad, including Embassies, High Commissions and Consulates, will assemble in Pretoria to receive a briefing on the country’s priorities over the next few years. The Heads of Mission Conference will coincide with the Investment Conference convened by the President.
8. Working visit to the Saharawi refugee camps
8.1. Deputy Minister Luwellyn Landers will from 12 to 15 October 2018 travel to The People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria, to visit the Saharawi Refugee Camps in Tindouf in South West Algeria.
8.2. The purpose of the visit is to deepen diplomatic relations between the Government of South Africa and the Government of the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic and to demonstrate support to the people of the Western Sahara in their fight for freedom and self-determination.
8.3. During the 38th Ordinary Summit of Heads of State and Government of the Southern African Development Community, the SADC Heads of State and Government took a decision to hold a Solidarity Conference on the Western Sahara, with the aim of mobilizing international support for the plight of the Saharawi People as the last Colony on the African Continent. South Africa was nominated as the host country.
8.4. We continue to maintain the position that the occupation of the Western Sahara by Morocco is illegal and that the Saharawi people must be allowed to exercise their right to self-determination.
8.5. We are of the view that the continued delay in a solution to the conflict does not only continue to have dire humanitarian consequences for the Saharawi people but also remains an impediment towards greater regional integration and security cooperation in the region.
9. Indian Ocean RIM Association (IORA) Council of Ministers
9.1. We are ready to host the 18th Meeting of the Council of Ministers of IORA from 31 October to 02 November 2018 in Durban. South Africa is currently serving as the chair of IORA for the period 2017 – 2019.
9.2. The meeting is expected to be attended by twenty one (21) Ministers from the Indian Ocean Region. These include Ministers from Mozambique, Oman, Seychelles, Somalia, Tanzania, Thailand, Australia and India.
10. Foreign Policy Review Workshop
10.1. In conclusion: last week the Ministerial Review Panel that I announced in my Budget Speech convened the inaugural Foreign Policy Review Workshop to engage on the review of our foreign policy. This workshop was well attended by academics, political analysts and civic organisations together with members of the department.
10.2. The purpose of the Workshop was to engage and gain the insight from a range of people from diverse backgrounds and experiences on Foreign Policy matters on the various matters that are central to the South African foreign policy.
10.3. We welcome all the inputs we were privileged to receive at this meeting and look forward to receiving more from different stakeholders. Our intention is to construct the country’s foreign policy that is inclusive and owned by all South Africans.
I thank you.