Deputy Minister Botes;
Director-General Mahoai and DIRCO officials;
Ladies and gentlemen of the media
This afternoon at 14h00, I will present the Budget Vote of the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) in the National Assembly.
The Budget Vote debate in Parliament provides us with an opportunity to outline how we plan to utilise the budget allocated to the Department to support progress on the priorities set out by our President, Cyril Ramaphosa during the recent State of the Nation Address.
My Department’s total budget allocation for 2019/20 financial year is R 6. 508 billion. 68 per cent of it is utilised to support our 125 missions in 108 countries across the globe.
We have begun discussions in our department on how we might do more with our limited resources.
A major challenge of our budget, especially for the missions abroad, is the effect of foreign exchange rate fluctuations, particularly the performance of the Rand against the US Dollar. Treasury allocates according to a specific rate and makes no compensatory adjustments.
Dirco, like all other government departments, has not been spared from the necessary budget cuts implemented by National Treasury. Our compensation of employees budget has been reduced from R2.964 in the 2018/19 financial year to R2, 874 for the 2019/2020 financial year.
This situation requires the Department to find innovative and effective ways of doing more with less. We will review our mission numbers and consider whether a re-organisation is merited.
We are expected to utilise public resources in a carefully manner, following all the prescripts as provided in law, particularly the Public Finance Management Act.
I have urged the department to focus on developing seamless financial management to ensure we meet the mandates assigned to us.
I have told the Director-General and the senior management team to attend to all the matters raised by the Auditor-General and the Portfolio Committee on International Relations and Cooperation with regards to our previous audit outcomes in order to improve and also to ensure good governance and transparent accountability systems are in place and observed by everyone.
Priorities for 2019/20
As you are aware, the President plays a key role in the execution of our foreign policy and international relations.
It is the President’s prerogative to appoint heads of mission, to receive foreign heads of mission, to conduct state-to-state relations, and to negotiate and sign all international agreements.
Our mandate as the Department is to work towards the realisation of South Africa’s foreign policy objectives as set out by the President.
We do this through the following means;
• coordinating and aligning South Africa’s international relations
• monitoring developments in the international environment
• communicating government’s policy positions
• developing and advising government on policy options, and creating mechanisms and avenues for achieving objectives
• protecting South Africa’s sovereignty and territorial integrity
• contributing to the creation of an enabling international environment for South African businesses
• sourcing developmental assistance
• assisting South African citizens abroad.
So, in this regard, we have directed all our missions to align their work to making sure they contribute to the seven key priorities identified by President Cyril Ramaphosa in the State of the Nation Address.
We expect our missions to focus increasingly on economic diplomacy, through making sure they facilitate more foreign direct investment in support of the President’s drive to attract US $100 billion to South Africa. We want more opportunities for the export of South African goods and services, more tourist arrivals and more opportunities for South African youth to acquire skills.
I also think South Africa has a lot to offer the world in terms of cultural diplomacy. I have asked our missions to make sure they don’t neglect this part of our work. We have a wealth of heritage to share through cultural exchange programmes, and other activities. This would assist our artists to showcase their talent and attract thousands to experience South Africa.
Our foreign policy as South Africa is, and has always been based on our vision of championing an African continent which is prosperous, peaceful and democratic. A South Africa that is non-racial, non-sexist and united and which works for a world that is just and equitable.
Foreign policy priorities
Two weeks ago, I hosted the traditional post-SONA meeting with Ambassadors and High Commissioners accredited to South Africa, and I said in that meeting that I will use the opportunity of the Budget Vote Speech to give a more detailed account of South Africa’s foreign policy and what we consider to be our priorities.
Our speech this afternoon will seek to do the following:
(i) We will reiterate the centrality of the African continent to our foreign policy. The essence of our foreign policy is to improve the living conditions of South Africans and contribute to the wellbeing of our fellow Africans as well as all those who are yearning for peace, human security and prosperity in the world. It is in our interest that Africa is peaceful, politically united and economically successful.
We have just returned from the African Union (AU) Summit in Niger, where we witnessed the launch of the operational phase of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). The coming into operation of the AfCFTA is a clear demonstration that there is political will amongst Africa’s leaders to integrate the economy of our continent, thereby creating new opportunities for greater volumes of trade among African countries.
(ii) We will recommit our country to the principles of multilateralism. South Africa is an active member of the community of nations, and we are committed to multilateralism as enshrined in the United Nations Charter. We are also active in other multilateral institutions, including the G20, the G77+China, BRICS, the Non-Aligned Movement, etc.
South Africa is serving as a non-permanent member state of the UN Security Council for the period 2019-2020. South Africa’s tenure in the Security Council is dedicated to the legacy of President Nelson Mandela, who was known for his commitment to peace. South Africa’s term will also be an opportunity for the country to advocate for support for the African Union’s goal of “Silencing the Guns” on the Continent by 2020.
(iii) Lastly, we will confirm our solidarity with countries enduring hardship. The people of Palestine, the people of Western Sahara and the people of Cuba have become accustomed to our statements of solidarity with them, as they face difficulties which must be resolved peacefully and through diplomatic means. We shall urge ll to do more to assist.
I am looking forward to the debate following the speech. In particular, I am looking forward to the views and suggestions of Members of Parliament on how we can realise our vision of an African continent which is prosperous, peaceful and democratic. A South Africa that is democratic and united and which works for a world that is just and equitable.