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Charting the way forward

24 October 2016

Heads of South Africa’s diplomatic missions abroad met in Tshwane for the  biennial conference to assess national, regional, continental and global trends and dynamics.

The conference helps to determine a strategy to be implemented in line with South Africa’s foreign policy vision and mission.

The conference took place for the week and concluded on Friday, 21 October 2016.

The programme was divided into various themes looking into the role of South Africa’s diplomatic missions in the promotion and implementation of government's priorities and programmes, particularly the National Development Plan, the implementation of the African Union Agenda 2063, and the full realisation of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.

The conference also served as a platform for South Africa’s diplomats to be briefed about progress on government’s programmes and plans. They were addressed by amongst others, President Jacob Zuma and Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa.

Address by President Jacob Zuma, on the occasion of the annual South African Heads of Mission Conference, OR Tambo Building, DIRCO
18 October 2016

The Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Ms Maite Nkoana-Mashabane

Honourable Deputy Ministers of International Relations and Cooperation, Ms Nomaindia Mfeketo and Mr Luwellyn Landers,
Your Excellencies Ambassadors and High Commissioners,

DIRCO top management,
Distinguished guests,

We welcome all our heads of mission back home for this important annual get together, where we share ideas and update you on issues and priorities to enable you to continue representing the country well.

It is indeed momentous for us to meet in OR Tambo Building in the month of October, which has been declared OR Tambo Month.

I had the privilege to officially open this building in honour of OR in December 2011, recognising the outstanding contribution of this illustrious leader in the struggle for liberation and in shaping the South Africa we live in today.

Also importantly, OR shaped the foreign policy of the democratic South Africa and laid a firm foundation as the foremost diplomat and face of the ANC during the most difficult time in our history.

Former President Nelson Mandela reminded us that OR's ideals can never die when he said:-
"....Oliver Tambo has not died because the ideals of freedom, human dignity and a colour-blind respect for every individual cannot perish".

We urge you as our representatives abroad, to internalise the ideas of OR and build a South Africa that prioritises unity, justice and respect for democracy, equality and the human rights of all.

Be inspired by OR as you make your contribution in building a prosperous South Africa, which makes meaningful progress in the fight against poverty, inequality and unemployment.

We are building a South Africa where more of our people have jobs, especially the youth, and where people also have income generating opportunities through running successful small businesses and a booming township economy. It must be a South Africa where those in rural areas have land to grow their own food, and where they can also have opportunities to earn an income through a thriving rural economy.

As our representative abroad you have a responsibility to build friendships and partnerships that will help us achieve these goals.

The economy remains an apex priority for our country. The National Development Plan outlines what we are seeking to achieve. We want to achieve inclusive growth, jobs and a decent life for our people.

South Africa remains an important investment destination in the continent, a destination of choice on many fronts, and the gateway for businesses into Africa. We have been able to draw more Foreign Direct Investment in the continent and want to continue doing so.

Our infrastructure and institutions still present a competitive place to conduct business.

We have a stable democracy, which was affirmed two months ago in our successful free and fair local government elections.

Our exemplary leadership role on the international front has earned us widespread admiration, demonstrated in many leadership roles that we continue to play on the global stage.

You are our foremost marketing and promotion officers. You need to continue to position our country positively and help us to grow the economy through global economic partnerships.
Keep our country brand alive and visible everywhere.

As said the economy is the apex priority. We say so mindful of the global economic meltdown and also some domestic economic constraints which are making it difficult to achieve the growth we seek. Despite the 3.3% growth in our GDP in the second quarter, our economy is still facing major challenges.

The recent announcement by the Stats SA of the loss of 67 000 jobs means that we are not out of the woods yet; we need to redouble our efforts at rejuvenating and growing the economy.

At about 23%, our unemployment rate remains at worrying levels, particularly among the youth.

But we have plans in place to achieve our goals, especially to reignite growth.

You need to familiarise yourselves more with these plans, in particular the Nine Point Plan that is our action plan to implement the NDP.

The plan is aimed at promoting  growth in sectors such as agriculture, energy, tourism, science and technology, industrialisation, infrastructure development amongst others.

To contribute to success, it means economic diplomacy should be an apex priority. Our heads of mission need to promote various sectors of our economy to host countries.

We have established good working relations with the business community, Business Unity SA and the Black Business Council.

We also continue to work with Labour as part of a patriotic effort to boost inclusive growth. We had a report back meeting recently from CEOs who are part of the Presidential CEO Initiative led by the Minister of Finance, Mr Pravin Gordhan and the Chairman of Telkom Mr Jabu Mabuza.

Considerable progress is being made. Business is establishing an SME fund and also engaging stakeholders in an initiative to create job opportunities for a million young people.

We promoted these initiatives at the highly successful 8th BRICS Summit in India over the weekend. We urge you to take this spirit of cooperation forward in the missions you head and promote South Africa in every possible way to local business.

Our efforts of revitalising the economy also include transforming our State Owned Companies, to advance inclusive economic growth.

A lot of discussion is taking place in government on how to make the SOEs function better and not to be a drain on the national fiscus, but to be catalysts for development.

I will be convening a Special Cabinet meeting on SOE reform, where Ministers will discuss nothing else on the agenda but SOEs, so that we can benefit from the collective wisdom.

To grow the economy, we are also employing a host of other strategies including local procurement and growing black entrepreneurs and industrialists.

In this regard, you have a responsibility to brief your host countries of our broad-based black economic empowerment programme. They need to understand our transformation imperatives well and know what to expect when they seek investment opportunities in the country.

The de-racialisation of the ownership, control and management of the economy must be accelerated and all have a role to play to ensure success for the sake of achieving true reconciliation in our country.

In my last meeting with the Presidential Broad-Based Black Economic Advisory Council, we agreed that more work must be done to ensure that transformation does not become just lip service. We believe the 500 billion rand buying power of the state must be utilised to achieve this noble and correct goal.

In this regard, government is to produce a new procurement law which will replace the Preferential Procurement Policy Framework Act or the PPPFA which is unpopular with black business. They say it hinders transformation.

We are developing regulations that will make the PPPFA helpful while awaiting the finalisation of the new law. One of the key new measures in the regulations, which we hope to finalise soon, is the enactment of 30 per cent set asides, requiring of big companies subcontract 30 per cent to SMMEs.

The National Treasury and the Department of Trade and Industry will be able to brief you further on these changes so that you are able to explain to investors abroad and in the continent.

Supporting small business is critical because unless we grow our small business sector, we will not achieve our employment goals or successfully fight poverty.

Your Excellencies

As you aware, education remains a key priority of our government. We are making progress in promoting free education. For example, 80 percent of our schools are no-fee schools and the children of the poor and the working class do not pay fees.

With regards to higher education, the Freedom Charter states as follows:
"Higher education and technical training shall be opened to all by means of state allowances and scholarships awarded on the basis of merit."

The expansion of the National Student Financial Aid Scheme is part of efforts of ensuring that more children of the poor and the working class attend universities, universities of technology and technical and vocational training colleges.

We have also gone beyond the call of the Freedom Charter to support students on the basis of merit, as well as need.

It is in this vein as well that in response to the call of students, government is to again carry the costs of fee increases for children of parents who cannot afford the increases, as announced by the Minister of Higher Education and Training.

To look at long term funding and support for higher education, I established a judicial commission of inquiry chaired by Judge Heher.

We urge all who have an interest in finding a solution to make presentations to the commission.

The Higher Education Minister Nzimande will be here with you this week and I urge you to share with him helpful experiences from your host countries.

I also urge you to explore more partnerships and new areas of cooperation that can broaden educational opportunities for our youth.

This could be in the form of scholarships, exchange programmes and vocational skills training programmes, among others.

We have had successful cooperative partnerships with countries such as Cuba.

Other countries have offered us a large number of scholarships which we appreciate.

I believe we can optimise the scientific and cultural exchanges that we often commit to in our bilateral relations.

It is however worrying that genuine concerns regarding high tertiary education fees are hijacked for wrong ends, and involve particularly violence, arson and various forms of destruction of property.

We have to ensure that universities complete the 2016 academic programme, while we are still finding medium to long-term solutions.

The Minister in the Presidency Mr Jeff Radebe is leading efforts to support the Minister of Higher Education and Training and universities to stabilise universities and support students who want to write exams and ensure that the academic year is not lost.

The police will also continue to ensure that those who use genuine grievances to promote criminal acts are arrested and face the full might of the law.

We are a caring government. We are sympathetic to the message from the students because we share the understanding of the need to ensure that children of the poor and the working class obtain higher education.

There is therefore no need for violence and the kind of protests we have seen, which give an impression that students think government is opposed to what they are asking for. We are not opposed to the call, we support it. It is a noble call. We also urge them to support the orderly processes of finding solutions to this important challenge.They must not break doors that are already open.

Your Excellencies,

We trust that missions work well with Brand SA, Tourism SA, dti and other departments and agencies aimed at promoting the country.

Brand SA is conducting an Investor Perceptions Study in 16 countries, which will indicate what investors think about our country and will inform our strategies to attract investments.

The outcomes of this study will be shared with you through DIRCO and Brand SA will be at your disposal to unpack it further.

We are pleased with the progress cited in the World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Index which was released at the end of September. It demonstrates the great strides that South Africa has made in various areas.
The results show that South Africa improved by two places, following an improvement of seven places last year.

More impressive however is that South Africa improved in 10 of the 12 areas assessed by the World Economic Forum (WEF).

These include Goods and Market Efficiency, Labour Market Efficiency, Macro-economic environment, Infrastructure, Innovation, Higher Education, Health and Primary education, business sophistication, financial market development and technological readiness.

Most noteworthy are growth by ten positions on Goods and Market Efficiency and labour Market and by six positions in macro-economic environment and higher education and training, out of 138 countries.All these will support our efforts to tell our good South African story, and we must tell it.
Ladies and gentlemen

Let me reiterate that as we work to reignite growth, our efforts are moderated by the challenging international economic climate. There is a sharp decline in commodity prices and shrinking revenues, Brexit ramifications in Europe, as well as security matters such as terrorism.

Climate change is also taking its toll, with erratic rainfalls and the drastic drop in our water reserve levels. This is affecting our livestock and crops, thus slowing our economic growth and threatening food security.

These challenges make the implementation of the Paris Agreement on climate change more urgent.

Some of your host countries have technologies that we require to mitigate the effects of drought, such as drought resistant seeds, and technologies that convert ocean water.

Let us explore all these possibilities and lastly, continue to work collectively with our partners for a peaceful and stable Africa, including silencing the guns by 2020 as envisaged in our 2063 vision.

Your Excellencies,

We welcome you back home indeed for this important interaction.

We urge you to continue your good work in advancing the mission of building a truly united, non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and prosperous South Africa.
I thank you!

Issued by The Presidency




Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Ms Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, Deputy Ministers of International Relations and Cooperation, Ms Nomaindia Mfeketo and Mr Luwellyn Landers, Ambassadors and High Commissioners, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Dumelang! Sanibonani! Good Afternoon!

Thank you for affording me the opportunity to address this esteemed gathering of our country’s Heads of Mission.

As a country, government and people, we owe a debt of gratitude to you and your loved ones for travelling far from home to present South Africa to the world.

We value you as a fine cadre of patriots seized with the task of pursuing the implementation of the National Development Plan through international cooperation.

You are entrusted with the responsibility to build partnerships in pursuit of an equal, just and prosperous South Africa, a better Africa and a better world.

As we meet to review the work of our missions across the world and chart the way forward, we should draw inspiration and learn lessons from South Africa’s most outstanding and accomplished diplomat, the late ANC President Oliver Reginald Tambo.

As we meet during the month of Oliver Tambo’s birth, we hope you will follow his lead in building global alliances to save our people from the indignity of poverty, unemployment and inequality.

It was 40 years ago this month that Tambo told the UN General Assembly that:

"We will create a South Africa in which the doors of learning and culture shall be opened to all.

“We will have a South Africa in which the young of our country shall have the best that mankind has produced, in which they shall be taught to love the people of all races, to defend the equality of the people, to honour creative labour, to uphold the oneness of mankind and to hate untruths, immorality and avarice.”

We hope that as you resume your work in your host countries, you will consider the situation of our youth and the urgent need to empower them through skills, employment and enterprise development.

You, our Ambassadors, are well positioned to lobby our social partners in the global community to empower our youth to be the best that humankind has produced.

As chair of the Human Resource Development Council, I am closely involved in efforts to promote the education and skilling of our young people.

We urge our missions to work with us in identifying, facilitating and coordinating scholarships and training programmes for our youth.

Through the Youth Development and Career Expos that the Presidency champions, we visit disadvantaged communities in villages and townships and advise them on study, business and employment opportunities.

We have teamed up with many South African business and organisations to increase the impact and relevance of these events.

Now, we look to our missions to connect these youth development expos with global partners so that we can widen our reach.

Confronted with the challenges of the present, we can draw courage from the significant victories that OR Tambo and his comrades achieved for the people of South Africa during the polarised era of the Cold War.

Thanks to the force of his persuasion, his compassion and exemplary conduct, the international community lent moral and material support to our just cause.

We look to you to explain to our international partners our position on critical matters of national, continental and global importance.

We look to you to assure them of the goodwill of the people of South African and that the challenges we face today only serve to strengthen our resolve to succeed.

Oliver Tambo built alliances across political and ideological divides.

He worked tirelessly to mobilise different groupings around shared programmes of support and solidarity.

It was thanks to his alliance-building efforts that the anti-apartheid movement led one of the largest and most effective global campaigns of the 20th century.

From Moscow to Washington, from Lusaka to London, from Havana to Delhi, OR Tambo met with heads of state, union leaders, diplomats, business people, activists, cultural workers and sports people.

He found ways for them to participate and contribute.

As we undertake the tasks of rebuilding our country, we need to emulate him.

We must build alliances with fraternal parties and social formations across Africa to pursue the growth and development of our country and the continent.

We must build alliances with other countries, with political parties, with international organisations and leading global figures in our effort to build a united, non-racial, non-sexist and prosperous society.


On Tuesday, the President provided a broad overview of our domestic and international successes, as well as our challenges.

He encouraged you to work steadfastly in your host countries to pursue investment and growth opportunities for South Africa.

He insisted that we all have a keen grasp of the National Development Plan and our nine-point action plan to reignite economic growth.

The President emphasised the crucial link between our diplomatic efforts and the transformation of our economy and the development of our people.

Part of the responsibility of the Presidency is to promote trade and investment in South Africa.

I recently returned from Vietnam and Singapore where we sought to deepen trade and investment relations.

Our hosts were extremely receptive to our message that our macroeconomic policies are sound, that we have a dynamic, diversified economy and that we are an attractive investment destination.

We are improving the ease of doing business, providing incentives and other forms of support to investors and investing heavily in our economic infrastructure.

The government and business representatives we meet in many countries appreciate that we have a robust and vibrant democracy.

They recognise that we have strong democratic institutions that promote accountability and the rule of law.

They understand that we are an integral part of Africa, and that our growth trajectory is linked to intra-African trade and development.

In all our international engagements, we are impressed by the numerous opportunities that exist for cooperation in the transfer of skills, technology and experience.

Many of the countries in which we have missions have overcome the kind of challenges that we currently face through effort, ingenuity and the support of others.

We need to learn from them.

We need to ask what research, resources and technology our host countries can contribute to support industrialisation, mineral beneficiation and agro-processing in South Africa.

We need to draw on the expertise of these countries and design programmes that will enable us to share knowledge and skills.

We need to engage in the painstaking work of untangling the administrative impediments that often hold back the import of South African goods into our host countries.

We need to find ways to expose businesses in these countries to the opportunities that exist in South Africa and facilitate their investment in our economy.

Tourism is a significant area of potential growth and employment creation.

Our missions have a critical role to play in encouraging the citizens of their host countries to visit our country and experience its hospitality, natural wonders and rich cultural diversity.

We have also identified the ocean economy as a growth opportunity.

We are continuously looking for international partners who can contribute to the skilling of South Africans in areas like port management, aquaculture, oil and gas exploration and ship building.

We are using our membership of the Indian Ocean Rim Association, which we will chair from October 2017, to unlock the potential of the ocean economy.

This will further provide us an opportunity to enhance cooperation, build new enterprises and create jobs for our people.

We have visited a number of countries to study how their state owned enterprises have been effective instruments in lifting their populations out of poverty.

We are studying the architecture, governance and financing of these SOEs so that we may improve the performance and impact of our own.

We invite our missions to study the approach to SOEs in their host countries and share with us what works and what doesn’t.

Apart from SOEs, what lessons can you share with us on how your host countries are dealing with the challenges of slow growth, poverty, unemployment and inequality?

Of course, South Africa does not only import knowledge and experience.

We are often called upon to share our capabilities in areas like mining, public administration, conflict resolution and constitution making.

An institution like Nedlac is widely recognised for the role it has played over two decades to build consensus between business, labour, government and community on social and economic policy.

Building on its achievements, we expect that deliberations currently underway in Nedlac will soon result in agreement on a national minimum wage and far-reaching measures to promote greater labour stability.

Through my involvement in the South African National AIDS Council, I have seen the impact that the international community can have on critical areas of social development.

While South Africa funds the bulk of its HIV treatment programme with its own resources, global funders have contributed much to research, awareness and other support to people infected and affected by HIV.

Despite our many successes, the fight against HIV and TB must still be intensified further.

In the context of declining global funding, we call on you as our representatives abroad to continue to create awareness and mobilise resources to strengthen the fight against HIV and TB in South Africa and the rest of sub-Saharan Africa.


In you, our global representatives, South Africa has a rich and irreplaceable depository of knowledge, experience, insight and capability.

As we meet here, we must ask how South Africa can more effectively use your collective exposure to a dynamic and changing world to grow our economy and empower our people.

We must ask how we can encourage you, equip you and support you.

Because working together, we will succeed in moving South Africa forward.

I thank you.


Photo: Kopano Tlape GCIS




February/March 2020

















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