Media release

Foreign Policy media briefing

19 March 2014

18 March 2014

Foreign Policy briefing by the Minister of International Relations Maite Nkoana-Mashabane

During the State of the Nation Address, President Jacob Zuma reflected on how Democratic South Africa’s foreign policy was shaped during the fierce international campaign to isolate the apartheid state. He also emphasised how Africa is at the centre of South Africa’s foreign policy.

After the democratic elections in 1994, South Africa ceased to be the pariah of the world; it regained its rightful place in Africa, in the United Nations and in the family of nations.  We emerged as a democratic country into a fundamentally transformed world.

The development of South Africa’s post-apartheid foreign policy was guided by seven principles:

  • A belief in Human Rights which extends beyond the political, embracing the economic, social and environmental issues;
  • A belief that just and lasting solutions to the problems of human kind can only come through the promotion of Democracy, worldwide;
  • A belief that Justice and International Law should guide the relations between nations;
  • A belief that international peace is the goal to which all nations should strive. Where this breaks down, internationally- agreed peaceful mechanisms to solve conflicts should be resorted to;
  • A belief that our foreign policy should reflect the interests of the continent of Africa;
  • A belief that South Africa's economic development depends on growing regional and international economic cooperation in an independent world;
  • A belief that our foreign relations must mirror our deep commitment to the consolidation of a democratic South Africa.

In 2009, we articulated our commitment to focus the government’s international relations and cooperation towards building a better Africa and a better world. This work was anchored by:

  • Foreign relations that contribute to the creation of an environment conducive to sustainable economic growth and development;
  • Prioritising the African continent by strengthening the African Union and its structures, and give special focus to the implementation of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development;
  • Strengthening of regional integration with particular emphasis on improving the political and economic integration of SADC, towards the AU goal of a Union government. To this effect, the establishment of a South African Development Partnership Agency to promote developmental partnerships with other countries on the continent;
  • Assisting in the reconstruction and development of the African continent especially in post-conflict situations;
  • Supporting the peace efforts of the African Union and the United Nations on the African continent; 
  • Supporting the SADC effort in the normalisation of the situation in Zimbabwe and Madagascar;
  • Working through continental and regional bodies towards the entrenchment of democracy and the respect for human rights on the African continent;
  • Strengthening South-South relations and pursuing mutually beneficial agreements with key countries of the South; and
  • Enhancing relations with the developed North, and our strategic partnership with the European Union.

We are pleased to report today that great successes have been recorded, while a number of priority areas remain on-going.  Allow me therefore to elaborate on some of the achievements.

Strengthening of the Africa Union

The premier organisation of the Continent, the African Union, marked fifty years on 25th May 2013 since the formation of the Organisation of the African Unity (OAU) and its successor the African Union (AU). This marked a major milestone in the history of resistance against all forms of oppression by the African people. As we join in the Golden Jubilee, we do not forget where Africa was 50 years ago. 

Today we are resolute that Africa shall never again tolerate change of governments through undemocratic and unconstitutional means. Africa is on a growth trajectory which must be maintained. This is the only way to ensure that the African people are truly emancipated from the wrath of underdevelopment, poverty and hunger.

The strengthened African Union Commission is central in driving the African Agenda.  South Africa has contributed towards the goal of having a strong Commission and its structure. Resources have also been contributed to the hosting of the Pan African Parliament which is celebrating its 10th year anniversary today.

African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM)

The African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) marked its tenth year of existence since its inception in 2003. The APRM has registered significant gains over the last decade, with a number of countries voluntarily acceding to the Mechanism and undergoing periodic review. In January 2014, at the 20th Summit of the Committee of Participating Heads of State and Government of the APRM (APR Forum), South Africa presented its Third Progress Report on the Implementation of the APRM National Programme of Action. Following the presentation of this Third Report, South Africa is in a position to undergo its second APRM periodic review.

NEPAD and Infrastructure Development

South Africa played an important role in the enhancement of infrastructure development on the continent by spearheading the NEPAD Presidential Infrastructure Championing Initiative (PICI) that was launched in July 2010 under my Chairpersonship. As part of the PICI, South Africa champions the North-South Road and Rail development Corridor, a trade access corridor from Durban through Dar es Salaam to Cairo. This corridor will facilitate the movement of goods and means of production through increased economic infrastructure connectivity, which will contribute to the growth of intra-Africa trade.  It is important to note that the strategic partnerships that the continent has forged form part of the building blocks in the implementation of NEPAD projects. The Diaspora has a role to play in the economic development of the continent as enumerated in the AU Constitutive Act. It is through this realisation that South Africa implemented the African diaspora roadmap which culminated in the convening of the first ever Global African Diaspora Summit in Johannesburg. The Summit endorsed legacy projects for implementation by the AU.

Peace, Security and Stability (including UNSC)

South Africa has served on the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) as non-permanent member for two terms. It is a well-known fact that more than two-thirds of the UNSC’s agenda focusses on African issues. During its second term, one of our biggest achievements was the adoption by the UNSC of resolution 2033 (2012), which South Africa initiated, to formalise, strengthen and promote the UNSC’s cooperation with regional organisations, particularly the African Union’s (AU) Peace and Security Council.

Nevertheless, it remains a matter of serious concern that, close on 70 years of its existence, the UN Security Council still remains undemocratic, unrepresentative and unfair to developing nations and small states. I would like to repeat what I said in my statement at the UN General Assembly on 24 September 2013, namely that we cannot remain beholden indefinitely to the will of an unrepresentative minority on most important issues of international peace and security. It is for this reason that I called on the UN members to set ourselves the target to celebrate the 70th Anniversary of the United Nations in 2015, with a reformed, more inclusive, democratic and representative UN Security Council.

We have witnessed the birth of the new State of South Sudan.  South Africa continued to contribute to capacity building and development of South Sudan through a various programmes conducted by national government departments.  Meanwhile, progress is being made on the negotiations between Sudan and South Sudan on the outstanding issues following the secession. As you know President Jacob Zuma has appointed Mr Cyril Ramaphosa as his Special Envoy to work with the people of South Sudan on reconciliation and other political matters.

The issue of Western Sahara remains an important challenge for the African Union and for peace and stability in the region. Accordingly, we deemed it necessary in the spirit of the outcomes of the African Union Summit to take our sisterly relations with the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic to a higher level by signing the MoU on Bilateral Consultations.

South Africa recognises the inalienable right of the Palestinian people to national self-determination in a sovereign Palestinian State existing side by side with the State of Israel, both of which would exist within secure borders.

Regional integration: SACU, SADC and Tripartite FTA

South Africa has consistently sought to nurture regional integration at three levels:  SACU, SADC and the Tripartite Free Trade Area (FTA) between SADC, the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and the East African Community (EAC). In particular, South Africa has championed a “developmental regionalism” approach that combines market integration, cross-border infrastructure development, and policy coordination to diversify production and boost intra-African trade.

South Africa contributed to the development of SACU’s Five-Point Plan, which aims to transform the customs union from a tariffs and a revenue-sharing agreement to an integrated institution capable of promoting true regional economic development. The current revenue arrangement makes South Africa the biggest development partner of the BLNS countries.

Work in SADC continues to focus on consolidating the SADC FTA launched in 2008, before considering deeper forms of integration in the region.

The ongoing negotiations to establish the Tripartite FTA will combine the three major regional economic communities of 600 million people and combined GDP of USD$1 trillion, as building blocks towards continental integration. Once established, the T-FTA will contribute to economies of scale, the building of new distribution channels, value addition and manufacturing in Africa.

One of the key areas to stimulate regional economic development has been the finalisation of the SADC Regional Infrastructure Development Master Plan (RIDMP) which will focus on the following six priority sectors: Energy, Transport, ICT/ Communications, Water, Tourism and Meteorology.

Africa Bilateral

In the spirit of diversifying our trade and investment towards the African continent the dti is planning to create 15 government-government platforms; Hold 19 Trade and Outward Investment Missions; facilitate the signing of 11 Enabling Agreements; address market access barriers (NTBs) in Kenya, Nigeria, Egypt and Benin; and provide institutional and human capacity building initiatives with DRC, Angola, Ethiopia and Nigeria in the area of Standards and Quality Assurance.

Bilateral and the Rest of World

During South Africa’s term as BRICS Chair, the BRICS Trade Ministers have undertaken work to shift the structure of trade onto a more sustainable and mutually beneficial basis by promoting more value-added exports in intra-BRICS trade. South Africa continues to advocate for extending the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) and South Africa's continued inclusion after 2015, when the scheme is set to expire. Importantly, AGOA provides the basis to build a virtuous cycle of trade and investment that is mutually beneficial for South Africa and the United States and supports regional integration in Africa. Negotiations for an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the EU continue. It is imperative that the EPA should support the South African Government’s objectives of strengthening regional integration and promoting domestic industrial development and job creation.

Great progress has also been made to update and modernise our investment protection framework notably through the introduction of Promotion and Protection of Investment Bill in 2013.

Strengthen South-South Relations

South Africa has always viewed partnerships and close relations with countries of the South as critical, not only to advancing South Africa’s own development needs, but also advancing those of Africa and to create political, economic and social solidarity for the global struggle against poverty, under development and the marginalization of the South. In recent years, countries of the South became a major force for the reform of global governance.

From one country of South to another, Brazil succeeds South Africa as hosts for the FIFA World Cup 2014 in a few months and we wish them success in this global event!


We were invited to become a member of the Brazil, Russia, India and China (BRICS) in December 2010.  Our engagement in BRICS is premised on three levels of interaction, i.e. pursue domestic economic and other relevant sectoral objectives, promote regional priorities of the African Union, notably the infrastructure development programme, and the reform of global governance institutions. We have realised tangible benefits by way of strengthened economic cooperation with our BRICS partners, tacit support to the African agenda and amplified the voice that calls for reform of global governance architectures.  With South Africa as a member, BRICS has expanded its geographic and intercontinental representivity and inclusiveness.

South Africa hosted the Fifth BRICS Summit in March 2013 in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal. Under the theme, “BRICS and Africa: Partnership for Development, Integration and Industrialisation”, the Summit saw African leaders, for the first time, engaging with BRICS leaders on developmental cooperation agenda at level mutually beneficial to both parties.  Pertinent outcomes of the Summit include the launch of the New Development Bank and Contingent Reserve Arrangements which the BRICS Leaders welcomed at their meeting on the margins of the G20 Summit in St Petersburg on 5 September 2013. 

Some of the BRICS achievements include the following:

  • BRICS Inter-Bank Cooperation Mechanism to which the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA)
  • Master Agreement on Extending Credit Facility in Local Currency where the DBSA would have to consider providing the other Member Banks,
  • Multilateral Letter of Credit Confirmation Facility Agreement which will require the DBSA to either guarantee performance against the obligations to an SA exporter, or in the event of SA imports
  • Multilateral Agreement on Infrastructure Co-Financing for Africa;
  • Multilateral Agreement on Green Economy Cooperation Co-Financing.
  • The establishment of the BRICS Business Council and BRICS Think Tanks Council

The Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS) grouping achieved another strategic milestone in February 2014, when the science, technology and innovation (STI) ministers of the five countries met in South Africa to formalise and institutionalise cooperation in STI under the BRICS framework.


The IBSA Dialogue Forum celebrated its 10 years of existence in 2013. This wide-ranging trilateral cooperation is underpinned by three pillars: political consultation and coordination; multi-sectoral, trilateral cooperation (16 Working Groups and various people-to-people fora); and concrete projects of cooperation and partnership with less developed countries through the IBSA Facility for Hunger and Poverty alleviation (IBSA Trust Fund).  Current intra-IBSA trade has reached a figure of US$ 23 billion. South Africa successfully hosted the IBSA Dialogue Forum at Summit level in 2011. This meeting served to underscore the importance of IBSA as a Forum of the three democracies, with diverse cultures, seeking to achieve global political governance reform as a common objective.

Relations with Strategic formations of the North


Europe remains one of South Africa’s strategic regions and despite the Euro-zone crisis, the European Union is our primary trading and investment partner in the world. South Africa has focused its bilateral engagements with Europe in the areas defined by our five national priorities, the African Agenda, and our global governance priorities.


We used our participation in the G20 to promote and strengthen the interests of Africa and of the South, on the understanding that, if managed carefully, the G20 does present meaningful opportunities for advancing much-needed global governance reforms and orienting the international development agenda.

Participation in the Global system of Governance

Post-2015 UN Development Agenda

Since mid-2012, South Africa has been playing a prominent role in preparations for the inter-governmental process that will shape the UN development agendas beyond 2015, which is the target date for the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

In addressing issues related to the UN development agenda beyond 2015, it is critically important that we build on the unfinished business of the MDGs and address existing “gaps” that may have arisen. More momentum and commitment therefore needs to be generated towards the achievement of the MDGs up to 2015 and beyond. Any development agenda beyond 2015 should also address the three dimensions of sustainable development (social, economic and environmental) in an inclusive, balanced and integrated manner).


On 01 January 2013, South Africa started serving a three-year term on the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). South Africa’s priority in the Council is to ensure, inter alia, that the articulation of the Post-2015 UN Development Agenda is compatible with South Africa’s own development agenda, as articulated in the National Development Plan, African Union aspirations and the development agenda of the South. Moreover, a strengthened ECOSOC should continue as the main forum for the deliberation of economic and social development issues. 

Climate Change

Climate change continues to be one of the most vexing challenges of our time. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fifth Assessment Report is very clear on the nexus between human activities and climate change and how human activity is the major driver of climate change impacts around the globe.

In recent years, to our regret, we have witnessed the devastation of climate change in many parts of the world, evidenced by the unprecedented loss of life and damage to property. We can all agree that the need for decisive global action on climate change has never been more urgent.  As a country, South Africa is extremely vulnerable to the negative effects of climate change, while its dependence on coal for its economic growth places it as one of the biggest greenhouse gas emitters.

As President of the COP17/CMP7 which we hosted in Durban in 2011, we successfully placed the world on an unassailable course, through the adoption of the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action. Negotiations to realise the objectives of the COP17/CMP7 have continued throughout to the COP19/CMP9 held in Warsaw Poland, and I am happy to report that the Durban legacy endures, and continues to be the basis of the future climate change response.

Human Rights

South Africa was one of 14 new Member States elected to serve on the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) from January 2014 until December 2016.  Our election coincides with the country’s celebration of its 20th year of democracy and reaffirms our commitment to the achievement of human rights for all our citizens, the citizens of the Continent, and the citizens of the world.

Furthermore, our election to this auspicious body reflects the important role that our country plays in the shaping of the international human rights agenda. We remain committed to work for the strengthening of the international human rights system, through the development of norms and standards in the area of human rights and to continue to advocate for Government’s principled position which affirms the inextricability between economic, social and cultural rights on the one hand, and civil and political rights on the other.

Mr Clayson Monyela
Cell: 082 884 5974

Issued by Government communications (GCIS)

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