Silencing the guns in Africa to top agenda of UN Security Council - Pandor

International Relations and Cooperation Minister Naledi Pandor delivered a budget vote speech which indicated South Africa's foreign policy will place greater emphasis on the African continent. 

Pandor confirmed that South Africa, a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council, would assume the presidency of the Security Council in October, when it would use the influential platform to champion peace on the African continent in its capacity as the African Union (AU) chair. 

"Our commitment to Agenda 2063 remains steadfast. We are honoured to have been selected as the 2020 AU chair. We are cognisant of the huge responsibility this places on South Africa, particularly, the pursuit of the ambitious goal of silencing the guns by the end of 2020 on the continent," she said.  

"We have a rare opportunity to place this goal on top of the agenda of the UN Security Council when we assume the presidency of the council in October 2019. The theme for our council presidency is 'Continuing the Legacy: Working for a Just and Peaceful World'.

"This is the embodiment of the legacy of Nelson Mandela who, during his tenure as president of our country, worked tirelessly to advance peace and stability on the continent and globally, through mediation and preventative diplomacy." 

Pandor went on to mention that her department had plans to "... use our diplomacy to build stronger links with Nigeria, Egypt and Kenya as anchor countries that should advance these goals [genuine sustainable development]".

First to respond to the minister's speech was the chairperson of the portfolio committee on international relations and cooperation and ANC MP, Tandi Mahambehlala. 

Continuing to string the thread of pan-Africanism through the debate, Mahambehlala asked: "Is it not high time we confront the truth in its entirety? And that is, some among us are stealing from the continent with assistance of former colonial masters or some are simply the conduits of former colonialists."

With seeming revolutionary zeal, she continued: "We may think that we no longer live in an era of colonisation and imperialism but recent events in Venezuela, and Libya to some extent, show us a completely different picture."

"It is no coincidence that oil-rich countries experience similar levels of unrest and disenfranchisement albeit at different times. We cannot be at ease while history repeats itself in any part of the world for the simple reason that when a regime is changed outside a country's own volition almost always it results in a human rights crisis," said EFF MP Thembelihle Msane, though rejecting the budget, appeared to be on the same page as Mahambehlala. 

"Today, we live in a global community where imperialism is raising its ugly head again through economic manipulation of less developed countries," Msane added.  

"The forces of imperialism will never rest until they have sucked the last drop of blood from developing countries. It is for this reason that we need our international relations approach to be embedded on the principle of pan-Africanism and progressive internationalism.

"Above all minister, we must be unapologetic about the pan-African nature of our international relations approach. We have unfortunately lost our moral and strategic voice on the continent and are therefore unable to provide leadership for the regeneration of Africa," said Msane.

DA MP Darren Bergman, speaking on the perceived reputational damage the country endured during the previous administration, said: "South Africa has just come out of a devastating Zuma administration, which our current president rightfully described as wasted years.

"We watched in dismay as international fugitives wanted by the International Criminal Court, such as Sudan's deposed dictator, Omar al-Bashir, were assisted by organs of state to exit the country in violation of our international obligations."

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The Freedom Front Plus' Dr Corner Mulder agreed, saying: "The challenge, honourable minister, in front of you and the department is to restore South Africa's gravitas and our image in the world in terms of foreign relations because I have no doubt that the last nine years had a strong impact on our image internationally."

In an apparent reference to the recent controversy courted by South African Ambassador to Denmark Zindzi Mandela, Bergman stated: "What South Africa needs is a predictable and logical international engagement framework that will guide our diplomatic personnel on what is expected of them. Diplomatic staff must know that there are consequences for deviating from the set code of conduct.

"The era of burdening DIRCO [Department of International Relations and Cooperation] staff with cleaning up the mess caused by motormouths in the executive should be a thing of the past."