The ACDP notes the allocation of an increased budget.

While this is good news,  we realise that foreign exchange fluctuations and unplanned activities are more than likely going to eat into it. We also note the Minister’s promises and commitment to correcting ongoing audit problems.

The ACDP takes this time to reflect on the National Development Plan (NDP) which states that the country’s foreign policy should be shaped by the interplay between diplomatic, political, security, environmental, economic and regional dynamics that define international relations.

This must, of course, take place while global trends increasingly influence the way countries of the world relate to each another and information and communications technology goes above and beyond sovereignty, international boundaries and regulatory systems. The accelerated massive flow of information on ideology, ideas and capital across the world make it impossible to expect international relations to be managed as they have been through the ages, and even in recent times.

Pressure is constantly put on South Africa to take sides in many conflicts. Government is more aware than most that all countries have their strengths and weaknesses and while we send peace missions and peace-keeping forces where needed, we respect the sovereignty of these countries. Erring on the side of tolerance in the hope of influencing them regarding a culture of human rights while providing practical assistance and encouragement with regard to ‘good governance’ and democracy.

Personally I have saluted South Africa’s cautious position regarding forced regime change and ‘democracy by force’, which we know delivers certain death and destruction. What we also know for certain is that negotiations are going to be necessary one way or another as all wars end with negotiated settlements. Surely it makes sense to support peace and negotiations and stay committed to this regardless of the frustrations.

Politics does, however, complicate matters and even the best policies can be overridden by agendas influencing majority opinion. Minister Pandor’s statement during the State of the Nation Address that “the majority party has agreed, that government must cut diplomatic ties with Israel...”, President Ramaphosa saying that diplomatic ties with Israel were to be downsized and now the withdrawal of our Ambassador to Israel, are examples of this kind of pressure.

The ACDP would like to encourage government that despite the pressure, they know the right thing to do is to remain committed to meaningful and positive engagement with all stake holders in the Middle East and to reconsider the value of resuscitating and empowering Middle East envoys, which we believe would do far more to move parties toward fruitful negotiations and a sustainable peace than does taking sides. It would also be far more in character for South Africa, whose values include both a culture of human rights, and democracy.  Pretending there are ‘good and bad guys’ in this or any situation is futile. We all see what we see, and everyone must take responsibility for the abuses suffered by people caught up in defense measures and intifadas under the notion that jihad is a religious duty. The ACDP regrets the loss of life and grieves with all those caught up in the Middle East conflict.

Hamas has been controlling Gaza since Israel withdrew in 2005. Although many, including South Africa, have provided help and resources to build Gaza, the metals imported into Gaza didn’t build industries. Instead, they were used to make rockets. The cement given to Gaza wasn’t used to build houses for those in need. Instead they build terror tunnels to reach and murder Israeli citizens. In the 13 years that Hamas has been ruling over Gaza, they could have turned the area into a heaven, but instead they chose to turn it into a hell.

The ACDP understands that South Africa’s foreign policy and the operations of the department (which are based on a combination of South Africa’s national interest, its values, the African Renaissance and the creation of a better world for all) are implemented within an unpredictable and challenging global environment that is often volatile and always complex.

The ACDP will support all government efforts to promote peace and sustainable development within South Africa, regionally and globally.

NATIONAL ASSEMBLY DEBATE: Budget Vote 6: International Relations and Cooperation
15 May 2018

WATCH: International Relations and Cooperation Budget Vote 6