Since the advent of democracy in 1994, South Africa has had to contend with domestic, regional as well as global expectations to be seen to be playing a key role in championing values of human rights, democracy, reconciliation and the eradication of poverty and underdevelopment.
Even the harshest critics cannot deny that South Africa has acquitted herself well, often under trying circumstances, to meet these expectations. Our country’s leadership footprint is visible in the region, the continent and globally.
It is worth noting that from the very onset, post-apartheid South Africa had placed Africa at the centre of the country’s foreign policy. South Africa continues to support continental initiatives and efforts whose quest is to forge continental integration.
The country has also been unrelenting in relation to fostering peace as well as post-conflict reconstruction and development in countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Burundi and South Sudan. In essence, whether involved within the United Nations (UN) and/or its specialised agencies or, in bodies like the G20, G77, IBSA or BRICS, South Africa steadfastly advances the African Agenda.
Likewise, the current administration under President Cyril Matamela Ramaphosa continues to display an unwavering commitment to the Advancement of the African Agenda. President Ramaphosa underscored the centrality of Africa to the country’s foreign relations trajectory when he addressed the South African Heads of Mission Conference in Tshwane on October 23, 2018. In this regard, the president stressed:
“We wholly identify with the aspirations of Agenda 2063 of the African Union and its vision of ‘an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in the international arena’. South Africa and its fortunes are inextricably linked to those of the continent… When Africa falters, South Africa falters. And when Africa prospers, South Africa prospers.”
Accordingly, South Africa is fully behind the African Agenda 2063 and it’s Action Plan, the recent signing of the Continental Free Trade Agreement (CFTA) in Kigali, Rwanda, and many other efforts that constitute seminal developments in the journey towards an integrated, united, peaceful, and prosperous continent.
In the words of Dr Naledi Pandor (Minister of International Relations and Co-operation), from a recent interview with Ubuntu Radio:
“We would like to see all 54 African countries working for development, focussed on our people’s condition and ensuring we end war and insecurity.”
Involvement in the United Nations and its specialised agencies has afforded South Africa an opportunity as well as a platform to actualise its professed commitment to multilateralism and a rules-based international order. The country has been forthright in opposing any steps which, in its view, pose to the rules-based system.
In January 2019, South Africa started serving its third term as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). The UN Security Council is the premier global body for maintaining international peace and security. And South Africa is sitting at that table.
South Africa has already signed the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, thereby cementing the country’s continued commitment towards the achievement of a world free from the existential threat posed by nuclear weapons and ensuring that nuclear energy is used for peaceful purposes only. This is particularly important in respect of the noticeable trend where nuclear arsenals are being modernised in nuclear-weapon states, a process that has ushered the revision of military doctrines and nuclear postures.
The country also has also been responsive and vocal with regard to the current global challenge that pertains to often contentious issues like human rights, food security, sustainable development as well as climate change. As a result of successful deliberations between the World Food Programme and the Government of the Republic of South Africa, an agreement was reached for South Africa to host of the largest UN Humanitarian Response Depot (HRD).
Over and above the foregoing, the fact that at the 2019 AU Summit South Africa was elected to chair the AU in 2020 is not just a feather in the country’s cap but is, more crucially, a huge responsibility in that it places the country at the coalface of overseeing the implementation of the continent’s developmental agenda during its tenure. The AU has set 2020 as the target year for silencing the guns in Africa.
South Africa’s foreign policy mandate has been characterised by the umbilical cord that not only drove and energised the struggle against apartheid but has continued to serve as a transcending link from former president Nelson Mandela’s first administration to all successive post-apartheid administrations to date. The overarching propeller is still the creation of a better South Africa, a better and safer Africa and a better world for all.
- Clayson Monyela is the Head of South Africa’s Public Diplomacy.
OPINION: Clayson Monyela