Opinionista Rebone Tau 11 June 2018

SA’s foreign relations have turned a corner

South Africa’s foreign policy from 2009 was based more on emotions than anything else, and we saw our government reacting to issues which most of the time did not make sense to us as citizens. One would think that at times, our foreign policy was based on BRICS and nothing else. That seems to be changing.

Up until recently the South African government was in an era when it did not have a foreign policy to inform its decisions and was just reacting to issues as things happened globally.

There were other multilateral platforms and South Africa seemed to be absent and not playing a role as we had seen under the former President Thabo Mbeki, who had a strong presence at the African Union (AU), at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), United Nations Human Rights Commission and the G20.

But now we are now in a “New Dawn” as a country and President Cyril Ramaphosa made the best appointment in Minister Lindiwe Sisulu as the Minister of the Department of International Relations and Co-operation (Dirco). She has done very well in a very short period of time since her appointment.

We saw South Africa taking a bold decision regarding the issue of Israel and Palestine, and now the country has been voted in as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council. She has the best team working with her in making sure South Africa claims its rightful place in the global political discourse. South African diplomats will now be respected globally as they will be forces to be reckoned with, looking at political and economic diplomacy.

One looks forward to reading a draft of the white paper on South Africa’s foreign policy and to South Africa reclaiming its position on the continent as we saw under the era of former president Thabo Mbeki. South Africa had always been seen as the gateway to Africa and now those glory days are here again, as it is known that Africa is the next best thing and has a very youthful population.

One also gets a sense that human rights issues under Minister Sisulu will not be neglected when it comes to our foreign policy, as South Africa, from the era of the late former President Nelson Mandela, was known to be a champion of human rights issues. It seems there will also be a focus on economic diplomacy which is very important for us to build our country and which will be informed by our national interests.

It is very refreshing to see people like Aziz Pahad working very closely with the minister, as he once served as Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs as it was known in the past. Another top official is Ambassador Welile Nhlapo, who is a seasoned diplomat and has vast experience when it comes to diplomacy.

These are people who have the institutional memory needed to navigate complex global politics, which needs people who have networks and have long-standing relations. DM

Rebone Tau is a former ANCYL NTT member.

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