Human rights need to be the guiding principle of our international relations

Note to editors: The following speech was delivered in Parliament today by the DA’s Shadow Minister of International Relations and Co-operation, Stevens Mokgalapa MP, during the Budget Vote on International Relations and Co-operation.
Today, as we mark the 54th anniversary of the AU, we salute the founding fathers and visionary leaders of the African continent. Happy Africa Day.
Agenda 2063 contains the blueprint for a paradigm shift in Africa’s future that aims to create an environment of inclusive economic growth and sustainable development. It strives for an integrated continent with shared values, good governance, democracy, rule of law, justice and a peaceful and secure Africa.
We want to acknowledge and commend the hard work done by the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) and African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) programmes that seek to facilitate Africa’s renewal and reshape its future. Unfortunately, the current crop of leaders are working hard to reverse the noble deeds of our forefathers and in the process, are tainting the legacy of our continent. Africa is still ravaged by civil wars, conflict, underdevelopment, unemployment, power-obsessed dictators, undemocratic regimes, human rights abuses and corruption.
The current global environment is volatile, as the rise of populist, nationalistic and extremist movements are posing a threat to global security and undermines international order, which brings fear and mistrust among people and states.
This trend has led to many states adopting a narrow nationalistic approach as opposed to globalisation to foreign policy. For example, the presidential election in the USA and BREXIT.
This trend is compounded by growing expectations and disappointments, as well as demographic shifts and migration.
All of this leads to a scramble for scarce resources due to jobless economic growth which contribute to unemployment and poverty. National interests become the focal centre of a state’s approach to foreign policy. States are pursuing a zero-sum game through a narrow nationalistic focus in trying to outsmart each other for the maximum benefit of attracting Foreign Direct Investment (FDI).
Globalisation and urbanization are a twin reality which must be managed by states, as non-state actors are intensifying their role and involvement in the foreign policy space.
Chairperson, allow me to address you on some of the Department’s programmes:
Programme 1: We are concerned about the ill-discipline of the staff and urge the Minister to take steps against the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) immediately.
Programme 2: International Relations addresses the core business of the Department with a budget of R3.6 billion. This programme still remains a source of concern with 126 missions abroad in 107 countries and 160 resident in South Africa. This is unsustainable and hurtful to the fiscus under the current economic conditions.
It is prudent under these circumstances to follow the National Development Plan (NDP) and National Treasury’s advice to consider rationalization of our missions and to cut expenditure on foreign infrastructure projects.
It is also important to consider the reduction of maintenance costs on foreign leased properties, as over 1000 properties are leased at a cost of R575 million.
Economic diplomacy is still lagging behind the number of high level visits and bilateral commissions still yield little in terms of value for money. We need quality outcomes, not quantity in number of visits. This requires a concerted effort in skilling and equipping our diplomats as economic diplomats to market and sell our country abroad.
Our current crop of diplomatic cadets are a shame as they serve personal interests rather than public interests.
Some are criminals, others are dishonest by faking their academic credentials.
We need more vigorous vetting processes to ensure that these cadets are beyond reproach and are people of integrity, ready to serve with pride, dedication and patriotism.
This is the reason why the DA supports the finalization of the Foreign Service Bill to professionalise and regulate our foreign service and eliminate the dumping ground syndrome.
Programme 3: This provides an opportunity for South Africa to play a meaningful role and take leadership in global politics by influencing the multilateral agenda through its constitutional values.
However, South Africa is failing dismally in multilateral forums when it comes to promoting our constitutional values and principles and championing human rights. This is evident from our failed withdrawal from the International Criminal Court (ICC) and our relationship with dictators like Mugabe, al-Bashir, Nkurunziza and Kabila.
We cannot afford to be quiet when opposition leaders are persecuted and on fabricated charges as is the case in Zambia with Hakainde Hichilema. That is why DA leader, Mmusi Maimane, will attend the treason trial of Mr Hichilema in Zambia tomorrow to offer him our full support.
We must also use our chairmanship of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to address this serious issue. In a seemingly democratic country like Zambia, the intimidation and suppression of opposition parties should be strongly condemned.
Programme 4: On public diplomacy, we are happy to see an increase in the allocation to this programme. We would like to see this programme provide early warning systems on major international events and we suggest organising a national dialogue on South African foreign policy and national interests to ensure participatory diplomacy of non-state actors and civil society in foreign policy matters.
Programme 5: We need to evaluate our participation and commitment to international membership. We also need to ensure that we respect and uphold our constitutional values in the global arena.
The DA is concerned about the recurring and serial adverse audit opinions. For three consecutive years, the Department has received a qualified opinion. This raises serious concerns in the Department and we hope that these issues will be addressed urgently.
We have abandoned our moral high ground to stoop low to a slippery slope. If South Africa is to realise its vision of a better South Africa in a better Africa and a better world, we must shape up and be counted or ship out and lose all credibility in the global arena.
We must be vocal and speak out against wrongdoings and also be bold to challenge our allies when they do wrong. The days of failed quiet diplomacy are over. We need to redeem ourselves by ensuring that our voting patterns in the multilateral forums are consistent with our values.
In conclusion, Chairperson, the DA foreign policy is centred on three key pillars of constitutionalism, human rights and economic diplomacy. Under the DA government, we will not roll out a red carpet to dictators and mass murderers. We will respect international law and institutions, we will speak out against wrongdoings, we will ensure our diplomats are well trained in economic diplomacy and are assessed on what value they add to FDI.
Human rights will be the guiding principle in our international relations as we aim to promote intra Africa trade and prioritise regional integration and trade. In 2019, South Africans can choose more racial nationalism, populism and division on the basis of race, or we can choose progress towards an open opportunity society for all. Our country’s national interest consensus will be defined clearly and pursued in all our international relations for the benefit of the people and not only the connected elite.
I thank you.