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.

In Zuptastan the Labour Ministry doesn’t care about jobs

Note to editors: The following speech was delivered in Parliament today by the DA’s Shadow Minister of Labour, Ian Ollis MP, during the Budget Vote on Labour.
In the post 2008 global economic meltdown, countries have been scrambling to create jobs by any possible means.
Except here in Zuptastan in the South.
In the USA, where the credit meltdown started, Barack Obama introduced stimulation packages, bought out troubled banks, offered incentives to produce electric vehicles, drastically lowered federal interest rates and created many jobs.
But In Zuptastan, the President met in Saxonwold and appointed Zupta-friendly Ministers, and then shuffled, and shuffled, and shuffled them every time a Minister disobeyed a directive from you-know-who!
In the EU, debt in Greece, Turkey, Spain and even Italy was restructured or written off, or stimulus packages were implemented to save or create jobs.
Here in Zuptastan, we, including the Labour Minister, did nothing about strike violence until 2016.
We collapsed electricity provision into rolling blackouts, forcing businesses like the aluminium smelter for COEGA to go elsewhere and rapidly raised electricity prices making companies uncompetitive.
We then also implemented a de facto ban on temporary employment services, all costing jobs during the global economic downturn.
In China, the government invested in one of its largest infrastructure rollouts to boost their economy, building houses and even whole cities. Now under the new Belt and Road project, China is revitalising its old silk trade routes to Europe and Africa to boost trade.
In January, a new train route was launched between Beijing and London, taking goods across the whole of Asia and Europe to boost trade.
Here in Zuptastan, we implemented a much hated e-toll system and failed to complete our two new coal-fired power stations with colossal cost over-runs and corrupt deals in coal, power, mining and the like.
In Kenya, 8000 Jobs were initially created, rising to 30 000 jobs, by the building of a new standard gauge railway line from Mombasa to Nairobi to change travel time from days to mere hours. In fact, this train line is now going to be extended to Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi, with funding already approved and the Kenyan government indicated it will extend the line to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), creating the first Indian to Atlantic ocean rail route across central Africa.
Unfortunately, most residents of Zuptastan don’t realise that our President was appointed the head of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) Presidential Infrastructure Champion Initiative or PICI, and that he is in charge of the Southern African rail and road infrastructure programmes.
To date, he has delivered on not a single new kilometre of road or rail in 5 years of heading this initiative, has not revitalised the rail route between Durban and Dar es Salaam as promised and must be ranked as the poorest performing head of state in charge of an infrastructure project of all the Champions in Africa!
No jobs have been created by this president, or by actions of the Labour Minister, during the global economic downturn.
In fact, the Zupta cabinet under President Zuma lost 900 000 jobs.
I know, Minister Oliphant, that you are quick to point out that creating jobs is not your mandate. But in fact, Minister, creating jobs is everyone’s mandate, especially cabinet members.
When you radically and without warning upped the minimum wage in Agriculture, even your friends in the Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies (PLAAS), the research unit at the University of the Western Cape (UWC), say that you cost South Africa thousands of jobs.
When you and the ANC amended labour laws to effectively ban Temporary Employment Services in SA, you cost SA jobs, and when your boss, the President of Zuptastan, shuffles the cabinet in the dead of night, it wrecks business confidence and leads to job losses.
You can deny and obfuscate all you like, but voters punished the ANC and the Zupta cabinet with the biggest drop in electoral support that has ever happened in our democracy, from 62% of the vote down to a measly 53%. Aren’t you embarrassed?
Now in this context, it is difficult to understand the Department of Labour and the two Ministers’ intentions to once again fail this coming year:
The first planned failure: The Department of Labour has reduced the target for the Public Employment Services to place people in jobs compared to last year. In 2016, they placed over 14 000 people in permanent employment. This year, the actual target has been reduced to only 8 000 people as a result of budget cuts. Ratings downgrades cause budget cuts.
So when the President says that the ratings downgrade is no problem, he clearly doesn’t care that the Department is actually planning to fail by placing 6000 fewer people in jobs than last year. This is entirely unthinkable!
The second planned failure: Productivity SA had their funding cut twice in the past financial year and the Minister is planning again to delay their funds!
Let’s remember that Productivity SA’s methods are the cheapest way of saving jobs in SA. Compared to the massive incentives to create jobs in the motor industry, Productivity SA requires a fraction of that money to save companies from liquidation or save jobs through improving productivity.
Every time the Labour Committee meets, we are given a different explanation for the cutting of the funds to Productivity SA. First, we were told that they didn’t apply for the funds. Then we were told that they didn’t follow the correct accounting procedures. Then we were simply told “there is something fishy with the finances of Productivity SA and we have appointed an external investigator”. Then we were told that the leadership resigned. Then the Minister said during question time that they were given their money, but in future they will only receive budgeted funds when projects are completed. Yet the strategic plan of Productivity SA tabled on 4 May 2017 says that they only received R95 million of the budgeted R191 million.
The third planned failure: The Minister says she is not going to study the potential impact of the National Minimum Wage on the textile sector or any other sector and not even consider any sectoral exemptions. So essentially, we are driving the economy into a dark tunnel, with no lights on our train and hoping that there won’t be a crash!
The fourth planned failure: The Department of Labour has reduced all target indicators across all entities that report to the Department to approximately one third of the indicators on which they had to report to Parliament last year.
Now you get what you measure.
If Parliament will only get reports of one third of the indicators, it means the transparency is gone. We simply won’t know in many cases where the problems are, because the target indicators will be concealed from Parliament.
After intervention from the Committee, the Director General has agreed to change some of this and ensure that the Committee has full reporting of the indicators as they did previously.
We hope.
However, Minister, you wouldn’t know this, because you never attend our Committee.
Having attended only two committee meetings in over seven years means that even you are not accountable, unless you are held accountable in Saxonwold, that is.
Imagine having the ignominious accolade of not having been fired by the Saxonwold mafia?
Here in Zuptastan, we don’t care about jobs, we don’t care about helping unemployed workers finding jobs, we are not concerned about infrastructure projects to create jobs and stimulate economic growth.
All we are concerned about is staying in the good books at the shebeen at 5 Saxonwold Drive!