Constitutional mandate

The Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996 is the supreme law of the Republic and all law or conduct inconsistent with it is invalid. The President is ultimately responsible for South Africa’s foreign policy and it is the President’s prerogative to appoint heads of South Africa’s diplomatic missions, receive foreign heads of diplomatic missions, conduct inter-state relations and enter into international agreements.

The Minister of International Relations and Cooperation (Minister), in accordance with her Cabinet portfolio responsibilities, is entrusted with the formulation, promotion and execution of South Africa’s foreign policy. The Minister assumes overall responsibility for all aspects of South Africa’s international relations in consultation with the President.

In practice, the Minister consults the Cabinet and individual Cabinet ministers on aspects of importance, as well as on cross-cutting issues that have a bearing on the programmes of other ministries and departments.

Oversight and accountability in the formulation and conduct of South Africa’s foreign policy are vested in the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on International Relations and Cooperation.

Legislative mandates

The Foreign Service Act, 2020 (Act 26 of 2019): This Act provides for the management, administration, accountability, and functioning of a professional Foreign Service of the Republic of South Africa; to provide for the operational requirements that are suitable and supportive of the operations of the Foreign Service in a global environment; and to provide for matters incidental thereto.


The Foreign States Immunities Act, 1981 (Act 87 of 1981): This Act regulates the extent of the immunity of foreign states from the jurisdiction of the courts of the Republic and provides for matters connected therewith.


The Diplomatic Immunities and Privileges Act, 2001 (Act 37 of 2001): The Act provides for the immunities and privileges of diplomatic missions and consular posts and their members, of heads of states, special envoys and certain representatives of the United Nations and its specialised agencies, and other international organisations and of certain other persons. Provision is also made for immunities and privileges pertaining to international conferences and meetings. It enacts into law certain conventions and provides for matters connected therewith.


The African Renaissance and International Cooperation Fund Act, 2000 (Act 51 of 2000): The Act establishes an African Renaissance and International Cooperation Fund to enhance cooperation between the Republic and other countries, in particular African countries. This is done through the promotion of democracy, and good governance principles, the prevention and resolution of conflict, socio-economic development and integration, humanitarian assistance and human resource development.


International agreements (multilateral and bilateral): These include international agreements concluded by the Republic of South Africa in terms of sections 231(2) and 231(3) of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996.

Policy mandates

The Measures and Guidelines for Enhanced Coordination of South Africa’s International Engagements and its annexures, approved by Cabinet in 2009, establish more effective measures and mechanisms to coordinate the conduct of international relations and the implementation of South Africa’s foreign policy.


The South African Council on International Relations, approved by Cabinet and established in 2015, provides a consultative platform for engagement of non-state actors in South Africa’s international relations.


The National Information Security Policy, approved by Cabinet in 1996, provides the minimum standards for security.


The White Paper on Foreign Policy, approved by Cabinet in 2011, assesses South Africa’s foreign policy against the rising expectations of the critical role of foreign policy to meet domestic priorities.


The Foreign Service Dispensation (FSD) is implemented in terms of the provisions of Section 3(3) (c) of the Public Service Act, 1994 (Act 103 of 1994), as amended, and is applicable to designated employees who serve in a foreign country at a South African mission abroad and fall within the scope of the Public Service Coordinating Bargaining Council. 


The FSD consists mainly of two measures, namely remunerative measures (South Africa) and compensatory measures and other foreign-service benefits at the missions.