Media Statement by the Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Dr Naledi Pandor, on the occasion of the Budget Vote in Parliament on 20 May 2021

Media Statement by the Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Dr Naledi Pandor, on the occasion of the Budget Vote in Parliament on 20 May 2021


Members of the media,


The theme


Our theme for this year’s budget vote is “Building Back Better, Honouring the Legacy of Charlotte Maxeke”.


Our Government declared 2021, the year of Charlotte Maxeke. Our theme, therefore, celebrates this remarkable woman, who would have turned 150 years this year. In celebrating her legacy, we would like to reflect on her internationalism.


Daluxolo Moloantoa, in his article, titled “The remarkable life of Charlotte Maxeke” tells a story of how Charlotte Maxeke used her singing talent to travel the world, flying South Africa’s flag high on the global stage, gaining international stardom.


Let me start by narrating how Mama Charlotte became the first black woman in South Africa to graduate with a Bachelor of Science from Wilberforce University in Ohio, United States of America. Mama Charlotte Maxeke and her choir members were left stranded and penniless in the streets of New York after their choir conductor had vanished with all their money. Her name was recognised from the newspapers by Bishop Daniel A. Payne, of the African Methodist Church (AME) in Ohio, who went on to offer her an international scholarship.


The scholarship emerged from a crisis and was indeed an act of solidarity. The kind of solidarity that Mama Charlotte reciprocated through her work nationally and internationally. It is therefore no accident that the ANC and the governments that it has led, has made solidarity with the oppressed and marginalised a cornerstone of our foreign policy.


Mama Charlotte Maxeke championed several programmes, including arranging opportunities for other South Africans, especially women to study at Wilberforce University, in America. She was indeed building back better based on her experience.


Her story and values of Ubuntu resonate with us as DIRCO. The core of our foreign policy is to improve the living conditions of South Africans and contribute to the wellbeing of our fellow Africans as well as all those who are yearning for freedom, peace and prosperity in the world. It is in our interest that Africa and the world is peaceful, politically united and economically prosperous.


In honouring the legacy of Mama Charlotte Maxeke, Dirco will, next month, launch the “Charlotte Maxeke African Women’s Economic Justice and Rights Initiative” whose objectives will be to mobilise the global community behind the Gender Equality Forum (GEF)’s Global Acceleration Plan, particularly the Action Coalition on Economic Justice and Rights.


The Initiative will be implemented in three phases;

  • Charlotte Maxeke Africa Future Leadership Programme


This programme will provide Mentorship and Training opportunities for Youth on International Policy and Diplomacy work. It will be launched in June 2021 and will target 70% youth leaders from the continent and 30% from our country.

  • Charlotte Maxeke African Women’s Leadership Awards


The Awards will celebrate women leaders across the continent. They will recognize and honour exceptional African Women leaders whose achievements, mentorship, influence and contributions has advanced Africa’s development in various sectors of society. The Awards will also recognize the exceptional contribution to the advancement of gender equality and women’s empowerment.

  • Charlotte Maxeke Minister’s Breakfast with Women Ambassadors


This will be an annual Minister’s Breakfast with Women Ambassadors accredited to South Africa to provide the opportunity for the Minister to engage women Ambassadors on Gender Equality and women’s empowerment initiatives.


The details of the second phase, scheduled to start in 2022/23, and includes programmes such as Charlotte Maxeke African Women’s Leadership Training Programme on Economic Justice and Rights; Charlotte Mannya Maxeke Fellowship for African Women in Diplomacy; and Charlotte Maxeke Women’s Trade Fair, will be made available at a later stage.


The budget


Our budget for 2020/21 was R 6 850 179 000 in April 2020, it was reduced to R6 314 968 000. The DIRCO budget for 2021/2022 was announced as R 7 038 531 000 in the 2021 budget speech and was finally reduced to R 6 452 372 000 for the current financial year.


1. Expenditure trends for programmes of the Department 2020/21 2021/22
1: Administration 1 470 051 1 687 558
2: International Relations 3 147 201 3 207 408 
3: International Cooperation 489,652 513,664
4: Public Diplomacy & Protocol 304,070 294,642
5: International Transfers 903,994 749,100
Total 6 314 968 6 452 372


Source: 2021/22 Annual Performance Plan of the Department


During the 2020 Medium Term Budget Policy Statement (MTBPS), the Minister of Finance, in his presentation prioritised fiscal consolidation, with the focus on primary reduction of the wage bill in narrowing the budget deficit and stabilise debt over the next five years to return the public finance to a sustainable position. There has been an increasing need to “do more with less” as a result of the fiscal constraint faced by the government. The outbreak of COV19 has also presented new challenges to the economic climate we operate in. The department spending on compensation of employees has been above the available budget. The reduced indicative baseline of the department on COE is on average R 2.8 billion per annum, which represents an estimated budget shortfall of about R250 million per annum. Unfortunately, we cannot continue to spend money that we do not have, we need to act quickly and in unison in dealing with this complex challenge.


The funding pressures we face as a government have necessitated cutbacks in our operational budget and requires DIRCO to become more strategic to ensure resource constraints do not unduly impact our international footprint and influence.


Organisational matters


The Department intends to enhance its operational capacity in key areas in the medium term:


1. Review of organisational structure


One of the areas that will make the department more responsive despite reduced budgets is to ensure that we are better organized, including through changing the organizational structure to deliver on our mandate which, as stated in DIRCO’s Strategic Plan 2020-2025 includes,  “the excellent execution of foreign policy, placing South Africa as an influential actor and partner on the international stage while effectively contributing to the delivery of the country’s domestic priorities and advancement of Africa.”


The department has reviewed the organizational structure and designed a new structure so that it is indeed a strategic instrument that improves coordination, management and leadership and is geared to support the implementation of the Foreign Service Act (No.26 of 2019.


Reduction of Missions


Following a series of consultations which culminated in a decision by Cabinet, the Department of International Relations and Cooperation has taken the hard but necessary decision to close 10 diplomatic missions abroad in response to our country’s fiscal constraints, exacerbated by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.


The missions, which include embassies, high commissions and consulates, are being closed systematically during the 2021/2022 financial year.


This decision is deeply regretted and South Africa expresses its confidence that the excellent diplomatic relations with these countries and regions will continue through the non-resident missions, and the diplomatic missions represented in South Africa.


We wish to assure South African citizens resident abroad, businesses and tourists that a smooth transfer of civic and immigration services to non-resident missions is underway.


All affected stakeholders are advised to check with the affected Embassies and Consulates General on the exact dates of termination of services. Further announcements of the transfer of civic and immigration services will also be made on the websites of DIRCO, the Department of Home Affairs and the affected missions.


The list of missions earmarked for closure is as follows: Minsk, Belarus; Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago; The Holy See, The Vatican; Helsinki, Finland; Milan, Italy (consulate); Muscat, Oman; Suva, Fiji; Bucharest, Romania; Lima, Peru and Chicago, USA (consulate).


Foreign policy priorities


Even before the global community was confronted with the COVID-19 pandemic, the world had become more volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous. This includes cross-cutting and border-blind challenges, including global warming, terrorism, pandemics, and cybersecurity. In addition, the global governance architecture is at a crossroads, as it struggles to manage the multiple challenges afflicting people and the planet, while governing relations between states, as well as those between states and non-state actors.


South Africa, therefore, has to execute its foreign policy conscious and responsive to dynamic national and international contexts. This is reflected in the Department’s strategic objectives.


It is in this environment that South Africa promotes and protects its National Interest.


South Africa’s National Interest displays a people-centred, progressive and developmental outlook evidenced in its foreign policy, particularly as this has been expressed in the post-liberation canon of promoting pan-Africanism, South-South solidarity and cooperation, North-South cooperation, and multilateral cooperation.


Our speech today will seek to do the following:


(i) Reiterate the principles underpinning our foreign policy.

(ii) We will reflect on our country’s involvement in multilateralism. South Africa is an active member of the community of nations, and we are committed to multilateralism as enshrined in the United Nations Charter. We are active in multilateral institutions, including the G20, the G77+China, BRICS and the Non-Alignment Movement.

(iii) Lastly, we will confirm our solidarity with countries enduring hardship.


The people of Palestine, the people of Western Sahara and the people of Cuba have become accustomed to our solidarity with them, as they face difficulties that must be resolved peacefully and through diplomatic means.


I look forward to the debate following the speech. In particular, I look forward to the views and suggestions from Members of Parliament on how we can realise our vision of an African continent that is prosperous, peaceful, democratic, non-racial, non-sexist and united and which aspires to a world that is just and equitable.


I thank you.




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