Statement by Dr GNM Pandor, Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, DIRCO Media Briefing, OR Tambo Building, Pretoria, 31 January 2024

Statement by Dr GNM Pandor, Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, DIRCO Media Briefing, OR Tambo Building, Pretoria, 31 January 2024


Programme Director,

Deputy Ministers Mashego-Dlamini,

Director-General Dangor and all DIRCO Senior officials,

Ladies and gentlemen of the Media,


Thank you for honouring our invitation to this media briefing. This year we are celebrating thirty years of democracy, and we already have much to celebrate as we have scored some major successes that position our country as a champion of human rights and international law. Madiba would have wanted us to continue making human rights central to our foreign policy, and we have acted on this. We have affirmed our commitment to fight for the rights of the oppressed and to do so in the highest bodies of our multilateral system. As South Africans struggled against apartheid, many stood with us in solidarity and it is correct that today we stand with the oppressed.


We wish to present some of the key priorities for this year, including the benefits that South Africa derives from our international work:


  1. The recent summits of the NAM and the G77 Plus China held in Uganda
  2. The case before the ICJ involving Israel’s unfolding genocide in Gaza
  3. The upcoming AU Summit, which takes place in February
  4. South Africa’s handover of BRICS chair position to the Russian Federation.


  1. The recent summits of the NAM and the G77 and China held in Uganda


The Summits of Heads of State and Government of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) and of the 77 and China, were convened in Kampala, Uganda, from 19 to 22 January 2023. The NAM Summit identified five priority areas: regional and international peace and security; the fight against terrorism; migration and humanitarian crises; human trafficking; and the SDGs. In his statement to the NAM President Ramaphosa confirmed that South Africa will remain steadfast in advancing its non-aligned approach to the maintenance of international peace and security by advocating for the peaceful political settlement of disputes and inclusive dialogue. The NAM welcomed its first new member in 13 years, the Republic of South Sudan, which brings the total membership to 121 states.


Following the NAM Meeting, I led the South African delegation to the G77 and China Summit under the theme Leaving No One Behind.


The G77 and China, also known as The South Summit, is the largest negotiating bloc in the United Nations representing most developing countries and over 80% of the world’s population. The focus of the Summit was on South-South cooperation in the areas of trade, investment, sustainable development, climate change, poverty eradication, and the digital economy.


  1. The case before the ICJ regarding Israel’s genocide in the war on Gaza


At a special cabinet meeting on the 8th of December last year, it was decided that South Africa should institute legal proceedings at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) against Israel for violating its obligations under the Geneva Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (1948).


Oxfam’s figures indicate that the average daily killing of Palestinians by the Israeli military since 7 October 2023, exceeds the daily death toll of any major conflict in recent years. The deaths of children are almost incomparable both in terms of actual numbers killed and the rate at which children have been killed. More journalists have been killed in Gaza in the last 100 days than were killed during World War II and the Vietnam War.


Cabinet was persuaded by the sheer immorality and illegality of the actions of the Israeli Government. There was consensus that South Africa needed to approach the highest judicial organ of the UN to seek and end to the mass killing of Palestinians, and to stop the wholesale destruction of civilian infrastructure including residential buildings, hospitals, schools, bakeries, water and electricity sources. From the outset, our concerns have been centred on the values and principles of the South African Constitution, which places a premium on the right to life, the right to dignity, and the human rights of all people.


On 29 December 2023, South Africa filed its application to institute proceedings against Israel, as well as its request for provisional measures. The matter was heard in The Hague on 11 and 12 January this year in relation to the request for provisional measures. On 26 January 2024, the Court delivered its order on South Africa’s request for provisional measures. Whilst not all provisional measures that were requested by South Africa were granted, crucial ones that will contribute to the protection of Palestinians were granted. The Court was near unanimous (a 15-2 division) in its order for provisional measures, which included that:


  • Israel shall take all measures within its power to prevent all acts of genocide as contained in Article II of the Genocide Convention (including “killing members of the group; causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; and imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group”)
  • Israel must prevent and punish direct and public incitement to commit genocide
  • Israel is required to take effective measures to provide urgently needed basic services and humanitarian assistance
  • It must ensure effective measures are taken to prevent the destruction of evidence and ensure its preservation
  • Israel is required to provide a report to the Court on the measures it has taken to give effect to these provisional measures within one month.


While South Africa had called for the suspension of Israeli military operations in Gaza, the Court did not grant this provisional measure. The decision by the Court marks a decisive victory for international law and a significant milestone in the search for justice for the Palestinian people. It also affirms the importance of global governance institutions including organs of the United Nations. It remains vital for all member states to respect and implement the decisions of the Court.


The finding also makes it clear that it is plausible that genocide is taking place against the Palestinian people in Gaza. Third States must, therefore, also act independently and immediately to prevent genocide by Israel and to ensure that they are not themselves in violation of the Genocide Convention by aiding or assisting in the commission of genocide. This necessarily imposes an obligation on all States to cease funding and facilitating Israel’s military actions, which are plausibly genocidal.


South Africa will continue to do everything within its power to preserve the existence of the Palestinian people as a group, to end all acts of apartheid and genocide against the Palestinian people and to walk with them towards the realisation of their collective right to self-determination, for, as Nelson Mandela momentously declared Our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.


The UN peace and security architecture is clearly not able to give effect to the right to self-determination of the Palestinian people or to protect them from grave war crimes and the threat of genocide, necessitating concerned States to turn to the judicial institutions of the UN.


South Africa welcomes the support expressed by several countries and we encourage States that are so inclined to approach the Court to intervene in the proceedings so as to send a strong message to the international community that the situation in the Gaza Strip is indefensible.


  1. The upcoming AU Summit


At the core of South Africa’s foreign policy is the advancement of the African agenda. South Africa places great importance on the AU Summits, and the next one will take place on 17 and 18 February 2024, in Addis Ababa. The Summit will be held under the theme Educate an African Fit for the 21st Century: Building Resilient Education Systems for increased access to Inclusive, lifelong, quality, and relevant learning in Africa.


Last year the AU finalised a ten-year review of Agenda 2063. A key recommendation in the Agenda 2063 evaluation report is that the AU Member States must accelerate implementation of the Agenda 2063 flagship projects that are aimed specifically at fast-tracking Continental integration, in particular trade and market integration, free movement of people and infrastructure development. One of the flagship projects in which South Africa is playing a leading role is the operationalisation of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (the AfCFTA), which serves as a milestone development in the evolution of the AU. We are especially pleased that President Ramaphosa will officially witness the launch of South Africa’s first shipment and preferential trading under the AfCFTA today, 31 January 2024, at the Port of Durban. The event will be an historic occasion.


President Ramaphosa is also expected to attend and participate in several High-Level Committee meetings of the Assembly. These include the meeting of the Committee of African Heads of State and Government on Climate Change (CAHOSCC), which will be held to reaffirm Africa’s position on Climate Change as advocated during the COP28 held in the United Arab Emirates.


In his capacity as the Chairperson of the Presidential Infrastructure Championing Initiative, President Ramaphosa annually hosts a meeting of participating countries on the margins of the AU Summit, to provide a Progress Report on infrastructure projects. The initiative aims to enhance infrastructural development in sectors such as transport, ICT, water and sanitation, and energy in our country and throughout our region and continent and is critical to the implementation of the AfCFTA.


Lastly, on the margins of the Summit, the President is also expected to chair a high-level meeting of the Committee of Five (C5) on South Sudan to review and provide political guidance on the progress made in the implementation of the Revitalised Agreement on the Resolution of Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan.


  1. South Africa’s handover of the BRICS chair to the Russian Federation


The most prominent outcomes of the BRICS Summit that we hosted were as follows:


  • The first phase of the BRICS full membership expansion was announced. Argentina, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the UAE were invited to join BRICS as full members
  • The BRICS Foreign Ministers were tasked to develop a BRICS partner country model
  • The Finance Ministers/Reserve Bank Governors were tasked to consider the use of local currencies and payment instruments and platforms
  • The advancement of BRICS support for UNSC reform
  • The establishment of a BRICS Youth Council.


We anticipate that these outcomes will continue to receive support from Russia as the 2024 chair.




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