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Johannesburg - International Relations and Co-operation Minister Maite Nkoana Mashabane insists her department – and not the ANC – is the primary architect of the country’s foreign policy.
She gave this assurance to Wits students on Thursday in a lecture on “Celebrating 20 Years of South Africa’s Democracy; Reflections on Foreign Policy, Highlights and Challenges”.
A student asked her afterwards whether, in the light of her speech, it would be correct to say that the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco), played a secondary role in making foreign policy and the ANC played the primary role.
The student also asked whether Nkoana-Mashbane saw herself first as an ANC member or as a minister.
The student seemed to be referring to the minister’s heavy emphasis on the role of the ANC in her speech, including the statement that the reference point for the ANC government’s foreign policy principles when it came into power in 1994 was the ANC policy document: “Foreign Policy Perspective in a Demcoratic South Africa.”
She also placed a lot of emphasis on various ANC election manifestos in defining South Africa’s foreign policy.
The minister said she would be a hypocrite if she did not say she was a member of the ANC.
“I’m very proud to be a member,” she said
“And does this department play a secondary role in formulating foreign policy? The answer is a big no. Dirco are the pathfinders,” she said and others followed.
She was asked if South Africa could have handled itself differently in the Central African Republic (CAR). On March 15 last year, South African soldiers died in a gun battle with Seleka rebels.
President Jacob Zuma pulled out troops after the incident although the government has since come under some pressure to send troops back as part of an AU peacekeeping force that is trying to stop sectarian violence.
Nkoana-Mashabane has said previously that what was needed in CAR was not more boots on the ground, but technical support, including the co-ordination of the various forces in the country.
She said on Thursday South Africa had warned others not to take the military route because this was not sustainable and that political engagement with all the leaders in the CAR was needed.
In this South Africa had been proved right, Nkoana-Mashabane said.