SA may enhance cultural diplomacy

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iol news pic Paul Mashatile INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPERS ANC Gauteng provincial chairman, Paul Mashatile. Picture: Bongiwe Mchunu

Cape Town - The government is considering posting dedicated cultural attaches at South Africa's missions abroad, Arts and Culture Minister Paul Mashatile said on Thursday.

“Culture has now become the soft power of nations,” Mashatile said in his budget vote speech in the National Assembly, before detailing cultural exchanges with France and Britain.

“We will also enter into discussions with Dirco (the department of international relations and co-operation) with an intention to appoint cultural attaches in strategic countries where we have diplomatic missions,” he added.

This would require a policy change.

At the moment South Africa has no dedicated cultural attaches, but staff who are “doing cultural diplomacy,” according to Clayson Monyela, the spokesman for the department of international relations.

Monyela declined to say whether Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane was amenable to the idea of creating new postings focused exclusively on culture.

“That will be part of their discussions,” he said.

Mashatile said culture was an important component of forging strong relations with other nations and “opening up other opportunities for interaction, especially in areas such as trade, commerce and development support”.

He said he was pleased that the second instalment of the so-called South African French Seasons - born out of talks between President Jacob Zuma and former French president Nicolas Sarkozy - would be launched on May 28.

Last year, the event brought French artists to South Africa and the follow-up would see some 800 South African artists take part in cultural events in more than 100 French cities and towns.

Mashatile said a memorandum of understanding about a similar exchange had been signed with the United Kingdom, and plans were underway to enter into such agreements with China, Russia, Angola and Nigeria. - Sapa

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