Friends and close relatives of the Ambassador Sipho George Nene gathered at the department of international relations where Minister Lindiwe Sisulu hosted a memorial service for the late diplomat. PHOTO: ANA Reporter

PRETORIA - Friends and relatives of former South Africa's envoy to Nigeria and the United Nations in Switzerland, Ambassador Sipho George Nene, gathered at the department of international relations and cooperation (Dirco) in Pretoria on Thursday, paying tribute to the highly-regarded diplomat who died last week.

Former deputy minister of foreign affairs Aziz Pahad said after serving in Nigeria, Nene was appointed to serve as South Africa’s permanent representative in Geneva. 

"Once again, George had to use all his experience and expertise to deal with the complex multilateral challenges including human rights -- which had become a smokescreen for pressures on governments for regime change, refugees, migration, and weapons of mass destruction. It is now commonly known that George became one of the most active and popular diplomats in Geneva,” Pahad told the sombre gathering.

He said when Nene finished in Geneva he returned to the department of foreign affairs, and was appointed as deputy director general for multi-lateralism. 

Pahad said Nene’s long career as a diplomat has many lessons for young South Africans.

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“As we discuss the life and experiences of George, we must ask why he was such a successful diplomat. As has been said, he was quiet, a good listener, a team worker, and when he spoke -- which was rare -- he made a lot of sense," Pahad said. 

"He had deep knowledge of the workings of the [United Nations] UN system, and indeed of power politics. This enabled him to analyse and interpret global trends and their impact on South Africa’s foreign policy – something we have been missing in recent years.”

International Relations and Cooperation Minister Lindiwe Sisulu announced that she would tirelessly to revive the former ambassadors association, the men and women who have oiled South Africa’s relation with the world.

“We honour George today at Dirco, where we have established ourselves as an entity that serves and fearlessly guards the interests of our people. People like George gave everything they had to make it possible for us to be here. I wish the country could find a better to recognise the sterling contribution that people like him have given to us,” said Sisulu.

“On behalf of George Nene, in recognition of the work that he has done, I would like to say to the former ambassadors this is your home, and we will revive the former ambassadors’ association and I will provide you with the necessary resources.”

African News Agency/ANA