Minister for International Relations Lindiwe Sisulu. Picture: Jairus Mmutle/GCIS

Johannesburg - Minister for International Relations Lindiwe Sisulu has instructed her department to demarche the Ambassadors of Germany, UK, US, Netherlands and Switzerland after they violated protocol by sending a secret memo directly to President Ramaphosa.

Dirco plans to reiterate to the ambassadors the acceptable protocol in addressing such matters, and discuss the substantive matters contained in their correspondence.

The memo sent to the Presidency by the five ambassadors was written in the form of a non-paper which was sent to dozens of policy-makers in the South African government, particularly in the economic cluster as early as June 2018.

According to the authors, the communication was not intended to have been formalised and was meant to be used as the basis for discussion prior to the President’s Investment Conference in October last year.

“In terms of acceptable diplomatic practice, protocol and convention, diplomatic missions are expected to communicate to the receiving state by means of a note verbal (diplomatic note) conveyed through the Department of International Relations and Cooperation. All embassies, regional and international organizations accredited to South Africa are aware of this protocol and universal norm,” Dirco has said.  

South Africa has taken exception to the unprecedented move by the five countries which used the memo to warn President Ramaphosa that his investment drive to attract R1.3 trillion over five years could fail unless South Africa takes tangible action against those involved in state capture and corruption.

While the Presidency has noted the content of the memo, Presidential Spokesperson Kusela Diko has said, “it is unfortunate that the diplomats ignored and undermined established diplomatic channels and protocols for communication.”

The perception of the countries which drafted the memo is that Ramaphosa’s commitment to act against corruption was not being followed through with cases being brought to court, and the guilty being prosecuted and jailed.

But beyond the issue of corruption, the representatives of the five nations, which account for over 75% of foreign direct investment in South Africa, communicated the need for there to be a more stable investment environment.

The concern of the five countries concerned is that the goal posts are frequently shifted in South Africa in terms of the regulatory framework for mining and broad-based BEE targets. While the concept of BEE is accepted, they have expressed the need for more stable investment conditions.

Another major concern for investors in those countries are the perceived stringent visa restrictions in South Africa, which they claim need to be more generous. Other countries have articulated similar types of observations when it comes to perceived barriers to investment.

Dirco has responded to these concerns saying. “All matters that have been raised by investors are being addressed by the respective clusters of our government. We are satisfied that all the branches of our democratic state, including state agencies, are vigorously pursuing their respective mandates to address our current challenges.”

Group Foreign Editor