Minister for International Relations Naledi Pandor. Picture: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency(ANA)

Johannesburg - Minister for International Relations Naledi Pandor will represent President Cyril Ramaphosa at the opening of the UN General Assembly in New York next week.

Ramaphosa will not attend the gathering of world leaders as he has prioritised the implementation of initiatives to tackle gender-based violence and restoring stability to areas affected by recent violence.

“The UNGA’s theme for this year is galvanising multilateral efforts towards poverty eradication, quality education, climate action and inclusion as proposed by the Permanent Representative of Nigeria. This resonates with our seven priorities as outlined in the State of the Nation address,” Pandor told the media in Pretoria on Monday.

“The General Assembly debate addresses issues of national, regional and international importance. We will utilise the opportunity to speak of the unfortunately tragic events of the past two weeks and repeat our belief in African unity, peace and friendship.”

Pandor told journalists that while the government regrets what has happened, more must be done to build bridges and change perceptions, and build social cohesion. “While recent events cannot be tolerated, as human rights experts have said, it is wrong to call South Africans xenophobic.”

“What has occurred challenges us to build our economies, strengthen skills so that people don’t have to become economic migrants. As SADC we need more value addition, beneficiation, innovation and skills sets for digital economies.”

Pandor said South Africa will affirm its commitment to multilateralism at the UNGA and the central role of the UN in global governance.

“Deliberations on the reform of the UN must be opened up and there must be a conclusion. It is problematic that there have been attempts to create fora outside the UN to discuss issues,” Pandor said.

As she prepares to head to New York, the president has dispatched a team of special envoys to deliver messages of solidarity with various African heads of state.

Former Minister Jeff Radebe, Ambassador Kingsley Mamabolo and Dr Khulu Mbatha have been sent to meet with regional leaders in Nigeria, Niger, Ghana, Senegal, Tanzania, the DRC and Zambia.

The envoys will be reassuring African leaders that South Africa is committed to the ideals of Pan-Africanism, unity and solidarity, and is committed to the rule of law.

The envoys will brief the leaders on what South Africa is doing to stop the attacks on foreign nationals and hold the perpetrators to account.