A year before the first democratic elections, President Nelson Mandela wrote an article in Foreign Policy magazine on the new South Africa’s future foreign policy.
Reflecting on the shifts in global alliances brought about by the end of the Cold War, he wrote that countries would have to “recast their nets” if they were to reap any benefit from international affairs.
Since the tectonic shift of 1994 when we made a decisive break with not just apartheid but the international relations outlook of its architects, South Africa’s foreign policy continues to be characterised by this “recasting the net”.
Our foreign policy priorities are regional political and economic integration, pursing African development, multilateral engagement and the promotion of democracy, peace and human rights.
To this end we have forged strategic alliances with both the countries of the Global South and mutually beneficial cooperation with the countries of the North.
Joining the BRICS group of countries in 2010 was a milestone in our quest to advance our own national development priorities by forging stronger ties with the important emerging economies of Brazil, Russia, India and China.
Put into context, BRICS countries comprise roughly 41% of the world’s population and account for around 24% of global GDP and some 16% of global trade.
We have reaped the benefits of membership of this important bloc, most notably in the area of economic cooperation.
Bilateral trade has grown, particularly with China and India, with commodity exports and manufactured goods imports featuring strongly.
The BRICS countries continue to be important sources of foreign direct investment in key such as mining, automotive, transportation, clean energy, financial services and IT.
A 2018 review of our BRICS membership by professional services firm Deloitte noted that BRICS partners “invested three times more capital in the country compared to the seven years prior to 2011”. These investments and projects have in turn led to significant job creation.
Since the formation of the New Development Bank, whose regional office is located in Johannesburg, South Africa has been a beneficiary of financing and technical support for projects in transportation, clean energy, environmental protection, water infrastructure and greenhouse gas emissions reduction.
Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, South Africa has received $2 billion in funding from the New Development Bank under the COVID-19 Emergency Loan Programme to fight the pandemic and to support our economic recovery.
There has also been substantial cooperation with our BRICS partners in securing personal protective equipment and cooperation around vaccine access and distribution.
Last week we participated in the 13th BRICS Summit, where BRICS countries agreed to deepen cooperation to fight COVID-19 and mobilise the political support and financial resources needed to respond to future pandemic preparedness.
This includes the establishment of a virtual BRICS Vaccine Research and Development Centre and a BRICS Integrated Early Warning System to forecast future outbreaks of infectious diseases.
Another important area of agreement was on mutual recognition of national documents of vaccination and systems of COVID-19 testing – something that will be vital to cross-border travel in the future.
The concept of mutually beneficial cooperation will be particularly important in the global economic recovery, where unequal development means that some countries will bounce back quickly, while others will lag behind.
In support of economic recovery, BRICS partners agreed to strengthen collaboration in catalytic sectors such as energy, IT, science, technology and innovation, agriculture and the green economy. These are all important sectors identified in our Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan announced last year.
Cooperation with other BRICS countries, particularly in the field of innovation research, will help to accelerate our country’s industrialisation and help us meet our Fourth Industrial Revolution aspirations. In this regard, discussions were held around the creation of formal BRICS platforms to share best practice, knowledge and expertise, including the use of open source technology platforms.
The BRICS partners agreed that developing countries need assistance to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals, and that donor countries should honour their commitments in this regard.
This is particularly important within the context of climate action. Like most countries, South Africa seeks to move towards a low-carbon development path that is inclusive, sustainable and that takes into account our status as a developing country. The BRICS Energy Research Cooperation Platform will be valuable as we move to diversify our energy sources.
In the eleven years since we joined BRICS, our membership has substantially advanced our national interest. Being a member of BRICS has enhanced our position as an important emerging economy. It has given us access to policy and technical expertise of larger and established economies, as well as access to the support of the National Development Bank. It has strengthened our activism on the global stage, particularly around reform of multilateral institutions.
We have benefitted from being part of a collective voice striving to advance a world order based on mutual respect and the equal sovereignty of nations.
BRICS is of immense strategic importance to our country, and will continue to be so for some time to come.
With best regards,
Monday, 06 September 2021
Dear Fellow South African,
Over the course of time, public servants in our country have come to be in the spotlight for the wrong reasons.
We have become too used to stories of civil servants involved in maladministration, embezzlement, corruption and other forms of conduct that betray the values of the public service.
While much is made of those that are errant and unprincipled, the vast majority of public servants understand the weight of responsibility their positions entail, and discharge their duties faithfully.
We have set ourselves the challenge of building a capable, ethical state. We remain firmly on course towards professionalising the public service and transforming it into a group of men and women who are able and committed to serving our people and their interests.
During this Public Service Month, we pay tribute to the many public servants who continue to make a positive difference in our country every day, and whose actions and performance embodies the principle of Batho Pele, of ‘putting people first’.
Our fight against the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated that we do have capable and committed public servants who diligently serve the people of South Africa.
Since the outbreak of the pandemic, civil servants have displayed courage and resilience in discharging their duties, often under the most difficult of circumstances. Despite the disruptions caused by the pandemic, they have kept the wheels of our country turning and have ensured that service delivery continued.
Frontline health personnel have made sure that the ill are attended to. Members of the SAPS have continued to serve and protect our communities. Teachers have continued to care for and educate our learners. Officials in government offices have ensured that our people continue to receive services.
We have learned many lessons from the pandemic. COVID-19 has exposed the chasms between the planning and execution of public service delivery; and the reality of government departments still working in silos when they should be working together in a seamless, development-orientated manner. At the same time, COVID-19 has shown us what is possible if we work in a coordinated manner and manage resources effectively and efficiently.
At the launch of last year’s Public Service Month, I made specific reference to the need for a new integrated model for service delivery that is responsive, adaptive and brings development to where it is needed most.
This adaptive service delivery model, or District Development Model, is exactly what the Batho Pele White Paper compels us to do: establish a citizen centred Public Service that is seamless, adaptive and responsive.
We call on public servants to be part of this process by identifying ways in which we can realise a public service focused on meeting the needs and advancing the interests of citizens.
Our commitment to building a state that is ethical, capable and above all developmental necessitates that civil servants see themselves not merely as state functionaries but as development workers.
Though we must continue in earnest with our task of rooting out those whose conduct makes them ill-suited for public service, we must at the same time acknowledge the vast majority are exemplary civil servants. They have kept us going.
One speaks here of the grandmother who is assisted when she receives her grant every month; the critically-ill patient in the public hospital who is nursed back to health by caring staff; the social worker who helps to keep families together; the vulnerable woman who is treated with dignity by a member of the South African Police Service; and the businessperson who receives their documentation at the Home Affairs office on time to travel to expand their business.
The professionalism of these hardworking, ethical and principled public servants keeps our country afloat, and their good work brings hope to our people.
At a time when shortcomings in the public service are amplified and bad news falls like an avalanche, we acknowledge our public servants of South Africa and their service.
It may be said that they are just doing what they are paid to do. But public service is a calling – one to which they have ably responded in order that the rights of all people in this country are fulfilled.
We are grateful to all our public servants and for all that they do.
With best regards,
President Cyril Ramaphosa
Monday, 23 August 2021
Today, I want to speak to the young people of South Africa. Young people are turning out in impressive numbers to get the COVID-19 vaccine. This fills me with great pride. Over half a million South Africans enrolled on the day that registration for over 18s opened.
The young people of our country are giving us all hope that an end to this time of hardship is within our sights.
As I watched young people being interviewed while queueing at vaccination centres I was impressed by their enthusiasm and excitement. Most of all I was impressed by their knowledge about the vaccine, how it can protect, and why it is necessary.
I heard young men and women speaking of the need to protect those at risk in their communities. I read a post online by a young person urging those who follow her on social media to take heed of the early days of the HIV/Aids pandemic, when young people died unnecessarily because they believed false stories that were then circulating that antiretroviral medication was deadly, or because they disregarded advice to practice safe sex.
The maturity that young people have brought to the important task of vaccinating as many South Africans as possible calls to mind the words of Frantz Fanon, that it is to each generation to discover its mission and fulfil it.
In 1994, millions of South Africans stood in queues to fulfil the mission of liberation. Many young people stood in those long queues to cast their vote for the first time.
Today it is the turn of the new generation of young people.
Today’s young people are being called upon to step up and be at the forefront in this defining moment in the life of our nation.
Last week, we passed the milestone of 10 million vaccine doses administered. Nearly 5 million people are fully vaccinated, which means they have received one dose of the J&J vaccine or two doses of the Pfizer vaccine. But we still have a long way to go.
This is where young people come in. We are calling on them to go out and get vaccinated so that we reach our goal.
I was not surprised to see young people taking to this task with such determination. Since the pandemic broke out 17 months ago, young South Africans have been an integral part of the national effort to battle the coronavirus.
We have seen the youth step up to keep themselves and others safe. We have seen
youth formations and community organisations, young leaders, influencers and content creators using their platforms to share public health messages with their peers.
Young people have been brave and forthright when they have seen the friends or popular personalities violating the regulations at parties, grooves and gatherings. They have called them out.
We have seen how young people have been helping with the national vaccination drive, even when they were not yet eligible themselves.
We are proud of the young volunteers in our communities, like those from #GrandkidsforGogos who assisted the elderly with vaccination registration at social grant pay-points. One young volunteer was asked what motivated her and she said: “I am where I am because of the elderly.”
I hear such powerful words from young people often. Despite the hardship caused by the pandemic, they are still optimistic, and they still want to be of service to our country. By getting vaccinated they aren’t just protecting themselves, but also those around them.
There is still a lot of shady content being circulated out there about the vaccine. These conspiracy theories are far-fetched, and I am calling on young people once again to not circulate them.
These messages are harmful, and are making people hesitant to get vaccinated. This is not only harmful to young people, but many others, including people at risk who really need the vaccine.
Young people are digital natives. They are more tech savvy than any generation that came before them. It is important that they help to spread the correct information around vaccines provided by the Department of Health and World Health Organisation.
We would like to see young people becoming walking adverts for the vaccination process. We appeal to young people to post pictures of themselves getting vaccinated.
These vaccines are safe. They work. They don’t affect anybody's performance in any way. Most importantly, they save lives.
Young people have always been the drivers of progress, innovation and change.
You are determined to build a better, brighter future. We must emerge from this health crisis so we can recover and rebuild.
I want to give a shout out to those who have got their jab.
I also want to thank all the youth organisations, leaders and influencers for their efforts to encourage young people to get vaccinated, and call on them to continue with this work.
Your time is now. Go and get your jab. This is your mission and your chance to fulfil it.
With best regards,
Over the course of the three years since the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture started its work, we have heard of the lengths to which the perpetrators of corrupt acts have gone to conceal their misdeeds.
It has been an extremely complex undertaking to unravel the networks of influence that enabled corruption. Among other things, vast webs of front companies were established to move funds around and disguise payments made to politically-connected individuals.
The same patterns have been seen in a number of investigations into corruption being undertaken by the Special Investigating Unit, the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation, the NPA’s Investigating Directorate and others.
As these investigations progressed and the net began to close on implicated individuals, we have seen witnesses being threatened, their families intimidated, being forced into hiding, and even killed.
The murder of Babita Deokaran, a senior finance official in the Gauteng health department, is a stark reminder of the high stakes involved in our collective quest to remove this cancer from our society.
While we do not yet know the motive for her murder, she was a key witness in a SIU investigation into the procurement of personal protective equipment in the department.
The SAPS and the private security teams who apprehended seven suspects last week are to be commended for their work. The docket has been transferred to the Hawks, and the investigation will yield further information on why Ms Deokaran was murdered.
Regardless of the circumstances behind this tragedy, Ms Deokaran was a hero and a patriot. As are the legions of whistleblowers who, at great risk to themselves, help to unearth instances of misdeeds, maladministration, cronyism and theft.
Without their brave and principled interventions we would be unable to unmask those committing corruption. Though much focus in recent times has been on whistleblowers in the public sector, we also owe a debt of gratitude to those in the private sector whose actions receive less attention, but are equally important.
Whistleblowers are important guardians of our democracy. They raise the alarm against unethical acts and practices in government and organisations.
They speak out in good faith and with a reasonable expectation not only that action will be taken on their disclosures, but that they will be protected and not suffer victimisation or prejudice.
In South Africa there is extensive legislative protection for whistleblowers, including through the Protected Disclosures Act, Labour Relations Act, Companies Act, Protection against Harassment Act, and the Constitution itself.
In addition the Department of Justice and Correctional Services, working with other law-enforcement agencies, administers the Office of Witness Protection to provide support to vulnerable and intimidated witnesses in any judicial proceedings.
Entering witness protection is voluntary, and neither the SAPS nor the NPA can compel a witness to do so. Should a witness receive threats to their life or feel unsafe, they have to inform investigators and apply for admission to the programme. This successful programme has played a key role in securing successful prosecutions since its inception, particularly with regards to organised crime.
It is clear that as the fight against corruption gathers momentum, we need to urgently review our current approach not only to witness protection, but also to the broader protection of whistleblowers.
While numerous systems are in place to enable whistleblowers to report anonymously, we need to tighten up existing systems and provide greater support to those who publicly come forward with information.
As society, we need to identify where existing laws and policies are inadequate in protecting the livelihoods, reputations and safety of whistleblowers – and work together to address these.
The intent of the criminals who target whistleblowers is not only to silence particular individuals – it is also to send a message to other potential whistleblowers.
Day by day, brave South Africans like Babita Deokaran are standing firm that they will not be party to corruption and they are prepared to bear witness against it.
As the South African people we salute her and all the whistleblowers in the public and private sectors who are exposing corruption to the harshest of glares. They are doing so without expectation of acknowledgement or reward. Theirs is the highest form of public service.
We cannot let them down. We must, and we will, ensure that their disclosures result in prosecutions and do much more to ensure that they are protected from harm.
As South Africans, we want to send a strong a message that we will not be intimidated. Those behind the killing of witnesses and whistleblowers will be arrested and face the might of the law, as will all who are found guilty of the very corruption these assassins are trying to cover up.
With best regards,
Monday, 12 July 2021
Starting and building a business is a lot like raising a family. It takes time, patience, constant support, and consistent nurturing from infancy to maturity. For many business owners, seeing a business that you grew from scratch struggling to survive, or even being forced to close its doors, is heartbreaking.
Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, this has sadly been the situation facing many businesses both large and small, not just in our country but around the world. Many have had to reduce the working hours of their staff or even retrench them.
The pandemic and the measures we have had to take to contain the spread of the virus have had a detrimental impact on businesses.
In dealing with the pandemic we have sought to adopt an evidence-based approach in both policy and practice, considering scientific research, clinical expertise and capabilities, and impact on all sectors of the population. We have sought to have a balance between saving lives and preserving livelihoods.
We have sought to mitigate the impact of the successive lockdown restrictions on people’s livelihoods, or risk a second and possibly worse epidemic of poverty and hunger in future.
In the earliest days last year, we introduced measures such as the COVID Temporary Employer/Employee Relief Scheme (TERS), the COVID-19 Loan Guarantee Scheme and various mechanisms to support small businesses to provide immediate and short-term relief to burdened employees and business owners. In addition, the special COVID-19 Social Relief of Distress grant and broadening access to existing social grants provided lifelines to indigent individuals and families.
Through these interventions we were able to mitigate the worst effects of the pandemic, preventing the closure of many businesses and the loss of even further jobs. They provided a firm foundation for the Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan that we launched in October last year.
As part of that plan, we introduced the Presidential Employment Stimulus to provide income and livelihood support to millions of beneficiaries. Through the stimulus, over 300,000 young people have been placed as school assistants. More than 100,000 subsistence farmers are registered on the first-ever database of its kind where they have access to technical support. More than 30,000 young people have been given opportunities in the cultural, creative and sports sectors. Young professionals have been given opportunities in infrastructure development, healthcare, environmental conservation and a number of other sectors.
There are promising indications that our economy is steadily recovering, with growth and job creation in a number of sectors, from manufacturing to mining to agriculture.
At the same time we know that this ‘bigger picture’ is cold comfort to workers and business owners who have suffered immeasurably over the past year and a half, and were hoping to see their situations improve in as the economy slowly opened up.
The rapid rise in infections being fueled by the new Delta variant has necessitated that we impose tighter restrictions on the movement of persons, on the operation of certain businesses and on public gatherings, among others.
As I said last night in my address to the nation, these have not been easy decisions to make, mindful as we are of their impact on people’s livelihoods.
Just as we did at the beginning of the pandemic, we have been engaged in deliberations with all social partners, business, labour and civil society to see what financially sustainable measures we could introduce to support businesses and individuals in distress at this time.
The negotiations at Nedlac have resulted in consensus that the most practical and financially sustainable measure that can provide urgent relief is extending the COVID-19 TERS scheme to sectors that are affected by the adjusted level 4 restrictions.
We will soon publish the details of this extension, including details on who is eligible.
To support businesses whose operating licenses and permits expired between March 2020 and June 2021, we are extending their validity until 31 December 2022. In addition, new business licenses or permits that are issued from the 1 July will also be valid until 31 December 2022, and no license fee will be payable.
Certain businesses that were initially not allowed to operate under the adjusted Level 4 regulations will be permitted to reopen under strict health conditions. This will bring great relief to not just business owners but workers, especially in industries such as hospitality.
Over the past year, we have also been working consistently to protect vulnerable workers whose jobs were at risk, particularly in hard-hit sectors like retail, food and beverage and the metals industry. Through processes facilitated by the CCMA some 58,000 jobs have been saved.
With the pandemic showing no immediate signs of ending, businesses and workers remain vulnerable.
It is thanks to the social compacts we continue to forge that government, business and labour have been able to work together to buffer workers and businesses from the pandemic’s harsh economic impacts.
For now, our priority is saving lives, and ensuring that we provide the necessary support, within our means, to prevent more businesses closing down and more jobs being lost.
As we did with the COVID-19 TERS scheme, government is firmly committed to continue its engagements with business and labour to find a way through these distressing times that both saves lives and protects livelihoods.
With best regards,