Chairperson, let me begin by thanking all members who have participated in this debate, and in particular thank those members who have agreed that they will support our budget. To those who say they won't, I am not sure why they will continue
to insist that we should have diplomatic relations if we have no funding, because that is the consequence of their position.
I believe that we must utilise our international relations to advance our national objectives and the policy goals of our country. Of course, with due regard to the values and principles of solidarity, democracy and peace, we will always endeavour to seek out friendships based on shared values and common goals. I confirm again that Africa will be a priority and the expansion of the excellent platform established by our predecessors will be the foundation that I utilise to advance this particular objective.
I believe that we must always show that we will reject misogyny, racism and chauvinistic ethnicity in all its forms in our diplomatic collaboration. Solidarity networks that seek to advance a progressive agenda for the world are the networks we will attach to. On the Middle East, we take side with the oppressed. We do not reject Israel when it wishes to discuss a genuine settlement.
The two-state solution remains the objective of all members of the United Nations, but we must act to indicate that we are concerned at the lack of movement. We are concerned at the lack of freedom. When there are genuine steps for peace, we are ready to consider again, but it cannot be that we act as though matters are normal when there exists a condition where a people enjoy no rights whatsoever. We cannot attach purely to the theoretical. We must signal that we are concerned.
That does not mean that we give. It means we are ready to engage in discourse leading to a solution. Mr Mandela didn't say a two- state solution even where no movement exist. He said that the people of Palestine stood shoulder-to-shoulder with us; we must stand shoulder-to-shoulder with them. We will be there with the people if Israel and its government once it is ready to recognise that the two-state solution must be brought into reality. So, it should be understood what our intentions are.
We would be most happy when we discuss the Middle East. There we talk about Syria. We talk about the humanitarian disaster in Yemen. Then we talk about all those who suffer and don't neglect
to mention other actors in that region that are exacerbating the negative condition of humanity. It is absolutely imperative that we do that.
We agree with hon members that the budget decline is a real concern for us and I take the advice and wise counsel from members that we must look at the issue of the missions. We will, but I do urge the hon Chetty to understand that the allocations that are provided as the first touch by Treasury do not always remain as so.
At times the figures we state may be understated by the need to revise how we prioritise, given the changes introduced by Treasury post the Medium Term Expenditure Framework. We would ask - given that an explanation was provided to the Portfolio committee, that the bona fides of the department be accepted given that set of explanations.
There is no intention not to be accountable or transparent by the department and we absolutely understand the concern of members, and we assure you, there is no intention to hide
anything. We will respond to the directives of the Auditor- General and ensure we improve our financial administration. Please be assured of that.
I thank the hon member, Mr Bergman of the DA, for the indications that he will support us when the right things are done. We assure you that we are going to strive to try and do the right things, particularly for South Africa and our continent.
It cannot be said that we are bullied by China. China is an important player in the world and we are fortunate to have excellent relations with them. What we should be asking is: Are we drawing the best advantage from that relationship? Have we done as much as we could to extract the economic and other opportunities that derive from such a strong relationship?
I think much more could be done, but I don't think we can just neglect such a powerful and potential trade and economic opportunity, but in no way has China ever in fact found them intriguing in that they say you relate to us on your terms or
you don't relate to us on your terms. They would never come begging for the relationship; we have sought it and they have sought us. I think it's one of rapprochement but I do think there is much more South Africa could secure from that relationship, especially in trade terms.
There are so many provinces in China with a total lack of awareness of South Africa as a tourist destination or indeed a business opportunity. We need to exploit those opportunities much more. We need to go into the deeper recesses of China and begin to build a whole set of new unimagined relationships up to this point. So, there is a lot that can be done and I think we need to explore that but the notion that we are bullied, cajoled, et cetera, is a mistaken one.
On the matter of human rights, I have said our voting record in the United Nations Security Council has certainly for me been a very good one in the time we served as nonpermanent member this year and into 2020. We will ensure - having listened and taken on - an aspect introduced by former Minister of International Relations, Sisulu, that our focus will be the traditionally
observed human rights perspective of South Africa. That will drive our voting pattern. That is what has been happening and I am very pleased at that.
On the conduct of ambassadors, clearly we must address this. I must do so in discussion with the President. It is not just the decision of the Minister; we must have a proper discussion and address that. Also, I do call on us as South Africans to always have a regard when there is a set of dialogues to all sides of the dialogue and to be critical of all elements that exude racism, sexism or any form of prejudice or discrimination. [Applause.]
Don't choose one part!
All of us are focused on Ambassador Mandela and not what has been said to her or about President Mandela or Mrs Winnie Mandela. By saying that, I do not in any way absorb or say one supports, but I am saying let us be even- handed in all commentary that we make about comments. Of course, with respect
to Ambassador Kholwane, again I think a serious discussion is merited.
On the matter of our chairing the African Union: I hope we are going to show the continent that we really take the continent seriously; and that we are going to develop a set of programmes and interventions that will enhance Africa's place in the world and progress with all the agenda programmes of Agenda 2063.
We as Africa must begin to make real advances. This is why I have inserted the notion that let's use South Africa's capacity for research and innovation, to begin to place Africa at the heart of developing new ideas and new products. We haven't done a quarter of what is possible by our continent. We are not yet using the opportunities for creating a knowledge- based society. So, let's begin to think differently.
Africa's change doesn't only happen through resolutions at the African Union, in the economic communities or at the United Nations. The change begins by how we use our talent and our institutions. So, let's begin to add these elements that I
believe are missing at this moment so that we really make the kind of advances that place us in the centre of the world. If we do that, I believe finally our continent and our people will come into their own. I thank you all for participating in the debate. Thank you! [Applause.]
The ACTING HOUSE CHAIRPERSON (Ms L S MAKHUBELE-MASHELE): Thank
you, hon Minister. Members are reminded about the debate on Police - including Independent Police Investigative Directorate - Budget Vote will take place at 16:30 in the National Assembly Chamber. The debate on Social Development Budget Vote will take place at 16:30 in the Old Assembly Chamber. The debate on Public Enterprises Budget Vote will take place at 16:30 in Committee Room E249.
The mini-plenary rose at 16:13. -----------------------