2 December 1999
Chairman of the Foreign Correspondent's Association, Dr Vogt
Director General in The Presidency, Rev. F. Chikane
Ladies and Gentlemen of the FCA
When my office informed me that I had been invited to address you at your annual awards dinner I was very excited at the prospect of meeting distinguished persons like yourselves. I hoped that this event would give me the opportunity to share ideas and perhaps clarify some of the programs and strategies that our government has put in place in our quest to create a better life for all our people.
I am therefore going to address you only on some of the more topical issues that affect our government and our country. Firstly let me begin by thanking all of you for the work that you do in keeping the international community informed about the goings on in our country.
I do believe that your reporting goes some way towards enlightening the people in your respective countries about what is happening in South Africa and that in a way it influences the thinking around issues of South Africa and the continent and shapes the direction that is taken by your countries' foreign policy, in so far as South Africa and indeed Africa is concerned. I would like therefore to spend a few moments on the capacity that the media has to influence the direction that the countries they report on takes.
Journalists in South Africa have no shortage of stories to write about, the question that you each have to ask yourselves is: how much does your reporting play a role in influencing positive outcomes in the country?
I am asking this question because it seems to me that there is no shortage of criticism around policies that are designed to improve the lives of South Africans. It is all very well to report around the many disasters and conflicts that abound in our continent, our young democracies need that constant nudge. It is all well also for journalists to ferret our corruption and failure, perceived or real in our communities.
What our country and the rest of the continent needs is careful analysis around real issues that afflict South Africa and the continent. We need you as journalists and particularly international correspondents to articulate what we are doing as governments, with as much vigour as you might use in reporting on the negative aspects of our lives.
In explaining the concept of the African Renaissance I often make the point that it is call to all people who have a connection with the African continent to do their best in whatever field they may be in, so that the continent as a whole is taken forward. In this regard I would like to invite you all to engage with us. We are willing to make ourselves available for meaningful interactions with you that will clarify issues - and perhaps these interactions could result in both of us taking a different angle to some of the issues that face us as a country and as a continent.
You, as members of the international media have a very critical role to play in the African agenda.
Today, the story that South Africa offers the world is probably more complex than the clear polarities of the past. But it is no less dramatic. In some ways, it may be harder to find and to tell, but that is precisely the kind of challenge that all good journalists should relish.
We believe we still have many of the world's most interesting human stories happening right here in this country - stories that can continue to grip the intellects and souls of audiences many thousands of kilometres away. South Africa remains very information rich for those who wish to mine it. I urge you therefore to be more reflective and analytic in telling our story.
One of the most important stories that needs to be told about Africa and therefore South Africa revolves around the efforts that we are making to bring about peace and stability in our region and indeed the rest of the world. South Africa has played a significant role, particularly in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, the Comores and Lesotho. We have even made a contribution in the resolution of the Lockerbie issue.
We are making all these efforts because peace and stability are necessary to create a climate that is conducive for economic integration. Projects such as the Lubombo SDI and the Maputo Corridor are a clear example of the potential that our region has to act for the benefit of all our countries.
It is hoped that early in the year 2000 we will be able to implement a free trade protocol within SADC that will create a free trade area within member countries. We had hoped to implement at the same time, the EU/SA agreement on Trade, Development and Co-operation, but unfortunately the European Union countries have not ratified it.
These strides have given hope to countries to the South. The challenge that remains now is for us to develop skills in fields such as management, information technology for the implementation of the projects that will emanate from these agreements and to be able to access funds from the World Bank and the EU.
We need to have the skills base to enable us to tackle these projects for the benefit of our people and not rely permanently on foreign consultants.
Another area that we will look at in the future is that of rationalising our institutions of higher learning. It is felt that countries in our region have the capacity to share resourcs so that if our medical institutions have better resources countries within SADC should be able to utilise them. In the same way South Africa should be able to make use of institutions in other SADC countries where they are better equipped in a particular field.
The various BI-nationals that we have established, some of which are merely forums help to give content to the strategies that we have put in place for the advancement of our region and eventually our continent. They are forums where we can deal with difficult issues that might otherwise get bogged down in bureaucratic technicalities.
This is what has made it possible for us to make advances in terms of implementing projects like the Spatial Development Initiatives. Government officials are able to, together with business people iron out any problems that might impede the progress of investment projects.
Ladies and gentlemen, it is important at this point to point out that all the effort that this government puts into its foreign policy is aimed at advancing our national interest first and foremost. Our involvement in conflict resolution is driven by our understanding that the countries in our region and even our continent are interconnected.
Creating the right environment for sustainable development in the DRC will ensure that the people of that country do not need to seek work in South Africa which often gives rise to xenophobic hatred in our country.
Instability in the DRC will not flourish in isolation w!ithout affecting us, therefore it is important that we involve ourselves in ensuring that as our country moves forward we take along our brothers and sisters to the North of us.On the economic front, there are economies of scale to be gained in ensuring the development of the economies of neighbouring countries. In this regard the Trade Agreements that we have with these countries will allow for the rationalisation of investment so that it is channelled to the country with the most comparative advantage thereby benefiting all of us in the long run. In this regard the harmonisation of our regulations with those of our neighbouring countries will make for smooth business activity.
Looking further than countries in Southern Africa, we are already engaging ECOWAS so that eventually the links between the two regional blocs can be strengthened. This would translate into a larger economic zone cutting across the continent, with the vision eventually of one Trade Zone of Africa.
All these strategies, as you all know require a specific environment to come to fruition. We therefore are actively promoting the concept of good governance as being one of the pillars of economic development, peace and stability. We regard this issues as crucial in that it implies accountability, good management of resources. It is not surprising therefore that the OAU is moving towards dealing with those leaders who come into power through military means.
With the advent of democracy in our own country, we have been admitted back into the international community. We now chair various international organisations. We are increasingly playing a meaningful role in the international arena and we regard this as important to allow us to engage and influence our partners to the North and to the South.
I would like, at this point, to clarify another issues that constantly arises with regard to our foreign relations.
Concluding diplomatic relations with a country does not mean that we agree with all their pratices. We believe that through engagement we can create a communication channel that will enable us to influence those nations. We do not, by relating to them, violate any of the international decisions nor do we engage any country to the detriment of another.
We believe in engagement as being a tool that will allow us to discuss and develop common ground with other countries with common problems and thereby speak with one voice on issues of common interest. We believe that we are on course. We invite you therefore to travel with us on the long and difficult road ahead of us. We believe that Africa will indeed rise and take its place as an important player in the nations of the world.
I thank you.