President Jacob Zuma says South Africa needs diplomats who will broker economic benefits while forging political ties when they are sent on foreign missions.
Delivering the keynote address at the Inaugural Ubuntu Awards at the Cape Town International Convention Centre on Saturday night, the President said government and its diplomats cannot work alone. He said all sectors of society are needed to build relations and promote friendships with the world.
The first instalment of the awards, which was hosted by the Department of International Relations and Cooperation, recognised men and women who have raised the flag of the country high in areas such as social responsibility, economic contribution, culture, sport as well as lifetime achievement.
“As it has often been emphasised, the diplomat of this century should be the one who can in addition to brokering political ties, also ensure economic returns for the country.
“Indeed, we need to improve our strength in this area for better foreign policy outcomes, which is why we have also trained many foreign officers on economic diplomacy.
“In fact, many countries have tied their foreign policies strongly to economic outcomes,” said President Zuma.
The President said over the past 20 years, South Africa has increased its diplomatic presence abroad from 36 foreign missions in 1994 to 126 in 2015. About 30% of these are women representatives.
Twenty-eight trade officials have been deployed to the existing 126 missions, with 53 vacant positions still waiting to be filled.
President Zuma said South Africa – an emerging economy – needs to grow its economy by forging relations and partnerships with other African and world countries.
Among the notable partnerships that South Africa has forged is BRICS [Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa], which has since led to the formation of the BRICS Development Bank.
President Zuma commended the private sector for increasing trade ties with other countries.
“In particular this evening, we congratulate the business community for promoting the South African brand. South African business, particularly retail and construction, is spreading at a very great pace in the continent.
“We should also continue looking at particularly our formations such as BRICS and other regions to explore the many existing opportunities.”
Women’s March champion Ruth Mompati honoured
Several individuals and organisations were honoured for their contribution to enhancing Brand South Africa locally and abroad.
The President said their contributions were well deserved.
“It is [fitting] that we applaud the successes of distinguished men and women in enhancing and promoting the image of South Africa abroad.
“These are men and women who have walked in the footsteps of eminent leaders like Oliver Tambo, Moses Kotane, Johnny Makatini, JB Marks and many others who represented the liberation movement abroad very well during the apartheid times.”
The evening’s biggest award, the UbuntuLifetime Achiever Award, went to South Africa’s first High Commissioner to Canada Billy Modise, 84, who was “shocked” to receive the award.
Modise played a crucial role in mobilising the international community against apartheid, as well as the boycott of South African products, while he was in exile.
“I am representing here a lot of stalwarts of our liberation struggle. That is why I am accepting this award.
“We did what we did not because we were looking for material benefits. We did what we did because we wanted to serve our people,” he said.
Also a recipient of the same award was 90-year-old Ruth Mompati, one of the women who led the historic 1956 Women’s March.
She dedicated the award to all the women who were involved in the march and in the defiance campaign in the 1950s.
“I can’t see how I could have been recognised if it were not for those ladies who were with me holding my hands. It was never a one-person job. It was always a job that was done by a collective,” she said.
Other recipients of the night included celebrated singers Sipho “Hotstix” Mabuse and Yvonne “Princess of Africa” Chaka-Chaka, who received the UbuntuCultural Diplomacy Award.
Gift of the Givers founder Imtiaz Sooliman received the Social Responsibility Award.
Swimming gold medalist Chad Le Clos received the UbuntuSport Diplomacy Award, while the Youth Diplomacy Award went to 24-year-old engineer Lumka Msibi, who recently won a top international award for her technical paper that focused on space education and outreach symposium.
SA Breweries received the Global Economic Diplomacy Award for leaving a footprint in the global market, while Nando’s was honoured with the Africa Economic Diplomacy Award for keeping the fire burning within the continent.