Image of SA has improved
THERE are some among us who even before President Jacob Zuma assumed office made it their agenda to speculate about South Africa's waning influence in the world under him.
They chose to misunderstand the evolution of our foreign policy, which dates back to 1912, when the ANC was formed.
The idea that our foreign policy under presidents Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki was not informed by ANC policies but their own initiative - which the current president is incapable of advancing - is false and ridiculous.
International relations is not conducted on the basis of personal preferences of a particular head of state. It is conducted on the basis of principles, values and national interests.
The promotion of human rights, democracy and the pursuit of the African agenda remain critical.
For the record, after his initial criticism of South Africa joining Brics - Brazil, Russia, China, South Africa - Jim O'Neill, chairman of Goldman Sachs Asset Management, has now changed his tune.
In an article titled SA's Brics Score: Not All Doom and Gloom, he wrote: "South Africa could more than justify its presence if it helped Africa to fulfill its remarkable potential.
"I witnessed South Africa's successful hosting of the 2010 Fifa World Cup and following that, wrote an article suggesting that if Africa explored cross-border synergies, it would be big enough to be regarded as a true Bric country."
O'Neill said SA scored well for the cost of setting up business and for most of macroeconomic stability variables and also does reasonably well in some areas of governance and schooling.
If SA could also help to lead the rest of the continent to reach its own standards where these are high, Africa would be on an accelerated path to greater economic might.
By exploring cross-border expansion in trade and infrastructure, as well as improvements in domestic productivity, SA will have more than justified its role as a member of Brics.
President Zuma's 2012 State of the Nation Address is in line with these. Zuma has been appointed by his peers in the African Union (AU) to champion infrastructure development. With regard to respect and influence I don't know of any ad-hoc high level committee of the AU that has excluded the president.
Our membership of Brics has three objectives: to advance our national interests; to promote regional integration and related infrastructure programmes and to partner with key players of the south on issues of global governance reforms.
As the host of the next Brics summit, we have a contribution to make to the realisation of the objective of establishing the Brics Development Bank.
UN Security Council
South Africa's current non-permanent membership of the UN Security Council was endorsed by the AU summit and was a vote of confidence on the country's ability to represent and advance the continent's aspirations and interests.
It is a well-known fact that more than 60% of the Security Council's (SC) agenda is on African issues.
The reason why SA voted for Resolution 1973 has been explained. Those who have bothered to read the resolution will confirm that it did not provide for regime change and indiscriminate bombings of Libya.
The three African countries serving at the SC then - Nigeria, Gabon and SA - voted for the resolution. This was later endorsed by the AU Peace and Security Council.
When the abuse of the resolution became apparent and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato) carried out the bombings, SA stood up to Nato and challenged its violation of international rule of law.
Those familiar with the mandate of the SC and the Charter of the UN, have confirmed the correctness of SA's position.
In a SC high-level debate on the need for closer cooperation between the UN and regional organisations, Zuma brought to the SC's attention how the situation in Libya, for example, was a glaring example of the consequences of poor or lack of coordination between the UN and the AU.
After that debate SA sponsored a unanimous resolution 2033 of 2012, focusing on the strategic relationship between the AU and the UN in the maintenance of international peace and security.
This resolution is ground-breaking. It is testimony of our consistency, forthrightness and vision of SA's foreign policy that elevates the African Agenda.
African Union Candidature
Southern Africa has never had an opportunity to lead the then OAU and now the AU at the highest level. Hence the decision to field a candidate for the position of the AU Commission chairperson.
A clear vision and programme has been articulated by the regional candidate. This is why regional heads of state and their ministers are actively campaigning and lobbying for their candidate as they did before.
Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma is not a South African candidate.
This idea that a country's influence is measured by the number of votes it obtains whenever it contests a position is wrong. The assertion is ahistoric and is devoid of any theoretical or practical basis.
Our commitment to the advancement of Africa has never been based on the delusion of false promises that African countries will cede their sovereignty to SA.
If all of us agree that the institutions of the AU need to be strengthened, then we must answer the question, how?
It is fallacious to opine that the Pan-Africanist orientation of our foreign policy was the work of an individual and was not linked to the broader ideological underpinnings of our world view.
Foreign policy champion
For the first time in our history since 1994, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, the minister responsible for international relations and management of our foreign policy, is a seasoned diplomat and international relations practitioner. She has represented the country as a high commissioner in several countries for about 12 years.
Nkoana-Mashabane delivered SA's inclusion into Brics, the return to the SC and an even bigger prize by presiding over the successful and historical Cop 17.
Not only did the minister secure a second commitment period to the Kyoto Protocol, but the Durban Platform package has been hailed the world over as having restored trust in the UN climate change convention processes.
So, has South Africa's image improved under President Zuma? The answer is a resounding YES.
- Monyela is deputy director-general for public diplomacy in the Department of International Relations and Cooperation