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'You will not be drunk in foreign streets': Pandor lectures SA diplomats

Amanda Khoza Presidency reporter
Dirco minister Naledi Pandor has expressed faith in SA's diplomats to be patriotic ambassadors for the country.
Dirco minister Naledi Pandor has expressed faith in SA's diplomats to be patriotic ambassadors for the country.
Image: GCIS

Department of international relations and co-operation (Dirco) minister Naledi Pandor has read the riot act to a gathering of SA’s heads of missions abroad, saying they should be worthy ambassadors for the country.

“You are not the diplomat who will be recalled. You are not some diplomat that will be drunk in some foreign street and you are not the diplomat who will forget your purpose,” she told a packed auditorium at Dirco’s head offices in Pretoria.

Speaking during the 2022 heads of mission conference (HoMC22), a platform for strategic discussion among SA’s internationally deployed senior diplomats, Pandor was apparently referring to an incident in 2013 when SA’s ambassador to Shanghai, China, Lassy Chiwayo, was quietly recalled for “health reasons” after reports emerged that he was found drunk, walking naked in a street near his office.

Pandor said she had confidence in her ambassadors, saying any ambassador who believed that theirs was an easy job doesn’t understand foreign relations.

I know that you have those private conversations with representatives of other countries in the countries that you are elected but when you whisper together, whisper positively about our country
Naledi Pandor, Dirco minister

“It is complex, nuanced and difficult but you have the ability to carry it through. What these tasks require are astute, strategic, focused, well-informed diplomats, fully cognisant of their value to SA. I believe you all fit the criteria,” she said.

“Our heads of mission must be leaders in finding innovative ways of promoting our country to the world and it starts with portraying a positive image of SA both in public and in private.

“I know that you have those private conversations with representatives of other countries in the countries that you are elected but when you are whispering together, whisper positively, don’t whisper negatively about our country,” Pandor continued. 

“SA must portray to the world that it has what it takes to compete on the world stage. You have to help our president and our government rebuild investor confidence and indicate that SA is a clearly sophisticated and promising emerging market that offers a unique combination of highly developed first-world economic infrastructure and a vibrant market.”

Pandor said she hoped they would engage prospective investors and take the initiative to forge good relationships between companies abroad and producers and manufacturers in SA.

This was one of the performance indicators that Dirco director-general Zane Dangor would be looking at when assessing their performances.

“Take advantage of the trend from the pandemic era of digital conferencing to facilitate linkages between SA’s agriculture producers and importers in your host markets.” 

Diplomats were encouraged to meet the chambers of commerce in the countries they were deployed to and become true economic ambassadors.

“You need to have a detailed understanding of our initiatives of special economic zones so that you identify targets for potential partners abroad and share with them the opportunities that exist in the sectors in our country.”

Pandor said if the diplomats fail to attract partners to SA’s special economic zones, then “our zones will be empty nests waiting for the birds to come and roost”.

They are also expected to help President Cyril Ramaphosa’s investment drive and commitment to raise R1.2-trillion worth of investment in five years. 

“We know that with ourselves and with the African continent and other developing countries, the Covid-19 pandemic exposed the weaknesses in our public health system. It has been a wake-up call for the entire continent,” Pandor said, adding that the post Covid-19 agenda had to include economic recovery for SA and the continent.

“I do not need to say to you that our fortunes are inextricably linked to those of the continent and so it is vital as we do our work that we champion Africa’s developmental agenda, which will lead to our own development and prosperity.”

TimesLIVE


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