SA to close 10 diplomatic missions due to financial constraints: Naledi Pandor

Employee cost flagged

Andisiwe Makinana Political correspondent
International relations and co-operation minister Naledi Pandor. File photo.
International relations and co-operation minister Naledi Pandor. File photo.
Image: Sunday Times/Simphiwe Nkwali

Ten diplomatic missions will be closed as part of the international relations and co-operation department's (Dirco) efforts to cut costs.

Minister Naledi Pandor announced on Thursday that the department had taken a hard but necessary decision to close 10 diplomatic missions abroad in response to SA's fiscal constraints, which were worsened by the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Pandor said the missions, which include embassies, high commissions and consulates, are being closed systematically during the 2021/2022 financial year.

“This decision is deeply regretted and South Africa expresses its confidence that the excellent diplomatic relations with these countries and regions will continue through the non-resident missions, and the diplomatic missions represented in SA,” she said.

Pandor was addressing journalists before presenting her department's budget to parliament on Thursday afternoon.

“We wish to assure South African citizens resident abroad, businesses and tourists that a smooth transfer of civic and immigration services to non-resident missions is under way.

“All affected stakeholders are advised to check with the affected embassies and consulates general on the exact dates of termination of services,” said Pandor.

She said further announcements on the transfer of civic and immigration services would be made on the websites of Dirco, the department of home affairs and the affected missions.

The missions earmarked for closure are:

Unfortunately, we cannot continue to spend money that we do not have. We need to act quickly and in unison in dealing with this complex challenge.
Dirco minister Naledi Pandor
  • Minsk, Belarus;
  • Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago;
  • The Holy See, The Vatican;
  • Helsinki, Finland;
  • Milan, Italy (consulate);
  • Muscat, Oman;
  • Suva, Fiji;
  • Bucharest, Romania;
  • Lima, Peru; and
  • Chicago, USA (consulate).

Pandor said there had has been an increasing need to “do more with less” as a result of the fiscal constraints faced by the government. The outbreak of Covid-19 had also presented new challenges to the economic climate.

She said the department's spending on compensation of employees had been above the available budget.

The reduced indicative baseline of the department on employee compensation was on average R2.8bn per annum, which represents an estimated budget shortfall of about R250m per annum.

“Unfortunately, we cannot continue to spend money that we do not have. We need to act quickly and in unison in dealing with this complex challenge,” said Pandor.

The funding pressures have necessitated cutbacks in the operational budget and require Dirco to become more strategic to ensure resource constraints do not unduly impact SA's international footprint and influence, she said.

The Dirco budget for 2020/21 is R6,452,372,000.

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