DA’s Wilmot James Wants Govt To Revamp Foreign Policy By Cutting Underperforming Embassies


Democratic Alliance MP Wilmot James has reminded the country of the need to resuscitate its dwindling economy if the country must break forth from its present economic state.

The MP expressed concern over the deplorable state of the country and asserted that certain things must be put in place if the much-anticipated national growth must come to reality.

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He further postulated that the country needs to take a critical look at its foreign policy. He suggested that for South Africa’s policy to be resuscitated, the government needs to slash the number of its costly and under-performing foreign embassies.

Speaking further at a presentation at the Cyrus R Vance Centre for International Justice in New York City, James took time to address South Africa’s economy in the post-Mandela years.

The MP revealed that weaknesses existed despite the fact that South Africa had 122 missions abroad – the second highest number after the US. The cost to maintain these missions was R3.2 billion a year.

He belabored that diplomatic posting in the country has gone sentimental as the ruling party usually use diplomatic posting as payback and patronage for politicians.

James also said there was a “startling inability to keep our traditional trading partners while developing and securing new ones” and that the country was undermining its democratic credential and values “by cavorting with autocrats from the Central African Republic to North Korea”.

He however prayed for a change in attitude by saying, “Not all is lost. With the right doctrine and smarter use of resources, the country might once more punch above its weight”.

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While his presentation lasted, the DA MP hoped that SA’s foreign policy would bounce back to life. He also made four powerful proposals. They include:

» Setting up a non-resident ambassadorial corps of 100 unpaid visiting ambassadors drawn from retired diplomats, civil servants, leading business people, community leaders and retired politicians;

» Cutting embassies from 122 to 75, reducing staff from 2 500 to 500, and focusing on cutting-edge diplomatic thinking and practice;

» Ridding the need for South African visas for anyone from a country with a higher per capita income than South Africa, and allowing online visa applications; and

» Becoming the “Singapore of Africa” by expediting trade flows and speeding up customs’ clearance.

James added that South Africa can really excel in foreign relations and also set the pace in dealing with corruption and all other societal ills.

“In foreign relations, we can do better, and cause considerably less harm.”

“The content and process of foreign policy must be aligned with our domestic intent, to cleanse the country of corruption, entitlement and mediocrity that have become hallmarks of ANC government,” said James.

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