South Africa’s Parliament has a limited but developing foreign relations programme. Based on discussions and interviews with Parliamentary Officials10 and Members of Parliament,11 it appears Parliament generally uses four types of diplomacy models, namely: (1) conventional model, (2) formal model, (3) political model and (4) ad hoc model.
Parliament’s Conventional Diplomacy Model
The Joint Sub-Committee on International Relations, which has traditionally been based in the Joint Rules Committee of Parliament, represents the conventional diplomacy model for dealing with international relations. The International Relations (IR) Sub-Committee may:
4.4.1 make recommendations to the Joint Rules Committee on the development, formulation and adoption of policy regarding Parliament's international relations, including:
(i) relations with other Parliaments and international organizations;
(iv) the hosting and receiving of delegations from abroad;
monitor and oversee the implementation of policy on the matters referred to in paragraph 4.4.1 and make recommendations in this regard to the Joint Rules Committee; and
perform any other function or exercise any other power assigned to it by the Joint Rules Committee.
The IR Sub-Committee is currently not operational. It is suggested that the reconstitution of this Sub-Committee be looked at to deal with the increasing number of incoming and outgoing delegations to and from Parliament.
While the Sub-Committee was in existence, it advocated Parliament-to-Parliament relations as opposed to the establishment of friendship groups. As a result, the conventional Parliamentary diplomacy model which currently informs Parliament’s international relations, is to avoid establishing structured relations with another parliament or parliamentary body. Instead the conventional model suggests that Parliament firstly, participate in various parliamentary forums such as SADC-PF and the IPU and secondly, allows for Parliament-to-Parliament relations.
The formal diplomacy model advocates a formalization of relations with a Parliament or multilateral organization. The benefit of the formal model is that it creates a body that is obliged to report on matters that have been mandated to it. It is a structured body with a specific focus guided by formal rules.
The disadvantage is that the body may become inflexible if the relationship
between Parliament and a third party changes. The formal model also opens the door to a potential proliferation of agreements between Parliament and third parties to establish friendship groups.
Political Parliamentary Diplomacy Model
The political model represents a formal, structured attempt at cementing relations between Parliament and a third party. It essentially mirrors or enhances an existing relationship between government and the third party.
The Sub-Committee of the Portfolio Committee on Foreign Affairs represents this sort of structure. The advantage of this structure is that it has a sound political basis thereby providing it with the ability and capacity to make decisive policy decisions.
The disadvantage of adopting the political parliamentary diplomacy model is that the structure that will oversee relations between Parliament and a third party, may become too policy oriented. In addition, the structure may also become restricted in its scope since it may deal exclusively with the third party from a foreign affairs/international relations perspective, ignoring issues such as trade and development.
The current Sub-Committee of the Portfolio Committee on Foreign Affairs is not operational. Its effectiveness can therefore not be measured.
Ad Hoc Parliamentary Diplomacy Model
The Ad Hoc model promotes a semi-structured and flexible approach to international relations between Parliament and a third party. It allows for the establishment of an Ad Hoc Committee composed of Members from various Committees including foreign affairs, trade and industry and defence.
The advantages of this type of diplomacy model is that takes into consideration the wide-ranging nature of international relations, requires little or no resources and is not dependent on official rules and can therefore avoid the bureaucracy associated with such rules.
The disadvantage is that without strong leadership to drive the committee, the ad hoc model may not be as effective.
While Parliament of South Africa has generally adopted the conventional diplomacy model, there has however been an exception to this approach in the form of Parliament’s relations with the African Union (AU) and Pan-African Parliament (PAP). In 2002, Parliament established the AU Working Group, an ad-hoc committee based in the NA Speaker’s Office and chaired by the Speaker herself. In an interview with Lucille Meyer,12 she indicated that this Working Group achieved a considerable amount due to the fact that it formulated specific objectives and systematically worked towards achieving these objectives.