Deputy Minister of the Department of International Relations and Cooperation, Nomaindiya Mfeketho.


By Sibonakaliso Msane

South Africa’s preliminary focus will be the blue economy; promoting innovation, research and development; and deepened and broadened interactions with the Dialogue Partners and regional organisations when it assumes its two-year chairmanship of the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA). This was according to the Deputy Minister of the Department of International Relations and Cooperation, Nomaindiya Mfeketho.

The Deputy Minister was speaking at the 16th Council of Ministers Meeting of the 21-member state formation of countries bordering the Indian Ocean, which was held yesterday(27 October 2016) in Bali, Indonesia. The meeting included ministers from IORA member states and IORA Dialogue Partners, who met to engage in important deliberations in IORA and to sign the Indonesia-proposed IORA Concord. The concord is reportedly the basis of boosting regional partnership on a broad range of issues concerning the association.

“This is the last meeting before South Africa assumes the chairmanship. I would like to express South Africa’s continuing support and appreciation to Indonesia for its sterling leadership of the association thus far, especially in guiding us towards IORA’s first Leadership Summit to commemorate the Association’s 20th Anniversary,” said Mfeketho.

Mfeketho continued: “This will be a historic milestone and an unprecedented event that will elevate IORA to a higher level through the IORA Concord and its Action Plan into the next decade and beyond.”  

South Africa’s plans during its Chairship tenure is to focus on woman empowerment, as a cross-cutting theme, and the alignment of the 2050 Africa’s Integrated Maritime Strategy with the activities of IORA, in the areas such as maritime security, capacity building, skills development and technology transfer in the ocean economy.   

South Africa is the current Vice-Chair of IORA while Indonesia concludes its Chairship tenure in 2016.

About IORA’s Chairmaship

The Council of Minnisters, offered voluntarily by member states, elects a chairman of the association for a period of two years. If there is no voluntary offer, the chairman is elected on the basis of geographical consideration.  The term of office of the incoming chairman commences at the beginning of the meeting of the Council of Ministers, when the term of office of the incumbent Chair expires. 

The incoming chairman is the member state that served as the vice-chair of the association during the term of office of the incumbent chairman.  The role of the chairman is to arrange, coordinate, host and preside over the meetings of the council, the meetings of the Committee of Senior Officials and any other meetings as mandated by the council. 

The Minister of the Department of International Relations and Cooperation, Nkoane Mashabane will take up chairmanship for South Africa in 2017 until 2019. 

Ambassador Bhagirathi of the Republic of India, who has been Secretary-General from 2012 will conclude his term at the end of 2017. South Africa has expressed an interest in proposing for the position, and was reported by Deputy Minister Mfeketho that South Africa will be approaching IORA with a South African candidate,

There is an indication that South Africa plans to make its pro-woman empowerment and Afro-centric stance at IORA very clear from the word go.

Deputy Minister Mfeketho said: “Perhaps it’s time for the successful erstwhile Troika of IORA female foreign ministers to be followed by an African female leading the Secretariat.”