DIRCO incompetence leads to diplomatic bags crisis – Emma Louise Powell

DA MP says situation is of grave concern in light of upcoming elections, with citizens abroad set to cast ballots within next 3 weeks

DIRCO incompetence leads to diplomatic bags crisis

28 April 2024

The Department of International Relations and Cooperation’s (DIRCO) failure to budget through supply chain management for the renewal of the Diplomatic Bag Service may have grave implications for elections abroad, set to take place on 17 and 18 May.

South African consulates and embassies throughout the world rely on the Diplomatic Bag Services to send high-level, classified communications and consular documents to and from South Africa.

In the absence of this service, South African citizens abroad are unable to send and receive crucial documentation via their local Embassies, such as marriage certificates, police clearances and passports.

DIRCO’s failure to plan for the timely renewal of this critical service has now led to interim, short-term contracts being awarded on an ad hoc basis, where money can be found and internally re-appropriated.

The situation is of grave concern in light of the upcoming National Elections, with citizens abroad set to cast their ballots within the next 3 weeks.

Diplomatic bags are required to send ballots to missions abroad, are only counted once received by the IEC in South Africa.

A failure by DIRCO to ensure a functioning and seamless Diplomatic Bag Service during this time will pose a significant threat to overseas voting integrity.

Moreso, as of the past week, 20 South African Embassies across Africa, 13 Embassies across Europe and the Americas, and 4 Embassies across Asia had still not provided the Department with diplomatic bags' requirements for voting day.

Whilst South Africans have become accustomed to the ANC led government's rank incompetence, the situation at DIRCO is inexcusable. Not only does the Department not know how many Diplomatic Bags to dispatch, but it has no formal contract in place to do so.

The DA calls on Minister Naledi Pandor to urgently provide details of all actions she has taken to ensure diplomatic bags can be sent without interruptions going forward and to hold her Director General to account for this failure.

The DA will also be writing to the IEC to notify them of this potential risk ahead of the election, and to obtain guarantees that they have alternative arrangements in place to send and receive ballots should DIRCO not resolve this situation in a sustainable manner within the next week.

Issued by Emma Louise Powell, DA Shadow Minister of International Relations and Cooperation