Nelson Kgwete’s letter refers (Olivier distorts policy, January 17). I have a similar complaint about his comments: cherry-picking and distorting my article for points of criticism, ignoring the main thrust of my argument. My advice to Kgwete would be to develop a more holistic and fundamental picture of SA’s foreign policy.

Trying to label me, he kicks off by falsely accusing me of having disdain for SA’s strong bonds of solidarity with the rest of the developing word. This is nonsense.

Had he read my article more thoroughly, he would have seen that my point was just the opposite: that an Afrocentric foreign policy and solidarity with multilateral efforts to bring more equity and justice in the global financial system are the right way forward. But that this should not be done in a zero-sum fashion, as the government is wont to do.

His nitpicking as to who is our biggest trading partner is similarly uninformed. Of course it is the European Union (EU), operating as a single market entity.

What is also surprising is Kgwete’s take on SA’s attitude towards the West. Not long ago, Gwede Mantashe, as ANC secretary-general, publicly proclaimed that SA "does not need the West". President Jacob Zuma has made similar pronouncements, and so did the ANC’s successive foreign policy discussion papers. SA’s track record at the United Nations, particularly on human rights, has consistently showed a western-sceptic line. If his assessment is that SA is not keeping the West at arm’s length, he is obviously stating new policy, a welcome sign indeed.

In conclusion, Kgwete ignores my main argument: that the Department of International Relations and Development should come out of its comfort zone and do far more to promote
SA’s economic welfare and security in these difficult times, given the exorbitant resources at its disposal.

Prof Gerrit Olivier
Via e-mail