With Maite Nkoana-Mashabane at the helm, South Africa`s foreign policy has made some solid gains internationally.
The department is administratively sound and has had clean audits for the past three years.
A diplomat in the department, who has closely watched Nkoana-Mashabane since she took over in 2009, told the Mail & Guardian: “Minister Nkoana-Mashabane`s key mandate after the 2009 elections was to sell [Jacob] Zuma and South Africa to the world, especially given the circumstances under which he came to power. Looking back, it`s a mandate that has been successfully executed. Zuma is today well respected. He sits with peers in the G20, Brics, G8 and now the United Nations Economic and Social Council (Ecosoc). He chairs several panels on conflict resolution and education with the UN secretary general and has been appointed by his peers in the African Union to champion infrastructure development in Africa.”
Nkoana-Mashabane successfully lobbied for the country`s inclusion in the powerful Brics (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) formation and helped South Africa to secure another term on the UN Security Council.
Under her leadership as president of the UN climate-change conference, COP17, the event not only secured a second commitment period to the Kyoto protocol, but the Durban outcome has been hailed by many as having restored trust in the UN climate change convention process.
But perhaps her major achievement in 2012 was to mobilise support for Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma to become the first woman and the first Southern African candidate to be elected chairperson of the AU Commission.
Last month, South Africa was overwhelmingly elected by the members of the UN General Assembly to the global body`s 47-member Ecosoc. In July the country became the joint chair, with China, of the Forum on China-Africa Co-operation for the next six years.
In the area of conflict resolution, Nkoana-Mashabane has made sure South Africa was a major contributor to the UN and AU peacekeeping missions in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan, Burundi and Nepal.
South Africa has also been involved in trying to find a political solution in Zimbabwe. After taking over as chairperson of the Southern African Development Community`s troika on politics, defence and security, the country has taken a tougher stance that has resulted in an increased focus on implementing Zimbabwe`s global political agreement, particularly the drafting of a new constitution, the holding of a referendum and the formalising of a road map towards envisaged elections in 2013.