Manage public opinion, Zuma tells diplomats

2013-04-12 08:53

South Africa’s ambassadors should ensure they present the country in a positive light, President Jacob Zuma has said.

“In this era of globalisation, since information flows like fire and can easily be misinterpreted, our diplomacy cannot afford to neglect public opinion,” Zuma said yesterday at the heads of mission conference in Pretoria, according to a copy of his speech.

He referred to the killing of 13 South African soldiers in the Central African Republic during fighting with rebels near Bangui on March 23.

In the aftermath, reports surfaced that South African forces were there to protect business interests, instead of simply providing training to the CAR’s army.

“We have witnessed this just recently following the tragic event in the CAR, and how information gets quickly distorted and rumours and lies easily flourish. Prioritising communication and marketing is therefore a key strategic goal.”

There was a need to build stronger networks with non-governmental organisations, think-tanks, universities and other civil society structures.

“This is important because economic decisions to invest in, trade with or visit a country are not always made solely on the facts... they are often emotional and based on perceptions.”

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