The main objective of a country's diplomatic service is to establish friendly and mutually beneficial relations with other countries. In South Africa, the diplomatic service is administrated by the Department of Foreign Affairs. Candidates are recruited for service in South Africa, or in other countries where a diplomatic or consular mission represents the Republic.
Foreign affairs officers can be diplomatic representatives for the country of origin or provide support to more senior staff, such as ambassadors, at overseas missions. Their duties include assisting at official functions, helping prepare guest lists, and acting as host or hostess at receptions.
The work can be strenuous, but it is also very interesting and may include the following:
Representation: Foreign affairs officers represent South Africa in the country where they are stationed. They may attend official functions as South Africa’s representative and communicate messages from South Africa to the host country.
Foreign Policy: Foreign affairs officers may communicate and explain the policies and goals of their own country to the host country. They prepare documents for submission to the host country and then report the reactions back to their own country. They also attend international conferences where political, economic and technical affairs are discussed.
Information: Foreign affairs officers must inform their own government on the political, economic and military developments in the host country.
Influencing of opinion: A major responsibility of foreign affairs officers is to improve relations between their own and other countries. They try to positively influence the host country’s opinion of South African institutions, technology and training.
Administration: The head of a diplomatic or consular mission is responsible for the administration of the embassy, mission or consulate. This includes personnel, financial and general administration. Foreign affairs officers situated at the head office in Pretoria must also inform all the overseas missions on government decisions and new policies
Foreign affairs officers spend most of their time overseas. Although preferences are taken into account, the foreign affairs officer must be prepared to work in any country where there is a South African diplomatic mission.
Department of Foreign Affairs