Farewell Ambassador Tom Wheeler

Former Ambassador Tom Wheeler is toasted at his farewell lunch at the Institute.

The South African Institute of International Affairs has bid farewell to Ambassador Tom Wheeler who has served the institute since 2003, after he retired from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

He joined as the chief operating officer and then moved into research, diplomatic liaison and media.

“We all know Tom as an absolutely indefatigable commentator, who thinks little of waking up before the sparrows and doing four to five interviews on the radio before most of us have begun contemplating the day!” says Chief Executive Elizabeth Sidiropoulos.

During his time at SAIIA he has produced a History of the Department of Foreign Affairs and a three-volume set of recollections of many former South African diplomats – an important contribution to the preservation of our contemporary history.

For his services to SAIIA, Ambassador Wheeler is being made an honorary member.

“My ten odd years at SAIIA have given me a new perspective on academic research on foreign policy and insights into the world beyond government.  It has been a great pleasure and joy to work with my colleagues at SAIIA and enjoying the camaraderie that has extended my working life,” says Ambassador Wheeler.

He said the experience in government and at SAIIA enabled him to comment in the electronic media on many unfolding international stories. “I thank most heartily all those with whom I have worked and who have given me so many opportunities,” he says.

“We wish him a productive ‘second retirement’,” Ms Sidiropoulos says.

feature img tom wheeler retirement2
Fadl Nacerodien, Chief Director: Policy Research and Analysis Unit, DIRCO and Ambassador Tom Wheeler speaking with SAIIA Chief Executive Elizabeth Sidiropoulos.

Ambassador Wheeler joined the South African foreign service in 1961 and served in Washington DC (twice); Blantyre, Malawi; London; New York and as ambassador to Turkey, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan between 1997 and 2001. He was a chief director in the multilateral branch of the Department between 1993 and 1997 and was involved in the return of South Africa to the United Nations and other multilateral organisations. His last post was as chief director for Latin America and the Caribbean.

In July 2003 he joined SAIIA as chief operating officer and was successively a research fellow and research associate. He has written a journal article on Turkey’s outreach to Africa and a monograph on Turkey’s relations with South Africa between 1840 and 2005. He has recently completed a policy brief on Antarctica and South Africa’s involvement. He is a weekly columnist on foreign policy for The New Age newspaper.