Issue 425 | 30 April 2020
    It's Your Voice   UBUNTU Magazine   UBUNTU Radio  
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Freedom Day 2020
Corona Virus 24-Hour Hotline for South African citizens
South Africans, for the first time since the advent of democracy, marked Freedom Day under a lockdown to curb the spread of the Coronavirus pandemic.
The country annually commemorates 27 April as the historic occasion in 1994 when all citizens were allowed to cast their vote and usher in their first democratic elections.

But with South Africans confined to their homes in a bid to curb COVID-19, President Cyril Ramaphosa, through a virtual broadcast, delivered the Freedom Day address under the 2020 Freedom Day theme, “Solidarity and Triumph of the Human Spirit in Challenging Times”.

The President’s address called on citizens to reflect on not only their hard-won freedoms, some of which had been restricted under lockdown, but also on the lessons presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The true lessons of this experience will not just be about the necessity of social distancing, proper hand washing and infection control. They will also be about whether we have the ability to turn this crisis into an opportunity to invest in a new society, a new consciousness and a new economy.

“In this new society, the privileged cannot afford to close their eyes to the plight of the poor and sleep peacefully at night. This is the time when we should actively work to build a fair and just country,” said the President.

Before this pandemic arrived on South Africa’s shores, government was at work to address poverty, underdevelopment, unemployment and a weak economy, but the pandemic could set these efforts back by many years.

The pandemic and by extension the imposed lockdown forced the country to confront the great inequalities that continue to characterise the country, 26 years after the attainment of freedom.

“Though we are certainly all braving the same tide, we have not been impacted in the same way by this pandemic. Some people have been able to endure the Coronavirus lockdown in a comfortable home with a fully stocked fridge, with private medical care and online learning for their children.

“For millions of others, this has been a month of misery, of breadwinners not working, of families struggling to survive and of children going to bed and waking up hungry,” said the President.

The President described this as the greatest form of injustice and a “stain on our national conscience”. He said the promise made on 27 April 1994 could no longer be deferred.

“We must make real the right of all our people to healthcare, food, shelter, water, social security and land,” said the President.

In this final decade of the National Development Plan, President Ramaphosa called on citizens to change the pace of social and economic transformation.

“Even as we turn the tide on the Coronavirus pandemic, we will still have to confront a contracting economy, unemployment, crime and corruption, a weakened state and other pressing concerns.

“We will have to find new, exceptional and innovative ways to overcome them. This is not something government can do alone,” said the President. While government alone could not rebuild the economy and the country, he said recovery could be achieved through collaboration with business, labour and civil society.

But with the country still consumed with containing the virus, the President called on South Africans to respect each other’s rights and adhere to the lockdown regulations.

“Respect for the rights of others is the beating heart of freedom. Violating the Coronavirus response provisions and exposing others to a potentially fatal illness is the worst form of disrespect for others,” he said.

President Ramaphosa called on South Africans to unite against the pandemic and use the crisis to reaffirm the resolve to fundamentally change society.

“Let us emerge from the Coronavirus pandemic a better country, a more equal country. This year, we are celebrating Freedom Day apart, each of us confined to our homes.

“Next year – through your determination, through your courage and through your actions – we will once again celebrate Freedom Day together,” said the President.

– Source:
President Cyril Ramaphosa on Monday, 27 April 2020, welcomed Cuban health professionals who arrived in the country to support efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19 in South Africa.
In total, 217 Cuban health specialists and workers arrived in South Africa. This followed a request made by President Ramaphosa to President Díaz Canel Bermúdez of Cuba.

The group consists of the following:
  • experts in the fields of epidemiology, biostatistics and public health
  • family physicians to guide interventions through door-to-door testing and to assist local health workers in health promotion and disease surveillance at community level
  • healthcare technology engineers to assist in maintaining the inventory, deployment and repair of aged medical equipment
  • experts to provide technical assistance working with local experts.
In 2019, South Africa and Cuba celebrated 25 years of cordial, mutually beneficial diplomatic relations and constructive cooperation at both bilateral and multilateral levels.

The South Africa-Cuba Agreement on Cooperation in the Fields of Public Health and Medical Sciences has registered much success.

Over 732 South Africans, many from previously disadvantaged communities, received their first five years of medical training in Cuba and have qualified as doctors since the inception of the Nelson Mandela-Fidel Castro medical training programme in 1997.

Many others continue receiving medical training in Cuba and will also provide in the coming years much-need primary healthcare services to their local communities.

“The strong and historic relations between the two countries has seen bilateral agreements and technical cooperation in many areas, including health, human settlements, public works, infrastructure, water resource management, sanitation and basic education, among others.

“The deployment of Cuban doctors, engineers and technical experts in all the provinces of South Africa rendering important services, is a demonstration of the strategic partnership and solidarity between South Africa and Cuba and a good example of South-South cooperation,” The Presidency said in a statement.

– Source:
Life in South Africa will gradually begin to return to normal from next month, with government steadily easing the COVID-19 lockdown regulations, albeit under stringent stipulations.
From 1 May 2020, government will implement a risk-adjusted strategy aimed at easing the current lockdown restrictions. The decision was taken during a National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) meeting.

This was revealed by President Cyril Ramaphosa during an address to the nation on COVID-19, on Thursday evening, 23 April 2020.

During this period, he said, the country’s lockdown would be eased over five levels.

“We have decided on this approach because there is still much that is unknown about the rate and manner of the spread of the virus within our population. The action we take now must, therefore, be measured and incremental.”

This approach, the President said, was guided by the advice from scientists who had advised that an abrupt and uncontrolled lifting of restrictions could cause a massive resurgence in infections.

He emphasised that government could not afford to take action that would be later regretted.

The President said: “We must avoid a rushed re-opening that could risk a spread, which would need to be followed by another hard lockdown, as has happened in other countries.

“We have to balance the need to resume economic activity with the imperative to contain the virus and save lives."

Levels of lockdown regulations

Level 5, on which the country is currently under, means that drastic measures are required to contain the spread of the virus to save lives.

Level 4 will see relative activity allowed to resume, subject to extreme precautions required to limit community transmission and outbreaks.

Level 3 involves the easing of some restrictions, including on work and social activities, to address a high risk of transmission.

Level 2 involves the further easing of restrictions, but the maintenance of physical distancing and restrictions on some leisure and social activities to prevent a resurgence of the virus.

Level 1 means that most normal activity can resume, with precautions and health guidelines followed at all times.

1 May – Level 4 unpacked

Level 4 will see borders remain closed to international travel, except for the repatriation of South African nationals and foreign citizens.

However, no travel will be allowed between provinces, except for the transportation of goods and exceptional circumstances such as funerals.

During this period, public transport will continue to operate, with limitations on the number of passengers and stringent hygiene requirements, including that all passengers must wear a face mask.

President Ramaphosa emphasised that during this period, the public was encouraged to stay at home, other than for essential personal movement, doing essential work and work in sectors that are under controlled opening.

The range of goods that may be sold will be extended to incorporate certain additional categories. These will be detailed by the relevant ministers.

Restrictions will remain in place in certain sectors regardless of the level of alert for as long as the risk of transmission is present. These include bars and shebeens, conference and convention centres, entertainment venues, cinemas, theatres and concerts.

Concerts, sporting events and religious, cultural and social gatherings will not be allowed until it is deemed safe for them to continue.

Lockdown has slowed the pandemic

President Ramaphosa said, coupled with measures such as closing the country’s borders, the lockdown slowed the progression of the pandemic.
The World Health Organisation commended South Africa’s swift interventions to limit the spread of the virus.

The President said while a nation-wide lockdown was probably the most effective means to contain the spread of the Coronavirus, it could not be sustained indefinitely.

“Our people need to eat. They need to earn a living. Companies need to be able to produce and to trade, they need to generate revenue and keep their employees in employment,” he said.

The pandemic was declared a national disaster on 15 March. This was in an effort to delay the spread of the virus.

“We have sought to avoid a massive surge in infections and an uncontrollable increase in the number of people needing medical care. Our approach has been based on the principles of social distancing, restriction of movement and stringent basic hygiene practices,” he said.

By delaying the spread of the virus, the President said, government had time to prepare the country’s health facilities and mobilise essential medical supplies needed to meet the inevitable increase in infections.

“And it is in so doing, that we hope to save tens of thousands of lives. There is clear evidence that the lockdown has been working.”

NCCC to determine alert level

To ensure that government’s response to the pandemic can be as precise and targeted as possible, President Ramaphosa said there would be a national level and separate levels for each province, district and metro in the country.

The National Coronavirus Command Council is expected to determine the alert level based on an assessment of the infection rate and the capacity of South Africa’s health system to provide care to those who need it.

“We have undertaken a detailed exercise to classify the different parts of the economy according to the risk of transmission in that sector, the expected impact of the lockdown, the economic contribution of the sector and the effect on livelihoods,” he said.

President Ramaphosa said it was, therefore, essential that everything was done to restrict the movement of people and reduce human interaction.

“Ultimately, it is our own actions, as individuals, that will determine how quickly the virus spreads. If we all adhere to instructions and follow public health guidelines, we will keep the virus under control and will not need to reinstate the most drastic restrictions,” he said.

– Source:
South Africa has taken part in the launch of the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) initiative, which will see international collaboration aimed at accelerating the development and production of COVID-19 health technologies.
The initiative will also ensure that there is equitable global access to these technologies.

The virtual launch on Friday, 24 April 2020, was co-hosted by WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus; French President, Emmanuel Macron; Ursula von der Leyen, the President of the European Commission; and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

President Cyril Ramaphosa was invited to participate in the launch in his capacity as President of the Republic and Chair of the African Union.

Global health actors, private-sector partners and other stakeholders came together to create a global platform for action, which aims to enhance connections and leverage inter-dependencies for collective thought-partnership, problem-solving, mobilising and guiding investments.

The platform will secure equitable access for new COVID-19 diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines.

It will enable partners to avoid duplication and overlap, and identify gaps and close them before they emerge. It will connect upstream and downstream activities with countries and communities.

Its mission is not only accelerated development and production of new COVID-19 tools, it is to accelerate equitable global access to safe, quality, effective and affordable COVID-19 diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines – all to ensure that in the fight against COVID-19, no one is left behind.

The launch of this collaboration started the 10-day countdown to a Coronavirus global response summit on 4 May 2020. This will be a virtual pledging event, spearheaded by the European Union, to mobilise the significant resources needed to accelerate the work towards protecting the world from COVID-19.

In a video message to the launch event, President Ramaphosa commended Dr Ghebreyesus on his stewardship of efforts to fight and eliminate the COVID-19 pandemic globally.

The President expressed his appreciation for the timely launch of this collaboration.

“Now, more than ever, the world needs solidarity and cooperation to mobilise and guide investments, and drive delivery towards equitable access for new COVID-19 diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines.

“The World Health Organisation has been instrumental in supporting African governments with early detection of the pandemic, the training of health workers and in strengthening surveillance in communities, including working with a network of experts to address the containment and prevention of the pandemic,” President Ramaphosa said.

President Ramaphosa said Africa was extremely vulnerable to the ravages of the virus and was in need of every possible support and assistance.

“For its part, the African Union has established a COVID-19 Response Fund to direct resources to bolster the continent’s response. To date, African countries have contributed a combined amount of US$61 million to this fund and to support the work of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

“All of our efforts should complement each other. This launch is an important milestone to galvanise global support and to help accelerate the work towards protecting us all from COVID-19. South Africa stands ready to provide the necessary support to you, Dr Ghebreyesus, and the World Health Organisation in the execution of your important mandate.

“I take this opportunity to call upon the international community – for the sake of all humanity – to continue to support and work with the World Health Organisation in leading the fight against this pandemic,” President Ramaphosa said.

– Source:
Russia, in its capacity as the current Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS) Chair, convened the meeting.
The Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Dr Naledi Pandor, joined her counterparts on Tuesday, 28 April 2020, from Brazil, Russia, India and China in a virtual meeting of BRICS foreign ministers to discuss the COVID-19 crisis and its impact.
With over three million confirmed cases of the novel Coronavirus globally, South Africa's International Relations and Cooperation Minister, Dr Pandor, urged her BRICS counterparts to strengthen cooperation and coordination in an effort to tackle the pandemic.

"I believe we can find solutions through coordination and corporation and through ensuring that our efforts together to address the pandemic, which is having such dire economic and development effects on all of us," she said at BRICS Foreign Ministers' Extraordinary Conference on COVID-19 on Tuesday.

BRICS is an emerging-market bloc that groups Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.
"We believe as South Africa that international cooperation is absolutely non-negotiable, we have to join efforts to find a vaccine and a cure for COVID-19," she said, "It is for this reason that South Africa has joined the international community's call for support and strengthening of the mandate of the World Health Organisation (WHO) as it continues to coordinate global efforts to combat COVID-19."

Minister Pandor said that South Africa was deeply concerned about the politicisation of the work of the WHO.

"We are particularly disconcerted about the withholding of funds at this critical time," she said, adding that cutting funding would impair the ability of the organisation to do its work during the pandemic.

– Source:
The continental free-trade zone would, if successful, create a US$3.4 trillion economic bloc with 1.3 billion people across Africa.
The implementation of a mammoth African Free Trade Agreement will not begin on 1 July as planned due to disruptions caused by the Coronavirus outbreak, a senior official said on Tuesday, 28 April 2020.

"It is obviously not possible to commence trade as we had intended on 1 July under the current circumstances," Wamkele Mene, Secretary-General of the African Continental Free Trade Area, said during a conference call.

Mene did not say whether there was a new targeted implementation date.

The 55-nation continental free-trade zone would, if successful, create a US$3.4 trillion economic bloc with 1.3 billion people across Africa and constitute the largest new trading bloc since the World Trade Organisation formed in 1994.

Mene said he was confident the deal would still go forward.

"The political commitment remains, the political will remains to integrate Africa’s market and to implement the agreement as was intended," he said

– Source:
United States (US) President Donald Trump has extended a helping hand to Africa to the delight of President Cyril Ramaphosa after a phone conversation.
“I had a very productive call with His Excellency President Donald Trump of the United States of America. We discussed the impact of COVID-19 on our two countries.

“I have passed our condolences to the Government and people of the US on the devastation the virus has wrought.”

According to President Ramaphosa, President Trump also pledged support in the fight against COVID-19 to South Africa and Africa at large.

South Africa’s number one citizen communicated his elation on his Twitter account on Thursday evening, 23 April 2020, – ahead of his much-awaited national address on the way forward in terms of relaxing lockdown measures and opening up some sectors of the economy.

– Source:
The Executive Director of the World Health Organisation’s (WHO’s) Health Emergencies Programme, Michael Ryan, has again praised South Africa for its strategy in handling the Coronavirus pandemic.
He said there had been a “tremendous amount of innovation going on in Africa in general” and specifically honed in on South Africa.

Ryan said: “Again it is interesting the way in which South Africa is bringing the disease under control and how African countries are in many ways and some ways showing the way.”

He said the strategy in South Africa had been based on “preparation, primary prevention, lockdown and enhanced surveillance”.

Congratulating the Government and institutions involved in the high-performance levels in South Africa, he said the country had “67 mobile lab units around the country, 28 000 community health workers trained in case detection, and I think over 120 000 tests completed with a 2.7% positivity rate”.

Ryan said that much testing for that return was “incredible”.

– Source:
To help South Africans source locally-made fabric face masks and to enable the country’s clothing and textile sector to retain jobs, a dedicated marketplace portal went live recently on the Proudly South African website.
“This initiative is an effort to support a sector of our economy that is able to meet the current pressing demand for face masks, which we have been called on to wear in order to support government’s efforts to combat the spread of COVID-19.

"It is imperative that we support our local businesses, who have the capacity to produce sufficient masks to meet the country’s needs,” said Proudly SA CEO, Eustace Mashimbye.

Following the President’s announcement on 23 April that all passengers travelling on public transport will be required to wear a mask and the recommendation that everyone else wear a non-medical mask outside their homes, the portal will ensure that reliable sources of locally-made masks are easily available. Proudly SA has been working on the site over the past week.

The concept of the portal arose from discussions with the SA Clothing and Textile Workers’ Union (SACTWU), the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition (DTIC) and the Manufacturing Circle around steps that could be taken to align initiatives underway in the clothing and textile manufacturing industry, with the needs of the public and businesses.

These include the ground-breaking collective agreement at the clothing bargaining council to galvanise the industry to produce more personal protective equipment items.

All companies listed on the site have confirmed with the clothing bargaining council that they are genuine manufacturers producing locally-made fabric masks, supporting local jobs and operating under conditions that promote the health and safety of workers, among other things.

In order to help consumers select masks, the portal also provides a link to fabric mask guidelines published by the DTIC. The site links corporate buyers with producers of masks.

It is hoped that companies, which are currently using or issuing medical grade masks to workers, will consider making them available to services on the frontline fighting the COVID-19 pandemic and purchase these alternative, approved masks for their workers.

The site displays the details of the manufacturer, pictures of the masks, the company’s production capacity per week and unit costs. It advances local manufacturing and jobs over imports, and provides for the consumer interest with price, as well as product transparency.

Any company not complying with these requirements and others will be removed from the site.

All manufacturers are required to register before they appear on the site.

“We call on all corporates and retailers to use the portal to source their masks and to liberate any medical grade stock back to essential services,” said Mashimbye.

– Source:
Two South African entrepreneurs have developed a ground-breaking testing kit that promises to significantly speed up the process of identifying positive COVID-19 cases.
Allan Gray Orbis Foundation Fellows Daniel Ndima and Dineo Lioma have developed a testing kit that provides results in just 65 minutes, through their company CapeBio.

Testing is a pillar of any campaign against the Coronavirus, not only because it identifies infected individuals but because it also provides an idea of how the virus may be developing within the country. Once scientists potentially understand its spread, the Government can plan resources accordingly.

This is why the qCPR kits developed by CapeBio are hailed as a massive breakthrough, with critical implications for the country’s ability to weather the current crisis.

“The ability to obtain rapid test results allows us to gain a clearer picture of viral infections so that we are able to introduce interventions with greater effectiveness,” explains Daniel Ndima, CEO of CapeBio.

“This will remain important even after lockdown, as South Africa has a population of over 55 million people who will need to be monitored on an ongoing basis.”

A scientist with a special interest in structural biology, Ndima says that the development of the kits represents a spinoff of the work he has dedicated the past 12 years of his life to.
“Our kits help pathologists isolate and identify a virus’ DNA or genetic material from an infected person. This makes it possible to detect the virus accurately in a laboratory.”

As a locally manufactured product, the qCPR could mitigate the reliance on overseas imports, ensuring that testing reagents could be accessed quickly and without a wait. They are also more affordable than international products.

“One of our major challenges is our reliance on imported tests,” he explains. “Most countries are currently experiencing issues with supply and demand, which their respective governments are controlling with newly introduced trade regulations. This has caused delays in the delivery of imported testing kits and protective gear and may impact on the delivery of vaccines once they have passed clinical trials.”
Most importantly, CapeBio’s product makes it possible to obtain test results in just 65 minutes, compared to the usual three hours.

While efforts have been made to reduce the spread of the virus, Ndima points out that the impact of the crisis on our economy is just as concerning as the toll on our healthcare systems.

With this in mind, Ndima says that entrepreneurs would do well to consider their offerings and tactics, so they are better suited to a drastically changed "post-Coronavirus" world. One of the hallmarks of this world is collaboration, he notes.

CapeBio has benefitted from collaboration with the Department of Science and Innovation’s COVID-19 response team, where experts from universities and R&D centres around the country have been given a platform to share ideas and capabilities in the search for viable solutions. But this is not the only mentorship Ndima has received – he has been guided along his entrepreneurial journey by the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation Fellowship Programme.

The Fellowship Programme is one of three programmes the foundation offers in pursuit of creating a pipeline of responsible entrepreneurs. The foundation provides Fellowship recipients, known as Allan Gray Candidate Fellows, funding for university studies as well as access to support and development to cultivate an entrepreneurial mindset. These programmes run throughout the academic year alongside the Candidate Fellow’s university studies.

– Source: CapeBio /
The South African flag has been projected onto Switzerland's most famous mountain as part of a beautiful show of support and solidarity.
South Africa’s flag recently illuminated the Matterhorn, a mountain in the Swiss Alps, in a show of solidarity and hope.

It is said that since 24 March 2020, light artist Gerry Hofstetter has illuminated the mountainside in Zermatt daily with flags, in solidarity with various other countries that have been hit by the world’s latest global pandemic. A recent display induced South Africa’s flag to demonstrate support for the country. Other countries included Thailand, Italy, Morocco, South Korea, Singapore, China and more.
Zermatt’s social media pages also said that the mountain is ultimately “a sign of solidarity”.

When South Africa’s flag was projected on 24 April, they said:

“South Africa is also affected by the virus. As a country of immigration, South Africa is a country of hope. We wish the population much courage and strength to overcome the crisis.”

It is said that the world-famous Matterhorn in Zermatt only has around 6 000 inhabitants but the small town on the border with Italy draws millions of tourists each year to this landmark.

“The village shows solidarity with all the people who are currently suffering and is grateful to all those who are helping to overcome the crisis,” the Zermatt website stated.

– Source:
In support of Freedom Day, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has draped the South African flag over its tallest skyscraper in Dubai.
The UAE showed its support of Freedom Day and what it stands for by draping the South African flag over its tallest skyscraper — the Burj Khalifa — in Dubai on Monday, 27 April 2020.

The Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) on Monday, posted an image of the UAE’s gesture saying:

“The United Arab Emirates is commemorating Freedom Day 2020, 27.04.2020. The South African flag has been draped on the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. This is a great testament to the unity between SA and the UAE. Thank you.”

The Burj Khalifa, known as the Burj Dubai prior to its inauguration in 2010, is a skyscraper in Dubai. With a total height of 829.8 metres and a roof height of 828 metres, the Burj Khalifa has been the tallest structure and building in the world since 2009.

The gesture came on Freedom Day, a day which holds great significance for many South Africans.

The United States also showed support for Freedom Day by placing a wrap in the famous Times Square in New York.

“In celebration of Freedom Day 2020, this amazing wrap is displayed in all its glory in Times Square, New York. Thank you to the Government and people of the USA for this great demonstration of strong bilateral ties between our two countries,” said DIRCO in a tweet.
At the end of March – and the start of #LockdownSA – a group of over 50 of South Africa’s most talented performing artists came together – virtually – to perform our national anthem as part of the #AnthemChallengeRSA initiative.
Each of the artists recorded their proud rendition individually at home. The recordings were collated into a single video and shared across social media with an invitation to all South Africans: JOIN US!

The nation was challenged to submit videos of themselves performing our anthem; the result is a 1 000+ piece virtual choir of South Africans from every walk of life performing together in a show of true unity before President Cyril Ramaphosa begins the process of reducing the COVID-19 lockdown restrictions.

“The process of receiving all the video submissions was both exhilarating and emotional,” says James Bassingthwaighte, part of the #AnthemChallengeRSA creative team.

“It took a significant amount of bravery to put yourself on the spot and sing an anthem in five different languages to a video camera and more than a thousand ordinary South Africans rose to the challenge! We easily managed to fill the 1 000 slots we were hoping to achieve and are actually still receiving submissions, even though the deadline has passed!

“The variety of submissions was extraordinary. We had families, groups of friends, choirs, recorder players and entire orchestras stepping up to join us! It really was amazing to see the ingenuity and the support that this project attracted from South Africans under lockdown.”

“One Thousand South Africans Perform Our Anthem” was released recently on YouTube and is a once-in-a-lifetime choral tapestry led by well-known South Africans, including Busiswa, ProVerb, Leah, Yvonne Chaka Chaka, Andre Schwartz, Donald, Katlego Maboe, Zolani Mahola, Tumi Morake, Khaya Dladla, Danny K, Relebogile Mabotja, Caroline Grace, Moonchild Sanelly, Willem Botha, KB and others. In the video, the 1 000 strong virtual choir appears on screen, slowly but surely revealing a striking image of our national flag in full furl.

“This started as a small group of artists wanting to do something heartfelt and authentic at the start of the lockdown. It grew into something much bigger – a national and historic moment of hope that we will be able to look back on with immense pride,” says Bassingthwaighte.

“This was never planned as a ‘Freedom Day release’, but what could be more appropriate than reflecting on the anthem to honour our civil liberties –  and particularly in 2020 as we look forward to the COVID-19 lockdown being eased?”

– Source:
“Thank you, Mr President,

“I would like to also thank Special Envoy Geir Pedersen for his comprehensive briefing on the political situation in Syria.

Political situation

"South Africa is encouraged that the 5 March ceasefire agreement between Turkey and Russia continues to hold, despite sporadic instances of shelling. In this regard, we call on all parties to work, especially during these challenging times, towards a permanent nationwide ceasefire, that will pave the way to a conducive environment in which an inclusive Syrian-led dialogue can be held.

“For Syria to attain peace, it would be necessary for all external interference in Syria to come to an end and for all unauthorised foreign forces to have left. Additionally, we wish to reiterate that all states have the sovereign right to address the threat of terrorism in their countries. However, any action to counter terrorism must be in line with international law, including international human rights and international humanitarian law obligations.

“The ultimate goal should be a lasting political solution that is reflective of the will of the Syrian people, and brings sustainable peace and stability to the country, as well as an opportunity to rebuild its economy and to repair the damage that 10 years of war have caused.

“Mr President,

“With regard to developments pertaining to the Constitutional Committee, South Africa welcomes the Co-Chairs agreement on the agenda for its next meeting, as reported by the Special Envoy in his last briefing to the Council. We urge all parties to continue to engage substantively and constructively in the Constitutional Committee process, as part of the wider political process supported by the Special Envoy.

“As we have learnt through our own constitutional drafting process, engagement and confidence-building are essential components in finding a sustainable and peaceful solution to the crises in Syria.

“Resolution 2254 (2015) remains the framework for the political process in Syria and it will be important that it be fully implemented. The Security Council should continue to support the work of the Constitutional Committee and the role of the United Nations and the Special Envoy in the mediation process.

“Mr President, South Africa has noted the release of the summary by the Secretary-General of the Syria Board of Inquiry report into incidents in northwest Syria. We welcome the Secretary-General’s intention to appoint a senior independent adviser to consider how best to interact with the recommendations contained in the report.

“Mr President,

COVID-19 impact – detainees and the lifting economic measures

“In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, and reports of 3 COVID-19 related deaths, South Africa fully supports the Joint Appeal by the UN Secretary-General’s Envoys to the Middle East.

“We reiterate our full support to the Special Envoy’s call for a ‘complete and immediate’ nationwide ceasefire throughout Syria to ensure that the necessary supplies, equipment and personnel are able to efficiently and effectively respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The conditions in parts of Syria raise the risk of COVID-19 spreading quickly. In these parts of the country, the fragile health system, overcrowded IDP and detention centres, the lack of adequate access to water and sanitation infrastructure, access challenges for the delivery of humanitarian aid and continuing conflict, are all factors in impeding efforts to stop the spread of the virus.

“As we address the humanitarian consequences of the pandemic, it is vital that economic measures placed on Syria should be eased. This is necessary to ensure that the required supplies and equipment are provided to combat the pandemic. We also support the Special Envoy’s consistent call for the substantive release of prisoners and detainees, particularly women, children, the elderly and those with disabilities. Given the challenging conditions in detention centres, this appeal is even more relevant and necessary today.

“Mr President,

“The situation in Syria requires the international community to support both the political and humanitarian tracks. These processes are interlinked, and progress must be supported in both tracks to create the necessary conditions for a sustainable and peaceful settlement to the conflict.

“I thank you.”
“Thank you, Mr President,

“Thank you also Under-Secretary-General Mark Lowcock for his comprehensive briefing on the humanitarian situation in Syria.

“South Africa remains deeply concerned about the humanitarian situation in Syria. COVID-19 has added a further layer of complexity to this already catastrophic humanitarian situation. Given the multifaceted aspects of the humanitarian situation in Syria, we applaud the UN, its implementing partners and all of the volunteers and personnel, for their continued and committed efforts.

“COVID-19 impact on humanitarian situation in Syria

“With regard to the impact of COVID-19 on the humanitarian situation in Syria, South Africa fully supports the Secretary-General’s call for an immediate and global ceasefire and Special Envoy Pedersen’s call for an immediate nationwide ceasefire in Syria. In order to effectively fight the spread of this virus, we must ensure that the necessary equipment and supplies are available to all those who require it. Continued hostilities and violence will hinder and harm the effectiveness of the UN and the Syrian Government’s response to this pandemic.

“An important aspect of this response is to focus on preparedness and response planning to minimise the impact of COVID-19 on vulnerable populations. This includes those in refugee and IDP camps, who are living in close proximity to each other, with limited access to basic services, such as water, shelter and medical services. We are additionally concerned that while all groups are susceptible to the virus, the elderly and people with underlying health conditions are particularly at risk, especially within vulnerable refugee and IDP populations.

“Included in this response is the need for the necessary assessment and testing capacity. We encourage the international community to assist in ensuring that the necessary equipment is available in this regard.

“However, without safe access to the areas where testing and aid is required, none of these efforts would be effective. This is important given that the collection of samples would be challenging for the thousands of displaced persons living in camps and informal settlements in northeast Syria, as well as in areas were hostilities may be ongoing, making sample collection more challenging, if not impossible.

“South Africa calls on the relevant authorities to ensure that humanitarian workers have safe, sustained and unhindered access to all parts of Syria. It is also important that border crossings impacted due to the precautionary measures related to COVID-19, should not have a negative bearing on the delivery of humanitarian assistance to these vulnerable communities.

“Mr President,

General humanitarian situation throughout Syria

“While we are all, understandably, focussed on the impact of COVID-19, we cannot forget about the dire humanitarian situation that remains in Syria. The need for shelter, water, sanitation, food and protection remains high.

“The provision of these services, especially in the northwest, are dependent on the cross-border mechanism bringing in essential assistance to all those who require it. However, additional support is required in the northeast of Syria. With the closure of the Al Yarubiyah crossing point in January of this year, gaps in the provision of necessary aid to this region have emerged. In this regard, we call on the parties to make every effort to authorise all available modalities, including aid deliveries from Damascus, and cross-line and cross-border assistance, to ensure that the aid that thousands require is provided.

“While we welcome the maintenance of the 5 March ceasefire agreement, we must also be cognisant of the effect that previous hostilities over the past decade has had on civilians and essential civilian infrastructure. The impact on the provision of basic services such as health, education and water has been severe. South Africa reiterates that all parties must adhere to their obligations under international humanitarian law, particularly with regard to the protection of civilians and civilian infrastructure.

“Mr President,

“In conclusion, South Africa reiterates that its position that when there is no progress on the political front, the humanitarian situation will further deteriorate with further loss of life and destruction. The only way the conflict in Syria can be resolved, is through negotiation and dialogue. South Africa calls on all parties to exert every effort to fully implement Resolution 2254 and bring peace, security and stability to all of Syria.

“I thank you.”
“Mr President,

“Thank you for convening this video-teleconference (VTC) meeting on the Humanitarian Situation in Venezuela. We welcome Ms Reena Ghelani, Director of Operations of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), and thank her for her briefing.

“At the outset, let me express South Africa’s deep concern regarding the humanitarian impact of COVID-19 globally and particularly in countries affected by conflict and subjected to economic pressure and restrictions. We therefore support the call by the United Nations Secretary-General on 23 March 2020, to waive sanctions imposed on countries to ensure access to food, essential health supplies, and COVID-19 medical support.

“In this regard, South Africa reaffirms its long-standing position that the humanitarian situation in Venezuela should be depoliticised and that any assistance provided should respect the principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence in terms of the provision of humanitarian assistance. This is particularly pertinent given the spread of COVID-19, which will risk exacerbating the already challenging humanitarian crisis in Venezuela and placing additional pressure on already stressed healthcare services, the provision of food and water, as well as other resources that are required to assist those affected.

“We must bear in mind the effect of the humanitarian crisis, coupled with the COVID-19 pandemic, on women and girls, including undermining their access to sexual and reproductive health and rights as well as their ability to access these services in the context of increasing gender-based and sexual violence against them.

“In this regard Mr President, we support the call for easing these economic pressures to enable the Government of Venezuela to respond to the spread of the virus without preconditions. This is in keeping with the efforts and calls from the UN Secretary-General and the broader efforts of the UN System and the General Assembly.

“It is important to adhere to this call, especially under these extraordinary circumstances, because political prerequisites that are placed on the easing of sanctions, will run counter to the spirit of the appeal made by the UN Secretary-General for international solidarity through the waving 'of sanctions imposed on countries to ensure access to food, essential health supplies, and COVID-19 medical support'.

“Mr President,

“South Africa believes the international community should support peaceful processes at resolving political crises internally with due respect to state sovereignty in accordance with the UN Charter and not undermine or exacerbate tensions at national or regional level.

“Therefore, South Africa is concerned by the increase in tensions in the region and calls on all countries to heed the call of the UN Secretary-General for solidarity at this time of global crisis and not to perpetuate division and discord.

“We would like to welcome in particular the efforts by countries in the region, which is assisting countries across the world, including my own country, in combatting and preventing the further spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. The active role of these countries, including by health professionals is invaluable and has remained instrumental as previously seen in the fight against the Ebola epidemic, cholera and disaster management across the world.

“Together, we are facing a pandemic that demands solidarity, cooperation and maximum effort from our countries. However, blockades as well as unilateral sanctions restrict our capacity and joint efforts to confront the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Mr President,

“Today, we require conflicts to end as well as restrictions to be eased, and not to exacerbate existing situations or to create new ones, especially as the fight against the global pandemic necessitates unity of purpose in the interest of confronting and overcoming this pandemic which threatens all of us.

“I thank you.”
“Mr President,

“I would like to express my delegation’s gratitude to you for convening today’s meeting. I would also like to thank Mr Lacroix, as well as Special Envoy Onanga-Anyanga for their enlightening briefings today.

“Permit me Mr President to make the following key observations on the political development as well the status of UNISFA.

Political developments

"South Africa welcomes the positive political developments that have taken place in both Sudan and South Sudan in the recent past, including those highlighted in the Secretary-General’s report of 16 October 2019 to 15 April 2020. With the positive developments that have taken place in Sudan thus far, we emphasise the continued need for unity in Sudan’s ruling political coalition.

“We continue to urge the two countries to use the renewed rapprochement to finalise the outstanding issues with regards to Abyei. The tensions reported earlier this year highlight the volatility of the region and its potential to unravel progress which has been undertaken to bring stability in the area.

“South African encourages Sudan and South Sudan to continue inclusive political dialogue to implement their agreements on border issues and meet the benchmarks previously set by the Security Council.


“On the developments pertaining to UNISFA, South Africa appreciates and welcomes the importance of the stabilising role UNISFA and the Joint Border Verification and Monitoring Mechanism (JBVMM), continues to play along the borders between the Sudan and South Sudan. South Africa welcomes the progress that has been made by the JBVMM on benchmarks specified by Security Council Resolution 2497 (2019).

“Furthermore, South Africa welcomes and encourages the continued work of the Joint Political and Security Mechanism (JPSM) and the Abyei Joint Oversight Committee (AJOC) and notes the Secretary-General’s call, that in this time of the COVID-19 pandemic, engagement in the foreseeable future may need to take on new modalities.

“Mr President,

“My delegation is encouraged by the UNISFA facilitated meetings between the Ngok Dinka and the Misseriya on 16 March and 9 April to discuss the ending of the intercommunal tensions. We welcome their renewed commitment to peace and security in Abyei. We hope that continued interactions between the two sides will lead to an agreement on resolving outstanding issues.

“Lastly Mr President, South Africa welcomes the progress that UNISFA has made in promoting the WPS agenda in the Abyei region by promoting women’s participation at all levels of decision-making, including in conflict prevention and resolution processes.

“We also thank Ethiopia for their continued efforts in contributing to the stabilisation of security tensions in Abyei.

“I thank you.”
“Mr President,

“At the outset, I would like to thank the United Nations Secretary-General, HE Antonio Gueterres, and our excellent trio of youth activists and briefers for their comprehensive and enlightening briefing this morning. It is always encouraging to hear from the youth and their role in, and contribution to peace processes in various conflict zones around the world.

“South Africa welcomes the initiative of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, who during their tenure in the Security Council in 2015 ushered in the landmark Security Council Resolution 2250, the important role played by Peru in taking forward the Youth, Peace and Security agenda, especially with the adoption of Resolution 2419, and the current debate being initiated by the Dominican Republic in this uncertain environment due to COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on the youth globally.

“Under its own Presidency, South Africa sought to prioritise the role of youth and their contribution on the Youth, Peace and Security agenda in the efforts to Silence the Guns in Africa by 2020. This resulted in the adoption of a Council PRST containing six additional measures that can be taken to accelerate implementation in mobilising the youth towards Silencing the Guns in Africa that resonates well today, with the call this year by the Secretary-General on the Global Ceasefire.

“Mr President,

The role of youth in relation to peace and security is of particular importance to the African continent where some estimates indicate that 60% of the population are under the age of 25. South Africa supports efforts to fully harness and support the innovation of young people’s contribution to peace, through investment in young people’s capacities; redressing the structural barriers that limit youth participation in peace and security; and emphasising partnerships and collaborative action, where young people are viewed as equal and essential partners for peace.

“These aspects have been highlighted in the 2018 Independent Progress Study on Youth, Peace and Security. They are also reflected in the challenges highlighted in the Secretary-General’s report with the additional challenge of the violation of the human rights of youth.

“In terms of the areas of the five key pillars of actions, we wish to reflect the following:

“First, on participation, we acknowledge the role played by the youth as agents of change as they were instrumental in advancing the goals of the broader struggle for the liberation and democracy in our country. Young people who were often at the frontlines of the battle for freedom are also now at the forefront of combating poverty, inequality and unemployment in South Africa. Therefore, the South African Government has made the empowerment of youth central to its development agenda and has set up programmes dedicated to their education, job creation and development. Today, as we celebrate the 26th Anniversary of our Freedom in South Africa – thanks to the heroic role played by our youth throughout the anti-colonial and anti-apartheid struggles.

“Second, on protection and prevention, South Africa supports ensuring a safe and enabling environment for youth in conflict situations, particularly young refugees and Internally Displaced Persons. This will be vital in creating a post-conflict environment for youths’ positive participation in the economy and society in general, and a preventative measure to address inequality, discrimination, exclusion and human rights violations as a driver of conflict, as identified by the Secretary-General. In this regard, investment in the meaningful participation of the youth in politics, as well as the socio-economic environment, is therefore vital. As the Security Council, we should also not forget the plight of millions of young migrants in various corners of the world.

“Third, in terms of partnerships, disengagement and reintegration it is important to build on the active engagement of the youth and youth organisations in multilateral processes, in order to ensure long-term partnerships as well as that the youths’ voice is reflected in all engagements. Most importantly, we need to mainstream and institutionalise youth participation and partnerships in all peace and security processes.

“In this regard we would like to highlight the Continental Framework for Youth, Peace and Security, developed by the African Union’s Peace and Security Council as part of the continent’s Peace and Security Architecture as well as the Study on the Roles and Contributions of Youth towards Peace and Security in Africa. These serve as good frameworks that can be replicated elsewhere. It remains essential that the youth be prioritised with regard to Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration as they tend to be particularly vulnerable with regard to reintegration in society if their formative years are spent as participants in armed conflict and extremist groups.

“In addition, fourth Mr President, the Security Council reform, society must pay particular attention to the Security Council reforms, as new Security Council organs are established in post conflict situations.

“Fifth, with regard to the empowerment of young women, South Africa continues to be concerned about the trend that youth programmes tend to prioritise the roles of young men over young women in society. This is further exacerbated by the disproportionate targeting of young women with sexual and gender-based violence. Therefore, the outcomes of this meeting should reinforce the work in the implementation of Security Council Resolution 1325, adopted during Namibia’s Presidency in the Security Council in 2000, the 20th Anniversary of which we celebrate today, its subsequent resolutions, including Resolution 2493 on Women, Peace and Security adopted in October 2019, during South Africa’s Presidency of the Security Council.

“I would like to conclude by emphasising that South Africa believes that we must harness the dynamism and positivity of the youth and build resilience in order to counter sentiments aimed at resorting to violence as a means of securing any misguided interests.

“I thank you.”
“Mr President,

“I have the honour to deliver this statement on behalf of the A3+1 member states of the Council namely Niger, Tunisia, South Africa and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.

“Mr President,

“I would like to thank you for convening this timely meeting. I would also like to thank the Secretary-General for his comprehensive report on UNAMID's continued activities for the maintenance of peace in Darfur. We commend the efforts of the United Nations working jointly with the African Union over the past 12 years.

“I would also like to thank our briefers today, Ms DiCarlo and Mr Lacroix, for their comprehensive briefings, and also thank them for the continued collaboration with Commissioner of PSC of the AU, Mr I Chergui, and the AU Commission.

“The collaboration and cooperation between the African Union and the United Nations has contributed immensely to the stabilisation of the security situation in Darfur, thus resulting in our consideration of the withdrawal of UNAMID and subsequent transformation of the peacekeeping Mission into a political and peacebuilding support mission despite the fact that Darfur continues to face residual protection challenges.

“At the onset, we would like to express our full support to the current transitional process in Sudan, including the role of Prime Minister Hamdok. We wish to also express our strongest condemnation of the attack on Prime Minister Hamdok in Sudan, on 9 March 2020. Attacks of this nature highlight continued risks that could considerably undermine the existing momentum towards restoring stability, development and prosperity in Sudan.

“Mr President,

“We have entered a critical juncture with regards to UNAMID and it is vital that we safeguard the gains that have been made in the past decade, while also continuing to place the needs of the Sudanese civilians at the forefront. The current environment and challenges presented by the COVID-19 require us to adopt a pragmatic and contextualised approach to any further reconfiguration of UNAMID. The pandemic has significantly affected the Sudan Peace Talks in Juba as well as the operations of UNAMID.

“In this respect, we reiterate the call made by the African Union Peace and Security Council that the Government of Sudan, working in collaboration with the AU and the UN, to agree on a comprehensive UNAMID withdrawal roadmap to ensure that the process is carefully managed and sequenced, conditions-based, and aligned with the priorities and timelines of the Government of Sudan, in order to safeguard the gains registered to date and to maintain the current momentum in the Darfur peace process.

“We would like to raise the following key issues.

“1. Political transition

“On the political transition, we support the transition in Sudan under the leadership of Prime Minister Hamdok and call on all stakeholders to continue working for the success and respect of the transition period through the implementation of the provisions of the civilian-military transition agreement signed in Doha in July 2019, which should lead to the establishment of a democratically elected civilian government.

“Moreover, we urge all parties to continue to be steadfast in their engagement in the Sudan Peace Talks in Juba, and to find resolve through continued political dialogue. Furthermore, we urge SLA leader Abdel Wahid El Nur to join the Juba talks, to ensure an inclusive process and success to the political dialogue. Only through an inclusion of Darfur and its relevant actors, will we have the baseline for sustainable and comprehensive peace and a real opportunity to address prevailing security and protection threats and risks, especially in the Greater Jebel Marra area.

“We also applaud the efforts by South Sudan in facilitating the ongoing peace talks and encourage its leaders to continue their constructive role in mediating the process.

“2. Economic situation

“On the economic situation, we recognise the economic and dire financial situation that the country continues to grapple with. This situation risks- collapsing good progress that has been registered in the political front. We thus reiterate the call made by the African Union Peace and Security Council for the lifting of all forms of sanctions imposed against Sudan, including the delisting as a State sponsor of terrorism, in order to boost the current momentum of the transitional process and to create conducive conditions for economic recovery, growth and stability in the country.  In this regard, we urge the international community and financial institutions to assist in addressing these challenges, particularly as the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbates the economic situation for Sudan and neighbouring countries.

“3. Security situation

“On the security situation, we remain concerned about the challenges that continue in Jebel Marra, but also other hotspot areas such as Kalma, and more recently Geneina that displaced over 50 000 people within and outside Sudan. We are particularly concerned regarding the status of and security threats faced by particularly the status of Internally Displaced Persons (IDP’s) as well as inter-communal violence, as highlighted in the Secretary General’s Report.

“Additionally, we are disturbed by the reported grave violations against groups made most vulnerable, including women and children. We welcome the signing of the Framework of Cooperation to Prevent and Respond to Conflict-related Sexual Violence between the Government of Sudan and the United Nations, in response to the high levels of violence against women, girls and boys in IDP camps, in particular, the use of rape at increasingly high levels in the fight against pastoralists and farmers for land in Darfur. We renew our call to strengthening institutions, guaranteeing the safety of the most vulnerable groups and prosecuting the perpetrators.

“4. Humanitarian situation

“We are also concerned about the deteriorating humanitarian situation prevailing in Darfur. This grave situation is driven by a number of factors, including the hazards of climate change, such as flooding and drought, as well as intercommunal conflicts. These factors cause internal and external displacement, and serve to exacerbate and already challenging situation, especially at this time of the COVID-19 pandemic. We urge the Mission and other UN agencies working on the ground to coordinate their actions to support the Government in containing and minimising the impact of the disease in Darfur, as well as continuing to combat the desert locusts which constitute a real threat to Sudan’s food security.

“5. Withdrawal and post-UNAMID mechanisms

“On the drawdown and the post UNAMID mechanism, we are pleased that the government of Sudan has highlighted the needs on the ground, and support Prime Minister Hamdok’s call for a UN Chapter 6 Mission post-UNAMID’s withdrawal.  It is thus imperative that a follow-up Mission is fully aligned to the priorities and objectives of the government, to ensure a meaningful impact by the international and regional communities.

“Moreover, as noted by Prime Minister Hamdok in his letter as well as the Secretary-General and the Chairperson of the AU Commission in their report, the role of the African Union should continue in the transition period. Thus, there remains a need to ensure that the AU and the UN build on their excellent collaboration and continue working in unison.

“As we deliberate a post UNAMID Mission, and given the current uncertain times due to the pandemic, there are some key questions we would like to raise:

I. “Given the impact of COVID-19 and the halt in operations of UNAMID as well as the impact of the rainy season, what is the feasibility of extending the deadline of UNAMID given the changed circumstances? Is the exit of UNAMID viable at this stage?

II. “Should the UN consider maintaining a police presence in Darfur; if the security situation deteriorates in Darfur, to what extent would the UN have the requisite capacity to respond? Would these limited police presence be creating false expectations and potentially undermine the UN’s credibility if there is a weakened presence?

III. “Does the security situation, particularly in terms of the protection of civilian mandate, in the entire Darfur merit the total withdrawal of UNAMID by October 2020?

IV. “Given the broader political developments in Sudan, that require international support to ensure stability of the country, especially its recovery and economic development, should the new UN Mission not specifically focus on political and peace building only, with the support of AU and IGAD?

“Lastly Mr. President, we would like to express our gratitude to UNAMID through the invaluable efforts of the Joint Special Representative, Mr JK Mamabolo of the United Nations and the African Union, and his team and urge them to continue to spare no effort until lasting peace is restored in the Darfur region.

“Our continued engagement and collective support will be key in supporting the trajectory towards peace and stability in Sudan. Most importantly, Sudan’s stability is critical to an already fragile region.

“Furthermore, we recognise the key role played by Sudan in the political developments in South Sudan despite their own significant challenges. The A3+1 agrees with Prime Minister Hamdok that the overall security and protection of Sudanese is the responsibility of Sudan’s government and its institutions.

“The A3+1 equally agrees that the entire UN system in general, and the Security Council in particular, has immense responsibility in accompanying and ensuring that the Multi-Stakeholder Transitional Government in Sudan succeeds as it leads its people towards a hopeful future of a peaceful, unified, democratic, open and freer society.

“Niger, Tunisia, South Africa and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines thank you.”

“Thank you, Mr President,

“Allow me to begin by reiterating South Africa’s position on the situation between Palestine and Israel. We will continue to support all efforts aimed at the establishment of a viable, contiguous Palestinian State, existing side-by-side in peace with Israel, within internationally recognised borders, based on those of 4 June 1967, with East Jerusalem as its capital, in line with all relevant UN resolutions, international law and internationally agreed parameters.

“Additionally, a viable and sustainable peace plan for the Middle East must ensure that Palestine’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and economic viability is guaranteed, with sovereign equality between Palestine and Israel.

“Impact of COVID-19

“In light of the recent developments pertaining to the COVID-19 pandemic, South Africa fully supports the call by the Secretary-General for an immediate global cease fire, as well as the call by the UN Envoys to the Middle East for 'all parties to engage, in good faith and without preconditions'. This call is particularly pertinent to the conflict between Israel and Palestine. In this regard, we have noted the coordination between Israel and Palestine in responding to the pandemic. It is important for all parties to use this opportunity, in jointly responding to the virus, to build trust and confidence between the parties. This health crisis should not be a means to further individual political objectives.

“Settlement activity and annexation

“In this regard, it is disconcerting to hear that, during these unprecedented times, there is still continuous, indiscriminate use of force against Palestinians, the wanton destruction of their property, the annexation of occupied territory and the continuing establishment of settlements. Israel’s policy of settling its civilians in occupied Palestinian territory and displacing the local population contravenes fundamental rules of international humanitarian law – in reference to Article 49 of the 4th Geneva Convention.

“Moreover, South Africa has noted the recent announcement of a Unity Government in Israel and consequent reports of its intention to advance legislation to annex parts of the West Bank from as early as 1 July 2020.

“Mr President,

“This cannot be continued! No country should have the right to decide over the fate of the Palestinians, but the Palestinians themselves. These actions are in direct contravention of several Council resolutions, including Resolution 446 (1979) and 2334 (2016) and goes against the principles of international law. South Africa therefore continues to insist on the full implementation of these resolutions as these threats and pronouncements of annexation undermine any prospect of peace between the parties.

“Mr President,

“In this time, when all efforts should be focussed on fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, Israel, as the occupying power, must ensure that it fulfils its responsibility, as mandated by international law to provide the necessary humanitarian assistance to all those who require it. This includes ensuring the unhindered and safe passage of humanitarian aid, medical supplies and volunteers providing medical assistance to the occupied territories.

“With regard to the situation in Gaza, we are deeply concerned at the precarious situation prevailing there, given its severely overburdened and fragile healthcare system. We share the concern expressed by the Director of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) that an outbreak of COVID-19 in the Gaza Strip would be 'a disaster of gigantic proportions.'

“Consequently, South Africa urges the Israeli authorities, that in line with its obligations under the Fourth Geneva Convention, it should waiver the requirements for transit permits to allow those in need of urgent medical attention and services to seek so freely outside Gaza. It is particularly concerning to note reports of children leaving Gaza to seek hospital treatment, having to do so without their parents as their requests for permits have been denied. This inhumane practice must stop, and compassion must prevail.

“In this regard, South Africa calls on member states, as well as the international community to support the efforts of UNRWA in providing much needed humanitarian assistance to Palestinian refugees. Aside from the need to provide emergency support in light of COVID-19, UNRWA is reliant on resources for the continuation of its core operations, which necessitate the provision of education and health services as well as food assistance to Palestinian refugees. We are concerned that given current budget projections, there is a risk that UNRWA’s resources could be exhausted by the end of May 2020.

“Mr President,

The impact of COVID-19 on prisoners and detainees

“South Africa is deeply troubled at the conditions that Palestinian political prisoners, including children continue to face. These are now exacerbated by the potential impact of COVID-19. We call for the necessary measures to be taken to improve the provision of healthcare and hygiene for Palestinian prisoners and detainees, in line with the WHO’s guidance for preventing the outbreak of COVID-19 in prisons and detention centres.

“We would also like to take this opportunity to remind the occupying power, Israel, of the UN Basic Principles for the Treatment of Prisoners (the Nelson Mandela Rules) which stipulate that 'Prisoners shall have access to the health services available in the country without discrimination on the grounds of their legal situation'.

“To this end, South Africa reiterates its calls for the immediate release of political prisoners, especially vulnerable groups such as the elderly, women, children and people with disabilities, in accordance with international law.

“Mr President,

“Allow me to conclude by stating that peace can only prevail once the parties engage in inclusive dialogue and peaceful negotiations as this is the only means to ensure lasting peace, security and stability.

“I thank you.”
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