Notes following IRPS Cluster Briefing, Rainforest Room, 120 Plein Street, Cape Town, Tuesday, 15 February 2005

· Introductory remarks by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma.

· There will be no major shifts in our foreign policy because what anchors South Africa's foreign policy remains unchanged. While our priorities may shift but, there will be no major foreign policy changes.

· Much has happened since we met last year - if we take a quick scan, we note there have been some major elections in the region - Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Botswana, Seychelles; there have also been two changes of Presidents - Mozambique and Namibia. This illustrates that the democratic agenda in the region is progressing. There have also been elections elsewhere on the Continent - Ghana and Niger.We have also seen a few problems - viz. Togo.

· The death of President Arafat has heralded a new era in the Middle East. President Arafat has, since time immemorial, spearheaded the liberation movement in the Middle East. For those who have liked or disliked him, we hope that all will now be committed to finding peace in the Middle East. We hope that the Palestinian people and the rest of the world will build on his memory by building peace in this region.

· The US held its elections and President Bush was re-elected.

· We did however close the year on a very sad note where many lost their lives in the wake of the South East Asia Tsunami. In this regard, South Africa must play its part, as part of the international community, in working out how we assist especially in South-east Asia.

· This disaster has illustrated very clearly for us that we live in a global village. It is good that the United Nations will focus on early warning assistance to avoid this kind of disaster in future.

· We also saw 2004 close with a new challenge for President Mbeki - for him to assist the people of the Ivory Coast find the way forward in the implementation of all agreements up to Accra III. We have no choice but to try to achieve success in this matter. President Mbeki has spent much time on this and will continue to do so.

· We must remember that achieving peace on the Continent is not an optional luxury - peace must be achieved.

· Let me mention some of South Africa's priorities for 2005 - there will be no shifts although changes may occur in terms of emphasis:

· SA celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Freedom Charter - this gives us an idea of what the people in 1955 thought of the future of South Africa. The Freedom Charter is therefore the foundation of the people's parliament. A lot of what has been said there is true and wise. We will reflect our own priorities against those of 1955 - most of what they said should happen is now the foundation of our policies.

If we look at the first principle - the people shall govern - this indicates democratic governance, respect for human rights, etc. This is true for South Africa and should become true for the Continent and the World. We continue to pursue this goal.

· South Africa's foreign policy is underpinned by the African agenda - what we do on the Continent and elsewhere is underpinned by our African agenda. In addition, our policy cannot be seen in isolation of the people sharing the wealth of the country - anything else would not be sustainable - the people would rebel. Sustainable development is the other side of the coin of democracy. Tourism, investment, etc are pursuits of developing the wealth of South Africa so that the people can share in this wealth. Thus NEPAD is an endeavour to expand the wealth of Africa.

· We will continue to consolidate bilateral relations with Africa and also central Asia. Currently South Africa is making strides to develop strong links in particular with Asian countries. - and there is potential for trade and investment expansion. South Africa's first ambassador to Kazakhstan will be deployed later this year.

· Tourism expansion - there is the mistaken view by some in South Africa that Africans should not be encouraged to visit South Africa - however, if we look at the statistics, two thirds of South Africa's tourists come from the continent. The view in South Africa that most of our tourists come from Europe, etc is not true. We should encourage Africans to travel to South Africa by making access easier. If we look at the air links, we understand that it is not viable to travel to the rest of Africa via Europe - this must continue to be part of our work through SAA and other airlines.
We must also make the distinction between legal and illegal visitors - those who come illegally to South Africa will do so anyway because they do not use the visa route, etc. If we look at the principle in the Freedom Charter that says: There shall be peace and friendship - this implies not just amongst South Africans but all around the Continent. We will continue to really strengthen tourism links.

· World Trade Organisation (WTO) Negotiations - we will be paying special attention to the WTO generally because we need rule based market access, etc. We must also conclude this present round of negotiations - and we are looking at opening up markets - not just for South African goods but for all African goods.

· United Nations Reform - this will be one of our priorities in this year and for the next few years to come. I believe we have made our position on this matter very clear. South Africa has consistently called for UN reform - through working with the Continent and the rest of the world.

· Millenium Development Goals (MDGs) - we have to focus on whether we will achieve these goals - the recent Jeffrey Sachs report says that from recent trends, the MDGs will be achieved in a patchy manner but that Sub-Saharan Africa is the epicentre of a crisis. It was welcoming to note that the recent Davos meeting paid great attention to Africa - the MDGs will not be achieved if there is no focus on Africa.

· In this year South Africa will be hosting the Progressive Governance Summit - although not a very formal structure, it can influence the world.

· South-South Co-operation - we will focus on strengthening this - South Africa will host an India-Brazil-South Africa (Ministerial) meeting in the next few weeks.

An AASROC meeting will be hosted in Indonesia in April - this is an attempt to strengthen trade and economic links between Africa and Asia. The Summit in April will consolidate this agenda and commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Bandung Conference.

· Consolidation of relations with the Caribbean - we believe that relations with this region should be strengthened - an African Diaspora Conference will be hosted in the next few weeks (March 2005) to address this matter - this was postponed from October 2004 - it is hoped that this conference will culminate in an international Conference on the Diaspora.

· Gender Parity - President Mbeki, some time ago, announced that South Africa must achieve gender parity in all its undertakings. As a country we will strive towards the achievement of this objective.

· South Africa will continue to consolidate its work with regard to conflict resolution in the DRC, and Burundi.

· An historic agreement was signed at the end of last year between the North and South in Sudan - we hope that this can be successfully implemented and that the situation in Darfur can be resolved.

· Somalia - we hope that the transitional government can return to Mogadishu. South Africa will continue to play its modest role with regard to the re-establishment of the government in Somalia. A South African team last week met with a team from Somalia to assess what is needed.

· On Friday, we will meet with the AU Post-Conflict Reconstruction Committee on the Sudan - we will meet with the SPLM and the Government of Sudan in order to ascertain what is expected from this Committee following the signing of agreements at the end of last and in January this year. We will then need to visit Sudan as a team in order to assess the needs. Off course, we will work closely with other international partners.

· This is the new trend in the AU - not just agreements but post-conflict reconstruction.


Questions and Answers

Question Minister, do you think that French troops should leave the Ivory Coast? What will happen if elections, scheduled to be held in October 2005, are not successful?

Answer French troops are in the Ivory Coast because of a bilateral agreement between the governments of the Ivory Coast and France. These troops were in the Ivory Coast before the outbreak of the conflict with a further deployment after the outbreak. It is not South Africa's role to interfere in any bilateral arrangement between two countries.

With regard to your second question, experience has shown us that it is not good to speculate on conflict resolution attempts - it does not help - what we should be talking about is what we do now to ensure that the elections are held - let's do everything we can to ensure that these do happen.

Question Minister, with regard to tourism, are we looking at visa exemptions, etc? With regard to IBSA, is South Africa in a diplomatic conundrum with both India and Brazil asking us to back their candidate for the WTO Director-General?

Answer We are not implying blanket exemptions but Africans should be encouraged to visit Africa - this principle should inform us.

With regard to the WTO, many, including Mauritius, which is in our region, have put forward their candidatures. The Ministers of Trade and Industry will discuss on how to maximise the chances of getting a candidate for the developing world through. At the end of the day, the developing world has much in common internationally - this should be our priority.

Question : Minister, a recently concluded UN investigation has recommended members of the Sudanese government and militia stand trial at the International Criminal Court for human rights abuses. The United States would like a different approach - eg. the Arusha Tribunal in Rwanda. What is the position of the South African government?

Answer Firstly, the report has not been distributed to all member states. However, the ICC has been ratified by most UN member states - including South Africa. We are aware of the problems experienced with the Arusha Tribunal in Rwanda. However, the final decision taken with regard to this matter will be done with all the facts at our disposal. And it must be remembered that it is still too early for South Africa to take a decision because we have not received a copy of the report.

Question Minister, President Mbeki on Sunday hinted that a SADC group will travel to Zimbabwe ahead of the elections - what is the progress in this regard, when can we expect the team to leave?

Answer As you know, Zimbabwe subscribes to the SADC election guidelines- with regard to these guidelines, invitations to observers are left to the country concerned since this is a sovereign matter. As soon as SADC receives its invitation, it will proceed to Zimbabwe.

Question Minister, Cosatu has hinted at a blockade of borders. What is South Africa's reaction?

Answer : The government's reaction will be governed by our own laws and regulations. South Africa is a law abiding state - we will deal with the matter according to the laws of this country.

Question Minister, you are saying that the Zimbabwean government has not invited SADC as yet. Is this not a matter of concern since the SADC election guidelines say observers should be invited 90 days ahead of the elections? What are SADC's plans?

Answer : You must ask where Zimbabwe was 90 days ago - Zimbabwe was still modifying its electoral law 90 days ago - but yes, we would like SADC to be there and observe the elections. We will be concerned if SADC is not invited to observe the elections - we do however hope the invitation will materialise.

Question Minister, I am confused, did I misunderstand the President - I thought he said the team could leave tomorrow if they wished and that he had talked to President Mugabe in this regard?

Answer : As chair of the SADC Organ on Defence, Security and Politics, we have spoken to the Secretariat and member states and asked them to put forward recommendations for a SADC observer team. As soon as the team is ready, they can go to Zimbabwe.

Question : Minister, are we not getting concerned regarding the timeframes with regard to the elections in Zimbabwe - the deployment of a SADC team is continually postponed and the elections are only a few weeks away?

Answer : The SADC guidelines do not compel any country to invite observers ahead of their elections - there could just be internal observers. For instance, South Africa invited the EU who decided not to come to South Africa since they were assured that our elections would be free and fair. A SADC country cannot be taken to court for not complying with the SADC guidelines.

Question : Minister, do you believe that enough has been done by Zimbabwe to comply with the SADC guidelines?

Answer : Steps taken thus far are in accordance with the SADC guidelines. I have just seen a report on comments by the leader of the opposition - I was heartened to hear them say that violence has decreased and the public policing has increased, etc.

Question : (Chinese News Agency) Minister, you spoke about relations with Asia and said that the first Ambassador to Central Asia will be appointed later this year - when and to which country?

Answer : China has been centrally involved in AASROC. South Africa will be sending an ambassador to Khazakstan - the Embassy has already been opened.

Issued by Department of Foreign Affairs
P/Bag X152
Pretoria
0001

15 February 2005


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