Notes following Briefing by Deputy Minister Aziz Pahad, Media Centre Amphitheatre, Union Buildings, Tshwane, South Africa, Tuesday, 13 June 2006

Democratic Republic of Congo

  • South Africa has been selected by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to print the DRC presidential and legislative ballot papers for both rounds of elections. According to the Agreement, the UNDP shall pay for the printing of the ballot papers whereas the government of South Africa shall be responsible for the purchase of the print paper and the transportation of the ballots to fourteen (14) hubs in the DRC. In addition, South Africa will pay for the storage of the ballot papers inside South Africa as well as deployment of IEC technical experts, which now numbers 168 from 300 experts originally requested.
  • The government has decided that the SANDF will be responsible for the transportation of ballot papers to the identified 14 hubs in the DRC. The distribution schedule, which is very tight, began on 10 June and should be completed by 23 June 2006.
  • The South African Government will be deploying a 128-member National Observer Team to observe the DRC elections. The Observer Team would consist of people from civic organisations, government officials and individuals who have previous observation experience.
  • A total of thirty-three (33) presidential candidates have registered for the elections. These include the prominent candidates such as the incumbent President Kabila, and three of the four Vice Presidents, Ruberwa, Bemba and Ngoma.
  • The UDPS led by Mr Tshisekedi has decided to boycott the elections alleging that basic conditions for a transparent vote had not been met.
  • There are over nine thousand legislative candidates for the 500-member National Assembly. This has necessitated the printing of over two thousand tonnes of ballot papers.
  • Security particularly in the east of the country is a major concern. The Transitional Government has intensified its planning and operation to forcibly disarm and repatriate armed groups based in the DRC. The support of the international community is essential in permanently solving the problem of illegal armed forces operating in the northeastern DRC.

Burundi

  • Minister Nqakula has just returned for the second round of negotiations in the Burundi peace process.
  • We are happy that there has been quick agreement on many issues.
  • However, discussions continue on some other issues including the composition of the national security forces.

Middle East

  • The escalating tensions in the Middle East continues to be the greatest threat to international peace and security.
  • The recent developments in the region continue to generate deep concern.
  • The incidents of attacks and retaliation are getting increasingly worse with greater numbers of civilians being involved.
  • As you know, there has been no agreement between President Abbas and Hamas as therefore, a referendum will be held on 26 July to assess the commitment of the people of Palestine to creating the two state solution based on the Oslo Agreement.
  • We also continue to be concerned regarding Israeli military action.
  • Hamas has also decided to withdraw from its unilateral ceasefire.
  • We hope, that Israel as the stronger power in this situation, will not retaliate to attacks.
  • We are also increasingly concerned about the deteriorating humanitarian situation - it is becoming increasingly prevalent that the cessation of funding to the Palestinian government has had dire consequences for the people of Palestine.
  • We call on the international community to not impose collective punishment on the people of Palestine following their democratic choice in the January elections.
  • The European Union has announced plans to resume funding to the Palestinian government although an appropriate vehicle has not yet been found.
  • We call on Hamas and Fatah not to contribute to escalating tensions in the region.

Iran

  • As you must be aware, the International Atomic Energy Agency Board meeting began in Vienna yesterday. Mr Abdul Minty is representing South Africa at this meeting.
  • The Secretary-General Mohamed ElBaradei has said that not enough progress has been made in terms of the outstanding verification mechanisms.
  • The EU 3 + 3 has put forward a proposal aimed at meeting the needs of all those involved.
  • We will study this further and analyse the outcomes of the IAEA meeting.

Chinese Premier's visit to South Africa (21-22 June 2006)

  • President Mbeki will host Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao in South Africa for discussions 21-22 June 2006.
  • 2008 will see a decade of bilateral relations between China and South Africa that led to us supporting the One-China Policy.
  • The Chinese President has also just announced the China-Africa Plan with a view to strengthening and concretising relations between China and South Africa.
  • Premier Jiabao's visit to South Africa comes as part of a seven nation African tour.
  • Since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1998, trade between China and South Africa has grown significantly, with China becoming South Africa's 2nd largest import trading partner in 2005, comprising 9% of total imports and 8th largest export partner, comprising 3% of total exports from South Africa.

In fact both imports and exports grew 30% in 2005 compared to 2004. China still enjoys a massive trade surplus with SA - in 2005 imports from China totalled R31,476 million, while exports came to R8,763 million. There is a sizeable trade imbalance in favour of China in our bilateral trade.



Figures in R 000

In this regard, China is now the world's seventh-largest economy and among the fastest growing. GDP officially grew by 9.5% in 2004, the fastest for eight years, and has averaged above 8% growth over the last decade. This rapid increase is partly a function of China growing from a low base, but also derives from China's considerable and ongoing economic reforms, including it's 2001 WTO accession.

The economic development plan of China has an interval of 5 years. The country stated its 1st Five-Year Plan more than 50 years ago. Currently, China is finalizing its 11th Five-Year Plan and for that matter, the National People's Congress is currently in session. Indications are that the 11th Five-Year Plan will target a growth rate of 7.5%, will seek to create employment for 45 million people migrating from rural to urban areas, speed up the development of China's service industry and achieve a "relatively complete market economy system".

It will focus on addressing the challenges of rural-urban divide by improving village facilities and administration in rural areas, of sustainable development reducing pollution level by 10% and increasing forest coverage to 20%, reduce use of energy and water consumption by 20% and 30% per unit of GDP respectively. Other main targets are increase spending on R&D to 2% of GDP, and improvement in basic public service of health care and education by increasing the average education to nine years and a coverage of 80% for cooperative rural medical care.

As a developing country, China shares similar positions with South Africa with regard to the reform and governance of the global economic system. Reform of the economic system is a key element in South Africa's multilateral agenda and China has the potential to be an effective ally in this regard. China could also be a significant partner within NEPAD and in the SADC region.

China's industrialisation and economic growth hold significant opportunities for South Africa's own development as well as the regeneration of the African continent, in which China has shown great interest. The recent China-Africa Forum on the renewal of Africa and cooperation in the globalising world enhanced the strategic understanding between the two countries.

In addition, both South Africa and China are signatories to the New Africa Asia Strategic Partnership (NAASP) that aims to strengthen economic relations between the continents of Africa and Asia to reflect the strong political, cultural and people-to-people relations that have existed for many decades. Stronger economic relations through increased foreign direct investment (FDI), market access and trade relations are intended to contribute to the alleviation of poverty and underdevelopment that is experienced by the peoples of Africa and Asia.

China as a key player in Asia and next to India, the fastest growing economy, is invaluable to South Africa and/or Africa achieving its developmental needs.

China considers South Africa a strategic partner in its endevours to strengthen and consolidate its historical relations with the Africa. In addition, 2008 will see a decade since the establishment of bilateral diplomatic relations between both countries.

President Mbeki and Prime Minister Jiaboa are expected to also discuss:

  • The Forum on China-Africa Co-operation (FOCAC) preparations ahead of the Summit scheduled for later this year. Within this context, President Mbeki and Premier Jiabao are expected to assess the implementation of the New Africa-Asia Strategic Partnership a year after its adoption by African and Asian Heads of State and Government at the Summit in Indonesia and the synergies of this Partnership with NEPAD as Africa's socio-economic development plan;

  • Co-operation between South Africa and China under the auspices of South Africa's Accelerated and Shared Growth Initiative (AsgiSA) and Joint Initiative for Priority Skills Acquisition (JIPSA).

The following areas have been identified as growth opportunities for the South African market in China:

  • Energy
  • Mining and mining related technology
  • Engineering
  • Financial services
  • Biotechnology
  • Infrastructure development and construction
  • Capital equipment
  • Agro-processing
  • Tourism

Through AsgiSA, the South African government has identified the following areas for expansion:

  • Clothing and Textiles
  • Chemicals
  • Mineral Beneficiation
  • Agro-processing
  • Business Process Outsourcing
  • Tourism
  • Arts and Crafts
  • Automotives
  • Aerospace, Marine and Rail Transport

As you can see there are synergies in this regard and consequently, great opportunities for growth and expansion of bilateral economic relations.

  • Security issues including non-proliferation and the use of nuclear technology for peaceful purposes in Iran and North Korea;

  • Co-operation in multilateral fora including the:

  • G-77 + China that focuses primarily on strengthening South-South co-operation in the interests of achieving the developmental agenda of the South;
  • The newly established Human Rights Council of which both South Africa and China are members;
  • The forthcoming Group of 8 (G-8) Summit to be hosted in Russia 17-19 July 2006. Both South Africa and China, in addition to India, Mexico and Brazil, will be participating in the Summit as "Strategic Outreach Partners" of the G-8. In this regard, the 2006 G-8 meeting will discuss:

  • International Energy Security (including climate change)
  • Health Care: Prevention of Communicable Diseases
  • Education Development; and

  • The G-20 that focuses largely on the successful conclusion of the Doha Development Round and the World Trade Organisation negotiations. China chaired this forum in 2005 and South Africa is the current chair. In this regard, both South Africa and China have synergistic views on the reform and strengthening of the international trading and financial system;

President Mbeki's visit to Sudan

  • President Thabo Mbeki will visit Sudan on Tuesday 20 June 2006 where he is expected to hold discussions with Sudanese President Omar Hasan Ahmad al-Bashir and Vice President Salva Kirr respectively.
  • President Mbeki's visit to Sudan comes within the context of South Africa's stated commitment to consolidate the African agenda through the successful implementation of peace processes. In this regard, South African Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma is Chairperson of the African Union's Post-Conflict and Reconstruction Committee in Sudan.
  • Discussions between President Mbeki and Sudanese President Omar Hasan Ahmad al-Bashir on the one hand and with Vice President Salva Kirr on the other are expected to look at challenges experienced by roleplayers in the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA).
  • President Mbeki will return to South Africa just ahead of his discussions with the Chinese Premier which will provide an excellent opportunity to synergise co-operation with regard to African conflicts and challenges. As you know, China is quite involved in Sudan.

Questions and answers

Question Deputy Minister Pahad, could you kindly shed some light on the visit of Minister Kasrils to Zimbabwe last week. What was he doing there, what were the outcomes of his meetings? In addition, what is the status of the United Nations Plan for Zimbabwe and the visit to Secretary-General Kofi Annan?

Answer As far as we are aware this was a normal ministerial meeting for discussions with Minister Kasrils counterpart. Much of what we are reading about this visit is coming from the Zimbabwean media.

I am not certain from where the suggestion that he went to Zimbabwe to also discuss the re-initiation of contact between the two Presidents - I am not aware of any break in their communication.

As we all know, the situation is becoming quite dire - inflation is reported to have reached 1200% - we continue to be concerned about this matter since such negative development cannot be sustained.

We have not been fully briefed regarding the initiative of the Secretary-General. There have been suggestions that he will visit Zimbabwe within the broader context of discussions on how the international community can contribute to resolving the situation. We hope he will be able to have full, frank and open discussions.

Question Deputy Minister, have you seen the Amnesty International report which mentions Chinese arms deals in Africa? The report also mentions vehicles being supplied to Sudan.

Answer No, I have not seen the report. But there are no United Nations Security Council resolutions on weapons being supplied to Sudan.

We will continue to raise the matter of the non-proliferation of small arms into Africa.

Question Deputy Minister Pahad, could you please elaborate on progress in terms of the SACU-China Free Trade Agreement. Also, the Chinese are saying that the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) is contrary to the aims of the World Trade Organisation?

Answer There is a Department of Trade and Industry delegation presently in China. Perhaps you should seek a briefing with them on their return to further understand progress in this area.

Also, a huge Chinese business delegation will be accompanying the Chinese Prime Minister on his visit to South Africa. The Premier and Deputy President Mlambo-Ngcuka will co-host a business forum on Thursday, 22 June 2006 --this will provide an excellent opportunity for the South African business community to hold discussions with their Chinese counterparts to further understand some of these issues.

As for AGOA, I am not certain in what respect the Chinese are challenging it - we as Africa have consistently called for greater market access for our goods through tariff reductions, etc. So am not sure of the basis for this concern.

Question Deputy Minister Pahad, we have heard that the EU force in the DRC will be there largely to evacuate European citizens. Is this their mandate or is it larger? Will President Mbeki, in his discussions in Sudan, convince the government to accept the transfer of the African Mission in Sudan to a UN mission?

Answer The European Union is very committed to the processes in the DRC and as we are aware, there is no basis for such an assumption. The EU force will also be called upon to act as a reactionary force should the need arise.

As for the blue-helmetting of the African Mission in Sudan - the AU has taken a decision on the matter, the United Nations Security Council has taken a decision - unless the AMIS in Sudan is blue-helmetted, it cannot be sustained. Africa does not have the resources to sustain and maintain this operation.

Question Deputy Minister Pahad, considering the involvement of the South African government in Sudan, will you be considering a proposal to assist Somalia? The South African government had some time ago invited Hamas to visit South Africa - has a date for this been finalised? And do you believe that the death of Al-Zarqawi in Iraq will bring greater peace and stability?

Answer We have no plan to intervene in Somalia - as you may be aware, the African Union has taken a decision that conflicts must be dealt with by the sub-regional grouping, which in this case is IGAD. We will await a decision by the African Union's Peace and Security Council on the matter and support the initiative where possible.

The Palestinian Foreign Minister has written to Minister Dlamini Zuma to request a meeting. We are attempting to find a mutually acceptable time to both Foreign Ministers. This is a particularly busy period for both Ministers.

Let me reiterate what President Bush and others have said: the killing of an individual cannot bring peace or solve the problem. We hope that the formation of a new government brings the opportunity to end sectarian violence which is becoming increasingly serious. When you look at a situation like Iraq, the longer such acts of violence and hostility continue, the greater the climate of hatred. This situation is by no means sustainable.

Question Deputy Minister Pahad, there have been voices of dissension regarding China's investment in South Africa and Africa. What is the position of the South African government is in this regard, especially in terms of concerns raised by the manufacturing sector?

Answer We welcome Chinese involvement in Africa. China has been recognised as the world's fastest growing economy and estimations are that it will be THE economic power by 2015. It would therefore be ludicrous that China not invest in and contribute to the growth of Africa.

We do however believe that relations with China should be multifaceted and should involve more foreign direct investment, joint partnerships, co-operation projects, etc.

China is also a leading member of the New Africa-Asia Strategic Partnership and we welcome this.

Question Deputy Minister Pahad, the Khalid Rashid matter has now been taken to the International Court of Justice. Now I know your Department is not involved in this, but do you think this matter is damaging South Africa's international image and reputation?

Answer The Khalid Rashid matter is not in our line of activity in general because we were not involved in any of the matters relating to it. The matter is being dealt with through the Home Office.

Off course, coming at a time, just when the European Union has published its report on the rendition from 20 European countries, the Rashid case is also getting quite a lot of publicity internationally. Indeed, the matter has now been taken to the International Court of Justice and will get more publicity.

Obviously, many people will believe we are part of the bigger rendition policies. We want to deny this. Government has denied this and has said it had acted, in its view, within the framework of the law and now we will have to see how we can minimise the negative messages that are coming out.

It is a matter that government is concerned with and we will attempt to resolve this as soon as we can.

Issued by Department of Foreign Affairs
Private Bag X152
Tshwane
0001

13 June 2006

 

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