Transcript following IRPS Cluster Media Briefing, 14 February
Welcome Remarks and Introduction by Minister of Defence
me begin by saying that there is the very important Franco-Africa Summit currently
underway in Cannes, France. President Mbeki was scheduled to attend - but when
we looked at the schedule - the President is scheduled to respond to the State
of the Nation Address on Thursday 15 February 2007 and other party-political commitments,
we realised that if the President had to attend to these commitments, he would
arrive in France only as the Summit was ending. President Mbeki therefore mandated
Minister of Foreign Affairs to lead the South African delegation to this Summit.
programme of international relations is ongoing although adjustments can be made
from time to time regarding the top of the agenda.
2007 will see South Africa
prioritise the consolidation of the Africa agenda: we will address the strengthening
of all African Union regional structures, like SADC. But most important, the peace
support operations and laying the foundations of the necessary stability for the
implementation of development programmes, eg. the NEPAD programme.
of course been making commendable progress in stabilising the continent and our
most recent success has been the elections in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
This is very high on our agenda since we now need to proceed with the consolidation
of democracy in the DRC. Because of the nature of the problems experienced by
that country for more than 40 years, the size of the country and the impact on
nine other surrounding countries, it is vital that the processes must be sustained
post-elections to continue to be seized with the situation in the DRC. We will
have to exert determined efforts to persuade national and regional formations
that were our partners in taking the DRC to a successful election. There is obviously
anxiety on the part of some to withdraw from the DRC as soon as is possible. But
there is a danger that too early a withdrawal from the situation could allow for
a reversal of the gains that have already been made. We are therefore seeking
to persuade our partners to sustain support so that the institutions of democracy
take firm hold, that the rehabilitation of the economy and the redirection of
the energy of the populace towards constructive economic and other activities
take firm hold and that the withdrawal is therefore managed in keeping with the
capacity of the DRC to sustain itself.
Key among these issues will be the
strengthening of such institutions as the defence of the country, the civilian
policing institutions, the DRCs public service and administration. Many will realise
that for some time there was not a national public service throughout the country.
Unless one can establish that kind of government it is always going to be dangerous
to withdraw from the DRC.
South Africa has a number of departments that
are doing work and assisting in these processes. It has taken some amount of national
resources to support that process but we recognise the DRC as the single most
important country in which stability must be assured for the sake of the entire
Therefore both national resources and the resources of the
region and also partners elsewhere must be mobilised over a long period. As we
told the National Assembly yesterday, the countries of SADC must remain engaged
with the DRC. Failure in the DRC will mean an absence of stability in many other
There is also the question of the Sudan/Darfur which is impacting
on a number of countries - Chad, Central African Republic, the northern parts
of the DRC, Uganda and others. Again, this is an issue that is high on our agenda
- to ensure that the AU Peace and Security Council and the UN resolutions on a
hybrid force for Darfur are fully implemented.
This immediately flows into
the area of Somalia. With regard to Somalia, I must add that South Africa is in
full and unwavering support for all the efforts that are underway to rehabilitate
Somalia, to support the re-establishment of institutions of governance, and so
on. So we will be devoting whatever available resources we have to supporting
this process. I must also hasten to say: because of South Africa's commitments
to a number of theatres of conflict elsewhere in Africa, it is improbable that
South Africa will itself, commit troops for the AU force in Somalia. We will provide
other forms of support, including among others, making available space in our
training institutions to train people. But it is not in the interests of Africa,
nor South Africa, that we over commit ourselves seeing that South Africa is already
rather over committed - in Darfur, Burundi, the DRC, the Comoros. If we over commit
we may fail to sustain our successes elsewhere.
Burundi has already taught
us this lesson: early withdrawal from theatres of conflict may result in a recession
into that very conflict from which we sought to seek a solution, and therefore
render useless very important investments already made in Africa.
the areas of prime concern for us is Côte d'Ivoire. We place Côte
d'Ivoire very high on our agenda of conflict resolution. Côte d'Ivoire is
a big economy in West Africa and impacts on a number of economies in the region.
It is quite clear, in our view, that if there was a resolution to the conflict
an excellent opportunity would present itself for the stabilisation of the greater
part of West Africa and therefore, it could constitute a springboard for the launching
of development projects in that region.
We were very encouraged to see that
the leadership of Côte d'Ivoire has agreed to participate in the Franco-Africa
Summit. We hope that the outcomes of this will be a better atmosphere of co-operation
that will enable us all (ECOWAS), the AU, and France to assist in the final drive
towards the reunification of Côte d'Ivoire and the preparations for elections.
This is a matter that is at the top of our agenda.
The other issues that
relate to our work in Africa will be to strengthen some of the institutions, to
look at the issue of bilateral relations subject to where needs may arise.
top priority for us is to strengthen South-South relations. In this regard, the
Africa-Asia co-operation is a very significant aspect and in that context the
recent China-Africa Summit features significantly. In this regard, we consider
that it is important that we play close attention to relations of co-operation
between ourselves, Africa and China. Presidents Mbeki and Hu Jintao during President
Hu's State Visit to South Africa last week indicated that this co-operation must
be mutually beneficial to both Africa and China. We have an advantage in that
relations between China and Africa have not had the traumatic impact of colonialism
on Africa and other parts of the world. But we must manage the situation in such
a way that there is indeed mutual and development benefit for both sides.
linked to this question of South-South relations, is the IBSA process involving
India, Brazil and ourselves. We will strengthen the IBSA process. We have identified
areas and continue to identify areas of co-operation in various fields - trade,
military and so on.
However, the question of the sustainment of relations
between the South and the North is a matter that cannot be ignored. In that context,
we will remain seized with a very careful servicing of relations between the South
and the countries of the North. I have just mentioned the Franco-Africa Summit,
relations between South Africa and the European Union, the US and North America,
the relations with the G-8 - co-operation projects and the implementation of NEPAD
commitments that have been undertaken.
An issue that also looms very high
on our agenda is the reform of the United Nations because it is through the UN
that various other areas that require or attention, or through which we can make
a better contribution, ie. conflict, tensions, non-proliferation of nuclear weapons,
weapons of mass destruction, Palestine, Iraq, etc, it is really through the UN
that we have the best chance to make a contribution. If the reform process is
completed we will be able to make a better contribution rather that being a unilateral
player on the international stage. We see ourselves being able to make a greater
contribution if we are part of the UN structures.
In this regard, we welcome
heartily the formation of the coalition government in Palestine and consider that
is would be very wise if the sanctions of the EU, the US were lifted to encourage
the strengthening of this coalition. We think this would create a better atmosphere
for the solution of the ongoing Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
the breakthrough regarding North Korea's nuclear programme. This now gives the
world an opportunity to do away with one of the tensions that was very ominous.
This development is marked as important progress for the whole world.
I should at this point, focus attention regarding South Africa's recent accession
of the non-permanent seat of the UN Security Council 2007-2008. Questions and
expectations have been raised that South Africa would want to act miraculously.
We do think that South Africa must be seen as one of the non-permanent members
of the UN Security Council and we will use that position, side-by-side with other
countries to advance issues in the interests of the strengthening of global governance.
have been very sharply criticised or questioned over our position on the vote
on Myanmar. It has been suggested that we are insensitive to human rights violations.
I'd like to put this into perspective.
Without equivocation, South Africa
condemns totally and without reserve the abuse of human rights, the arrests of
pro-democracy leaders. Therefore we do not hesitate to condemn this in Myanmar
This raises the question - why did South Africa vote as it did?
The question relates first and foremost to global governance. There are various
structures of the UN that have responsibilities to deal with particular issues.
Issues of human rights, correctly speaking, are not issues for the Security Council.
There have to come before the Human Rights Council.
We have observed over
some time now that there is an attempt to move issues from some of the institutions
of the United Nations towards the Security Council, and in this way to cut out
bigger numbers of the nations who are part of the UN from participating and being
part of the discussions towards decisions in how these matters should be dealt
with. To take a matter of human rights to the Security Council is to place it
in an area where it becomes inaccessible to countries, who correctly speaking
ought to have a very big say in it.
Let matters of international peace and
security, go to the Security Council. The majority of countries of the world feel
needs to be reformed.
South Africa was, in the first instance unhappy that
this matter was being placed in the incorrect forum. But as to the condemnation
of the actions of the government of Myanmar, we are not doubtful.
issue at the United Nations is the condemnation of the holocaust. The position
of South Africa, not starting today, even as a liberation movement, the ANC has
never hesitated to condemn the holocaust and what happened in Hitler's Germany.
The historical records speak for themselves in this regard. There has been some
suggestion that South Africa refused to co-sponsor the resolution. No such instruction
was issued from the government of South Africa to the Mission in New York to hesitate
or resist on this matter. There may have been practical matters on the ground
and we are looking into this matter. Even the suggestion that our mission was
ordered to absent itself during the voting is erroneous and has no basis.
the whole, the approach of the government in the period immediately before us
is predicated on these views and positions.
I would like to end by sincerely
welcoming the indication, seeing that it mirrors our concern as well, regarding
the matter of global commitment towards the issue of the depletion of the ozone
layer, we welcome the announcement by the United Kingdom that during their Presidency
they will make this issue of global warming a key issue and one that they will
seek to drive for international co-operation. This is a very serious issue since
climatic conditions indicate that unless we proceed, as nations of the world,
with caution, there could be serious and dangerous patterns around the world.
Question Minister, despite approaches from Foreign Governments,
especially the United Kingdom, the Anti-Mercenary Bill is still being passed through
parliament, although it has yet to be signed into law. Are you still negotiating
Answer There is no negotiation with regard to the
Bill. We have agreed that when it comes to implementation, we are very happy to
engage with, in particular, the Commonwealth Community, because by virtue of our
membership of the Commonwealth South Africans are permitted to join Her Majesty's
armed forces. But there are some practicalities into which we will have to look
so that we can agree on the implementation, to ensure we do not create unnecessary
administrative problems, eg. It is being suggested that some of the South Africans
who are already in the service of Her Majesty's forces will have to return to
South Africa to obtain permission and then return to their postings. This is unnecessary.
We will receive, in the near future a technical team to work out the practicalities.
For the rest, there is no problem whatsoever.
Question Minister, what
kind of assistance are you going to provide to Somalia, logistical/technical support
or only diplomatic assistance? Related to that, is there a sense that the Somali
situation has influenced your thinking on the matter?
First of all, with regard to Somalia, the recommendation to the South African
government from Defence has been that we cannot overstretch the armed forces.
If you take the DRC, if more of the countries currently supporting this process
were to withdraw and if the UN were to take a position that their mission has
been completed, the view of the AU and South Africa is that it is far too early
to withdraw from the DRC. It is therefore better that we concentrate our strength
on a project that we are currently involved in and ensure it is a success rather
than to risk spreading ourselves too thinly and ultimately not being successful
This is the recommendation that we have made. Nevertheless, we
have recommended that we should begin a process of supporting the training in
some numbers of Somalis themselves who can then, as citizens of their country,
deal with the situation on the ground.
We are encouraged that an assessment
we made of the situation in that country shows that the traditional leaders are
at one on the matter of the rehabilitation of the institutions of government.
There is some level of dissatisfaction with regard to the activities of some of
the Islamic Courts which seem to be acting even in conflict with what the traditional
The atmosphere does allow for us to be able to provide
assistance of the nature we are proposing.
In any event, the Ugandans right
from the beginning, pledged military support. There are more familiar with the
situation there. Somalia has been in conflict for a considerable amount of time.
When you consider all logistics and practicalities it is important that countries
who get involved are not caught up in the tensions that are already there. All
participants in this process must understand fully the dynamics of the situation
Question Minister, does it worry you that the United States has
created a High Command Structure for Africa that may allow for military intervention
Answer If I may venture a personal opinion, given
the history of the United States in Somalia, it would seem to me that it would
be better to introduce in that situation countries who do not come with historical
baggage. I do not think it is helpful when you bring into that situation countries
whose motives may be questioned. If you really want resolutions it is better to
have fresh players who are untainted by the past.
it is apparently quite imminent that the US are deploying troops to Somalia. Could
this be another Black Hawk?
Answer I have already said that
our sense is that given the history of the situation in Somalia, it would really
be better if the US were not one of the players there. It is worse when you receive
reports that suggest that some of the people who have recently lost their lives
were ordinary civilians or tribesmen who were herding their cattle. Mistakes of
that nature can only exacerbate or bring up the wounds of the past. We are very
very doubtful that this kind of role can be helpful. It is not sensitive to the
emotions that persist over time.
Question Minister, regarding Myanmar,
the point of South Africa's vote did not come through very clearly. Did South
Africa look for friends in the Security Council to help us communicate our message
as a bloc, rather than standing on our own?
when an issue comes up in the Security Council and the General Assembly generally,
there is always caucusing and countries try to persuade each other one way or
Regarding matters such as this one, we could not have gone into
the voting without making our voice heard without at least making our voices heard
amongst members of the current Security Council.
Off course, there are
many elements in the UN - among the permanent members for instance, there are
certain blocs that exist and we have no pretensions of being able to intervene
simply because we are South African. This is so because their interests go way
beyond Myanmar and we were therefore not successful.
In the end we had
to follow our conscience and we voted accordingly. We remain firmly convinced
that we were right.
Question Minister, regarding the DRC - is South Africa
going to take a leaf out of America's book and send in our private companies?
The DRC is now a democratic government. They had their first sitting of Parliament
yesterday. The new Cabinet has been nominated.
In the same way in which
the South African government has contributed towards the resolution of the tensions,
we do expect that South African business people must support the efforts of government
to rehabilitate the economy in that country alongside business people of other
countries to go into the DRC, once they are satisfied with elements of safety
and security, to open up businesses, to give the people of that country jobs,
the possibility of rebuilding their lives in their motherland, to make it possible
for those who have migrated to return to their country and rebuilding their homes,
We think that South African business people must not
be shy and hesitate to support the people of the DRC. As they make profits there,
they will also contribute to the upliftment of the society through development
projects - schools, roads, healthcare.
There are huge opportunities that
require injections of capital not just in aid but from the private sector through
Question Minister, regarding Myanmar, should the situation
arise again where we find ourselves faced with a contentious situation, will South
Africa consider abstaining?
Answer No, we will not consider
abstaining. Our position was very well considered. I say again, we cannot support
a situation in which questions and issues that need to be considered by relevant
institutions of the UN are hived off and become the special preserve of a few
privileged nations within the United Nations Security Council.
is important and at this time of the unipolar world it is increasingly important
that more nations are heard on issues rather than fewer because this in itself
weakens democracy at international levels. This is a very dangerous formula.
We have no hesitation in condemning the abuses of human rights that are happening
in Myanmar. The issue on the voting on the matter in the UN has to do with the
matter of affording more countries of the world to have a say. This is in the
interests of the people of Myanmar, that more nations of the world are participant
in what happens in that country. When people own a decision there will be greater
support for it.
When the issue of Apartheid came up, it was important for
it to be heard in a greater body so that the whole of the UN, having participated
in the decision were most loyal in ensuring it was implemented fully.
this is a decision of few, then it will not be possible to predict how other countries
will respond to it since they may feel it was not their decision.
Minister, it is interesting to note that countries like Somalia, the DRC, Cote
d'Ivoire rate very highly on South Africa's agenda. Yet no mention is made of
Zimbabwe? Or is it simply that the South African government does not consider
the economic meltdown and increasing humanitarian crisis very important?
It is impossible for South Africa to consider its work in Africa without standing
within the SADC community of nations since this impacts immediately on ourselves.
The issue of Zimbabwe continuously enjoys our attention.
There has been
for some time now, an attempt to make Zimbabwe the problem of South Africa rather
than that of the SADC region. We are uncomfortable and refuse to take an approach
that we should be the ones to be seen to dictate what must happen with the problems
We are one of the countries of SADC. We have, because of our
position, taken extra responsibilities to try and get an all round acceptable
resolution to the situation in Zimbabwe. But we cannot make this our own property.
And within the councils of SADC, we will continue to make our positions known
so that when decisions are taken, ours is a voice amongst others. And if we make
special commitments ourselves, outside of the councils of SADC, we are falling
into the trap of maybe throwing ourselves into confrontation with Zimbabwe. This
is not a position we would like to take.
We are very keen that Zimbabwe
is able to confront its problems, to confront the reality that some of the problems
it is experiencing is impacting on her neighbours. They are not impacting on South
Africa any more than any of the other neighbours.
We have said before,
that prior to our democratisation, countries of the region more specifically,
and the continent as a whole, were quite united in dealing with the problem of
supporting liberation struggles and we benefited greatly from the unity of countries
of the region.
Therefore, when we became a democracy, we saw it as a responsibility
and continue to do so now, to reinforce the unity of the countries of SADC, rather
than to be seen as a player that having benefited from that unity, we now destroy
that very unity.
It was in that context therefore, that even when it came
to the question, that there must be respect for the will of the people and we
would therefore need to have regular elections, SADC adopted the Principles and
Guidelines for Elections and we all periodically go to elections where we give
the people of our countries the right to vote. It was in this spirit that we went
to SADC and said, let's agree that nobody should recognise in SADC anyone who
comes to power by unconstitutional means. This was agreed.
It was in
this spirit that we then adopted the Mutual Defence Pact between the countries
of our region so that none of the countries of our region, however powerful, feel
that it is entitled to attack another. Therefore the problems of the region can
be solved through negotiation and not conflict.
These kinds of agreement
are intended to consolidate unity amongst the countries of the region and at the
same time, unity based on a respect for human rights, etc.
have been unhappy about the progress in this regard, there is greater appreciation
that the SADC community is moving in an increasingly stronger and stronger implementation
of democratic practice. We have elections in Lesotho this weekend. We support
each other. We are going to fly ballot papers to remote areas to ensure that the
people of that country are given an opportunity to express their will through
the ballot box.
Therefore, even with Zimbabwe, although painfully slow,
we are advancing in that direction. We do not want to stick out as a better than
thou in a community in which we are one of the partners.
are negotiations ongoing between South Africa and Zimbabwe? What is the view of
the South African government of the problem in this regard? Is the historical
relationship between Zanu-PF and the ANC a stumbling bloc and hindrance rather
than a support?
Answer South Africa has well represented relations
with Zimbabwe. We talk to each other all the time and explore ways of addressing
challenges. We are in continuous discussions, probably more than with most countries.
This must necessarily address all challenges in Zimbabwe - how best to deal
with economic challenges, how best to deal the humanitarian crises, the management
of the opposition, etc.
The economy of Zimbabwe impacts on our economy,
we have to discuss this. There is no question that we do not discuss.
am however, not prepared to discuss the outcomes of these discussions - we must
respect the confidentiality of these discussions.
The friendship between
the Zanu-PF and the ANC is indeed a factor, in the same way in which it is a factor
when we discuss with Namibia or FRELIMO. This does not mean that while we were
fellow freedom fighters we always agree.
Question Minister, has the South
African government raised its concerns regarding Somalia with the US government?
Are you concerned that potential US involvement will be playing into the hands
of the Islamic Courts?
Answer I am not aware that we have had
the opportunity to discuss this at a bilateral level as yet.
Minister, does your decision to not deploy troops to Somalia since you do not
want to overstretch your resources indicate that you will not be able to accept
any further requests for assistance?
Answer This will not be
a situation of one size fits all. First of all, Somalia, because of the long hard
road that the country has come through and the difficulties experienced, any country
who commits to Somalia will have to commit for a very uncertain but certainly
long commitment. At a time when we are already committed to the DRC, which for
more than 46 years has been in turmoil, we must consider whether we want to make
our involvement in the DRC a success before committing to another theatre of conflict
that will require the same if not more than the DRC has needed.
however, the Comoros have requested assistance with the forthcoming elections
in terms of their security. This is a small project with a specific timeframe.
We have been there before and we know we can do it again.
If there were
another mission of a similar nature, we would consider it.
We are also
expanding the contingents of our armed forces that should be available for peace
support operations. Commensurate with the expansion of our capacity, we can undertake
As we deal with the SADC Brigade, one of the things we
are doing is to encourage within the SADC Community that the SADC Brigade must
become actively involved in deployment so that requests should be directed at
SADC and not individual countries. Then the Community can also share the commitments.
Minister, regarding Zimbabwe - when you say that this is a matter for the SADC
Community as well, what is the SADC Community doing?
I have just been discussing the agreements that have been made, non-recognition
of people in power not installed democratically, the mutual defence pact, the
guidelines and principles on elections, the African Peer Review Mechanism are
all agreements of the Community and AU.
This stands as a benchmark for
the governments and intended to create a common approach, an atmosphere that reinforces
democracy, human rights for the countries of the region. This is what we are all
doing. Even when there are elections, a SADC observer mission is deployed which
then reports back.
Question Minister, at the World Economic Forum, President
Mbeki was quite strong on Prime Minister Blair regarding the Saudi arms deal.
Is this matter being discussed at all?
Answer I am afraid that
we are unable to respond to this matter. This is in the hands of the British government.
I am not sure how they will choose to handle this matter further.
Minister, I understand that the Secretariat of Defence has hired a British company
to revamp the Defence Force. Can you tell me how much this is going to cost and
why we need it?
Answer You may recall that when we democratised
this country, there was no defence secretariat which was abolished in 1966 by
the old regime. We worked with a British team when we restructured the Defence
Force and re-established the Secretariat. I am not sure how much this is going
to cost but can let you know.
The Defence Secretariat is a civilian unit.
by Department of Foreign Affairs
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