Press Comments made by South African President Thabo Mbeki and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Union Buildings, Pretoria. Friday 5 October 2007
President Thabo Mbeki
First of all Chancellor, I must express my envy – I have never seen as many people in this room – I am here all the time and they never come to see me.
Chancellor, a very warm welcome. We are very pleased you were able to visit us in South Africa. I am glad Chancellor because this has given us an opportunity to convey to you our appreciation for the very strong and good relations between Germany and South Africa – very good, very strong relations in all areas – politically, economically and so on. It’s a relationship, Chancellor, that we value very much.
We are also very pleased with the manner in which you handled the Africa issue at the Heiligendamm G-8 Summit in June this year. We were concerned, Chancellor, about the way it seemed that there was a certain amount of drift with regard to the matter of the focus on the African question. I am very pleased that you brought it back to the centre of the attention of the work of the G-8. I am also grateful for the initiative you took to ensure the G-8 and the rest of us (we call ourselves the G-5 India, Brazil, Mexico, South Africa and China) to set up the process of the continuous interaction amongst the 13 to deal with some of the challenges facing the world. This was in recognition of the way in which the world has changed and continues to change so that we can all sit together to address these common and global challenges.
I must also say, Chancellor, I appreciate the attention you are paying even to the individual African challenges – whether it is Sudan, Somalia, Zimbabwe, the Congo, and so on. In that regard, I want to assure you that we will continuously remain in contact with you with regard to the resolution of those problems. We rely very much on your support.
We are fortunate that we are hosting the FIFA Soccer World Cup after Germany because this enables us to draw on your own experience to make sure we organise this tournament in a proper and successful way. One of your citizens Frantz Beckinbaum is a very close supporter of South Africa. He is working closely with our team here in terms of organising that tournament. We will remain in close contact about this. Indeed, our police services have visited Germany to see how security arrangements were handled and so on.
A very warm welcome Chancellor and I do hope we can find a way of persuading you to stay longer than two days.
Chancellor Angela Merkel
Thank you very much Mr President, firstly for the very gracious hospitality you have offered to us and for inviting us to South Africa. I can say on behalf of members of my delegation that we are delighted to be here in your country and to get a closer look and first impression of developments in the country. We have always taken an interest, as you know, in this relationship with your country. We are intending to deepen this further and as you have already said President in your remarks, we enjoy an excellent relationship – politically and economically and also to the extent that this is all necessary for development co-operation we have also enjoyed an excellent exchange of views on areas of future co-operation between our two countries.
I would also at this point like to highlight the importance of German companies taking an interest in your country. They have been quite active indeed in the past in education and training schemes and we hope and trust that in this way, they have been able to lend their own contribution to overcoming the very difficult legacy of Apartheid and thereby contributing to a good future and good prospects.
We also addressed in our talks a number of conflicts that currently exist on the African continent and we used that opportunity to thank South Africa for the very active role that it plays in trying to overcome for example the very dissatisfactory situation as it exists in Zimbabwe, to help bring about a settlement of still existing conflicts in the Congo, trying to help the very distressing situations in Sudan and Somalia. In all of that you have indeed been very active and we would like to assure you we hold your work there in very high regard and I know and have always said in our exchanges you are indeed one of those countries and you President have been one of those personalities who has always tried to bring about progress in the African Union and indeed very important work that you to there. You have played a very important role in this respect.
We, during our Presidency of the European Union have tried very much to prepare the ground for the forthcoming Africa – European Union Summit that is currently scheduled to held during the Portuguese Presidency. We want to open a new chapter in the relationship between our continent and Africa. We are direct neighbours to each other and what we intend to do also is to adopt a new EU-Africa Strategy that we think is a very important one and we think we have laid the groundwork for a future genuine partnership as we understand it and we think we can do more on the basis of such a partnership to lend a contribution to making the world a better place.
Well as we know, South Africa is going to be hosting the next FIFA Soccer World Cup and that means that you indeed will be the centre of everyone’s interest. Billions of people will have their eyes on your country and that is something we have experienced as well. We would like to help you. We would like to maintain as close contact on this as possible. We had this same experience in Germany: we do think that the image of Germany, the world over changed considerably, and very much for the better, as a consequence of this World Cup and wherever we can, we would like to help you and give our contribution to this because we think it can indeed be a wonderful experience that we would like your country to experience. Also, for billions of people the world over, this will open up an opportunity for gaining a new image of your country and Africa. Later in the day I will have an opportunity to visit the Soccer Stadium. We have the team manager of the German national team here as well. We would also like to give our footballers a new impression of South Africa.
And we also have a gentleman here, an entrepreneur who is very active in solar energy and produces solar panels. He has taken a very active interest in trying to make it possible to allow Africans to participate in public viewing events as we have in Germany.
Thank you very much.
Questions and answers
Question Chancellor Merkel, I wanted to ask you if you discussed the matter of the settlement of the situation in Zimbabwe and what sort of concrete contribution to the solution do you expect from South Africa?
I would also like President Mbeki to comment on this issue?
Answer (Chancellor Merkel) We obviously discussed the matter of Zimbabwe and I gave the President my assessment of the situation as I saw it. He then shared his assessment of the situation as he saw it with me and described contributions to the conflict resolution as he saw it.
But I think President Mbeki could respond better also as regards possible approaches to bringing about a settlement to that conflict and what South Africa is aiming to do to bring this about. What we also addressed is that South Africa itself suffer from the situation in Zimbabwe because you here in South Africa are influenced by it due to the sheer number of refugees from Zimbabwe. It is in Zimbabwe’s vested interest to bring about a solution to this conflict. The situation is a very difficult one, to say a disastrous one as I very clearly stated in our conversation.
(President Mbeki) As you know, South Africa was asked by the regional organization, the Southern Africas Development Community (SADC) to facilitate discussions between the government and ruling party and the opposition in Zimbabwe to find a political solution. We are engaged with the Zimbabweans in that process. It’s focus is on preparing for the parliamentary and presidential elections which are scheduled to take place in March 2008.
Both the ruling party and the opposition agreed that it is important that those elections should indeed be free and fair and that the outcome of these elections should therefore not be disputed.
And so, the central question they had to address in these negotiations is what should be done to create the conditions to ensure that the elections in 2008 are free and fair? So that has meant that the negotiations need to address a whole variety of matters including changes to the constitution, changes to some laws, the reconstitution of the electoral commission, creation of conditions that will be conducive to free and fair elections. That is generally the agenda that is being addressed. Very good progress is being made in these negotiations.
The first matter coming out of those negotiations on which they have already acted together, the ruling party and the opposition, are some constitutional amendments addressing the issue of the parliamentary and presidential elections taking place at the same time, the size of the houses and they have already together, the ruling party and the opposition, presented those constitutional parliament together because this was an agreement between them. This matter is in process.
So I am saying, that those negotiations are going very well and indeed, there is a common determination to conclude them as quickly as possible so as to allow enough time to implement all of the matters – constitutional or legal amendments, setting up of institutions, and so on, timeously.
We are confident that they will reach an agreement on all of these matters so that at least as far as the political challenges are concerned there is a united voice that is emerging from both the ruling party and the opposition as to what to do to address those political challenges that will culminate in elections next year.
And again, I am saying that both the ruling party and the opposition, are committed to ensuring that those elections are indeed free and fair.
So that is what we are dealing with.
We are quite confident that there will be positive outcome that will create the political conditions to address these very serious economic crisis in Zimbabwe. So, good progress is being made and as I say, we are quite confident that quite soon those negotiations will be successfully concluded.
And next year, after the elections, it will be very important, as we have been saying to the leadership of Zimbabwe, that they take the same approach with regard to dealing with the economic challenges. They must together devolve a common approach to what needs to be done with regard to the economy. But in the first instance, it means that we must get over the political challenges.
Question President Mbeki and Chancellor Merkel, were there specific areas identified towards which Germany as the former hosts of the World Cup can contribute to South Africa’s preparations?
Answer (Chancellor Merkel) Well there is already very detailed progress underway as President Mbeki has already said. For example, our police forces already work together quite well. They exchange experiences. We can also offer experiences and exchanges on, for example, fan clubs which are a very important factor in Germany.
We also co-operate to a certain extent on the construction of stadia and also their enlargement. There is also an exchange of experience on how to co-operate with FIFA.
(President Mbeki) I think the Chancellor has answered everything.
You know that during the tournament in Germany our Local Organising Committee went to Germany to the actual cities and venues that hosted the Games to study everything that had to do with the organization of the Games so there was very extensive exposure to the tournament as it was taking place. The Chancellor has already mentioned the co-operation that is taking place between the police in both countries because we wanted to learn from the German police on how to handle the security questions. This is the sort of co-operation that is underway.
Indeed, even the matter of how host countries interact with FIFA – this is an important question and we remain in contact on this matter as well as the other areas mentioned with regard to all elements that have to do with organizing and hosting the tournament.
Question President Mbeki, a follow up to the 2010 question – there are all sorts of experts traveling to South Africa – does South Africa really need that much help to organize this tournament?
Answer (President Mbeki) I think that with regard to the first question, we would become very very worried if everybody ignored us as we prepared to host the 2010 Soccer World Cup. That would be very worrying to us.
The attention and the focus, indeed as you say, quite correctly from all sorts of people from Germany, that focus is very welcoming indeed. I don’t imagine that we would ever be over-advised and become over-wise. I don’t think that is possible.
So it is not an imposition nor a nuisance. Indeed that kind of attention makes a very positive impact on us and compels us to ensure that we succeed. It is important to have critical voice that people will come and say you can do this better. It is not at all a problem.
(Chancellor Merkel) The only difficulty that might come is perhaps if there is a 180 degree difference in advice on the same subject. I have every confidence in the South African society to be able to make good decisions.
Question Chancellor Merkel, you referred to the EU-Africa Summit: but there is this controversy surrounding the attendance – some leaders of the European Union threatening to boycott the Summit if Robert Mugabe as the President of Zimbabwe is invited. What is your view Chancellor?
Answer (Chancellor Merkel) For many years we did not have an EU-Africa meeting. I said right from the start of our Presidency of the EU that the Republic of Germany wanted to invite all African countries to the Summit and that it would be up to the countries themselves to decide how they would be represented. I also said that obviously we will make all of our assessments heard, obviously we would raise criticism if the case may be but we would do so in the presence of each and every one and obviously each and every one has the right in turn to respond.
Issued by Department of Foreign Affairs
Private Bag X152
5 October 2007