Notes following Media Briefing by Deputy Minister Aziz Pahad, Media Centre, Amphitheatre, Union Buildings, Wednesday 19 September 2007

PRESIDENT MBEKI TO LEAD SOUTH AFRICAN DELEGATION TO UNGA 62

President Mbeki, supported by Foreign Minister Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma and Deputy Foreign Minister Aziz Pahad, will attend the annual General Debate of the United Nations General Assembly, in New York from 25 September to 3 October 2007. 

Minister Dlamini Zuma will depart from South Africa on Saturday 22 September 2007 ahead of President Mbeki while Deputy Minister Pahad will depart from South Africa on Wednesday 19 September 2007.

President Mbeki is expected to address the Assembly on the 25 September 2007.

The theme for this year’s General Debate in “Responding to Climate Change.”

The impacts of climate change are expected, as it has been widely reported, to affect all societies.  It also goes without saying that developing countries and African countries in particular might face even bigger challenges in responding to climate change.

Millennium Development Goals

  • The Millennium Summit was convened at the United Nations in September 2000
  • From the Millennium Summit emerged the Millennium Development Goals – a set of development targets that became embraced by the whole world
  • The most prominent was the idea of halving the proportion of people who live in poverty by the year 2015
  • 2007 is therefore almost a halfway mark in this journey for the achievement of the MDGs
  • As far as Africa is concerned, all indications are that most African countries and societies will struggle to meet the Millennium Development Goals.  It is therefore important for us at this halfway stage to ensure that the international community responds more decisively to implement their own decisions to make the necessary resources available to ensure that Africa can meet these goals.
  • Importantly it is important that global agreements on resource flows should be implemented. In this respect we pay particular attention to the follow-up to the major conferences and summits of the UN such as the Financing for Development and the World Summit on Sustainable Development. We also work to strengthen South-South cooperation.

Joint statement by the members of the MDG Africa Steering Group

( New York, 14 September 2007)

All indications are that many countries in sub-Saharan Africa will not meet the Millennium Development Goals.

Accordingly, South Africa welcomes the decision of the major multilateral and inter-governmental organizations working for development in Africa, the United Nations, African Development Bank, African Union Commission, European Commission, International Monetary Fund, Islamic Development Bank and the World Bank, to establish the MDG Africa Steering Group. This group will coordinate and redouble efforts in support of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) across the African continent. It will have a clear focus on implementation.

The MDG Africa Steering Group is chaired by the United Nations Secretary-General and mobilizes the leaders of the UN system and major multilateral and intergovernmental organizations in support of reaching the MDGs in Africa. The group will focus on

  • strengthening international mechanisms for implementation in the five areas of: health, education, agriculture and food security, infrastructure and statistical systems;
  • improving aid predictability; and
  • enhancing coordination at the country level. It will be supported by the MDG Africa Working Group, composed of representatives of the UN system and other major multilateral organizations and chaired by the UN Deputy-Secretary General. The Working Group will reach out to African Governments, prepare action plans for achieving the objectives of the Steering Group, mobilize and coordinate the efforts of the institutions represented, and prepare periodic progress reports. The Working Group will convene in New York on 20 September 2007 to launch the operational work.

Peace and Security in Africa

Discussions during the General Assembly and Security Council will also focus on some of the peace and security challenges in Africa

As you know conflict resolution and post-conflict reconstruction and development are key areas of discussion at the United Nations – viz. the Democratic Republic of Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Sudan/Darfur, Liberia and indeed Burundi will be high on the agenda of discussions in both the General Assembly and the Security Council.

There have been some positive developments but also some setbacks in all these situations to which I have referred.

We will use this opportunity to get a further commitment from the United Nations to intensify their efforts towards conflict resolution and post-conflict reconstruction and development in Africa.

In this regard, we welcome the initiative taken by President Sarkozy of France to call and host a Security Council Summit on Peace and Security in Africa.  We believe this initiative opens up the very important opportunity for the Security Council to specifically focus on what needs to be done to deal with this burning issue of peace and stability and the long-lasting security in Africa.

United Nations Reform

  • We hope that the reform of the United Nations can be given impetus at this session of the General Assembly.
  • There is still ongoing work related to the reform of the United Nations
  • Arising out of the 2005 World Summit progress has been made in certain important areas. The Human Rights Council was established. The Peacebuilding Commission was created. Different sets of management reforms have been instituted.
  • There is still little progress, however, with the reform of the Security Council
  • South Africa has always believed that no reform of the United Nations can ever be complete without a reform of the Security Council
  • Therefore we continue to carry this message. We also support the ongoing efforts in this regard. Some initiatives were started by the outgoing President of the General Assembly. We hope the incoming President will do the same.

Counterterrorism

  • The 2005 World Summit agreed to the adoption of a UN Global Strategy for Counterterrorism
  • This year will see the first review of this strategy
  • South Africa supports efforts aimed at countering terrorism in all its aspects
  • We have now signed all the 13 UN conventions on terrorism
  • We stress that all counterterrorism efforts be conducted with respect for human rights and the rule of law

Traditionally, the General Debate provides world leaders with one of the most significant opportunities to emphasise their national priorities and to map out their most important goals, related intentions and actions in the multilateral field. Most leaders also underscore these priorities in the context of their regional and sub-regional structures, as well as the political and economic arrangements to which their countries belong.

The G77 and China, NAM and the Commonwealth will convene their annual Ministerial meetings during this period.  An IBSA Ministerial meeting will also be held – this will be preparatory for the Summit and related meetings to be held in South Africa in October 2007.

Like other delegations, South Africa will also use the opportunity to engage with other role players in the multilateral fora to further its foreign policy objectives.

Of significance also during the General Debate, is that Heads of State and Governments normally use the opportunity to consult bilaterally with their counterparts on issues of mutual concern. In this respect, our delegation will engage in bilateral consultations on various global and bilateral issues. The consultations during this session will be more significant, as the session coincides with South Africa’s non-permanent seat of the UN Security Council.

Programme

 Thursday 20 September 2007

 UN Security Council monthly meeting on the Middle East.  (As you know, President Bush has called for a meeting in November of all interested parties in the Middle East.  This will be an important opportunity to assess the developments in the Middle East since the military takeover of Gaza by Hamas.)

Friday 21 September 2007

 Deputy Minister Pahad to lead SA delegation to High Level Ministerial meeting on Darfur organized by the Secretary-General

Saturday 22 September 2007

 Ministerial meeting on Iraq

Ministerial meeting on Afghanistan

[Comment by Deputy Minister Pahad: Given the developments in the region, it will be very important for the Security Council to consider what we can collectively do to help resolve the very serious crises in Iraq and Afghanistan.]

 Monday 24 September 2007

 Secretary-General’s High Level Event on Climate Change: Thematic Plenaries

Thematic Plenary I – Adaptation
“The challenge of adaptation – from vulnerability to resilience”

Thematic Plenary II – Mitigation
“Reducing Emissions and stabilizing the climate – safeguarding our common future”

Thematic Plenary III – Technology
“Innovating a climate-friendly world - the role of technology and its dissemination”

Thematic Plenary IV – Financing
“Financing the response to climate change – investing in tomorrow”  

Tuesday 25 September 2007
Opening of the General Debate of the 62 nd Session of the UN General Assembly

 Heads of State Meeting of the Security Council hosted by President Sarkozy on “Peace and Security in Africa”

President Mbeki to address United Nations General Assembly.

CLOSING OF THE 61 st SESSION CHALLENGES MEMBER STATES TO STAND TOGETHER, ‘CARRY THE TORCH OF MULTILATERALISM FORWARD’

The 61 st session of the General Assembly closed with the slogan: Stand Together, Carry the Torch of Multilateralism Forward.  We think this is very important.  We have been through a very difficult period where unilateralism was the order of the day.  It is our belief that this has impacted very negatively and dangerously on international peace and security.

There is increasing acceptance that we will not succeed in addressing the challenges for peace, stability, nuclear non-proliferation and the fight against terrorism outside the multilateral systems.

This is why we believe that the 61 st session has laid the foundations for the 62 nd session of the General Assembly

The 61 st session of the General Assembly once again reaffirmed the need to reform the Security Council, since the status-quo was no longer acceptable.   During the next session, it is hoped that, on the basis of the progress made and on the positions and relevant Member State proposals, have the courage to begin talks on meaningful intergovernmental negotiations.  In the twenty-first century, the vast majority of the world demands a more representative, legitimate, transparent and effective Security Council.

The Africa position remains that we will continue to argue for two permanent seats, an increase in the non-permanent seats and that the permanent members should have the veto.

The Assembly adopted a draft decision on the question of equitable representation on and increase in the membership of the Security Council (document A/61/47) by which it would urge the Group to exert efforts during its sixty-second session, “aimed at achieving general agreement among member States in the consideration of all issues relevant to the question…”

The decision would also have the Assembly consider the question of equitable representation on and increase in the Council’s membership during its sixty-second session so that “further concrete steps might be achieved, including through intergovernmental negotiations; building on the progress achieved so far, particularly at the sixty-first session, as well as the positions of and proposals by Member States.” 

While it was true that the Open-Ended Working Group had come a long way on the question of equitable representation in the Council, South Africa and some 29 other countries had wanted results-oriented, element-based, intergovernmental negotiations to be reflected in that decision.

Nevertheless, those countries were satisfied that the measure had taken into account some of their concerns, including the need to take concrete steps, the need to consider the proposals made by Member States, as well as a reference to intergovernmental negotiations.  With that in mind, South Africa, main sponsor of a draft resolution before the Assembly on Security Council reform, would not pursue that text at this time. 

[By that resolution (document A/61/L.69/Rev.1) the Assembly would urge the President of its upcoming sixty-second session to take immediate steps to facilitate results-oriented, intergovernmental negotiations, taking into account all options and elements, including, in particular, expansion in both permanent and non-permanent membership categories; greater representation of developing countries, including island and small States; representation of the developed countries and transition economies reflective of contemporary world realities; and equitable geographical distribution.]

South Africa was also pleased that, in spite of resistance by many, the Assembly had agreed that there would be intergovernmental negotiations on the matter of equitable representation in the Council, just as there were such negotiations on other issues in the United Nations.

South Africa and other developing States intended to pursue it during the current session until there was wide agreement on the way forward.

Floods in Africa

South Africa is very concerned about climate change.

The recent floods in Africa is reflective of the challenges of climate change and the importance of the 62 nd session of the UN General Assembly’s dialogue on this matter.

About a million people had been affected by torrential rains stretching between West and East Africa since July, with Ghana and Uganda accounting for more than half the tally alone, said the UN's humanitarian coordination office (OCHA).

OCHA spokesperson Elisabeth Byrs said that cases of cholera, dysentery and diarrhoea had been reported in northern Ghana, where 260 000 people were affected by floods and the death toll had risen to 32.

The World Food Programme appealed for US$60m in aid for Uganda, where about 300 000 people had been affected by floods in recent weeks and many people were homeless after their mud-based homes were swept away.

Priority needs in Uganda included shelter, food, and clean water, while concern about outbreaks of waterborne disease was growing as latrines mingled with flood waters.

The UN was expecting to launch an appeal for aid for Ghana after a three-day assessment by a team of UN disaster relief experts who reached the stricken areas with the help of Ghanaian authorities on Monday, said Byrs.

United Nations agencies on Tuesday 18 September 2007 warned that the worst floods seen in parts of Africa for decades could intensify in the coming days and appealed for international aid to avert the threat of disease.

The floods and severe rain in both Uganda and Ghana were being described as the worst seen in each country for at least three decades, said Byrs.

According to Byrs: "They are expecting huge rainfall in West Africa between September 18 and 24. She said the appeal might include neighbouring Burkina Faso, one of the world's poorest nations.

However, the UN's relief co-ordination office was unable to give a complete picture of the situation across the continent, where more than a dozen countries were last week reported to have been affected to varying degrees.

The South African government is committed to making its own contribution to helping the countries affected by these floods.  We will co-operate within the African Union and United Nations agencies to see how we can best contribute to this situation.

SUDAN/DARFUR

The South African government is deeply concerned about the recent upsurge in fighting in Darfur. The violence is of particular concern as it could impact negatively on the success of the upcoming political negotiations due to begin in Libya on 27 October. The most recent fighting took place in Hashkanita, Northern Darfur, on 10 and 11 September when, according to reports of the African Union Mission in Sudan, aerial bombardments involving helicopter gunships and ground military clashes apparently caused the deaths of a number of civilians.

The renewed violence is endangering the democratic transformation and the peace process.

The UN Secretary-General has expressed concern that the reported attacks took place in spite of the signing of a Joint Communiqué on 6 September, during the Secretary-General's visit to Sudan, in which the Government of Sudan committed to a full cessation of hostilities in Darfur in the lead-up to the political negotiations, under the auspices of the African Union and the United Nations.

The South African government calls on all parties to stop all military action in order to create a positive atmosphere for the envisaged political negotiations.

The crisis is not confined to Darfur. It has spilled over borders, destabilizing the region. Darfur is also an environmental catastrophe.


The UN Security Council has authorized the deployment of 26,000 multinational peacekeepers, jointly conducted by the United Nations and the African Union (AU).  This is the first UN operation of this type and is very complex and challenging.  It is expected that the vast majority of the foot soldiers will be African with technical and other support coming from the international community.  We must accelerate the process of implementation.

The UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon recently visit Sudan and said: “In Khartoum, the government of President Omar al-Bashir renewed its unqualified commitment to support the peacekeeping mission as well as comprehensive peace talks. We agreed that negotiations should begin in Libya on Oct. 27, under joint AU-UN leadership. The government also confirmed its pledge to an immediate cessation of hostilities, as the rebel groups did last month in Arusha.

The South African government believes we need a comprehensive approach to the conflict in Darfur.  The crisis grew from many causes - security, politics, resources, water, humanitarian and development issues.  For a comprehensive and lasting solution all these factors must be tackled.

South African group of Elders to visit Darfur

South African Nobel peace prize laureate Desmond Tutu said he will lead a group of elder statesmen later this month to visit western Sudan's conflict-ridden Darfur region from 30 th September – 5 th October 2007.

This is to be the first mission of the group known as The Elders, launched by fellow Nobel laureate and former South African president Nelson Mandela in July to help reduce conflict and despair in the world.

Tutu said he would be accompanied on the six-day trip by former United Nations envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, ex-United States president Jimmy Carter and Mrs Graca Machel.

Tutu said, "As Elders of the global village, they hope to help strengthen and deepen the framework for assuring a permanent peace in Sudan, by listening to, learning from and reporting on the views of the people in Darfur and others concerned with the crisis.”

We wish this delegation success and we hope their experiences will help contribute towards government’s bilateral and multilateral efforts to find a solution to the Darfur crisis.

Escalating Humanitarian Crisis

Report by UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)

A UN report released on Monday 17 September 2007 indicates that the humanitarian situation inside Darfur deteriorated further last month, with thousands of civilians fleeing their homes, camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) becoming increasingly crowded and recent heavy rains only adding to the misery of many locals in the war-ravaged Sudanese region.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) also expressed concern over worsening security conditions in Darfur.

"Over 240,000 people have been newly displaced or re-displaced during 2007," according to the report prepared by the UN Office for the Coordination of
Humanitarian Affairs
(OCHA), in collaboration with partner UN agencies and NGOs. Thousands of people were fleeing their homes each week, the report added.
It came as the Sudanese government and Darfur rebels prepare for peace talks next month aimed at ending more than four years of conflict that has claimed an estimated 200,000 lives and displaced some two million people from their homes.

The UN said the insecurity was complicating efforts to respond to the needs
of the new internally displaced persons (IDPs) and the delivery of assistance to millions of people depending on aid.

UN staff were forced to relocate on 24 occasions in 2007.

The ICRC has also raised concerns.

"Owing to the unstable and tense environment and the poor road conditions during the current rainy season, access to remote rural zones remains irregular and difficult," an ICRC statement said.

“The ICRC has determined that thousands of people, many of whom had already been displaced several times since the conflict began in 2003, moved to Dom Jong, Fujo, Fatma Karal, Kutrum, Kwila, Boldong, Kati and Kurifal in remote areas of Western Jebel Marra between June and August," it observed.

"This means that the communities most at risk in rural areas are often reachable only sporadically," said the head of the ICRC's Darfur operation, Denise Duran, quoted in the statement.

"Many fled there to escape the fighting or out of fear of attack; others were forced to move by their deteriorating economic situation or their increasing isolation and lack of access to services in remote places," the ICRC said.

"This population movement affects the already fragile situation of residents and formerly displaced people in the region," it added.

Armed elements have also appeared in IDP camps, a presence which has been attracting the Sudanese security forces.

"In many IDP camps, armed elements are present, and violent incidents are
increasing," said the UN.

The organisation said that in August, "all operations were suspended in Zalingei Camp [West Darfur] for two days, while Kalma camp [ South Darfur] was closed to aid operations for three days."

Rains that have been battering the country have also added new problems.

"Worsening sanitary conditions in the IDP camps have led to a spread of waterborne diseases. In some cases, this has been accompanied by worsening malnutrition rates which, although localised, have required and received
urgent responses," said the UN report.


Despite this, aid workers resumed food distribution to some 160,000 people who had not received assistance since May.

"However, 60,000 Darfurians were still not reached in July due to insecurity in some areas," the UN said. It added that humanitarian workers have not been able to access several parts of Jebel Marra in West Darfur since 16 August.

The UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, has called for an end to the ongoing violence.

The UN and African Union (AU) are in the process of deploying a joint force
of 26,000 troops in the region to replace the ill-equipped and cash-strapped AU mission that has been unable to stop the violence.

SOMALIA

This matter will also be discussed at the United Nations Security Council.

The South African government continues to be concerned at the continued violence and unrest in Somalia.  In the latest round of violence, five people were killed.  The nature of the violence is changing: for the first time we are beginning to see car bombs and other such action.  This is very worrying.

On Sunday, Somali President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed and his Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi signed an accord with prominent Somali clan elders under the aegis of Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah in Jeddah.

The accord follows up on a government sponsored reconciliation conference that ended on August 30 without an agreement.

The Mogadishu talks were boycotted by the Islamist-led opposition who held their own conference in Eritrea last week. They agreed on a united front to drive out Ethiopia troops deployed in the capital to bolster the government.

The Somali government on Tuesday 18 September warned of a humanitarian catastrophe because of acute food shortages in the country.

Interior Minister Mohamed Mohamud Guled said: "A humanitarian catastrophe is imminent in Somalia if the international community does not respond soon.

"A lot of people have fled their homes across the country and are suffering. There is shortage of food and there is massive inflation in the country at this time. So the government is warning there will be a humanitarian disaster."

On Monday 17 September 2007, the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders urged the Somali government to release Mohamed Hussein Jimaale, a Mogadishu-based correspondent news website Puntlandpost, who has been in police custody since September 12.

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO

The South African government is deeply concerned at the deteriorating security situation in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in particular North and South Kivu.

We urge these groups must lay down their arms and engage voluntarily and without preconditions in their demobilization, repatriation, resettlement and reintegration, as appropriate.

We do believe that conflict in the DRC is no longer necessary and that efforts must be made to enhance the DDR process and ensure that those Rwandans still in the DRC either return to Rwanda or find refuge in other countries so that their presence in the DRC does not continue to threaten peace and security of the entire region.

UN Peacekeeping Mission

The human rights assessment for July, released on Monday 17 September 2007, alleges that Congolese police, soldiers and members of rebel groups fighting the Government have also perpetrated serious abuses, especially in the violence-wracked Kivu provinces in the far east of the vast country.

MONUC, reported that a widespread climate of impunity allows many of these abuses to go unpunished, even months after they were committed.

It cited a separate report by the UN Human Rights Office in the DRC indicating that Congolese soldiers and police officers used indiscriminate and excessive force – and in some instances carried out summary executions – in quelling protests in Bas-Congo province by an opposition movement in late January and early February. Six months after those events, the people responsible for the human rights violations have not been arrested.

The assessment also finds continued weaknesses and systemic failures in the administration of justice across the DRC and that prison inmates and family members who visit them in jail have been beaten by authorities.

Yakin Ertürk, the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, conducted a 12-day visit in July to the DRC, where she met with Government officials, UN agencies, national and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and victims of violence.

She described the patterns and level of sexual violence in South Kivu province as the worst she has ever seen in four years as a Special Rapporteur.

BURUNDI

The spokesman for the Paliphehutu-FNL has said that the party will “snub” the Facilitator, not participate in any meetings convened by him and indeed, that he is no longer a desired Facilitator because of his alleged bias towards and support of the government.

The South African government rejects these statements because structures have been put in place through which the Paliphehutu-FNL and indeed, any other party, can raise issues and concerns, including those related to the Facilitator.  Indeed, the Facilitator has ensured that the Paliphehutu-FNL is able to enter Burundi and participate in the political processes.

The South African government reiterates that the Facilitator has been appointed by the regional leadership and Presidents Museveni and Kikwete, the Chair and Deputy Chair respectively of the Burundi Peace Initiative.

Any complaint should therefore be addressed to them and not through the media.

The South African government is convinced that the problem is not the Facilitator and we should not allow focus to be shifted.  We call on those who wish to withdraw from the political processes to state their grievances and concerns.

Minister Nqakula and his team are expected to visit the region shortly to convince the Paliphehutu-FNL that their tactics cannot work.

The South African government has also learnt that the Tanzanian government on Tuesday 18 September 2007 issued an ultimatum to members of the Paliphehutu-FNL still present in the country to withdraw immediately.

As South Africa, we understand this to be reflective of the growing frustration at the level of the regional leadership and communities at the antics of certain elements who are not genuinely committed to the resolution of the Burundi crisis.

Whilst we understand the anger and frustration of the Tanzanian government and the region, we call on all the Barundi – the government and Paliphehutu-FNL to recommit themselves to the peaceful resolution of the Burundi conflict.

At this stage, we believe that guidance from the regional leadership, through a forum to be decided, will provide the way forward.

This will also give the Barundi – the government and Paliphehutu-FNL – time to recommit and declare their intentions to the peaceful resolution of the conflict.

We are aware that the African Union has given a new deadline of 31 st December 2007 for the finalisation of the implementation of the Ceasefire Agreement.  We expect that by this time, the demobilisation, disarmament and reintegration processes will be completed.  We call on the Paliphehutu-FNL to commit themselves to this process because it will become increasingly difficult to sustain this processes financially and otherwise following this date.

The South African government reiterates its call for all parties to recommit themselves to this new date to ensure the finalisation of this matter.

Ministerial meeting on Great Lakes

Foreign and defence ministers from Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) appealed for United Nations peacekeepers to intensify efforts to stamp out militias plaguing eastern DRC.

Officials who took part in the closed-door meetings, said the DRC accused Rwanda of sending demobilised troops to join Nkunda's men, who have clashed with DRC government troops in heavy fighting over the past few weeks, the officials said.

Rwandan Foreign Minister Charles Murigande denied the allegations.

A joint statement issued after the meeting called on UN peacekeepers "to intensify efforts" towards working with DRC forces to eliminate "negative forces" in the lawless east.

All parties also "expressed concern about deteriorating security condition ... in particular the destabilising role of former general Laurent Nkunda and ex-FAR (interahamwe rebels)".

ZIMBABWE

The Southern African Development Community (SADC) initiative to promote a negotiated political solution in Zimbabwe, under the facilitation of President Thabo Mbeki, offers the only realistic way out of the current crisis, and the international community must back it, the International Crisis Group says in a report published on Tuesday 18 September 2007.

Western sanctions have proven "largely symbolic," the report adds, and British and American condemnations of President Robert Mugabe are, "if anything, counterproductive.

Constitutional Reform

It is reported that in Parliament yesterday, ZANU-PF and the two factions of the MDC on Tuesday 18 September 2007 unanimously agreed to amend the Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment Bill Number 18, which seeks to harmonise presidential and parliamentary elections from next year.

The six amendments that drew unity from both sides of the House and were agreed to in the ongoing dialogue between the two major political parties are:

  • The House of Assembly membership of 210 members is to be all directly elected by voters registered in the 210 constituencies to be delimitated following the passage of the Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment Number 18 Bill;
  • The Senate will be constituted of a membership of 93 members made up as follows:
  • Six Senators per province directly elected by voters registered in the 60 Senatorial constituencies;
  • 10 Provincial Governors appointed by the President in terms of legislation governing the appointment of Governors;
  • The president and deputy president of the Council of Chiefs;
  • 16 chiefs, being two chiefs from each of the provinces other than metropolitan provinces; and
  • Five Senators appointed by the President.
  • The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission to take over the delimitation of House of Assembly and Senatorial constituencies and local authority wards. There will be a consequent repeal of Sections 59 and 60 of the Constitution.
  • All four elections - for President, House of Assembly, Senatorial and Local Authorities - are to be synchronised and take place on one day.
  • To minimise logistical problems, the Commission will, in determining the limits of council wards, be empowered to ensure that no ward falls into two or more House of Assembly constituencies. This change introduces a ward voters' roll and a voter can only vote in the ward in which he or she is resident and registered as a voter.
  • The variation percentage from the mean (average) constituency population will be reduced from 25% (as per Constitution Amendment Number 18 Bill) to 20% as per the current Constitution, which means the status quo is being maintained.
  • The Parliamentary Committee on Standing Rules and Orders is to be consulted in the appointment of the Public Protector (proposed new name of the Ombudsman's Office) and Deputy Public Protector as well as the appointment of the chairperson of the proposed Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission.

Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister and Leader of the House Patrick Chinamasa tabled the amendments and steered the Bill through the second reading, drawing applause from both benches of the House.

The amendments are expected to go through the committee stage today before the Bill is read for the third time and passed.

This development comes at a time when talks between the two parties have been progressing well, a move party leaders in Parliament described as a show of unity of purpose and political maturity.

In his second reading speech, Chinamasa said the introduction of the Bill marked a historic moment in Zimbabwe.

"Mr Speaker Sir, the introduction of the Constitution of Zimbabwe No. 18 Bill, 2007 as read with the proposed Committee Stage Amendments, marks a historic moment in Zimbabwe in that for the first time, Zimbabweans on both sides of the political divide are demonstrating a commitment to take charge of their destiny.

"This should send a clear message to the world that Zimbabweans are their own liberators and that as Zimbabweans we will brook no external interference in our domestic affairs," said Chinamasa.

The amendments would draw support from both the ruling party and the opposition benches, demonstrating a level of political maturity and a desire by Zimbabweans to fashion for themselves a common vision for their country.

"Mr Speaker Sir, I commend these constitutional changes for the consideration of the august House and pray that our new-found unity of purpose as Zimbabweans will endure," said the minister.

Chinamasa warned that detractors would attempt to derail the process.

"There will be those here and abroad who will not find favour with the co-operation over resolution of national issues that is to be demonstrated in this august House. To those, this co-operation poses danger to their own interests and agendas. We should resist such pressures to derail us from the direction that we are choosing," he said.

Chinamasa said the Bill was testimony to issues that have been on the agenda for a long time and generated a lot of debate.

These will, after the passage of the Bill, become finally settled and put to rest.

The two MDC factions, one led by Morgan Tsvangirai and the other by Professor Arthur Mutambara, welcomed the amendments and described them as a development which would foster relations between their party and Zanu-PF as well as addressing the various social and economic challenges facing the country.

The South African government will continue to give great emphasis to the Facilitation and at the same time will support the initiative by the SADC Executive Secretary to help find a solution to the economic crisis being experienced in Zimbabwe.

The Finance Ministers of the region will meet in a few weeks and they will put forward proposals on how SADC can address these challenges.

NUCLEAR NON-PROLIFERATION

Over the past few months, reports of possible military action against Iran have been growing in intensity.

The latest remarks by French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner that “we have to prepare for the worst, and the worst is war,” has seriously highlighted tensions in the region and internationally and has caused consternation internationally.

The Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in a press conference with Minister Koucher said, “We are worried by reports that there is serious consideration begin given to military action against Iran.”

The Chinese Foreign Ministry said, “We do not approve of easily resorting to threats of force in international affairs.  We believe that the best option is to peacefully resolve the Iranian nuclear issue through diplomatic negotiations which is in the common interests of the international community.”

South Africa has consistently argued that we must seek a world free of weapons of mass destruction and believe that the IAEA is the best body to deal with nuclear proliferation.  In this respect, we have always urged Iran to satisfactorily complete its negotiations with the IAEA.

We welcome the positive developments recently in interaction between the IAEA and Iran.

Talk of military action and sanctions against Iran when collective efforts are being made to find a negotiated solution to Iran’s nuclear issue is not in the interests of peace and stability.

Dr ElBaradei, the Director-General of the IAEA has said in his latest report regarding Iran:

Regarding the implementation of Agency safeguards in the Islamic Republic of Iran, I would make four brief points:

First, the Agency has been able to verify the non-diversion of declared nuclear material in Iran. Iran has continued to provide the access and reporting needed to enable Agency verification in this regard.

Second, Iran has provided the Agency with additional information and access needed to resolve a number of long outstanding issues, such as the scope and nature of past plutonium experiments.

Third, contrary to the decisions of the Security Council, calling on Iran to take certain confidence building measures, Iran has not suspended its enrichment related activities, and is continuing with its construction of the heavy water reactor at Arak. This is regrettable.

Fourth, while the Agency so far has been unable to verify certain important aspects relevant to the scope and nature of Iran´s nuclear programme, Iran and the Agency agreed last month on a work plan for resolving all outstanding verification issues. These verification issues are at the core of the lack of confidence about the nature of Iran´s programme, and are what prompted actions by the Security Council. Iran´s agreement on such a work plan, with a defined timeline, is therefore an important step in the right direction. Naturally, Iran´s active cooperation and transparency is the key to full and timely implementation of the work plan. If the Agency were able to provide credible assurance about the peaceful nature of Iran´s past and current nuclear programme, this would go a long way towards building confidence about Iran´s nuclear programme, and could create the conditions for a comprehensive and durable solution.

Application of Safeguards in the Democratic People´s Republic of Korea

At the invitation of the Democratic People´s Republic of Korea (DPRK), an Agency team visited in June to work out agreed modalities for verification and monitoring by the IAEA of the shutdown and sealing of the Yongbyon nuclear facility. These modalities were implemented in subsequent visits. As of 17 July, we have been able to verify the DPRK´s shutdown of the Yongbyon nuclear facility.

I welcome the return of the DPRK to the verification process. I also welcome the active cooperation the IAEA team has received from the DPRK. The Agency looks forward to continuing to work with the DPRK as the verification process evolves.

Application of Agency Safeguards in the Middle East

Pursuant to the mandate given to me by the General Conference, I have continued my consultations with the States of the Middle East region on the application of full scope safeguards to all nuclear activities in the Middle East, and on the development of model agreements as a necessary step towards the establishment of a Middle East Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone. The absence of such a zone reflects a major gap in the nuclear non-proliferation regime. However, I regret to say that, as in the past, I have no progress to report on either front.

Questions and answers

Question: Deputy Minister Pahad, one of the parties in Zimbabwe has said that the concession by the MDC was a direct consequence of meeting held with President Mbeki.  Is that indeed so?  They also say that they have conceded regarding constitutional reform and what will this mean for them?

Answer : As I have said before, Foreign Affairs is not part of these talks.  I am not aware of any meeting held with the President.

  However, perhaps the question should be put to them since they have unanimously agreed to the amendments and called this a breakthrough for Zimbabwe, then they should be able to answer what is in it for them.

I think that what is in it for them is what is in it for all Zimbabweans – slowly but surely the political climate is being created for free and fair elections that all Zimbabwe will accept as such.  The international community will also therefore accept it as free and fair and the Zimbabweans can get on with the task of seeing what the resolution of the political crisis will bring and deal more decisively with the economic challenges.

I assume they are all aware of what is in it for them and they are negotiating in good faith to bring about what they are referring to as a Zimbabwean solution.

Our job is, as I have always stressed, not to mediate but to facilitate meetings between both sides

Question: Deputy Minister Pahad, what is your view of comments by Minister Sonjica that South Africa is rejecting the US position on uranium enrichment?

Answer: I am not aware of Minister Sonjica’s statement but there is no US position on nuclear enrichment.  There is rather a general position of many countries including that of Dr ElBaradei: viz. what should happen is that a pool of material that countries can use for peaceful purposes.

South Africa’s view has always been that we support the right of all countries to use nuclear weapons for peaceful means.

In our own country we are already very developed in this regard and indeed we are committed to proceeding in a peaceful way towards enriching material. 

We will continue to discuss with countries, including Russia, which are part of the countries advocating for a pool of material that can be supplied to countries as needed.

Our programmes are too far advanced.  We will under the safeguards of the IAEA commit that our programmes are for peaceful purposes only.

Question: Deputy Minister Pahad, could you elaborate on the meeting of Ministers that will be discussing the economic recovery plan of the SADC Executive Secretary?  Do you have any idea of any rescue plan that will be dependent on Zimbabwe’s economic solutions?

Answer: This report has been in the making for some time.  As President Mbeki said in his briefing to the media and in Parliament, there were no serious differences in positions on the economic crisis being experienced in Zimbabwe.  As Minister Manuel has said, that all countries have take some serious and difficult decisions to deal with economic challenges.  He used the example of the South African Airways.  The latest figures by the IMF still indicate that by the end of the year, Zimbabwe’s inflation rate will be 100 000%.  All other figures are indicating that there is an economic crisis.  The report by the Executive Secretary outlines what he believes to be the state of Zimbabwean economy and proposals on how these can be addressed.

Question: Deputy Minister Pahad, does the South African government believe (inaudible)?

Answer: The private sector has raised this with us and we indicated to them that they have to increase their interaction with the Zimbabwean economic ministers and Governor of the Reserve Bank to express what would be there view.  I believe the Finance Ministers, in looking at what steps can be taken will have to look at, amongst others, the impact of the Indigenisation Bill on future investments and on how this will contribute to creating a climate of confidence.  I think they will have to look at the totality of the crisis that has emerged and come up with a holistic solution to which all other Ministers and departments can contribute.

Our view, and Cabinet will discuss this today, if we get movement on the political processes, it will be easier to deal with the economic challenges.

Question:  Deputy Minister Pahad, analysts suggest that latest developments in Zimbabwe have bought President Mugabe extra time.  Do you not think he is becoming a caricature of the African leader?

Answer: I am not aware of these developments buying time for President Mugabe.  If the Zimbabwean parties – government and the MDC – have publicly stated that through their consultations as government they have come to agree on these amendments then our only view would be that this opens up the possibility of looking at the totality of the Zimbabwean political and economic situation.  If the opposition, at this stage, reflects happiness at what has been achieved and have accepted Amendment 18, then I think we should look at whether this opens up the possibility, for the first time in many years, to find a political solution that all Zimbabweans will hail.

Whether this will mean that President Mugabe will continue to serve as President of not will be decided at their conference in December.

As long as Zimbabweans are happy that the constitutional changes are in line with the other amendments being worked on, then the people of Zimbabwe must democratically decide who will be their President.

We as South Africans have our own constitution that limits the term of office to two years.  In SADC there were attempts by some countries to try and change their constitutions so that some heads of state could extend their terms but it was realized that the changing of constitutions was not in the interests of SADC and they then changed their minds.

The Zimbabweans must deal with the challenge of who they wish to lead them in future.  We as South Africans do not believe we can decide this for them.

Question: Deputy Minister Pahad, (inaudible)

Answer: I cannot say what President Mugabe will do but he would have been party to any decisions taken in Parliament yesterday and would therefore be part of the solution.  Nothing decided by the legislature could have been done without consultation with the executive and President Mugabe is head of the executive.

Question: Deputy Minister Pahad, (inaudible)

Answer: I personally welcome the developments.  I am awaiting the Cabinet statement and have no doubt that Cabinet will welcome these developments and call on the Zimbabwean people to move more decisively towards a solution.

Whether it is President Mugabe or any other candidate cannot be judged by myself.

Question: Deputy Minister Pahad, how do you characterize South Africa’s attitude and position towards Zimbabwe?

Answer : We have consistently stated that what happens in the region impacts on us all.  We have consistently stated that we all as SADC have to be concerned about crises in any of our countries and in this case it is Zimbabwe. We have consistently said that the land issue was a necessity and that we in South Africa also need to deal with this issue.  We have also publicly, for many years, criticized some aspects of the implementation of the land reform programme.

Similarly, we have expressed our concerns, within SADC and elsewhere, of certain economic challenges that have been emerging.  For us this is no longer an academic exercise.  I am not sure from where the figures emerge but clearly we have many documented and undocumented Zimbabweans in South Africa.

There has been a report indicating that all social services in the South African cities are under stress because of the influx of people into South Africa – while not only Zimbabwean, it is mainly Zimbabweans.

Our objective has always been, we begin from the premise that what happens in Zimbabwe is fundamental to our national interests.  At the same time we have always argued that Zimbabwe is not the 10 th province of South Africa and that all South Africa can do is to create an interaction that will allow the Zimbabweans to deal with what could be the best way forward.  We have always been worried that an imposed solution can exacerbate the deterioration of the situation with all the negative consequences for the region.  We can no longer avoid being involved in this matter.  Historians will comment on whether SADC proceeded in the best way of if there could have been better ways with which to deal with this matter.

Question: Deputy Minister Pahad, has the South African government found it difficult to deal with Zimbabwe?

Answer: Any situation like this – Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Great Lakes as a whole, Iraq, Palestine, Israel – it is not easy.  There are different dynamics that unfold.  Maybe history will prove us wrong but I am confident that this will not be so.  The approach that we have had as South Africa and as SADC has been the best way in which to prevent a further crisis and therefore create the conditions for movement forward.

Question: Deputy Minister Pahad, when South Africa assumed the non-permanent seat of the Security Council, we asked what would happen if Zimbabwe came before the Security Council.  We were assured that this would not be so since Zimbabwe did not present a threat to international peace and security.  However, you have just likened Zimbabwe to other situations that are before the Security Council.  Are you saying that Zimbabwe may deteriorate to the point where it comes before the Security Council?

Answer: I was talking about Zimbabwe in another context – not about the issues before the General Assembly and Security Council.

As you know, we have always said that while Zimbabwe impacts on us all, it has not been a threat to regional or international peace and security.

Question: Deputy Minister Pahad, regarding Iran – it seems that now that there is a workplan that sanctions should be withheld?

Answer: I do not want to pre-empt developments.  We follow developments as they occur.  We are actively involved with the IAEA, the Iranians and the P5+1.  We believe that developments in North Korea after a very difficult period is proof that handled differently we can get the necessary movement forward.  If by the end of the workplan Dr ElBaradei reports to the IAEA and the Security Council that they have come to the end of the road and that they cannot conclude successfully that Iran does not have any intentions of using nuclear energy for military action then we would have to determine what our positions would be.

I was trying to make the point that Dr ElBaradei is providing a perspective that says we should handle this differently and it is possible to get a solution without moving towards more aggressive tactics.

I always ask: what next if sanctions do not succeed – what is the next step?  The possibility of military confrontation then becomes a very real possibility and if that happens we will enter a period that would be more dangerous internationally then we have known for a long time – or certainly not since the Cuban missile crisis.

The threat of sanctions only creates the momentum to move away from progress.

Issued by Department of Foreign Affairs
Private Bag X152
Pretoria
0001

19 September 2007


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