Notes Following Briefing To Media By Foreign Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma And Ethiopian Foreign Minister Seyoum Mesfin, Diplomatic Guesthouse, Pretoria, Tuesday 18 March 2008

Minister Dlamini Zuma:  Minister of Foreign Affairs, Minister Seyoum Mesfin, Minister of Trade and Industry Minister Mandisi Mpahlwa, Ambassadors, our respective Ambassadors to Addis and Pretoria, the Chairs of our Joint Commissions; Members of the Ethiopian delegation; the South African delegation; gentlemen of the media.  On behalf of the government and people of South Africa I would like to take this opportunity to welcome you Minister and your delegation to this beautiful country of ours.

The people of South Africa are very warm people.  Their hearts are warm and I hope that you are going to at least feel the warmth of our people, even if you can’t feel the warmth of the sun.  And indeed I think this just shows that climate change is with us, because these temperatures are unusual for March, in this part of the world.  But with climate change anything is possible as you’ve seen.

But your presence today in South Africa demonstrates not only our cordial relations but also the desire to continue to strengthen our cooperation in all spheres of our endeavours and in particular in trade and industry as we witness by the physical presence of the Minister of Trade and Industry with us.

It is within that context that we aspire to strengthen bilateral relations that a decision was taken to establish a Joint Ministerial Commission which would be the instrument and framework to drive and monitor the implementation of all the decisions we are taking and will be taken for our mutual interest.  And we hope that the Commission will be a good framework for our two countries and that it will keep us on the straight and narrow.  Because sometimes when you don’t have a framework you can drift along, thinking everything is well when not everything is well. 

Of-course this partnership is based on a common commitment to economic development, not only of our two countries but of our continent.  Social justice and cooperation for the benefit of our peoples.  Accordingly, the creation of a better life for our people remains the cornerstone of our foreign policy in South Africa, on the continent, and of course in your country as well.  And this partnership is aimed at working towards a more prosperous and peaceful Africa.

Our historic relations of course do not date with the establishment of diplomatic relations.  Our historic relations date back to the era of the struggle for liberation of South Africa.  And of course we were inspired by your own quest to be able to determine your own destiny, and infact your own quest for better life not only for Ethiopians but for Africans.  And Ethiopia has been central in the coordination of liberation struggles on our continent.  Though we only started our diplomatic ties in 1994, our ties go a long way before that.

In March 2004 we signed the general Cooperation Agreement.  And now we are inaugurating the Joint Commission.  The core areas of bilateral engagements are going to include: trade and investments; agriculture; defence; arts and culture; tourism; public service; human resource development; health, and people to people contact which is important.

We are also pleased that we’ve been able to sign the agreements that have just been signed.  We hope that we will indeed be able to implement not only the agreements that have just been signed today, but the agreements that we’ve signed in the past.

We’d also like to just extend our appreciation for Ethiopia’s leadership in Nepad.  As we all know Ethiopia is now the chair of the Nepad Coordinating Committee of the Heads of State.  We are very hopeful and sure that under the good stewardship of the Prime Minister, Nepad will strengthen and all the work of Nepad accelerated. 

Of-course we also know that Ethiopia has been involved in many other endeavours in trying to create a more stable and peaceful continent, despite the fact it also has its own situation with Eritrea.  But that has not stopped Ethiopia being involved in the Sudan question, in Somalia and elsewhere.  We know that in Burundi they were part of the AU force before the UN came in.  So we cooperate also not only in terms of the social and economic, but we also cooperate in the multilateral fora.  We always touch base on many issues and in many areas where we find ourselves.  So I would like to say we appreciate this. 

I would like to thank all the officials in the background.  Unfortunately life is not very fair. They do the work in background and we sit here in front of the cameras.  But we would like to acknowledge that you have done the work and we appreciate it.  Of-course most of the work is done between Commissions.  So this is just mapping out what needs to be done.  The real work starts tomorrow.  In every Commission I’m like a broken record, I always quote our President who says “It’s not done until it’s done.”  So it’s not done until it’s done, but thank you very much.

Minister Seyoum Mesfin:  Your excellency, Dr Dlamini Zuma, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of South Africa; Excellency Minister Mpahlwa, Minister of Trade and Industry of the Republic of South Africa; Ambassadors; distinguished members of the two delegations; ladies and gentlemen of the press.

Allow me also to express how happy I am to once again be in sisterly South Africa.  I wish to extend my gratitude to the government and the people of South Africa for the warm welcome and hospitality accorded to me and my delegation since our arrival here in this historic City of Tshwane.

You are right Minister the weather and the climate change may give apparent picture but that warmth, we have been very much overwhelmed by the warm treatment and welcome we all enjoyed since we’ve been here.  Another note is the power cut now we have witnessed here.  South Africa is considered the power-house of infrastructure of the first world.  If it can experience this then Ethiopia would walk with its head up, and say it is not only us experiencing this but also including South Africa.

But despite that the hard work of the senior experts and the staff has made it possible for us to cordially exchange our views and finalise our work.  I join my sister and colleague to thank you all.

I’m told the meaning of Tshwane is that we are the same, we are one because we live together.  Indeed we are same and one, South Africa and Ethiopia.  We are same and one because we jointly walk towards what my distinguished sister says towards the African renaissance, towards achieving peaceful and prosperous Africa.  And we are one and the same because we work to bring our two peoples, Ethiopia and South Africa much closer in all areas of life, be it in trade and industry.   I thank once again the Minister of Trade and Industry for his presence here.  This demonstrates how both sides value our operation in trade and industry.  The other areas as expressed as core of our cooperation include also investment, agriculture, animal and human health, capacity building in public administration, science and technology, culture and people to people.  These are the areas to which we sincerely believe would bring much closer the people of South Africa and Ethiopia.

But also would contribute to the larger project and programme being undertaken by governments and people of the continent to surely but steadily work for Africa’s integration.  This cooperation that we have launched between South Africa and Ethiopia would also contribute to this larger programme of African integration.

It is Ethiopia’s firm belief that what we have embarked on between South Africa and Ethiopia for some time now and crowned with the establishment of this Joint Commission and the mechanisms that would facilitate for the implementation of the areas that we both feel and think would work for mutual benefit is extremely vital. 

We have also recognised, both capitals have recognised, that the Joint Ministerial Commission will be assisted by a follow up Committee which would alternatively meet every six months in Addis and here in Pretoria. So that this would be instrumental in bringing to the higher authorities on what we are doing and what we are not doing.  These agreements are meant not to remain on paper but to lead us into implementation and bringing us much closer.

I also would complement what my sister says the predicaments we witness today throughout the continent whether it is in the area of peace and security or instability and insecurity, or in the area of pandemic disease like HIV Aids, malaria and so on, poverty and underdevelopment.  These are the areas where no single African country can claim to be able to fight and overcome these challenges.  It is paramount that the entire continent and countries in the continent, peoples in the continent coordinate our efforts and face the challenges that we see Africa, rightly so occupy its place in this globalised world.

South Africa is regarded by many in the continent and beyond as the country that has a historical and a unique opportunity to not only contribute its share but also galvanise for unity and understanding among the various actors in the continent, among the people, the private sector and so on, and bringing Africa’s collective efforts in facing these challenges.  We look forward to continue working closely with South Africa on the areas that are of paramount importance to Africa and to our respective governments and people.

Once again madame Minister, distinguished brothers and sisters, I want to conclude once again by expressing our appreciation and many thanks to this cordial and warm treatment and hospitality we have experienced since our arrival here.  Rest assured that what we will be carrying back home in the papers we would also feel that we taking with us the obligation to implement.  And let me borrow what was said by the President of the South African Republican that we will witness that it is done.  Thank you very much.

Questions and Answers

Question: May I ask the visiting Minister the issue with Eritrea. Was that discussed in your talks today, with the build up of forces on both sides, with the withdrawal of the United Nations from Eritrea?  I recall your president saying or promising the AU Summit three years back that this would be settled peacefully.  Are you still confident that that is still possible?

Answers: (Minister Seyoum Mesfin)  No doubt about it.  We would continue to exert our full efforts to settle that dispute between Ethiopia and Eritrea peacefully and only by peaceful means.  Why? Because we have seen it in our recent history, we have learnt it the hard way that dispute between states, boundary disputes or otherwise cannot be resolved by means of war or conflict but only through civilised means, through dialogue and through peaceful means.  And be rest assured that would be what Ethiopia would continue working towards. Thank you.

Question:  If I may ask you Minister, the question of the Comoros is a burning issue at the moment.  You’ve played a central role in that.  The clashes overnight, the fact the AU is moving forces in.  Is there an alternative?  What is the situation, I’m asking in particular if there is an alternative to the full intervention of the AU, in other words the military solution?

Answer:  (Minister Dlamini Zuma) Thank you.  As you know that the AU had appointed a committee to deal with the Comoros since 1997.  And the Comoros was a very unstable country.  It had almost 20 coups in almost as many years.  And the AU appointed a committee when there was a problem of secession and a combination also of a coup.  The AU committee has worked very hard, spent many hours, resources.  And indeed it had a lot to show for it because since 1998 there probably hasn’t been a coup.  A foundation has been laid for stability. There was a Fomboni Agreement, the constitution was amended.  There was a new union constitution and the islands were then declared autonomous islands with their own constitution, with a kind of shared power between the union and the islands. 

As you would recall that this crisis stems from an election which was supposed to take place on the 10th of June or May last year, which was going to be supervised by the AU.  All three islands were going to have elections according to their laws that all three islands should have simultaneous elections.  The AU forces were supervising the elections.  On the 8th of June, two days before the elections, the president issued a decree postponing the elections in one of the islands, Anjouan.  And of-course that came through while we were there, the AU forces and the AU special envoy were represented there.  We also just heard that a decree had been issued to postpone the elections.  Our forces were on the ground in Anjouan when that decree was made. 

But to cut a long story short, the Anjouanese went ahead with the elections, arguing that there was no consultation that the elections are postponed.  But nevertheless they went ahead.  The AU and the constitutional court of Comoros did not recognise those elections.  And therefore there has been a call to have new elections.  And the real contest is that the AU committee did say there has to be new elections, because if the constitutional court of the country has said there has to be new elections, there should be new elections.  But the same committee has recognised that there are problems of governance and some constitutional interpretations which are creating problems.  And that there should be elections but also that there should be an effective address of this governance and constitutional issues. 

The real problem is what comes first.  The Anjouanese authorities say the discussion should come first because they believe that even the postponement of the elections is linked to these governance issues.  And then the elections should come later.  The rest say there should be elections first and then the discussions later.  That’s really what is at stake here.  And of-course as you say, there are countries there who are ready to go in and solve the problem militarily. 

Our belief is that there is still a possibility of solving this diplomatically.  Because it is to some extent unusual to go militarily into a place where there is no violence; where there is no loss of life; where there is no social unrest.  We think it’s possible to solve this diplomatically, but of-course we can’t.  There are countries which have heeded the call of the president of Comoros to assist him to solve the problem militarily.  So that is what is happening.  But as a country we believe that it could have still been done diplomatically.  It’s a small thing.  Even the president of the Comoros accepts that there are governance issues, there are constitutional issues that need to be resolved. 

The real war is about whether the discussion comes first and then elections, or elections first and then discussions later.  The Anjouanese authorities have given a date, they’ve said let’s have a discussion and have the elections by May, which we thought could be a basis for then solving this diplomatically.  Because they have expressed not only a willingness to have elections, but they have even said the elections could be in May.  And this period in between could then be used for discussions.  That’s what we think. Thanks.

Question:  To our Foreign Minister, tomorrow I think President Gbagbo is in the country, what does this mean for the Ivory Coast?

Answer: (Minister Dlamini Zuma) He has asked to come and visit the President.  I think basically he will be briefing the President about the situation there.  And we can only take it from there.

Question:  The trade between the two countries Ethiopia and South Africa, what will this mean after these agreements have been signed?  I don’t know whether you’ll be able to give specifics in terms of what it is that is happening right now.  Will it increase?

Answer (Minister Mpahlwa) On the trade related issues.  Clearly the signing of the agreements and the work that we continue to do even to have agreements in other areas, they are all aimed at unlocking potential that we believe is there.  And we should always see as inter-related the trade and investment issues.  Because in many instances when you enter into an arrangement that seeks to enhance trade, sometimes what you can do is limited because of limited productive capacity.  And so the work that we are doing see it in its totality.  As us cooperating in ensuring that we produce conditions that will ensure that our trade goes beyond what we have currently. 

Ethiopia is a country which has got huge strength in the area of agriculture, both in terms of its contribution to Ethiopia’s GDP, to its economy, but also in terms of its employment capacity with 80% of the people employed in agriculture.  It’s quite a big area, so we have to work together to make sure that Ethiopia can also be able to do other things, not just grow agricultural products but also be able to manufacture processed goods and so on.  So really I’m giving that fuller picture, but certainly the immediate thing is to make sure that we maximise on the current trade that is taking place between the two countries. 

I think that the existence also of the Investment Protection and Promotion Agreement is something that will also assist us in encouraging South African companies, for example, to invest in Ethiopia in ways that would ensure that you can strengthen that capacity to produce goods that would then feed into raising the level of trade between the two countries.

Answer (Minister Seyoum Mesfin) I would like to add my voice to what the distinguished Minister Mpahlwa said.  The signing of these agreements would mean putting the right legal framework in place which both governments are required to do in terms of encouraging their respective business community members to fully utilise the opportunities that exist between the two countries in terms of promotion of trade and investment. 

So we would feel as the two governments that we have put the right legal framework in place.  But at the same time we will also work closely to encourage our business communities at the leading dynamo in economic and investment cooperation. I also agree with the distinguished Minister of Trade and Industry of South Africa of the potentialities that exist for the promotion of trade and investment between South Africa and us.  Ethiopia is with a population of 80 million.  The economy is doing very well. 

We are an agrarian society but for the last five years now Ethiopia has been registering a DGP growth of 10% or above.  We have been investing a lot in the agricultural area.  But South Africa and South African investors can add value to Ethiopia’s agricultural processing.  Agro-related industries are areas where there are huge potentialities for mutual benefit.  And we have first class South African processing business community who can fully utilise the Ethiopia’s potentiality and add value to the economy.  So by signing the framework of agreement on the reciprocal promotion and protection of investment would ensure and guarantee that their investment is very much protected and that both governments have the obligation to facilitate for that.

Ethiopia is said to be a country having the largest livestock population in Africa.  That’s again an area when we said we are concluding agreements in the area of animal herds, South Africa is at an advanced stage to assist Ethiopia to fully utilise this resource of livestock.  But meat and meat products are areas where again we can benefit from the investment of South African vibrant business community in developing the Ethiopian resources.  I could go on saying both in the industry and agriculture but there are a lot of potentialities for the two countries to fully exploit and develop the cooperation in the areas of trade and development.  South Africa is also a coffee drinker.

Question:  I know you are moving to Gabon and Chile, can you tell us anything about those visits?

Answer:  (Minister Dlamini Zuma) Well the meeting in Gabon is actually the meeting between Africa and Japan to prepare for the TICAD meeting that will be taking place in Japan in May.  So this is the Ministerial meeting preparing for that Summit.  So from Gabon I’m going to Chile, I’m going to pay an official visit to Chile.  I’ll be having meetings with my counterpart there.  And I will also see some members of the Committee that deals with climate change, and for the Socialist International.  Thank you.

Issued by Department of Foreign Affairs
Private Bag X152
Pretoria
0001

18 March 2008

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