Notes following Joint Briefing by Deputy President Mlambo-Ngcuka and Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern, Media Centre, Union Buildings, Pretoria, Tuesday 15 January 2008

Remarks by Deputy President Mlambo-Ngcuka

Welcome to Prime Minister Ahern – this is our first visit for the new year.  Thank you for being here.

As you know, we have long-standing political, economic and cultural relations with Ireland.

We looked at our ongoing co-operation in the area of peacemaking.  You would be aware that South Africans have participated and supported the Irish peace process.  We hope we have made a small contribution in this regard while we have also learnt a lot from this experience.

We also shared our own experience, being also involved in these processes in Southern Africa and Africa, of democratisation and peacemaking. 

We also discussed the issue of skills and employment creation for young people, an area in which Ireland has a lot of experience.  This is an area where we would like to strengthen co-operation.  You are aware that these are the kinds of challenges we are intending to address through JIPSA.  We would hope that we will be able to identify concrete areas upon which we can build on conclusion of this meeting.

The Prime Minister and myself are not meeting for the first time.  I was in Ireland last year and this culminated in us sending some people to Ireland for training purposes.  We would want to take this relationship to the next level, by also using their training experience to inform our own policy choices around the issue of training and employment creation.  But we will have to work harder in this area.  We have committed ourselves because we are in the process of reviewing South Africa’s anti-poverty strategy and the issue of skills and employment for young people is a very important issue in this review.

Thank you

Remarks by Prime Minister Ahern

Thank you very much Deputy President Mlambo-Ngcuka for your time.

We have discussed a range of issues with the Deputy President and also had an opportunity to meet the President of South Africa.

We discussed Ireland-South Africa bilateral relations and how we can increase our business contacts with the travelling business delegation.

We had an opportunity to talk about peace processes and the outcomes of the European Union – Africa Summit, issues in which President Mbeki is involved, he submitted a detailed brief on these processes and on his ongoing efforts to achieve progress in these areas.  It was a very insightful report on his work.

I got the chance to put on record – I remember the first meeting with President Mbeki, exactly eight years ago – where I asked for assistance in our ongoing processes of change in Northern Ireland and how to deal with the arms issue, the policing issue and how we could move on to acceptance by all parties.

Many South Africans, at various stages of the process, have assisted us and I wanted to put this on record as well as to brief President Mbeki on where the process is at the moment.  We are very grateful for the South African support.

We were discussing a range of areas where we can involve state, private sector, academic organisations to our mutual benefit.  We have had an opportunity in Ireland, because of European social policy 20 years back, of evolving a number of models.  The Deputy President is very anxious that progress is made a range of issues.

We want to begin the implementation phase of co-operation.  We feel it may be useful to present the data of these programmes in so far as they might be useful.  Programmes are not always compatible. 

We appreciate the time we have received from the South African government.

Questions and answers

Question Prime Minister Ahern, did you mention the appalling conditions in Zimbabwe to President Mbeki?  Is he in a position to use his influence to change such conditions?

Answer Yes, we did discuss this matter with the President and the Deputy President.  As you know, President Mbeki has been deeply involved in this matter.  We all continue to be very concerned about the ongoing deterioration of the situation in Zimbabwe and all the difficulties.

President Mbeki gave us a very detailed account of the status of the negotiations and the work that has taken place in terms of the constitutional amendments, ensuring that there will be free and fair elections, that the processes of governance including amendment of legislation that is necessary.  He brought us through each of the categories of the negotiations.

The President explained that he would, within days, be engaged in some of the final aspects of this work.  He is working extremely hard on this and is hopeful that he will resolve some of the remaining obstacles.  I do not want to elaborate since these are part of the negotiations.

Question Prime Minister Ahern, what is your view of the political landscape in South Africa?  How do you expect this to influence relations with Ireland in the future?

Answer We had a very good meeting with President Mbeki and the Deputy President and we look forward to working with them for the future.  From an Irish perspective we have built up very good relations and South Africa – Ireland relations are flourishing and growing.  We have set ourselves a work programme for 2008 that we will aim to achieve.

Issued by Department of Foreign Affairs
Private Bag X152

15 January 2008

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