Remarks by President Kgalema Motlanthe During Briefing to the Media on the SADC’s Humanitarian Assistance to Zimbabwe and the Democratic Republic of Congo, Union Buildings, Pretoria, 17 December 2008
Pretoria – SADC has welcomed the publication, on 13 December 2008, of Amendment 19 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe which paved the way for the establishment of an inclusive government in terms of the Global Political Agreement signed on 15 September 2008. SADC urges the Zimbabwean political parties to expedite the formation of an all-inclusive government and thereby enable the country to deal with the challenges facing its people.
Over the past few days, as the chairperson of SADC, I have consulted with the heads of state in the SADC Troika to canvass their support for SADC to take urgent action to attend to the humanitarian crises in Zimbabwe and in the Democratic republic of Congo.
As you all are aware, Zimbabwe is facing serious humanitarian challenges characterised by acute food shortages and the recent outbreak of cholera. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced in the eastern part of the country as a result of the recent conflict.
The heads of state representing the SADC Troika agree that the situation in both countries requires immediate response from SADC member states consistent with the SADC Treaty which calls for a determination “to ensure, through common action, the progress and well-being of the people of Southern Africa”.
In this regard, the SADC Troika has decided, in accordance with Article 9(6) (a) of the Treaty, to launch an urgent international campaign to mobilise financial and material resources for the people of Zimbabwe in order to help them overcome the challenges facing their country. It is expected that SADC countries should contribute to this campaign within their available resources.
Against this background, a South African government delegation together with the representative of the executive secretary of SADC undertook a visit to Zimbabwe on 08 December 2008 to consult with stakeholders on the modalities of attending to the humanitarian challenges facing the country.
It was evident during the consultations, that in order to carry out an effective assistance programme, a non-partisan co-ordinating mechanism would have to be established. The SADC Troika accepted the recommendation of the delegation that a mechanism named Zimbabwe Humanitarian and Development Assistance Framework (ZHDAF) be formed to manage SADC’s humanitarian assistance to the people of Zimbabwe.
The ZHDAF will comprise government, international multilateral organisations, religious groups, agricultural unions and other role players. It will be responsible for among other things identifying deserving beneficiaries, elimination of duplication of initiatives and monitoring of the delivery of the humanitarian programme.
A SADC-wide monitoring mechanism comprising representatives of member states, agricultural bodies, religious groups and heads of SADC diplomatic missions based in Harare will also be established to evaluate and assess the work of the ZDAF.
We are heartened by the call by the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mr. Ban-Ki Moon, at the UN Security Council on 15 December, 2008 that: “A first step must be to insist on the immediate formation of a government of National unity.” and “It is particularly crucial for the Government, donors, UN agencies, NGO’s and regional actors to work together to effectively implement a humanitarian aid programme to prevent a major catastrophe, and reduce loss of life.”
Regarding the humanitarian situation in the DRC, the SADC Extraordinary Heads of State and Government Summit held in Johannesburg on 07 November 2008 endorsed the Great Lakes Region’s statement calling for the “establishment of humanitarian corridors throughout the area to ensure immediate address of the humanitarian crisis and tragedy”.
The SADC Troika Heads of State have resolved to actively appeal for increased international humanitarian assistance to the DRC to complement the current efforts of individual countries and international humanitarian organisations.
Questions and Answers
Question: What is South Africa, and each of the countries putting into this pot?
Answer: Well as the statement said, SADC member states are expected rely on their own resources to put in the pot for distribution to Zimbabwe and so forth different member states have the possibility of contributing. Some will be able to contribute seeds, for instance the Zambians have indicated that they have got enough seeds to distribute to Zimbabwean grain growers, particularly in the Northern part of Zimbabwe. So, different countries will contribute in accordance to their own resources and capabilities.
Question: Will South Africa’s part in this assistance include the R300 million that we have promised to the Zimbabweans, and who will head the ZHDAF?
Answer: That structure is a coordinating structure that will include locally based organisations that include of the organisations of the UN – the World Health Organisation is part of that framework. Of course they will select the coordinator from among themselves.
The idea was that such relief should be distributed on a non-partisan basis; in a manner that is transparent and easy to monitor so that at the end of the efforts the people most deserving should benefit from such interventions.
The R300 million was specifically for agricultural produce and as you know the planting season is almost over. So, that is something that needs to be considered once the inclusive government is in place. It was to be managed also at a government-to-government level.
Question: In Zimbabwe many people are being abducted; demonstrations are being dispersed; cholera is spreading across the country; the infrastructure is collapsing. How bad does it have to get before you say to the man who most people consider responsible for the problems in Zimbabwe: “enough is enough and it is time to go”?
Answer: You know it is our wish that an inclusive government be established as soon as yesterday because only then will we be in a position to deal with the real problems facing the people of Zimbabwe.
The issue of whether President Mugabe should go or not has never been raised by the parties. That is why in their global agreement they agreed that he should serve as President and Mr Tsvangirai as the Prime Minister; Ms Khupe as one of the two Deputy Prime Ministers and Professor Mutambara as the other Deputy Prime Minister.
I do not know whether the British feel qualified to impose that on the people of Zimbabwe but we feel that we should really support and take our cue from what they want.
Question: On the issue of aid, do you have any notion that Zimbabwe will be receptive to [the assistance]? What are you doing practically to ensure that the inclusive government is formed as soon as possible?
Answer: The government delegation that we sent to Zimbabwe to interact with Zimbabwean organisations to put in place this framework for coordinating the relief work and assistance has the support of all political parties in Zimbabwe. It also has the support of the permanent secretary in Zimbabwe. So the defacto government that is in place is supportive of it, including the other political parties in Zimbabwe.
The question of the establishment of the inclusive government is something that is long overdue because people went to the polls in March and the year is out and there is still no government today. As you know the Constitution had to be amended because the current Constitution does not provide for the position of Prime Minister and also precisely because Mr Mutambara and Mr Tsvangirai are not members of Parliament at this point in time. So the Constitution had to be amended so that they can then be appointed into those positions and sworn in.
That amendment was gazetted on the 13th so hopefully within the course of this week it may be possible that the three of them are appointed into those positions. Then of course once that happens they will be able to form this inclusive government.
Question: What if the new formation comes against human rights violation, how broad is its mandate?
Answer: President Mugabe also accepts that the situation is dire and that the people of Zimbabwe do need this assistance to relief them from deprivation that they have had to enjoy from quiet a while now. It is a well-known fact that the outbreak of cholera worsened an already bad situation and that food shortages are quiet serious. So everybody in Zimbabwe accepts that they need this kind of assistance.
The framework for coordinating this relief is all inclusive and consists also of NGO’s, grain growers, farmers’ unions, religious leaders and political formations precisely because it is important for the relief to reach all the people of Zimbabwe without being influenced by partisan interests, political interests. So this is not political work, it is relief work and not to be politicised. It is done on a humanitarian basis, and all formations in Zimbabwe have agreed that is the best way to handle it.
So the mandate of this structure is to ensure that the relief is distributed fairly to all deserving Zimbabweans; it is not to deal with the political challenges, those will be handled by the inclusive government once it is in place. They will have the authority to deal with all challenges on the political side.
It is purely humanitarian; there are no strings attached and no conditions other than that it must be done in a non-partisan manner.
Question: With regard to the DRC, what action are we taking about the humanitarian situation there?
Answer: In the case of the DRC the Great Lakes region has already tasked former President Obasanjo to mediate between the rebel group and the government. In fact there are negotiations scheduled for tomorrow, within this week. So that aspect is being taken care of.
Question: There are well corroborated reports that some 23 MDC officials and other opposition activists that have disappeared in mysterious circumstances. Is the South African government concerned about that and is it receiving some reassurance from the government about that?
Answer: Yes we are concerned about allegations of abductions and we do raise those with the parties in Zimbabwe including the Office of the President in Zimbabwe because our view is that the inclusive government will ensure that all parties are involved in government and have the authority to deal with those kinds of violation of human rights or brutal treatment of citizens for no apparent reason.
That is why the delay in the formation of such an inclusive government only serves to prolong the possibility of such human rights abuses taking place whereas once there is an inclusive government all of that would come to an end. And if it does happen that any of the officers in the security cluster perpetrates that the government would be in a position to hold it responsible and to bring such people to book.
Question: Are you concerned and taking any action about the allegation by the Zimbabwe government that the Botswana government is training MDC cadres to destabilise Zimbabwe? These have been repeated this week and seem to be linked in some way with the shooting of the Air Force marshal. It seems some people are turning the Zimbabwe issue into a threat to international security, or regional security at least, because the allegations are causing friction between two neighbouring countries.
Answer: Regarding allegations that Botswana is training MDC militarily, we never believed that as SADC and when it was raised the Troika of the Organ on Defence was tasked to deal with that matter and go in to verify whether that is fact of fiction. They have been to Botswana and they have been all over. We need to get a report from them but our view up front is that there is no substance to such an allegation.
We do not believe that. MDC is a properly registered political party; they have been participating in elections; it is represented in parliament – there would really be no logic in that at this late hour they are planning for a military option. There is an army in Zimbabwe which cannot be confronted with people who are trained over weekends. We do not think there is any substance to the allegation; but of course the Zimbabwean authorities would sight an explosion at a police station and that kind of stuff to actually claim that the government of Botswana could train the MDC cadres – it is against the SADC principles, that is why we really take it with a pinch of salt.
But of course because the allegation was made officially, that is why it had to be investigated but I have no doubt that it will come to naught.
Question: There are still allegations that food is not being provided to opposition families.
Answer: You know over the years and in the run up to the elections it has always been alleged that food vouchers were being distributed along partisan lines as way of buying votes and so on. So that allegations has always been there, that is why as SADC we were quiet sensitive that the humanitarian assistance should not be seen to be in any way serving the political interests of any of the parties but it is really aimed at bringing relief to the people of Zimbabwe.
Question: Mr President I hear your concern about the prolonging of the situation by the lack of an inclusive government. Are you also concerned that the situation can be prolonged further, especially on the MDC side given the fact that they want to have a conference I think early next year in which for example, if there is change of leadership the gains and agreements which we are seeing now could be reversed as a result of the … (inaudible) within MDC?
Answer: We are hopeful that such an inclusive government be put in place this week because the global political agreement actually states that once the amendment is gazetted such a government can be formed almost immediately. Once it is in place we believe that it will create the possibility of dealing with the real problems. At the moment everything has been a problem. The fact that the leader of the MDC Mr Tsvangirai does not have a passport to travel with is a problem in a sense that when I spoke to him two days ago he said he still did not have a passport.
Question: When you spoke to Mr Tsvangirai did he indicate that he is prepared now, over and above the concerns he may have with respect to the formation of the government and so on, that he is prepared to go to Zimbabwe within the course of this week to avail himself to be sworn in as Prime Minister? Are you confident and do you know this will happen or are there some reservations on you part?
Answer: I have to be optimistic and confident that he will avail himself to serve the country as Prime Minister. In my conversation with him we touched on the fact that it is not correct for the electorate; it is unjust that they went to elections in March and voted with the hope that things will change and that we sit now in December and there is still no government – it is really treating them shabbily.
He has always committed himself; he regards himself as Prime Minister designate and therefore I think once appointed he will accept.
Issued by the Department of Foreign Affairs
Private Bag X152
17 December 2008