Notes following Briefing to Media by Director-General Dr Ayanda Ntsaluba, Media Centre, Union Buildings, Pretoria, Tuesday 14 October 2008

UPDATE REGARDING BURUNDI BY MINISTER NQAKULA

As you are aware, I have been tasked by our country to deal with the Burundi Peace Process as the Facilitator.  When President Kgalema Motlanthe was appointed we decided we needed to have a meeting where we would discuss that matter and last week he reappointed me to continue with the Facilitation in Burundi.

Yesterday, we had a meeting of what is defined with respect to the process as the Political Directorate.  The Political Directorate is comprised of, in the first instance, people who are working as representatives of the countries which are involved in the peace process.  Those countries are Uganda – the Chairperson of the Regional Initiative, Tanzania – the Deputy and South Africa as the Facilitation country.  The representatives from these countries who are based in Burundi are part of the Political Directorate.  Our international partners also participate – the EU is a member, France is the leading representative with regard to the EU and we had the honour yesterday of the presence of the direct representative of the EU who participated in our discussions.

Also involved in the Political Directorate are those people who are responsible for matters relevant to the armed combatants – in other words the military aspects of our programme.  They deal with the Joint Verification and Monitoring Mechanism (JVMM). 

The meeting yesterday was designed, in the first instance, as a briefing session for me because the political directorate does the day-to-day work in Burundi, interacting with all the political roleplayers and they brief the facilitator regularly.  And secondly, to plot the way forward with respect to what is happening at this time relevant to the peace process.

We met a while back in Bujumbura in Burundi where we interfaced directly with members of government who were led by the President of Burundi and members of the Paliphehutu-FNL who were led by the National Chairperson.  As a consequence of our discussions at that meeting they produced what is called, the Ngozi Declaration.  The Ngozi Declaration defined how the two parties would therefore pick up on issues relevant to the process, particularly as defined in the Comprehensive Ceasefire Agreement for them to help us all finalise this project.  You will recall that we were mandated by the Regional Leadership to finalise this project by the end of December 2008.  We are still working towards this deadline but there have been difficulties, particularly at this point where not all of the decisions and stipulations embodied in the Ngozi Declaration have been carried out.  The problem therefore is that more pressure is being applied on our ability to complete this exercise by the end of the year but even more urgent and serious is the fact that, for as long as there is a delay in the implementation of the various elements of the peace process, there is always, hanging in the air, the possibility of a return to armed combat.  We are trying to prevent that from happening and we decided therefore yesterday that as part and parcel of ensuring that this process does not collapse to go to Burundi once more and sit down with the antagonists in this situation, remind them of their undertakings in Ngozi, remind them of the programme of action that had been endorsed, not only by ourselves who are directly involved there together with the two parties, but also by our international partners.  We have a comprehensive agreement between us all that is defined in a programme of action.  We want the parties to go back to that programme of action so that we can complete this task as I have indicated by the end of December.

Off course, there is more pressure on us that after we have interacted with the relevant parties in Burundi and we want to do this early next week, we need to go and report to our principals, particularly the President of Uganda Yoweri Museveni who is the Chairperson of the Regional Initiative.

We are therefore going to go to Bujumbura once more to try to find the pieces that continue to be missing, for us to put them in place so that we can complete our project.

Yesterday, we looked at some of the outstanding matters.  A few of them relate directly to the issue relevant to armed combat but most of them which are still outstanding are political questions which we had asked both parties to look at very very seriously and for those parties, therefore to formulate a programme that would help them implement the decisions that they had taken.  We are asking them for a report therefore to indicate where they have difficulties so that using, whatever we can to try and assist them to overcome the difficulties that they may have.

Off course, one of the things we want to convey to them is the fact that the matter of the search for durable peace in Burundi is one of many tasks in the world that various players are looking at.  The Burundi question therefore is not the only task that the various people that are seeking peace, not only on the continent but elsewhere in the world are involved in.  We want them to appreciate therefore that in order for the entire peace process to take root across the world that the Burundi matter itself must make a contribution towards this.  It is a contribution that the leadership in that country has to pay particular attention to because they themselves are participating in the making of history relevant to their country and therefore, we have said this before to them, and we want to emphasize this again when we meet with them that they have a responsibility – leaders from both parties – to pull their country out of the conflict and war.

Questions and answers

Question Minister, what are the major stumbling blocs at this point?

Answer The issues that have become quite problematic are political matters.  In the first instance the Paliphehutu-FNL uses that name which is seen by government as militating against the letter and spirit of the constitution because Paiphehutu-FNL, particularly Paliphehutu means for the Hutu alone, a struggle therefore of the Hutus against the other tribes in Burundi and in terms of the Arusha agreements which preceded the Dar-es-Salaam Agreements, the constitution is against the usage of anything that therefore would provide a platform for people to visit hurt and injury against others on the basis of tribalism.  This issue is looming very large with respect to the finalisation of the final objective because the Paliphehutu-FNL want to continue to use that name and government is arguing that it is unconstitutional to do so.

The second one is what then happens to the Paliphehutu-FNL as a political organisation.  Firstly, in order for them to participate in the political life of that country they have to be registered as such.  And the registration, as things stand now, is dependent on the resolution of this particular problem of their name but also participation in the political life means, in essence, that space has to be created for the Paliphehutu-FNL to also participate in the socio-economic situation of that country.  Now, there are difficulties relating to all of these matters.  They have not yet been resolved.  The resolution of those matters is off course, a political matter and what we require is political will on the part of both parties to ensure that discussions happen and an understanding is arrived at which will create the space that we need for us to go forward.

Now, participation in the political life of that country also means the integration and insertion of some members of the Paliphehutu-FNL into the decision making processes of that country – in other words, what happens for instance to the leadership?  Is it possible for conditions to be created for them to be drawn into the political decision-making structures of that country?  It is a matter again, that relates to the constitution – that in order for them to be drawn into such structures in the first instance they would have participated in the elections that happened in Burundi but they did not.  That is why there is this process of negotiations that took place and a process that therefore created the conditions where today we have the leadership of the Paliphehutu-FNL inside Burundi and now and again interacting with the authorities in that country.

The last point relating to this question is off course, the matter of parliament itself.  The Paliphehutu-FNL somehow wants to have a leg in Parliament and they define that as being observers relevant to the parliamentary processes.  Now, again, that matter needs to be discussed by them and accommodation arrived at because, ordinarily you do not have a situation like that.  If you want to be an observer in parliament you go into the gallery and observe processes.  But this is not how they define what they want.  They obviously want to build experiences relevant in how parliament operates.

So these are the things in the main that are holding us back.  If those were to be resolved then other things will happen and happen quickly.  For some reason these political issues are put right at the top of the table and militate against the speedy assembly in the assembly areas and the finalisation of the disarmament, demobilisation, and reintegration programme.

This is where we are with regard to these matters.

Question Minister, when will you be returning to Burundi?

Answer We will depart on Sunday 19 October 2008.  Our meeting begin on Monday 20 October 2008.  We are hoping that we can report to the regional leadership within the week.

Question Minister, how does the mounting violence and unrest in the eastern DRC impact on the situation in Burundi?

Answer The matter of the geopolitics of the region is a big issue, problematic much of the time.  Off course, what is happening in the eastern part of the DRC is impacting on what we are doing.  I am not going to go into the details of what we are doing except to say that it should be recalled that the Paliphehutu-FNL also had bases in the eastern part of the DRC.  It stands to reason therefore that there would be some kind of link between them and the eastern part of the DRC.  Unfortunately, that is all I can say at this time.

BRIEFING BY DIRECTOR-GENERAL DR AYANDA NTSALUBA

IBSA SUMMIT

With respect to the IBSA Summit you would know that the Ministerial consultations took place today 14 October 2008; the Summit itself will be held tomorrow Wednesday 15 October 2008.

We have President Motlanthe as well as a number of ministers – Trade and Industry, Minerals and Energy, Housing, Presidency and Foreign Affairs who are part of the delegation.

You will recall that beginning about two years ago we felt that IBSA had reached a point where meetings should be elevated to the Summit level annually.  Initially, we used to have Ministerial meetings and the leaders only met on the margins of some international meetings – this was largely in New York.  But starting with the Summit that was in Brazil in 2006, you would recall that we hosted the last one in South Africa in 2007 and this is the current one that is being hosted in India.  The next Summit is already scheduled for 8 October 2008 in Brasilia. 

The current summit will be held against the backdrop of quite a few areas that the leaders need to apply themselves to: the food crisis which still continues, we have not emerged from the energy crisis, we now have the financial crisis.  In addition to that, we are also meeting at a point where there has been no progress essentially, although there are some initiatives underway, with respect to the Doha Round and we are all concerned that the Doha Round may not realise its developmental potential as was agreed when it was launched and off course, one of the developments with respect to the reform of the multilateral system has been the decision by the President of hte General Assembly to now commence the process of negotiations and discussions around the reform of the United Nations so the Ministers and Heads of State will also reflect a bit on this.

With respect to the components of the Summit itself, we will continue with was done in South Africa where there will be a business component to the Summit and I must say this is one of the important and exciting elements that is really coming together well and consolidating with respect to the work of IBSA.  You will know that our leaders have set a target of US$ 15 billion by 2010 for trilateral trade.  We are encouraged by the progress that is being registered right across.  If we look at our trade – South Africa continues to see an increase in the volumes of trade whether we are looking at India or Brazil.  In the case of South Africa, in both instances, trade is skewed in favour of either India or Brazil.  The volumes of trade are however increasing which is a good thing so we think we are quite on track.

One of the discussions that will take place, that is very important for South Africa relates to our geostrategic location.  You know that one of the issues on the IBSA agenda is transportation hubs and the improved connectivity between South America and Asia through the tip of Africa here.  We are looking at both air transportation but what I think is particularly exciting for South Africa is the exploratory discussions about using South Africa’s location to look at a marine hub that will be used essentially to improve and facilitate trade between these areas because even though we are located as we are, we are not an established sea trading route to the extent that our strategic location would allow us to be and that is why South Africa is pushing very hard and is encouraged by the signals we are getting from India and Brazil that they think this would be a viable proposition.  So, on the business side, this would be one of the areas to look at.

The other area would be discussions amongst women from the three countries and here it is obvious that all three countries are battling with the isssue of poverty and have defined the important role that women should be playing with respect to this and more importantly, all three countries have identified the emancipation of women and the role that women play as central to the democratic projects that are unfolding in each of the three countries. 

There are also meetings of cultural activists and so on.

But this is what this meeting will focus on.  We are looking forward to a good outcome from this meeting.

This is also President Motlanthe’s first meeting abroad and it therefore also has this importance for South Africa.

TRIPARTITE HEADS OF STATE MEETING

You will recall when we hosted SADC in August 2008 in Johannesburg, we launched the SADC Free Trade Area.  We also have previously discussed with you, the approach we are taking, certainly as SADC countries and as South Africa to the issue of continental integration with specific reference to fact that we see that continental integration has to be built on the basis of viable regional economic communities (RECs).  These RECs should on a progressive and incremental basis themselves begin to co-operate.  In the case of southern Africa we have the case of significant overlap of memberships between SADC, COMESA and the EAC.

So, the meeting in Uganda, at a Summit level, is an attempt by the leadership of the three regional economic communities to begin to apply their minds to what strategies would be viable to enhance integration amongst these three regions as part of putting up the building blocs that would eventually lead to continental integration and so, the idea is to try to look at whether there are points of intersection between the EAC, COMESA and SADC given that off course, there is overlapping membership and see if it is a viable proposition to talk of a free trade area that covers the full area that is covered by these three regional communities and if this is the direction in which we want to move, are there immediate steps to be taken.  The underlying principle is to see how do we ensure there is greater integration and greater facilitation of trade, investment and general economic activity across the southern and eastern seabelt.

This is the meeting that will be in Uganda.  This meeting starts at an officials level on Friday – Saturday 17-18 October, a ministerial meeting on 20 October and a Summit meeting on 22 October.  Ministers Dlamini Zuma and Mandisi Mpahlwa will attend the Ministerial meeting and President Motlanthe the Summit.

The areas that would be covered are those around regional integration, infrastructure and off course, some cross cutting issues like that of climate and food security.

The underlying thing is how to facilitate the work of the three RECs in such a manner that they are complementary and contribute to economic activity.

The meeting will be co-chaired by the three respective chairs: SADC – President Motlanthe, EAC – President Kagame of Rwanda and from COMESA – President of Kenya and Uganda is the host of this meeting.

UPDATE REGARDING ZIMBABWE

We all, on the 15 September 2008 witnessed the signing of the power-sharing agreement.  We believe that that agreement opened up the possibility for progress in Zimbabwe and to assist the government and people of Zimbabwe to address the challenges they face.

Off course, all of us would have known, that given the difficulties that the negotiations themselves would have endured and given the strenght of feeling amongst the different parties that this was not going to be easy so we did expect that there would be occasional hitches. 

I think this is why, the agreement, wisely, incorporated the notion of the Facilitator, SADC and the AU being guarantors of the process becuase one would expect these hitches.  I think we have hit one of these with the slight delay now in the constitution of the government and I am sure we would all agree that we would have wanted this to have been finalised by now but we are happy that the Facilitator is in Zimbabwe as we speak.

Off course, we had to go through certain processes following the political changes in our own country to make sure that there was clear reaffirmation of the role that former President Thabo Mbeki would play and once all this was completed, I think the time was right for him to be able to travel to Zimbabwe.

We are following the developments very closely.  We believe that the current socio-economic, humanitarian situation demands of hte region and the leadership of Zimbabwe to move with greater speed, in particular you would recall that during the signing ceremony, President Mbeki highlighted some of the urgent issues that would need to be attended to – particularly in terms of agriculture so that we do not have this current window of the planting season pass us by before decisive interventions can be made so as to address the food security situation in Zimbabwe for the coming year.

We are, like everyone else, hoping that some agreement will be reached and that the leadership of Zimbabwe will resolve the difficulties they are encountering.  We would wish for the speedy resolution of this process so that the socio-economic reconstruction can commence in earnest.

Thank you

Questions and answers

Question DG, what weight does former President Mbeki carry in this role?  Does he go with any message from President Motlanthe?

Answer I think that from where we sit we do not see any significant or fundamental change in the position that the President holds.  I think that with the changes in the country, you needed to go through a process which firstly ensures there is reaffirmation by SADC, the AU and South Africa as a country.  I think these processes have been completed and I don’t believe that creates any other difficulty.

With respect to any discussions between President Motlanthe and former President Mbeki, I would imagine that all of us would know that the country has a particular view and that view is around the speediest conclusion of that and also, I think that all sectors in South Africa have opened themselves to playing as constructive a role as possible.  I think that President Mbeki knows this and obviously, you would also recall that President Motlanthe and former President Mbeki would not be discussing Zimbabwe for the first time.  They have been discussing it for a long period of time.  President Motlanthe has at some time engaged at a party level in terms of his previous position.  We know that.

I would like to believe that with respect to what is on the agenda now – which is the speediest possible conclusion of that process, I think the leadership of South Africa and President Mbeki would be on the same page regarding where they stand.

Question DG, regarding the cancellation of the Diaspora Summit, the visit to Iran and the Nordic Council – can you give us reasons for this?

Answer You would recall that the Diaspora Summit would have taken place on the 11th October.  We experienced changes that you would all be familiar with at the end of September.  We therefore reached a point where there was some degree of fluidity.  We needed to focus on what was the most urgent thing to do at the time.  Having consulted the AU, there as a general sense that the best possible thing to do would be to postpone the meeting.  We have therefore started to re-engage the AU with a view to looking at alternative dates.

This applies even more so to Iran – the visit would have taken place on 5 October 2008 and in fact it would have been literally President Mbeki moving from New York, with a day or so in between and then moving to Iran.  Again, if you cast your minds back to what was happening?  We had discussions – I happened to have been in New York at the time – with the Iranians and I think there was a mutual agreement that the time was not opportune due to the changes that were taking place.

The Nordic engagement was slightly different because it had a valedictory character.  As you know, President Mbeki had previously attended the Nordic Summits and has addressed these summits.  There is a strong historical relationship – for the country, the ruling party but also a strong relationship between President Mbeki and some of the Nordic countries including some of the people presently in leadership positions.  So, I think there was a valedictory character to the meeting because the next Nordic Summit would have been held post elections in 2009 (if we had followed the normal procedures.)

Looking at the programme of President Motlanthe we have to strike a very delicate balance between the standing commitments and the things with a particular character – for instance, there are some heads of state that would have hosted President Mbeki at the beginning of 2009, which is a standard practice.

Question DG, if an agreement on the key outstanding issues in Zimbabwe are not reached by the end of the week, what will the South African government do?

Answer I am not so sure as to what the South African government per se will do.  But off course, the South African government and the South African President, as the current chair of SADC, have certain responsibilities and this is a facilitation process underpinned by SADC.  I don’t want to say by the end of the week but were we to reach a point where the facilitator feels that we have reached a difficult point that needs to be referred to the regional leadership, I expect this is what he will do – call upon the South African President in his capacity as chair of SADC to either convene SADC or via King Mswati as the Chair of the Organ.

I think these would be the steps.  But again, let me stress that we would approach this when that critical point is reached.  The Facilitator would be in a better position to make a judgement on this.

Question DG, what is South Africa’s present engagement with Zimbabwe?

Answer I think that there is a lot of activity on the planning side in South Africa looking at three broad areas – agriculture, fiscal stabilisation, and the broader area of economic reconstruction.  One of the constraints, which is why I keep stressing the point that the sooner the executive is constituted in totality, the better – I am sure you will appreciate that South Africa could begin to reflect on some thoughts as an input to a discussion that has to be led by a duly constituted government of Zimbabwe and to the extent that this process has not been completed, this does create a barrier to the speed with which we can move.  But there is a lot of work, certainly on the South African side that is being done.  I must say, we have compared notes with the SADC Secretariat in the broader area of economic reconstruction that has been carried out by them.

Issued by Department of Foreign Affairs
Private Bag X152
Pretoria
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14 October 2008

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