Notes following Briefing to Media by Director-General Dr Ayanda Ntsaluba, Media Centre, Union Buildings, Pretoria, Thursday 30 October 2008
Comments by Director-General Dr Ayanda Ntsaluba
CONDOLENCES TO GOVERNMENT OF PAKISTAN
Before we deal with the DRC, I would like to express the condolences of the government to firstly the people of Pakistan. As you know, there was the earthquake in the south western Pakistani province of Baluchistan on Wednesday 29 October 2008. There has been a loss of life and off course, this is a very tragic event. Just to again reiterate the condolences of the South African government and people to the government and people of Pakistan.
EXPLOSIONS IN INDIA
You would have heard of the explosions that hit three districts in Guwahati city, north-eastern Indian state of Assam, India. Again, there has been a significant loss of life and we are not sure who has been responsible for these acts but we do know that there have been a few terrorist activities within the territory of India during the recent past and we again, extend of condolences to those who have lost their lives. We also pledge of continued solidarity with the government and people of India.
EVENTS UNFOLDING IN THE EAST OF THE DRC
When we last had a briefing we indicated that following the conclusion of the Goma Agreement we were hopeful that we would get into a process that would usher in a stable peace in the eastern part of the DRC. We reported at that point in time that we were getting a bit concerned because what had begun as occasional skirmishes seemed to be coalescing into something far more significant and I think the worst of our fears has been borne out by the events of the last few days. Now, we know that relatively what we would regard as full scale engagement took place starting last Saturday or Sunday, 25 or 26 October 2008 on a large scale. We know there have been threats to the town of Goma and a number of villages have been taken by CNDP. We also have seen significant movements of people, even reports indicate that there has also been a dislodging of people already in refugee camps which obviously precipitates a huge humanitarian problem. The numbers of displaced people are huge. People are also now obviously feeling extremely insecure. We believe that there is a humanitarian crisis that is beginning to unfold in the eastern DRC.
We are also worried, as we indicated the last time, that to the extent that this situation is not being arrested, it opens up old wounds around particularly the relationships between the respective two states – Rwanda and the DRC. You would also have known colleagues, that as a consequence of that there has been a lot of international attention paid to what is happening in the eastern DRC.
The UN Security Council has had a discussion and there is a statement that has been released by the Security Council. South Africa is fully party to the essence of that statement. We also participated in what is called the P3 + 2 meeting in New York which obviously was in a sense paving the way for the discussions at the Security Council and there is again a convergence of views in terms of what is evolving. I think that the first thing and most urgent thing is to appeal to all states, as the Presidential statement indicates that all the parties to the conflict should try to abide by their obligations in terms of international law, particularly humanitarian international law and that it is very important for us to minimise the unfortunate humanitarian incidents. The safety and security of the civilian population has to be guaranteed by the belligerents.
Secondly, we believe that it is very important that we continue, as difficult as it is, to search for a political solution to the problem. All attempts at a military solution have really eluded us in terms of arriving at a viable solution. Again, it emphasises to us that we should try, as much as we can to search for a political solution.
At the heart of that political solution is really the framework that was agreed upon in Goma as well as contained in the Nairobi Communiqué. And the essence of that framework, you will recall colleagues, is some degree of security and confidence on the side of the DRC government that Rwanda is not supporting General Nkunda and on the other side, a commitment made by the government of the DRC that it will act against the negative forces, particularly those around the FDLR who might be within the sovereign territory of the DRC. So, I think that still remains the framework. All the efforts that are being set in motion, diplomatic initiatives revolve around trying to pull the parties to basically support the continued implementation of that framework which we believe remains the only viable instrument that we have to bring durable peace to that particular area.
I think we also share the view that the sooner we have high level re-engagement between the leaders of Rwanda and the leaders of the DRC, the better will be the prospects of arriving at a solution that holds. We have been encouraged in the past few days by the actions, namely the sending of the Foreign Minister of the DRC to Rwanda and there are reports of a possible reciprocal visit at the same level from Rwanda to the DRC. So, we believe that the leaders of the two countries should continue to open up those lines of dialogue.
Off course colleagues, we know that the solutions to the challenges of the DRC are not easy. If they had been easy we would have found them a long time ago. There are all sorts of layers and overlays of complexities and precisely because of the relationship of some of the forces occupying the DRC and the tragic events in Rwanda, this tends to raise all sorts of sensitivities but at the same time, we believe that for as long as the eastern situation is not resolved, it detracts from what is essentially very very good progress that is being registered in the DRC with respect to the processes of reconstruction. I think the challenges are huge, there is still a lot of work to be done, but in our view, there is a lot of progress that is being made.
This is where we are. There are currently attempts underway to see what it is that can be done. An unfortunate consequence in the eastern part of the DRC has been the response of the civilian population to MONUC which I think adds another complexity. Our view, off course, has been that MONUC needs to be strengthened. You know that we are a troop contributing country so off course, we really would join those who are appealing for perhaps the reinforcement of MONUC and perhaps some of the dilemmas facing MONUC to be appreciated. However, we believe there is a need to move with some degree of urgency because quite clearly, the reaction of people, in the face of what they see as the incapacity to deal with the advance of General Nkunda is likely to escalate if nothing else is done so again, you know there was a report given by the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations to New York. There are certain concrete proposals that have been made particularly with regard to the enhancement of capacity. Members of the UN Security Council are considering these proposals and we hope there will be a positive outcome to those discussions.
UPDATE REGARDING ZIMBABWE
You know that as we indicated the last time we spoke we were awaiting the meeting of the SADC Organ that was going to be held in Zimbabwe on the situation in Zimbabwe. We know that that meeting did take place, we know that that meeting did not conclude because there were some sticky points that still require resolution. We know that in the final communiqué there was a decision that perhaps there should be a Summit involving all the Heads of State and Government in SADC. I think our leaders are currently in consultation around the suitable dates but we do know that on the 4-5 November there will be, as part of preparations for the Summit, there will be a Ministerial meeting of the Committee of the Organ in Maputo. We still await the dates for the actual summit.
Again, to emphasise what we have already said, South Africa’s view is really to try and press for the speediest possible solution to that problem. We believe that it is very important that the government and people of Zimbabwe begin to be in a space where they can focus on the reconstruction and our appeal goes to the leaders of Zimbabwe to try and demonstrate leadership, statesmanship and rise to the challenge essentially that they are faced with. Most of us can only play a supportive role to this but however, South Africa’s commitment to try to do whatever is possible to assist them to arrive at that outcome will continue.
SOUTH AFRICA – EUROPEAN UNION JOINT COMMITTEE
We will also next week be hosting a meeting of the Joint Co-operating Council of the European Union. This will be 9th meeting of the South Africa – European Union Joint Co-operating Council. Now as you know, in the partnership between South Africa and the European Union we have different levels of interaction. We previously reported on the Summit that was held in Bordeaux in July 2008. This was preceded by a Ministerial meeting.
The meeting in Cape Town 3-4 November 2008 next week is essentially a meeting of the negotiators – as you know, in the agreement we have with the European Union, there are many identified areas of co-operation. We are still negotiating agreements on exactly what needs to be done especially with regard to the coming into effect of the TDCA.
We will be looking at other areas – Revenue Services, Science and Technology, Trade, all the other areas that have to be operationalised as a result of the full implementation of the TDCA.
Comments by DDG Africa Bilateral Mxolisi Nkosi
SOUTH AFRICA – DRC BINATIONAL COMMISSION
South African President Kgalema Motlanthe will on Thursday 30 October 2008 depart from South Africa for Kinshasa, the Democratic Republic of Congo where he is expected to lead a senior South African government delegation on a Working Visit to the country during which co-operation between the two countries will be reviewed.
President Motlanthe will be supported by Ministers Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, Mandisi Mpahlwa, Charles Nqakula, Barbara Hogan and Masenyani Richard Baloyi.
This visit should be viewed within the context of ongoing attempts by South Africa to strengthen and consolidate bilateral political, economic, social and technical relations with African countries. The visit will indeed go a long way in reinforcing ongoing efforts aimed at assisting the DRC in its effort towards post conflict reconstruction and development.
Presidents Motlanthe and Kabila will use the occasion to review progress with regards to the implementation of bilateral projects within the framework of the existing binational commission between South Africa and the DRC.
In this regard, they are going to review progress in a number of areas, mainly progress within the framework of the commission on politics and governance, the commission on defence and security, the commission on economics, finance and infrastructure as well as the commission on social and humanitarian affairs.
Politics and Governance
South Africa is currently involved with the training of civil servants in the DRC and specifically the Department of Foreign Affairs is going to embark on the second phase of the training of Congolese diplomats. We think this is an important area because it will enable the government of the DRC to deploy envoys in various parts of the world who will be able to promote the interests of the DRC and who will also be able to promote a positive image of their country which will contribute to the ongoing efforts of assisting the Congo to emerge from the cycle of violence, underdevelopment and poverty.
You are also involved that we are involved in the restructuring of the Department of Public Service and Administration of the Congo. We are involved with the Civil Service Census to assist the authorities in Kinshasa to know how many officials they have in their employ and also to know where they are located and their responsibilities.
We are involved with an Anti-Corruption project within the public service and also in a project involving the decentralisation of the services of government because as you know, the Congo is a vast country and it will be impossible to run the operations of the country from the capital of Kinshasa so it was felt that the authority and administration of government services should be decentralised and should be spread along the length and breadth of the country. The South African department of Public Service and Administration is the principle organ of our government that is entrusted with the responsibility of implementing this project.
You know that we are also involved with the whole issue of developing a national population register for the Congo. There are a number of figures that are being bandied about regarding the total population of the Congo and as part of efforts to reconstitute that country, and indeed reconstitute the state we are assisting them with the whole issue of developing a national population register.
We are also assisting them with the production of identity cards.
With respect to the Defence and Security Commission, you are aware that Minister Nqakula undertook a visit in his capacity as Minister of Defence to the DRC a month ago where he reiterated South Africa’s ongoing commitment to assist with the integration of the armed forces of the Congo and also assisting the development of the Congolese Armed Forces so that indeed they have to capacity to defend and protect the territory of the DRC. In this respect, we are engaged in an ongoing programme of training and assisting with the integration of the armed forces in the Congo.
We are also supporting the institutionalisation of the framework of policy in the DRC.
With respect to the Economy, Finance and Infrastructure Commission, we are involved with the rehabilitation of INGA I and II. You know that these are hydro power plants with the capacity to provide electricity and energy generally, not just to Southern Africa but to Europe and the whole of the Middle East if they can operate to their full potential.
We are also involved with the regulation, marketing and evaluation of the diamond sector in the DRC. You know that the DRC has got massive diamond deposits amongst other natural resources that are found in abundance in that country. So we are assisting them to regulate this industry so that the country can benefit from the revenues that flow from the mining and the sale of diamonds and this we believe will go a long way in ensuring that the country has the capacity to deal with the twin challenges of poverty and underdevelopment.
We are involved also in efforts to build the capacity to collect revenue. As you are aware, we have signed two agreements with them in this respect – the Avoidance of Double Taxation Agreement and the other is a Customs Agreement. We believe these agreements will go a long way in assisting them to collect the necessary revenue that will be used as part of the national pool to deal with a number of challenges that they face. Currently our South African Revenue Services have indicated their readiness to assist with building the capacity with their Congolese counterparts so that they can have indeed the requisite capacity to contribute towards the collection of revenue.
And lastly, we are involved with the Bas-Congo Spatial Development Initiative which is an initiative that a huge capacity to attract investments and also a huge potential towards contributing to the industrialisation of the Congo.
Lastly, on the Social and Humanitarian Affairs Commission, there is ongoing collaboration and co-operation between our departments of education and social development with a view to ensuring that we also build the requisite capacity in the Congo.
Finally, as the DG has mentioned, the two Presidents will not only discuss the bilateral issues but they will also take advantage of the opportunity provided by their meeting to discuss the situation in the eastern part of the DRC.
These will be the main issues that will inform the agenda of the working visit to President Motlanthe to the DRC.
Questions and answers
Question What are the current South African troop levels in MONUC? In view of your wish that MONUC be further capacitated, will you deploy more South Africans, particularly to the east?
Answer The fact of our general inclination that the capacity of MONUC should be strengthened does not necessarily suggest that South Africa itself is in a position to add to the troop levels that we currently have. We have something in the region of 1250-1260 men as part of MONUC.
As you know, one of the constraints we have currently is to deal with our other deployments particularly in the Sudan and Burundi. So there are certain limitations with regard to South Africa’s own contribution but having said that, we are off the firm view that we need to enhance the capacity because in the enhanced capacity also lies the credibility of MONUC. So that is the first issue.
Question Again with regard to the DRC, are you in contact with both General Nkunda and the Rwandan government on this issue?
Answer I am unaware of any South African contact with General Nkunda but certainly there are ongoing discussions with both Presidents Kabila and Kagame.
Question You referred to the way in which the civilian population is currently perceiving MONUC – what is the current mandate of MONUC?
Answer It is difficult to say in detail what it is they are expected to do or not. Suffice to say, the most important thing however, is I am sure you are aware that a debate has been going on about whether in fact the broad mandate of MONUC should not be widened a bit and this relates to what is perceived by the forces on the ground as certain limitations they have in terms of the current UN Security Council mandate on the basis of which they operate. That is important.
Now, the problem with that is even if the UN Security Council, were to take a decision to review the mandate then off course, it would mean that all the troop contributing countries would have to consent because they had provided troops based on the current mandate. I think that is what the UN Security Council, in addition to the capacity, quite clearly, both the capacity as well as the mandate does feature quite prominently as some of the limitations that those who are commanding on the ground would suggest. So that would be my response to that.
The issue is that, and that is why I was saying that within addressing that, as well as the issue of capacity, that is why I was making the point that therein would lie the restoration of the credibility of MONUC for the simple reason that as you correctly point out, the civilian response is basically an outpouring of desperation because they see that here are the people who are here to protect us but they seem incapable of doing this. So until we deal with this, there is a real danger that these negative attitudes against the MONUC might begin to build up and create a very difficult situation there. That is why we believe we are at a point where the UN Security Council should really really reflect on the pleas that come from the common structures of MONUC on the ground.
Question Regarding the murdered soldier in Sudan – does the Department have any comments on this?
Answer Well, all I can say is that we have before we came to the briefing were trying to be more precise in ascertaining the veracity of the media reports. We are worried about that – we are concerned – our hearts go out to the family. But the reason that we have not come out more strongly on this issue is that we do not have all the facts around the circumstances that may have lead to this. We are in discussions with the Department of Defence to secure more details on this matter.
Again, as you would anticipate this will raise its own problems because it points to some other difficulties with respect to the peacekeeping mission in Sudan.
Question On Zimbabwe, most Zimbabweans seem to believe that the crisis has escalated to this level because SADC and South Africa has refused to point out which of the parties is refusing to share power. What is your comment on this?
Question Again on Zimbabwe, if no deal is finalised at the forthcoming SADC Summit, will the riot act be read to President Robert Mugabe? Do you think we have reached this level?
Answer You should understand that South Africa is working on Zimbabwe and is also part of the regional community. We have always made the point that we must separate between discussions that might take place with individual players as well as what perhaps we would particularly like to focus on.
Currently the focus to date has been on trying to assist both parties because at the heart of the Zimbabwe issue is the need to get both parties to probably exercise a respect of mutual respect and mutual trust because essentially, no matter what SADC and South Africa can say or do, the two leaders have to work together.
So the focus of the regional leadership, understandably, and in our view, correctly so, has been far more to assist the leaders to find each other. Whether a point will come for the riot act to be led to one or the other leader, let us wait for that time and for now, correctly so, we have gone through the correct steps on this. It is disconcerting that time has passed. However, we have had the Facilitator who called upon the Troika of the Organ to meet. The Troika could only go to a certain point and thereafter called for a full Summit of SADC. I think this is really what we should focus on now.
I think the SADC Summit, should it reach a point where a public pronouncement and apportioning of blame is required, I’m sure our leaders will not run away from this when the moment comes but the focus now is on how do you nudge the leaders to work together for a mutually acceptable solution to the problem because at the end of the day, they and only they have to work together – the leadership of Zanu-PF and the leadership of the MDC to help pull their country out of the current difficulties.
Question On the DRC as well, don’t you think that at the diplomatic level or even at a state-to-state level the Facilitation is quite slow? How many people will have to die before serious decisions can be taken?
Answer First of all, there have been appeals to General Nkunda to halt his operations. He seems to have declared a Unilateral Ceasefire for now which will be welcomed. Remember, for some time, there were skirmishes, but he has moved as he has in only a short time. Full scale heavy movement of huge amounts of troops started only last week. Before that there were skirmishes but no one would have thought he would move this speedily to capture as much ground as he has which points to the fear that some people have been having, that his logistical supplies are quite robust. So, I don’t believe we can say that there is not much that is happening given the nature of the humanitarian crisis but I think it is difficult, if you have dealt with the issue of Rwanda and the DRC because there are mutual accusations on both sides and off course, we are struggling just to ascertain the accurate situation. We know that statements made by the armed forces of the DRC have not been verified by MONUC. It is very difficult just to understand what is going on. Then to understand the nature of the involvement of Rwandan troops but before you can work on this, you have to have concrete evidence but my sense is that there is a lot of activity by our leaders currently trying to appeal particularly for President Kagame to put as much weight as possible on General Nkunda.
I don’t think there is much more that can be done – I think people are trying to move quite speedily in the diplomatic arena.
Question Experts believe that his unilateral ceasefire is merely a ploy to enable him to move his equipment and weapons to the right place?
Answer Let’s accept that he has made this decision about the ceasefire now. We have heard that he is about 6km away from Goma which is pretty close. I don’t think that MONUC of the armed forces of the DRC, if Nkunda makes a move again and they are unable to stop him, I don’t think it will be because they did not anticipate his movement but rather because they are incapable of stopping him which is a slightly different thing. I think the difficulty is that there is a real shift of military balance in the region and that is what is making it very difficult. But at the same time we know of areas that he has captured. It will be a to and froing if we merely look at the military situation and the biggest losers will be the civilian population. That is why our view has been that much effort should be put on finding a political, diplomatic solution. There will be temporary victors if we focus on the military solution.
Question For how long will President Motlanthe be in the DRC and which provinces will he visit?
Answer He will arrive in the DRC later today, the Working visit begins early tomorrow Friday 31 October 2008 and he will return to South Africa tomorrow afternoon.
He will be visiting only Kinshasa.
Question The United States will go to elections on Tuesday 4 November 2008. What is the view of South Africa as far as these elections are concerned?
Answer South Africa has had a pleasant experience of working well with both the Republican and Democratic administrations in the United States. We are obviously observing what will happen very closely. Our preliminary assessment is that when it relates to bilateral relations with South Africa or when it relates to engagement with the continent, there is nothing that has been pronounced by any party that is fundamentally different from what we would expect so we are looking forward also to seeing who is the actual victor of the elections on the 4th. But South Africa will follow those processes to its logical end and work with whomever emerges as the victor.
Question You seem to be clearly concerned about the situation in the DRC. You are also clearly receiving good intelligence. The DRC is landlocked. How and from whom do you think General Nkunda is being reinforced?
Answer I really would not want to get into this. It is really a very difficult issue and particularly because it begins to stray too much into the world of speculation which does not help in this situation. What we do know however is that of the bases of the armed forces that he has overrun, he has been able to capture weapons and arms which obviously is something that is worrying. I don’t think we are in any position to verify accusations and counteraccusations regarding who may have helped him arm himself because we do not have any concrete evidence for that.
We are worried about what is happening in the east but again, look at it within the context of what I have said. What is of great sadness is that it is detracting from a lot of progress that is being registered in the rest of the territory of the DRC over the last 18 months since the establishment of a democratic government.
I have just returned from the DRC and what also saddens you is that at a time when people need to be devoting all of their attention to the challenges of reconstruction, they also have to look at this problem which quite frankly does not have an easy end in sight.
Issued by Department of Foreign Affairs
Private Bag X152
30 October 2008