Briefing to the Media on Current International Issues by Foreign Affairs Director General Dr Ayanda Ntsaluba, Thursday 6 November 2008, Union Buildings, Pretoria


Most of the work certainly over this weekend will revolve really around the meetings related to the issues in the Great Lakes and also the meeting that will take place here of the SADC.

With respect to the Great Lakes, and this is in relation to the eastern part of the DRC within both security and humanitarian dimensions, we indicated last week that our overall sense is that a more lasting solution would have to be found within the context of political engagement of the parties involved in that conflict.  The situation has continued to deteriorate especially on the humanitarian side.  And this puts more pressure on all of us to act with greater speed.

It is in that context that first of all there will be a SADC Summit which will be hosted by South Africa at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg on Sunday 9 November 2008.

That Summit will examine concretely what contributions SADC can make towards a speedy resolution to the situation in the east.

Secondly, there was a meeting of the Defence Committee of SADC which met in Maputo.  That meeting will continue here on Saturday 8 November at the level of the Chiefs of Defence Forces of the region largely as a preparatory meeting for inputs into the Summit on Sunday.

You also would have picked up that there is the meeting that is going to take place in Nairobi on the Great Lakes which is going to take place tomorrow (Friday 7 November).  This meeting is taking place under the auspices of the International Conference on the Great Lakes. 

You will recall that last week we made specific reference to two landmark political points in trying to resolve the situation in the eastern part of the DRC.  We referred to the Armani Process or the Goma Process and we also referred to Nairobi.  This is a continuation of that now that we have reached this unfortunate stage with respect to the east.

So that will be happening on the eastern side, with respect to the DRC.

With respect to the second issue that will be on the agenda of the SADC Summit, we’ve got a stalemate with respect to the full implementation of the 15 September agreement between the parties in Zimbabwe.  The socio-economic situation continues to deteriorate.  Again there is far much more need for us to act with urgency and with speed to try and bring this matter to conclusion.

You’d also recall that this summit is a follow up to the meeting that took place at the level of the Organ Troika in Harare which did not succeed in breaking the logjam in a sense, and therefore referred this matter for the full consideration of the leadership of the region.  And so South Africa has been asked to host this meeting.

Maybe I should have mentioned that of course with respect to the issues in the east of the DRC, in addition to these initiative that I’ve spoken about, the UN is very involved in this. We’ve seen a lot of movement from the European side, the US is involved and also you would have picked up that the former Head of State of Nigeria former President Obasanjo has been appointed as a special envoy of the UN Secretary-General to the situation in the east of the DRC.


The other issue that I thought we should refer to is that the Minister of Foreign Affairs is currently out of the country basically to attend to two matters.  The first one is a very important meeting which will be taking place in Brussels on Tuesday 11 November. 

This is a SADC-EU consultation.  It is a regular meeting which takes place every two years.  Essentially it is meant to reflect on areas of cooperation and implementation of decisions taken.  As you know, the EU is a significant contributor or supporter to the programmes of SADC, covering a number of areas whether it is HIV and AIDS and other issues which are of significance to the region.  This will be a review meeting between SADC and the EU.


Minister Dlamini Zuma is in Copenhagen, Denmark where she will tomorrow Friday 7 November 2008 attend the Shield Placing Ceremony of the Order of the Knight of the Elephant and for political engagements with the Danish Government, scheduled for Thursday – Sunday 6 – 9 November 2008.

The Order of the Elephant, which was bestowed on former President Nelson Rholihlahla Mandela in 1996, is the oldest and most distinguished order and dates back to the 15th century. The statutes of the Order were established by Christian V on 1 December 1693.

The Order of the Elephant was bestowed on President Mandela by Her Majesty, The Queen of Denmark on Sunday 18 February 1996 during the state visit by the Queen, the Prince Consort and the Crown Prince of Denmark to South Africa.

However, twelve years after the order was awarded to former President Mandela, the installing of the shield in the Knights Hall of the Frederiksborg Castle in the town of Hillerød has not taken place.

In this regard, Minister Dlamini Zuma will attend the Shield Placing Ceremony.

While in Denmark, Minister Dlamini Zuma is also scheduled to meet with South African Ambassadors to Nordic countries on Thursday 7 November 2008 and to hold political discussions with the Danish Minister of Foreign Affairs Per Stig Møller and with the Danish Minister of Development Co-operation Ulna Tourneas.

As you know, all the Nordic countries are engaged in developments in South Africa and have been major supporters of some of our developmental projects.  They have been long-standing supporters even during the difficult periods in South Africa.  Overall our relations are good, so there is nothing really dramatic in the context of the discussions.  It is just to make sure that those discussions and relations remain on course.  So that’s where we are and those are the issues that we thought we should spend some time reflecting on.  Thank you very much.


Question: The Cabinet statement today said there would be hard steps proposed by South Africa for SADC to take on Zimbabwe. What was in mind? What kind of hard steps would be available for SADC to take?

Answer: I would really prefer not to comment on that because that would probably be something that emerged out of the Cabinet discussion. I was not privy to that so I am not in a position to say what would be those hard steps. Maybe GCIS will be in a better position to expand on that.

Question: Can you confirm if there will be a direct meeting between the Zimbabwe parties – Mr Tshvangirai and Mr Mugabe, and can you confirm whether former President Mbeki will attend the proceedings?

Answer: President Mbeki remains the facilitator. The facilitator is going to be central to the briefing to the Heads of State and Government as to exactly what happened. The format of the meeting will be difficult to say now but I do not expect it to follow a different format to previous meetings where not only do both parties but rather all parties participate. All of them have the opportunity to express their views to the Heads of State and Government.

As to whether there will be a direct meeting between Mr Morgan Tshvangirai, the Prime Minister designate of Zimbabwe and President Mugabe, I really cannot say.

Question: Which Heads of State will not be attending this Summit?

Answer: I am not in a position to say who will not be attending. All I do know is that early this morning – the last time I communicated to the Executive Secretary of SADC, who is the person doing all the rounding up of all the Heads of State there was four countries that he was still awaiting responses from. Of the others the impression I got was that eight of them were going to be full Heads of State who will be attending and the other three of those who responded might be either at Foreign Affairs or Deputy President level.

We have not finalised the details of that so I will not be sure now. As you would understand part of this has involved juggling a bit – there has been a lot of playing around with the dates. You might have picked up that before this was supposed to be on the eighth but there was a problem; then consensus was around the ninth. The tenth was also explored but it was quiet clear that it was bad to many people as the eighth.

Question: On Zimbabwe, what is your sense regarding what has happened between the SADC Troika meeting in Harare and this Summit on Sunday? Clearly there must have been some work in the back ground. Are you confident that a breakthrough can be reached and in your view are these outstanding issues being addressed by the parties bilaterally or through the facilitation process?

Answer: Now I do not think we are confident, all we can say is that we are hopeful that – whether that hope is more a reflection of our extreme wish that the issue can really be sorted out. As we have said before, we believe that the longer it takes the more complicated it becomes and secondly the longer it takes the more difficult the socio-economic situation becomes.

You know that there has been a lot of concern about how this issue is being handled in between the meetings, but I am not privy to all the interactions that the facilitator would have had between that meeting and now. So I cannot answer the question as to what specifically has happened in terms of whether there has been any emerging breakthrough with respect to the issues. But from where we stand we feel issues that were there before and as we indicated before we work on the basis that those are the issues that are still to be finalised.

Question: Can you clarify for me. Will the SADC Summit have a slot where it deals with the issue of DRC and on what day is the UN process also taking place and who (from SADC) will also be attending the UN meeting?

Answer: Firstly the international conference on the Great Lakes, as I said, South Africa was only formally informed about this meeting today, that is the only time we received the formal invitation and the meeting is tomorrow.

But as you know there had been a process that had already been kick-started within the SADC. It started with the Organ Troika meeting that was in Swaziland on the 20th of October. Then the issue has complicated since then and hence the decision that was taken that this Summit would address those. It may well be that some of the leaders will be able to go to Nairobi, in which case Nairobi will inform what would happen in the Sunday meeting but at the time we put this on the agenda it was largely because, if you remember, one of the parties – the DRC is a member of SADC, therefore the urgency for SADC, as SADC, to look at the situation.

But of course we also understand that there is a certain sense in which the international conference also has relevance to the sense that one of the parties that is somehow implicated, Rwanda, is part of the international conference of the Great Lakes but not a member of SADC.

So we do not see a contradiction, we just see that there is anxiety to try and deal with this situation and in any event within SADC it may well be that SADC does not reflect on how to bring about a resolution of the problem but SADC has got an ongoing programme of assistance to the DRC and obviously there are questions that arise now, especially with respect to what SADC can do as a region with respect to the humanitarian crisis also.

Question: The government in Burundi has arrested half the opposition – I was wondering if you have a comment on how it affects South Africa’s efforts to try to seal the peace process there. It does seem that the government is destabilising the situation?

Answer: We don not have all the information but all I can say is that I do know that the facilitator, Minister Nqakula and Ambassador Mamabolo were trying to rush to Burundi. All I can say is that as you will recall the briefing that Minister Nqakula gave here, we have been concerned about the developments in Burundi. We really think that there are elements of this that are really not pointing in the right direction. But as to the details; what precipitated this; I think only their visit as well as the report that they will give us after that will help clarify the issue. We do not see it as something that contributes positively to the situation there.

Question: I just took it that the SADC meeting was originally going to be a meeting of the Organ but now it is for SADC itself, is there a particular reason for that?

Answer: I am not certain on this to be quiet honest. The last time we spoke to the Executive Secretary it was always understood that it was going to be a Summit under the auspices of the Organ but of course these things are called at relatively short notice and then the issue now around preparations, as I understood it at that point in time there was a specific request made to South Africa if it could host the meeting. Now I am unaware of any other fundamental changes whether it is now SADC (Summit). But because it is going to be the same people maybe it will not be that the consultation that took place where the SADC Chair of the Organ, namely Swaziland and Vice-Chair, namely Mozambique might have asked South Africa, I really do not know, but for us the important thing is that it is the same people whom have asked that we host the meeting and that is what we are doing. And I must say that this structure thing between Organ and SADC it is not always clear-cut how we handle it.

Question: Would South Africa consider upping its defence forces in the Congo given the recent developments?

Answer: That is a very difficult question because here we really hit the difficulty between what we may wish to do and what our capacity really allows. You will recall the Minister of Foreign Affairs did refer to this issue. I think we start from the premise that we are trying to look at whatever form of support we can give, up to and including that. But we do understand that there are certain limitations that we have – we have spoken about those before – because of our commitments in other cases.

I know that our colleagues in the Department of Defence have been trying to reflect on what possibilities exist in case that comes out as something that needs to be done. Bearing in mind however that also our fundamental posture that we are assuming on this issue is that whatever else is done on the military front must only complement what fundamentally should be a political resolution, hence our anxiety to make sure that between the DRC and Rwanda the lines of communication are facilitated as best as possible

Question: What could be the reasons for the sudden outbursts of insurgency in the DRC? What political or other interests could be behind this because it is obviously very expensive to mount that kind of operation and what could be the decision on the table for DRC during the Summit?

Answer: The last time we spoke about this we stressed the fact that there are a lot of views about what are the driving forces to what is happening there; who is supporting who and all that. Our view is that those are very important and of course they should be on the table for real open reflection by the leaders involved in this.

However at the level of public pronouncement our option for now is to far much more to get as many people to rally around the need for resolving this problem as possible.

The situation is very difficult as we said the last time because in essence there is a lot of ground that Laurent Nkunda has gained in the course of this particular offensive, which obviously is complicating the situation of the armed forces of the DRC.  We all have known and we have said it before that is the basis of our involvement in the DRC to assist them building the army, but one of the major challenges that the DRC faces now and will face for a number of years to come up until the capacity of that army has been beefed up is that really it does not have the capacity to take charge and secure the full sovereign territory of the DRC and hence our focus of assistance all the time has to be that because until that is achieved in a place with a history that the DRC has, there will always be temptation for some form of insurgency precisely because of the appreciation of the limitation of the security forces.

Question: There was an agreement some time ago and the UNSC Ambassadors also discussed it with the DRC and they reached some agreement with Kabila to go after the FDLR first, and then Nkunda. The thinking behind that is that at least that would have removed the pretext that Nkunda uses for fighting – that he is protecting the Tutsi against the Hutu. Doesn’t there seem to be a sequence of events being followed? Isn’t part of the issue the capability of the DRC army?

Answer: Part of the problem with that is that it is specifically one of the issues that are being contested. It would be fair to say that is the understanding and it would be fair to say that if you speak to Rwanda on one side they will tell you that in effect the DRC has not honoured that. If you speak to the DRC they will say “we are trying but we have got limitations”. That is why I am saying that it is actually one of those issues that are very difficult because they require good will and level of trust which can only happen if there is constant open dialogue between the leaders of the two countries.

For both countries there are sensitive issues, because with Rwanda the issue of Genocide, as all of know, is a very sensitive issue. For the DRC, the eastern part of the Congo is one of the richest parts of the country. So there is a lot at stake and no peoples can sit and witness and not feel aggrieved if they feel that a lot of their natural resources are going to waste and other people are benefiting from that.

So it raises all sorts of emotions, that is why we say they can end up in a very long circular argument about it but the breakthrough has to be found unavoidably through dialogue between the leaders; building up trust.

Question: Sir I need to understand the weight of the SADC conference this weekend, both on the Zimbabwe issue and the DRC. On Zimbabwe, you have at least eight Heads of State coming; clearly if you do not want to waste people’s money there is got to be some outcome to this or working towards some definitive outcome on at least the Zimbabwe issue – the DRC issue I can understand it is broader than SADC even though South Africa has played a pivotal role in the peace in DRC. So SADC’s weight in this and South Africa’s weight in these issues, can you characterise all that please?

Answer: I guess you will have to put that in a bit of context. I do not think it would be fair to categorise all these meetings as having brought us to exactly the same point because if you recall during the August Summit here, a lot of the time was taken with facilitating to ensure that there was an agreement. The agreement was subsequently achieved, subsequent to the Summit on the 16th of September.

I personally think, and I think most of us believe, rightly or wrongly, but we believe that one of the things that assisted in making sure that that agreement was arrived at was actually the pressure that was put by the region. Remember that up to now the region has tried various means to try and bring this thing to some sort of conclusion but there have been some difficulties. But we also believe that the Heads of State, because it was not the decision of South Africa but of the Heads of State of the Troika of the Organ, for them to decide at that point that maybe this should be escalated to the full Summit. Those who took the decision themselves are very busy and I do not believe that they would have taken that decision if they did not think that there were some close facts of success. That is going to be difficult because all of us know the issues involved. Otherwise if it was easy it would have been resolved by now.

There is so much at stake quiet frankly that I guess everybody would like to be assured at the end of the day that if everything fails, we must all be able to put our hands on our hearts and say that we gave it our best shot.

Issued by Department of Foreign Affairs
P/Bag X152

6 November 2008

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