Notes following Press Briefing by Deputy Minister Aziz Pahad, Union Buildings, Pretoria, 12 March 2008

ANNOUNCEMENTS

STATE VISIT BY HE DR SUSILO BAMBANG YUDHOYONO, PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF INDONESIA

The South African President Thabo Mbeki will host his Indonesian counterpart President Dr Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on a State Visit to South Africa scheduled to take place from Saturday – Tuesday, 15-18 March 2008. This is the first State Visit by an Indonesian Head of State to South Africa. President Mbeki visited Indonesia in April 2005 on a State Visit and to attend the Asia-Africa Summit which he co-chaired with his Indonesian counterpart.

This was followed by a visit to South Africa by the Indonesian Vice-President,  Mr Jusuf Kalla in September 2005. Deputy President Mlambo-Ngcuka reciprocated by visiting Indonesia in April 2006.

South Africa and Indonesia have strong historical ties dating back to the times of colonialism and both countries were Dutch Colonies. The two countries are also bound together by blood and cultural ties and there are many people of Indonesian descent in South Africa whose ancestors were brought as slaves to the Cape.  The City of Cape Town remains the primary destination for Indonesians travelling to South Africa. There is also a strong bond resulting from religious ties between Indonesians and the Cape Malays. Since the visit of the Indonesian Vice President to South Africa there was a 34.8% increase in Indonesians visiting South Africa.

The aim of the visit is to further strengthen and deepen the good relations existing between South Africa and Indonesia. The two leaders are expected to discuss bilateral, political and trade issues. They will also review progress on priority areas identified during the visit of President Mbeki to Indonesia in 2005 and subsequent visits by both the Vice President and the Deputy President. It is envisaged that several agreements will be signed to further consolidate the existing relations.

Since President Mbeki’s visit to Indonesia, progress has been made in building a solid base for close cooperation on the areas that the two Heads of State identified as priority areas. These include: Trade and Investment, Finance and Banking, Tourism, Agriculture, Arts and Culture, Education, Science and Technology and Security. This is reflected in the exchange of high level visits between Ministers, Premiers and Senior Government Officials.

During President Mbeki’s visit to Indonesia in 2005, the Asian and African countries at the Asia-Africa Summit adopted a framework for Inter-Continental Solidarity to be defined by focus on Human Resource Development, Economic Cooperation and exchange of information. The two leaders as co-chairs of this initiative which was translated into the New Asia-Africa Strategic Partnership (NAASP) will also review progress in preparation for the next Asia-Africa Summit which is scheduled to take place in 2009, in South Africa.

SOUTH AFRICA AND INDONESIA TRADE RELATIONS

The two-way trade of South Africa and Indonesia has expanded by 18% to USD 641.7 million in 2006, in comparison with 2005. The trade between the two countries is annually increasing at about 15+%, however, the trade figure is significantly in favour of Indonesia, as is the case with nearly all South Africa’s trade partners in Asia. 
 
Table:

Bilateral Trade Statistics of South Africa – Indonesia (USD ‘000)


Year SA Exports SA Imports Trade Balance Total Trade Increase
2005 226,631 323,932 -97,301 550,563 27%
2006 212,423 429,305 -216,882 641,729 18%
2007*) 213,173 417,453 -204,280 630,626 -

*) Provisional: until August 2007

South Africa’s main exports to Indonesia are: pulp of wood; base metals and steel articles; chemicals; machinery/mechanical/electrical equipment; fruits and fruit juices.

South Africa’s main imports from Indonesia are: machinery and appliances; plastic products; palm oil; textile and textile articles and chemicals.

Both our countries are conscious that our economic relations can be increased sunstatively.

South Africa and Indonesia have concerted their efforts to explore areas of co-operation. The Indonesian National Agency for Export Development (NAFED) and the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KADIN) are very active in facilitating Indonesian business in a number of trade promotion and exhibitions in South Africa. Meanwhile, South African companies such as DigiCore, Skyriders, Fresh World, Explochem, Denel, AEL, Standard Bank, several wineries, such as KWV, Distell International, Cape Bay, De Wetshof, etc., are active in exploring opportunities in Indonesia.

As part of efforts to consolidate trade agreements and addressing impediments in trade relations, South Africa and Indonesia launched the Joint Trade Commission (JTC) meeting in May 2006. The JTC is tasked with reviewing existing trade relations, identifying obstacles and barricading effective flow of trade between the two countries.   

JOINT MINISTERIAL COMMISSION BETWEEN SOUTH AFRICA AND ETHIOPIA, 17 – 18 MARCH 2008

The launch of the South Africa – Ethiopia Joint Ministerial Commission is scheduled to take place from 17 to 18 March 2008 in Pretoria.  The Ethiopian delegation will be led by the Ethiopian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Minister Seyoum Mesfin, who will be accompanied by the Ethiopian Ministers of Trade and Industry; Culture and Tourism and senior officials.

On 17 March 2008, Senior Officials from both South Africa and Ethiopia will meet to discuss possible areas of co-operation.  On 18 March 2008, Minister Dlamini Zuma and her Ethiopian counterpart, Minister Seyoum Mesfin will hold bilateral discussions on South Africa – Ethiopia bilateral relations, the Eritrea – Ethiopia border dispute, Ethiopia’s involvement in the Somali conflict; the domestic situation in Ethiopia and other issues of mutual interest.

Bilateral discussions will be followed by the launch of the Joint Ministerial Commission and the signing of the following agreements:

  • Joint Ministerial Commission Agreement;
  • Agreement for the Reciprocal Promotion and Protection of Investment;
  • Agreement on Cooperation in the Fields of Arts and Culture; and
  • Memorandum of Understanding regarding Industrial and Technical Cooperation.

The launch of the JMC comes in the context of strengthening bilateral relations with Ethiopia.  The JMC will serve as the mechanism for monitoring and implementing decisions taken by the two countries on areas of co-operation. 

The General Co-operation Agreement between South Africa and Ethiopia was signed on 17 March 2004 by Minister Dlamini Zuma and her counterpart during Minister Dlamini Zuma’s official visit to Ethiopia. 

South Africa’s relations with Ethiopia are largely defined by trade.  Total trade between the two countries is US$41.7 million, with South Africa’s exports to Ethiopia amounting to US$38.6 million, and imports from Ethiopia amounting to US$3.1 million.

Minister Seyoum Mesfin will depart South Africa on 19 March 2008.

DEPUTY MINISTER AZIZ PAHAD TO HOST BULGARIAN COUNTERPART FOR POLITICAL CONSULTATIONS

The Deputy Foreign Minister Aziz Pahad will on Friday 14 March 2008 host his Bulgarian counterpart Deputy Minister Feim Chaushev for political consultations at the Diplomatic Guest House in Pretoria.  This will be the first discussion with my counterpart since Bulgaria joined the EU.

The political consultations will take place within the context of South Africa’s priority to consolidate bilateral political, economic and trade relations as well as multilateral relations with Bulgaria.

Issues on the agenda of discussions between Deputy Minister Aziz Pahad and Deputy Minister Feim Chaushev are expected to include, among others:

  • The status of bilateral political, economic relations between the two countries.  In 2004 Bulgaria declared South Africa as it’s most strategic partner in Africa.
  • Developments in Africa, the European Union (EU) and the Balkans;
  • Bulgaria is well known for its high levels of expertise in the fields of science and technology and bilateral cooperation in the fields of skills development within the framework of ASGISA and JIPSA will be discussed;
  • Peace-keeping and post-conflict reconstruction within the framework of  trilateral programmes in Africa between Bulgaria and South Africa;
  • Other issues of mutual interest.

Bilateral Economic Relations

Bilateral trade between South Africa and Bulgaria has developed steadily since 1994. During 2007 trade amounted to approximately ZAR183 861 million, with the balance in trade favouring South Africa. 
 
Following the accession of Bulgaria to the EU in 2007, the entering into effect of the Trade Development Co-operation Agreement (TDCA) is expected to stimulate bilateral trade between the counties.

South African trade for the period 2005 – 2007 ( R’000):

Year    Import           Exports            Trade Balance          Total Trade     Annual
                                                                                                            .......Growth%

2005    39 536             26 817             -32%                            66 353             +28%
           
2006    75 853             40 490             -34%                            116 343           +75%

2007    70 549             113 312           +59%                           183 861           +58%

Main exports to Bulgaria:  mineral products, wool, citrus and deciduous fruit, tobacco, granite, plaster and cement, chromium ores and prepared foodstuffs.

Main imports from Bulgaria: chemical products, machinery and mechanical appliances, automotive parts, vegetable products, prepared foodstuffs, textiles and plastic articles.

AFRICA

KENYA

The South African Government welcomes the announcement on 28 February 2008 that after eight weeks of intense mediation efforts, consensus on a Coalition Government was reached.  This is a very important development for the peoples of Kenya, the region and the continent.  Kenya is one of the key countries in Africa and a united, peaceful and prosperous Kenya is essential for Africa’s developmental agenda.

The Power sharing deal

Under the deal, as encapsulated in the Agreement on Principles of Partnership of the Coalition Government, Raila Odinga and his Orange Democratic Movement will share power with President Mwai Kibaki and his Party of National Unity and its allies. The parties have agreed to enact the National Accord and Reconciliation Act 2008, (hereinafter referred to as The Act) whose provisions have been agreed upon in its entirety and which will be entrenched in the Constitution.

The Act contains provisions for the settlement of the disputes arising from the presidential elections of 2007 and the formation of a Coalition Government. It also provides for the establishment of the Offices of Prime Minister, two Deputy Prime Ministers and Ministers of the Government of Kenya. The key provisions of the Act can be summarized as follow:

The Prime Minister of Kenya will have authority to coordinate and supervise the execution of the functions and affairs of the Kenyan government. He will be an elected member of the National Assembly and the parliamentary leader of the largest party in the National Assembly, or of a coalition, if the largest party does not command majority. Each member of the coalition shall nominate one person from the National Assembly to be appointed a deputy Prime Minister. It provides further that the Cabinet will consist of the President, the Vice-President, the Prime Minister, the two Deputy Prime ministers and other ministers. The removal of any Minister of the coalition will be subject to consultation and concurrence in writing by the leaders. The Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Ministers can only be removed if the National Assembly passes a motion of no confidence with a majority vote.

The composition of the coalition government will take into account the principle of portfolio balance and will reflect their relative parliamentary strength. The coalition will be dissolved if the Tenth Parliament is dissolved; or if the parties agree in writing; or if one coalition partner withdraws from the coalition.

The Establishing of Commissions and Committees

  • The Commission of Inquiry on Post-Election Violence

This Commission is a non-judicial body with the objective to eradicate impunity and to promote national reconciliation in Kenya. It is mandated to investigate the facts and surrounding circumstances related to acts of violence that followed the 2007 Presidential elections. It is further mandated to investigate actions or omissions of state security agencies and to recommend measures of a legal, political or administrative nature. This will include measures with regard to bringing to justice those responsible for criminal acts.

  • The Commission on Truth, Justice and Reconciliation

 This Commission will enquire into human rights violations (including that committed by the state, groups and individuals) which took place between 12 December 1963 and 28 February 2008. It will provide no blanket amnesty for past crimes.

  • The Independent Review Committee

 This Committee is mandated to investigate all aspects of the 2007 Presidential Election and make findings and recommendations to improve the electoral process and legislation. The Committee will be a non-judicial body made up of Kenyan and non-Kenyan recognised electoral experts of the highest professional standing and personal integrity. This Committee must commence its work no later than 15 March 2008 and should produce a report within 3-6 months. Judge Kriegler from South Africa is the Chairperson of the 7 member Independent Review Committee.

The Constitutional Review Process

On 4 March 2008 the Parties to the Kenya National Dialogue and Reconciliation agree to the following general parameters and principles for the establishment of a constitutional review processes, bearing in mind the agreement reached on 1February 2008 to deal with long-term issues and solutions that may have constituted the underlying causes of the prevailing social tensions, instability and cycle of violence.  The process will consist of five stages and there will be consultation with stakeholders in each stage: Firstly, an inclusive process will be initiated and completed within 8 weeks to establish a statutory Constitutional Review including a timetable.  It is envisaged that the review process will be completed within 12 months from the initiation in Parliament. Secondly, parliament will enact a special ‘constitution referendum law’ which will establish the power and enactment processes for approval by the people in a referendum. Thirdly, the statutory process will provide for the preparation of a comprehensive draft by stakeholders with the assistance of expert advisers. Fourthly, parliament will consider and approve the resulting proposals for a new constitution and lastly, the new constitution will be put to the people for their consideration and enactment in a referendum.

The South African government welcomes these agreement and will give all possible humanitarian and political support to the process.

BURUNDI

As you are aware Paliphehutu-FNL pulled out of the talks, interalia, because of “security concerns”. They also believed that the Facilitation was not dealing enough with the political issues, and that the process had become much more technical, interalia, dealing with the DDR processes and the reintegration process. These concerns were addressed.
 
We now have a renewed mandate. The regional initiative has given the Facilitation team one year to conclude this process

A meeting was held in Cape Town on 21- 22 February 2008 with all members of the international community involved with the Burundi situation, to discuss the Programme of Action.  The meeting agreed to a Programme of Action.

The Programme of Action – in six months Facilitation is hoping to complete the DDR and the reintegration process. The next six months; hoping to oversee the implementation of the ceasefire. South Africa is guarantors on behalf of the regional initiative. Also during the second phase; we will deal with the developmental aspect about those going into the army; some are going to be involved in the political institutions;  combatants, both of the Paliphehutu-FNL and the government who are not absorbed, what to do about these?

The Programme of Action was discussed on 29 February with the FNL and government and the agreement was that in the beginning of April the JVMM process will begin. We have a team in Dar Es Salaam  for the purposes of dealing with the concerns raised.

Beginning of May the leadership of the FNL will return to Burundi. This includes Rwasa and the rest of the leadership that is in Dar Es Salaam; and by the end of June, the DDR processes will be completed and the beginning of the developmental aspect.
 
The Facilitation is confident that despite continuing challenges and violence, e.g. the simultaneous grenade attacks on the homes of the four parliamentarians, the process in on track.  We urge the Burundian leaders to seize the opportunity in the interest of their people and country.

ZIMBABWE

As you are aware there are 17 days remaining for the elections of the President, the House of Assembly, the Senate and the local government.

The four presidential candidates; President Mugabe, Dr Simba Makoni [independent], Mr Morgan Tsvangirai [MDC] and Mr Langton Towungana, [independent] have been actively campaigning.

There are 20 registered parties contesting the elections. 730 candidates have successfully filed their nomination papers to contest 210 House of Assembly constituencies and 196 are contesting the 60 Senate seats.

Observers

The Zimbabwean government has announced that on the basis of their objectivity, fairness and impartiality in their assessment of and commentary on the situation in Zimbabwe  the following countries and organisation have been invited to send observes to the March 2008 harmonized elections:-

Regional and Sub-Regional Organisation:-

  • African Union Commission (AU)
  • Southern Africa Development Community (SADC)
  • Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA)
  • Non-Aligned Movement (NAM)
  • Economic Community of West Africa (ECOWAS)
  • Africa, Caribbean and the Pacific (ACP)
  • Pan African Parliament (PAP)
  • Caribbean Community (CARICOM)
  • Economic Community for Central Africa States (ECCAS)
  • East African Community (EAC)
  • Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN)
  • MAGHREB Union
  • Community of Portuguese Speaking (Lusophone) Countries (CPLP)
  • Inter-Governmental Authority On Development (IGAD)

Individual Africa Countries

SADC Countries:-

  • Angola
  • Botsawana
  • Democratic Republic of Congo
  • Lesotho
  • Madagascar
  • Malawi
  • Mauritius
  • Mozambique
  • Namibia
  • South Africa
  • Swaziland
  • Tanzania
  • Zambia

Other African Countries:-

  • Senegal
  • Algeria
  • Egypt
  • Kenya
  • Nigeria
  • Ghana
  • Libya
  • Uganda
  • Ethiopia
  • Sudan

 Asia:-

  • Brazil
  • Jamaica
  • Venezuela
  • Nicaragua

Europe:-

  • Russia

Liberation Movement:-

  • 12 December Movement

 SADC Observer Team

The first group of the SADC election observer team arrived in Zimbabwe and began its work on 11 March 2008.

The Director of the Organ on Politics, Defence and Security at the SADC Secretariat, retired Lieutenant-Colonel Tanki Mothae, said the observers were arriving in teams.  “We will be working under the auspices of SADC.  This is in line with the SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections.

The SADC Secretariat is facilitating the accreditation of election observers and they will soon be deployed to various parts of the country soon after the official launch.

A preliminary team of the SADC observer mission was in Zimbabwe in mid-February.

It was after that preliminary assessment that we were able to determine the number of observers needed and wrote to member countries to nominate at least 10 observers because there are many constituencies in this election.”

In a related matter, an African Union assessment team is already in Zimbabwe to examine the logistics for the elections. The team was expected to leave yesterday after which the AU observer team will come in.

South Africa to send delegation to observe Zimbabwe polls

South Africa will send 54 observers to the Zimbabwean elections. The delegation will include Government officials and 15 MPs from a multiparty parliamentary contingent. The special envoy to the Great Lakes region and former High Commissioner to Zimbabwe, Mr Kingsley Mamabolo, will lead the South African group, with Deputy Speaker Andries Nel, of the ANC, leading the MPs. The parliamentary group is expected to be announced after a sitting of both houses today. Nine ANC MPs, two Democratic Alliance MPs and one MP from the Inkatha Freedom Party, the United Democratic Movement, Azanian People's Organisation and the African Christian Democratic Party will form part of the team.

An advance observer group of 10 South Africans left for Zimbabwe on 8 March 2008.  The rest of the team will be deployed on 20 March 2008 and return on 1 April 2008.

These observers will form part of the SADC Observer Team, which will be under the leadership of Angola, which is the current Chair of the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security.

Some developments

At the weekend the Zimbabwe government published new electoral regulations stipulating that the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission officials and election agents of candidates are the only ones allowed into polling stations and permitted to be present during vote counting and the opening of postal ballot boxes.

ZEC has also published guidelines for election coverage by the media, which are required to be fair and objective in their news reports.

EU Council on Zimbabwe

The Council remains very concerned about the humanitarian, political and economic situation in Zimbabwe and conditions on the ground, which may endanger the holding of free and fair Parliamentary and Presidential elections.  The Council notes that no formal invitation has been made to the European Union to send an official EU Observation Mission.

The Council therefore urges the government of Zimbabwe to ensure that the forthcoming elections meet international norms and standards including the African Charter of Democracy, Elections and Governance and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) principles and guidelines concerning elections, of which Zimbabwe is a signatory.

The Council recognises the efforts of President Mbeki, on behalf of SADC, to improve relations between the government of Zimbabwe and the opposition and the progress achieved so far.  The Council hopes this process will continue in order to settle fundamental issues and that the changes agreed thereby will be implemented in such a way as to allow for the holding or free and fair elections.  The Council calls on the SADC countries to remain actively engaged.

COMOROS

A very dangerous situation is developing in the Comoros. A special AU Minister’s Summit on Comoros, held in Addis Ababa last month, agreed to send troops in support of Comoros President Abdallah Sambi.

This decision was made after Mohammed Bacar remained president of Anjouan Island after winning elections last year which were declared illegal by the central government of Comoros and all efforts at mediation failed.

Tanzania, Sudan, Senegal and Libya have provided troops for the mission.

Mr Madeira, the AU Special Envoy said:” We have made necessary efforts to have Mr Bacar submit to the democratic process in Comoros but he seems to be adamant and we have the consensus of everybody to take action against him”.  AU Troops have been strategically placed and are ready to strat their operations.

The mission of the forces is to take over the island, home to some 300,000 people.

AFRICAN AGENDA

In the wake of the growing reality that most of Africa will not meet the Millennium Development Goals, which interalia, seeks to half poverty in all countries by 2015 and deal decisively with HIV and AIDS and other infectious diseases the UN General Assembly on 4 March 2008 agreed to convene high-level meeting in September on Africa’s developmental needs, particularly since it is the only region not on track to meet the Millennium Development Goals by 2015.

The Assembly requested the Secretary General to submit to the gathering a comprehensive report with recommendations on “Africa’s development needs: state of implementation of various commitments, challenges and the way forward.”

The Assembly strongly urged all Member states to actively participate in the high level meeting.

The outcome would be a political declaration on Africa’s development needs.

The General Assembly resolved that the high level meeting must refocus the international; community’s attention to Africa, as well as review and assess the scope and adequacy of global support.

The MDG Africa Steering Group, was set up last September to help get Africa on track to meeting the ambitious goals in the Millennium Declaration. The second meeting of the Steering committee on 10 March 2008 identified several key programmes that needed to be implemented in the near future, including launching an African Green Revolution to speed up economic growth and tackle hunger; control infectious diseases provide comprehensive treatment and deliver emergency obstetric care to all.

The meeting resolved that to finance programmes, African countries needed to mobilise domestic resources, but it was absolutely vital to receive the support promised by development partners.  In some areas particularly in infrastructure, the private sector could provide important co-financing.

In line with the General Assembly resolution on 25 September the Secretary general and General Assembly President would convene a high level meeting on the Millennium Development Goals, bringing together world leaders, civil society and the private sector.
 
MIDDLE EAST

MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS

The Middle East region is the most volatile and the greatest threat to regional peace and international security.

The violence has escalated resulting in many deaths and injuries.  There is massive destruction of property and infrastructure in Occupied Palestinian territory.

The Israeli government has just announced the building of 750 new settlements.

We fully support the Secretary-General who on 10 March 2008 expressed his concern over the Government of Israel’s approval of a resumption of construction of 750 housing units in the West Bank settlement of Givat Zeev.  He stated that any settlement expansion is contrary to Israel’s obligations under the Road Map and to international law.  He called on the Government of Israel to halt settlement expansion and reiterated that the fulfilment of Road Map obligations by both parties is an important measure underpinning the political process between them.

The South African government also fully support the Secretary General’s statement on 1 March 2008, interalia, said:

“I condemn Palestinian rocket attacks and call for the immediate cessation of such acts of terrorism, which serve no purpose, endanger Israeli civilians and bring misery to the Palestinian people.  I call for an end to these attacks.

While recognizing Israel’s right to defend itself, I condemn the disproportionate and excessive use of force that has killed and injured so many civilians, including children.  I call on Israel to cease such attacks.  Israel must fully comply with international humanitarian law and exercise the utmost restraint.  Incidents in which civilians have been killed or injured must be investigated and accountability must be ensured.”

The South African government is deeply concerned that violence will continue to escalate and this will have serious negative consequences for the negotiating process and a two state solution.

Given the escalating violence, Arab foreign ministers, during an Arab Summit in Syria this month, threatened to freeze their peace initiative, unless Israel acts “positively'' toward the offer and ends an offensive on the Gaza Strip.

The initiative, proposed in 2002, calls for full Arab recognition of Israel, in return for Israeli withdrawal from the Arab land occupied in 1967 and establishing a Palestinian state on the West Bank and Gaza, with East Jerusalem as the capital.

The Secretary General, Amr Moussa said “we will not give any more concessions to Israel; we will not keep begging for peace. The initiative will be reactivated when Israel shows commitment to establishing a Palestinian state.'' 

President Abbas also suspended talks with Prime Minister Olmert.

Ahmed Qureia, the chief Palestinian negotiator, denounced Israel’s attacks as “a massacre of civilians, women and children, a collective killing”, adding that “what the Israelis are doing doesn’t lend the peace process any credibility.

After a telephonic conversation with Secretary of State Rice, the Palestinian president released a statement that the peace process was “strategic choice and we have the intention of resuming.” 

South Africa believes that for progress to be made in the talks the Palestinians need something tangible to convince them that a negotiated peace can lead to the establishment of a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital. Confidence building measures are absolutely necessary, interalia, the dismantling of roadblocks, the halting of building of new settlements, the end to the military actions of the Israeli Defence Force, the stop to rocket attacks, the release of Corporal Shalit and Palestinian political prisoners are all necessary measures that can give a positive impetus to the negotiating process.

The South African government welcomes and supports the Egyptian initiative to end violence.  Since Sunday, Israel has not carried out military offensives in Occupied Palestinian territory and only one rocket and one mortar round have been fired into Israel.

President Abbas said that he thinks there is an agreement in principle on the proposed truce and that a deal might be reached within days.

Mohammed Bassiuni, Chairman of the Egyptian Parliament’s National Security Committee said; “for the moment we are at a preliminary stage; we are listening to all the parties so as to be able then to draw up a detailed and comprehensive initiative.”  He said the initiative is seeking to achieve a “period of calm”, an end to the blockade of Gaza and an exchange of prisoners.

Hamas said that it will help the Egyptian leadership to reach a reciprocal and simultaneous truce that will at the same time lead to the lifting of the blockade.

Prime Minister Olmert denied that Israel was involved in any talks on a ceasefire.
 
Briefings to the UNSC

The briefings by Mr Robert H. Serry United Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process and John Holmes, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator to the Security Council on 26 February 2008 is a matter of grave concern  and demands urgent and immediate international action.

Report of Mr Robert H. Serry, United Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process

  1. Security situation for Israelis and Palestinians deeply concerning. Particularly alarmed at the number children being killed or injured.
  1. Into Gaza and the West Bank continued several instances in which civilians have been killed injured such casualties are deplorable and should be the subject of transparent investigation and accountability measures. While cognisant of Israel’s security concerns, Israel is obliged not to take disproportionate measures or to endanger civilians. Extra-judicial killings compounded by the frequency which such operations are carried out in densely populated civilian areas.
  1. IDF operations continuing in the West Bank. These undermine the PA’s own security efforts.
  1. There are 580 obstacles to Palestinian movement in the West Bank - a level increase, despite PA security efforts and Israeli pledges to remove obstacles. Closure levels must be reduced significantly.
  1. Phase one of the Road Map requires the Government of Israel to freeze all settlements including “natural growth”, and to remove all outposts erected since March 2001. However, construction continues throughout the West Bank, including in East Jerusalem, new housing tenders continues to be issued and no outposts have been removed. Continued settlement activity is illegal anywhere and an obstacle to peace. Settlement expansion are among the biggest factors undermining confidence in the Annapolis process and prospects for a viable Palestinian State.
  1. Work on the barrier continues within Occupied Palestinian territory, deviation from the Green Line and contrary to the International Court of Justice advisory opinion.
  1. Situation in Gaza is unacceptable and also unsustainable in humanitarian, human rights, security and political terms. Causing deep suffering and damaging prospects for a two-state solution.
  1. Hamas has not acted with sufficient determination to bring about an end to rocket attacks. Hamas itself carries out periodic rocket firing and regular mortar fire. Reports of smuggling continue to be of concern.
  1. However measures amounting to collective punishment not acceptable. Call on Israel to meet its obligations toward the civilian population under international law.
  1. We should work towards resumption of normal economic life for the people of Gaza, pursue arrangements that ensure the security of Israel.  Egypt and Palestinians support the legitimate Palestinian Authority. Rocket fire and suicide attack should cease. The humanitarians needs must be met, including uninterrupted provision of essential goods and services, including fuel and power supplies. UN and other projects in Gaza should resume, the movement of UN and humanitarian personnel needs to be facilitated. Allow the reopening of crossing as envisaged in the Agreement on Movement and Access.
  1. Importance of the continued commitment of Arab countries to the Arab Peace Initiative. However growing concern regarding the direction of the peace process as well as developments in Gaza, at the implications for the region.
  1. In Southern Israel, communities face daily rocket attacks, Israelis generally continue to believe that they must primarily rely on Israeli security measures for their safety. In the region, growing sense of disquiet about the state of political process.
  1. Annapolis process can only be sustained by real changes on the ground. Major intensification of effort in the West Bank is required. In accordance with Phase One of the Road Map.
  1. The goal must be an end to the occupation that began in 1967 and the State coexistence in peace and security of the State of Israel and the  State of Palestine, and a comprehensive regional peace, in fulfilment of resolutions 242, 338, 1397 and 1515, and the Arab Peace Initiative.

Report by John Holmes, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator

Conditions for the people of Gaza are grim and miserable, and far from 'normal'. Eight months of severe restrictions on the movement of goods and people following the Hamas take-over in June 2007, have taken a heavy economic social toll, coming on top of years of difficulty and economic decline. Only about 10% of what went into Gaza in January 2007 was allowed to enter in January 2008. In October, Israel started to reduce the flow of industrial diesel used to operate the single power station in Gaza. In February, the amount of electricity supplied to Gaza from Israel was also reduced. Since June 2007, the movement of Palestinians in and out of Gaza became virtually impossible.

Almost 80% receiving food aid; most industry and agriculture activities have collapsed, raising unemployment and poverty heights; frequent and lengthy power cuts that severely impair the functioning essential services and infrastructure; water quality is declining rapidly, where it is available at all; inadequacies of the sewage system are increasingly exposed, medical and education systems are teetering on the edge of failure, lack of equipment, spare parts, qualified staff and psychological strains undermine their functioning. Children make up more than half of the population of Gaza. October 2007 the number of children under the age of three diagnosed with diarrhoea increased by 20%, anaemia up by 40%.

Continuing firing of Qassam rockets. More than 4,300 rockets since 2004. These crude rockets are aimed at hurting civilians and clearly constitute terrorism. Their continued firing is completely unacceptable and must be halted unconditionally. Hamas, accept its full share of responsibility. Must act to stop these rockets immediately.

However, whatever the provocation and illegality of the rockets, the effective Israeli isolation of Gaza is not justified. Amounts to collective punishment contrary to international humanitarian law. It does not appear having the desired effect of either halting the rockets or weakening Hamas' position. Only those who want to see further radicalization can be happy with the present situation.

Fundamental principles of distinction between combatants and non-combatants and of proportionality in attacks must be respected.

The current situation in Gaza is not sustainable, and is extremely damaging to the current peace process.

Conditions of West Bank of no less fundamental humanitarian concern. Combination of the Barrier, the steady expansion of the settlements, all still  illegal, and 580 separate check points and blockages within the West Bank is fragmenting communities. It seriously impairs the access of tens of thousands people to their land and to essential services, not least medical services. Severe restrictions on the movement of goods and people are affecting economic growth, as well as increasing poverty and food insecurity, reducing health standards. Viability of a future Palestinian state is being threatened.

In the West Bank, despair and sense of humiliation and injustice no less than in Gaza.

Israel has legitimate security concerns and a right and duty to defend its citizens. Security cannot override all other concerns or justify so much damage to ordinary people's livelihoods and infringements of their human dignity and human rights. Israel has obligations towards the Palestinian population under occupation.

The disconnect between realities and the hopes and aims of the continuing peace talks seemed almost total, and indeed risks making a mockery of the readiness of the international community to invest $7.7 billion dollars in economic development of the occupied Palestinian territory. Peace talks may be fatally undermined.

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

Question: Thank you Deputy Minister, I have got two questions to you. First regarding Comoros, is South Africa going to take part in this military intervention in Comoros – maybe some logistical support? The second one is regarding the announced signing today of a peace agreement between Chad and Sudan in Senegal within the framework of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC), do you think this agreement will make a breakthrough in this conflict and lay the basis for a long term solution? Thank you.

Answer: No at the moment I already named the countries that are supplying the troops and we assume that this European operation cannot be of such a scale that the countries that already committed the troops wouldn’t have the necessary equipment to allow them to carry out their tasks. However if they make a request, the defence Ministry will have to discuss whether, given the fact that we have got already so much commitment in Burundi, DRC, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Liberia, whether we can commit more.  And Darfur where things as they progress, we have a battalion we might have to – if we are asked – increase our numbers, whether we can commit more men and equipment to Comoros can only be a decision or recommendation by the military.   Yes I think the agreement that has been brokered through the auspices of the OIC in Senegal is an important one because clearly without peace between Sudan and Chad you can’t have any overall solution to the Sudanese problem generally and the Darfur problem specifically. What is gonna be important, like all previous agreements, is to ensure that parties that sign the agreement – because you remember there was a similar agreement in Libya about 5-6 weeks ago, after signing the agreement the tendency is to ignore the agreement. But given the seriousness of the situation unfolding in Darfur and its impact on the overall Comprehensive Peace Agreement in Sudan, we would hope that this time since it’s under the OIC the parties that have signed the agreement will now adhere to what they have signed because that’s absolutely necessary – what’s on paper is the start, what is implemented becomes important for us to move forward.

Question:  Minister on Zimbabwe, firstly on the observers, I just want clarity, the observers you mentioned – the 54 I think – are they going as part of the SADC observer mission? I think I understood you to say that – or are they a separate South African only observer mission? And secondly I would like to have South Africa’s comment on a bill that has been signed in Zimbabwe or enacted this week by President Robert Mugabe concerning the foreign ownership of companies, especially since this will be affecting many South African companies doing business there. Just from South Africa, what is our comment or position on that legislation? Thank you.


Answer: Yes our observers will be part of the SADC region under the leadership of Angola, which is at the moment the present head of the Organ on Politics, Defence and Security. Today the SADC mission should have been officially launched and we would have been given the details of the broad framework within which the SADC observer mission will function. As the member of the Secretariat, the SADC Secretariat has indicated we would be guided by the SADC Convention on Elections, Democracy and Good Governance and we now wait for the details of how the SADC team is going to be able to carry out its duties. We will be fully part of the SADC observer team. All countries were asked at minimum to supply ten observers, as you can see we are supplying 54 and this includes Parliamentarians from all parties which on its own should indicate that we are committed to ensuring that our observers are able to do the work diligently and properly.  The Indigenous and Empowerment Bill has just been signed into law. We are analysing this – we haven’t fully discussed it and as you can see there is already different interpretation on what this Bill entails and nobody is sure of the extent of it. It has to still go for public hearings; it must be then passed by the two houses and then signed on by President Mugabe. In the mean time what we are doing is studying this Bill more carefully and then we will initiate discussions with the South African business community to get an understanding of how they interpret the Bill and how we can work together to protect, in a broad sense, South African interests in Zimbabwe. But this will only emerge after our studying the Bill more, after getting better interpretations and one interpretation of how everybody is reading the Bill in Zimbabwe and then how we, following our discussions with the business community because they are best equipped to inform specifically how this and any other law will impact on them specifically. Because according to what Minister Mnangwagwa reportedly said in today’s papers, it should take five to ten years to implement; different companies would be handled differently; there is no talk of expropriation but the Zimbabwean Chamber of Mines themselves have asked for greater explanation. It is still early days and we are really keen to really begin to come to grips with its contents, its implications because in the end, as you know, SADC does have the task of helping Zimbabwe deal with the economic situation that they are faced with. So we will watch this very carefully in the context of our overall interaction and indeed with our private sector.

Question: On the Zimbabwean delegation I am trying to find out – the previous delegation was somehow unpopular with the South Africans, is there any special briefing that was given to the present delegation in order to maybe come with a type of report that would be credible?

Answer:  Yes there will be a briefing.  Already this afternoon Ambassador Mamabolo is meeting with some of the people to begin to brief them about the political and economic and other situations in Zimbabwe.  And after the launch of the SADC Observer Mission officially, and getting what the leader of the delegation, the Angolans propose, we’ll then give our team a much fuller briefing as to what is expected of them in Zimbabwe as they observe the elections.  Logistics are very difficult.  As we experienced last time we’ll have to make arrangements for much of the logistics to go from South Africa.  This includes transport, communication systems, because our people will in terms of the SADC understanding be posted throughout the country and not only in the urban areas.

Question: I would like to find out from the Deputy Minister what the department is saying about the allegations made by Simon Mann.

Answer:  I was surprised that anybody gives Simon Mann’s allegations of South African and Spanish involvement such prominence.  I haven’t seen the interview on Channel 4, but I’ve read what the Mail & Guardian (online) has written.  And infact he throws out one line that South Africa and Spain supported it, but gives no indication of in what way, how did we support it, whether we gave him funding, whether we gave him the nod, whether we arranged for passports, no indication.  So I think we must at the moment treat these allegations with the contempt they deserve.  And if he can come up with serious allegations of South African involvement, the relevant authorities must investigate this and take the necessary actions.  I don’t believe there’s any truth in it.  As you know Marc Thatcher in the plea bargain did accept that he was involved in the situation.  He was given a suspended sentence of four years and fine of R4 million plus.  He has now named a person of Lebanese origin living in Britain as a master behind the whole issue.  But he just throws in, at least in the article I’ve seen, South Africa and Spain just out of the blue.  He seems to say he got no nod from America, he got no nod from Britain.  Now he is saying he got a nod from us, I don’t know in what sense we had a nod.  I just can’t take it seriously.  Infact we would have been cooperating, our service we would have been incorporating to stop any attempt at a coup anywhere in Africa, as we’ve been doing on a regular basis.

Question: Apparently a meeting that was arranged between our President and the Chief Justice of Mauritius has been postponed, are there any reasons why this has happened if so?

Answer:  The meeting with the Chief Justice, I think Ronnie put out a statement.  It’s the Mauritius protocol that when a visiting head of state comes, and this is for all occasions, but for this particular occasion they don’t invite other heads of state, they only invite for each anniversary celebration one head of state.  Their tradition is you have to meet the leader of the opposition, the chair of the National Assembly, the Chief Justice and the Head of Government.  Clearly the time of the President and fact of the specific nature of the case that we are involved in at the moment, it would be inappropriate, even if the time allowed for the President to meet with the Chief Justice of Mauritius.  That would again be seen as interfering in the constitutional process of a sovereign and independent country.  I think what was put in the programme was a request and what was protocol of the Mauritians.  But when the relevant political authorities at Foreign Affairs saw this programme we were of the opinion, given his limited time and given the legalistic implications that such a meeting should not take place.  Nothing conspiratorial.

Question:  Deputy Minister, just the last and inevitable question about Zimbabwe.  What is our government’s position on the situation in Zimbabwe to the elections?  Do we believe the situation is prone to free and fair elections?

Question: Sorry Minister, to add on that, would you say that this government believes that the ground is now conducive for free and fair elections?  In other words, there has been a compliance with the SADC principles and guidelines for democratic elections.

Answer:  These questions are the same, can I tackle them together.  Just to recall, when SADC asked us to facilitate a process of bringing the two MDC factions and the government together, there were basically five agenda items.  And many of these items related to creating the conditions that would ensure that elections are free and fair.  Subsequently as you know through Amendment 18 in December, parliament jointly, between the two opposition factions and the government, passed this Amendment to deal with the two major laws that were seen as impediments.  That plus other factors that were put into place through the Constitution and through the Amendment, we believe was able to create the conditions to at least make it possible to follow the SADC guidelines to ensure that the elections are free and fair.  Of-course the problem arose on the question of the timing of the elections.  The opposition are saying that the elections came too soon, they should have consulted before they announced the date.  But this is a matter that the Zimbabweans must  resolve.  And whether the issue of this constitution that they’ve agreed to should be before the elections or after the elections, is related to the first question on the timing, is also a matter for the Zimbabweans to discuss.  I think now what we have to ensure, there are as you know, I see in our papers, much less complains about harassment, equal time on the media.  My own view on this we must ask all complainants, firstly, to submit these complaints to the Independent Electoral Commission so that it can, and they must investigate it.  They should similarly submit it to the SADC Observer Mission, which is going to be very strong.  And indeed through the SADC Observer Mission, I assume that this will be conveyed to the relevant leadership, including the facilitation team.  And indeed the opportunity must be taken if there are any complaints, alleged or real, they should really go through the processes of using the procedures as Amendment 18 and others allow to put this forward.  And then we can review whether these allegations were founded, unfounded.  And if they were founded what actions need to be taken to remedy them.  I think that that’s the only way we can work.  It’s not only SADC, there’s ECOWAS, ASEAN.  There are many observer missions representing many powerful countries with great traditions of democracy and good governance.  Therefore it is in the Zimbabwean people’s interest, and it is in the interest of SADC and Africa that we must do everything possible that nobody challenges the elections of not being free and fair.  Because all that will do, if we don’t assist the process and if people do feel it was not free and fair, then we will not have solved the problems the Zimbabwe people find themselves in now.  I don’t think its possible for the Zimbabweans to sustain the level of political tensions and economic crisis that they are undergoing at the moment.  So on paper the conditions are there.  We have to, through our participation in the observer mission and through our interaction, ensure that what has been enacted through Amendment 18 and through legislative changes, that conditions are free and fair for elections to take place.  But this is a matter we’ll view very seriously in the next 17 days and hope that nothing will undermine the processes to prevent people from campaigning freely, from mobilising freely, from using the media as the law now states.  Lets see how we can move forward.  I can’t predict, standing 12 days away, whether things are going to happen between now and then to undermine the whole process.  I do hope that the Zimbabweans are committed to making this work.  There’s a lot of excitement that this time things will be different.  Let’s test it.  That will be my view.
 
Issued by Department of Foreign Affairs
Private Bag X152
Pretoria
0001

12 March 2008

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