Notes following Briefing to Media by Deputy Foreign Minister Aziz Pahad, Imbizo Media Centre, 120 Plein Street, Cape Town, Thursday 5 June 2008

The Department of Foreign Affairs and various other government departments have regularly briefed the media.

It is our view, that over the years we have witnessed a disturbing tendency, inter alia, conscious or unconscious misunderstanding of issues raised or distortions of briefings given.

Let me cite some examples: two weeks ago I commented on the unprecedented attacks against foreigners in South Africa.  I said:

“The South African government condemns the unprovoked attacks by elements within our society against vulnerable foreign nationals.

It is our view that at this very difficult and challenging time, we should avoid sensationalism.  It is the role of the media to investigate more deeply growing reports of the involvement of criminal or other elements in instigating and provoking these attacks, largely against foreigners.  Journalists have a very important role not just to report elements of this phenomenon but to try to contextualise why this phenomenon has hit South Africa so seriously in the last few days.  I also believe that it is the time to avoid politicking and politicising this situation.

Let us not overlook the disturbing fact that sinister forces (I did not elaborate on these sinister forces) appear to have a hand in the escalation and spread of this repulsive behaviour which has regrettably led to the loss of innocent lives, both of foreigners and South Africans.

Let me clearly state, these attacks in South Africa are not unique to South Africa and I think that many people abroad are fully conscious, that even in their own societies, that given globalisation and other challenges, they have also experienced such phenomena. 

It is my view that until we receive a full report about what are the causes – criminal or otherwise – that have exploited a situation of concern for some of our people that foreigners are a scourge because they are taking away jobs and economic opportunities – this is a wrong perception because in many instances it is based on ignorance and provocation from many forces.  Whether it is related to Zimbabwe or other political forces in South Africa or other agendas – it is difficult for me to tell until we have the report from the inter-departmental committee and especially the police and other security services.  200 people have been arrested.  One hopes that this will open up the space to understand their motivations.  That the IFP and ANC have met is an important development between the two political formations to assess involvement by their parties.  The Secretary-General of the ANC has spoken on this matter and I think we agree with his view that we cannot come to any conclusions until we have more substantiated information.”

Peter Fabricius who was not at the briefings wrote Aziz Pahad likened “sinister” elements of the Third Force of right wingers inside and outside of the government, which states much of the apparently black and white violence between the ANC and the IFP during negotiations for a democratic South Africa.

He erroneously links this to the Browse report and to Zimbabwe and links my comments on the xenophobia and then inexplicably accuses the “Mbeki people” of suggesting that “there is a conspiracy by Western forces to take over the country (Zimbabwe).  Clearly their heads are firmly stuck in the conspiracy, spy vs spy, communist vs facist, working of the last century.”

He ends by asking – “must there always be a white right winger to carry the moral responsibility?”

I challenge Fabricius to substantiate his assertions that any South African government statement has referred to a western conspiracy regarding Zimbabwe and the role of white right wingers in orchestrating attacks against foreigners in South Africa.

It seems that Fabricius and others might have sources that we are not privy to.

However, as the Director-General of the Presidency Frank Chikane, in his briefing to the media yesterday indicated: while we have experienced this tendency in international relations it is in relation to Zimbabwe that we have seen it effected in its worst forms.

Recently, we have once again been subjected to front page headlines in the Sunday Times about a letter purportedly sent to President Mbeki by the President of the MDC Morgan Tshvangirai.  This was covered by all sectors of the media, including the public broadcaster, before efforts were made to ascertain the existence of such a letter.

The Sunday Times quoted widely from this letter which we believe, as said by Rev Frank Chikane, can only be aimed at undermining the facilitation process and is yet another example of using this to personally attack the President and denigrate the role of the Presidency.

Why does the media not try to determine whether such a letter exists.  I can reiterate what Rev Chikane yesterday said, that we categorically state that neither the President, the Facilitation team, nor Foreign Affairs has received this phantom letter.

But the Sunday Times boldly asserts that they have “assurances” that these letters were received and that there are acknowledgement of receipts from the Presidency.  It is significant that it is today reported that the spokesperson of the MDC has indicated that they are not aware of any such letter.  The logical conclusion can only be that the story of the letter did not emanate from the MDC but from a source only known to the Sunday Times which was followed by the rest of the media without any attempts to ascertain the veracity and authenticity of such a letter.

This is the latest in a consistent flow of misinformation and distortion.

In my last briefing I dealt with the Chinese ship.  The allegation that President Mbeki had ordered the Deputy Minister of Defence to refuel the ship – despite the refutation of the story it persists.  It is important for us to try and identify the source of the story.

As you remember, already as early as August 2007, as quoted by Rev Chikane yesterday, the Presidency issued a statement correcting media reports which claimed that President Mbeki would present a report at the SADC Heads of State and Government Summit held in Lusaka, Zambia August 16-17 2007 which would blame Britain for Zimbabwe’s political and economic challenges.

The statement made it clear that the Presidency was not aware of any such report and that, if any such existed at all, certainly, “it was not authored by the Government of the Republic of South Africa.”

Regrettably, all sectors of the media did not take our statement seriously and, apparently, without further qualms, persisted in attributing the report to President Mbeki.  What is significant is that our investigations later revealed that the new report originated from a news agency stringer, based in Lusaka, a stringer who had been handed a copy of “the” report and then deliberately, fallaciously, attributed it to President Mbeki instead of to is real author.  The new agency later retracted its report, albeit, in no more than three paragraphs.  None of the other local and international media who reported on the matter retracted, nor offered any apology.

Again, on September 14 2007, the Presidency issued a statement in which we rebutted the falsehood which some media reported at length to the effect that “the South African government … has been secretly working to remove (President Mugabe) from power” through “lobbying for sustained international pressure to bear on the Mugabe regime.”  This is contrary to all other reports that say that President Mbeki is attempting to keep President Mugabe in power.

In April there was a sustained attempt to present President Mbeki’s answer to a specific question about whether at that point (April 12) the election process in Zimbabwe constituted a crisis.  Both the context of the question and the detail of the reply was ignored; resulting in the impression that the President was oblivious to the challenges in Zimbabwe.”

Also unsubstantiated claims that the Mbeki’s are blood relatives of Mrs Graca Machel and links to shady business deals.  Also that since the 29th March 2008 elections President Mugabe has secretly been hiding in Mahlamba Ndlophu for fear of reprisal in an impending military coup.

We have experienced significant distortions in relation to how the Zimbabwe issue was dealt with in the Security Council.

The challenge for the South Africa media is to determine what the sources of such fabrications are.  A healthy media is necessary for any democracy.  Any government does seek constructive criticism.  As good journalists you must seek to determine whether such reports are co-ordinated or deliberate and what the objectives are.

Apologies following every such incident are of no value especially when the damage has already been done locally and internationally to South Africa’s reputation and indeed to our commitment to dealing with issues on an international level, including Zimbabwe, in a way that would help us find solutions.

It is therefore our strong view, following the Presidency’s own statement yesterday that we would like the agencies to really be a bit more vigilant about the sources of information.  It is very difficult for us to conduct international relations, at least from where I am coming, when all we are trying to do is clear up false reports appearing in the South African media.  Indeed, I believe the international community is more aware of the realities that are projected in our media but their ambassadors report largely from what they see in the South African media.

In this context let me remind you, especially with regard to the xenophobic attacks:  recently IDASA produced a major report – Coverage of Cross Border Migration to South Africa since 2000 – and it goes on to say that newspapers and news wire services in South Africa have played a major role in inflaming xenophobic sentiments.  Its research shows that less than 10% of South Africans had “a great deal of contact with foreigner Africans and that therefore anti immigration sentiment in the region is not primarily a result of personal experience with foreigners but rather the product of misinformation from secondary sources including the media.”

And it concludes, “there are signs of a shifting, albeit, polarised approach to coverage of the issues at least in South Africa but xenophobic writing and editorialisation remains a constant problem.”

So it is clear, not just a sychophantic concern of Foreign Affairs about how we are dealing with the issues but clearly studies by independent NGOs are reflecting what we have been trying to say for some time. 

Now for the business at hand…

MINISTER DLAMINI ZUMA TO BOOST ECONOMIC TIES IN SPAIN

Foreign Affairs Minister Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma will today Thursday 5 June 2008 hold bilateral political, investment and trade discussions with her Spanish counterpart Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation Miguel Ángel Moratinos in Madrid, during her official visit to Spain scheduled from Wednesday – Saturday 4-7 June 2008.

Minister Dlamini Zuma’s visit to Spain comes within the context of South Africa’s commitment to strengthening bilateral political, investment and trade relations with Spain to further promote the dynamic economic relations between the two counties.

In this regard, total trade between South Africa and Spain has increased from R11 billion in 2004 to R19 billion in 2007.  Spain is South Africa’s 7th largest export destination globally.

Spain is a very important player with regard to South Africa’s foreign relations because of its importance, not just in the European Union but also broadly speaking in the European context and therefore, this will be another opportunity to deal with the broad economic issues and especially the conclusion of the European Union Troika Ministerial meeting with South Africa recently held in Slovenia and the forthcoming SA-EU Troika inaugural Summit to be hosted in France at the end of July.

Ministers Dlamini Zuma and Moratinos are also expected to consider Spanish engagement with Africa through focused support for conflict resolution on the African continent and the promotion of social and economic developments including support for Africa’s socio-economic programme, NEPAD.

Discussions will also look at South Africa’s participation in the Zaragoza World Expo which will be held from June – September 2008 as well as co-operation in the multilateral context, inter alia, the Alliance of Civilization Initiative.

Discussions will also look at the issues around the Middle East and Western Sahara, which was a former colony of Spain as well as the reform of the United Nations.

During the visit Minister Dlamini Zuma will interact with a number of Spanish companies who have shown a strong interest in investing in South Africa.

Bilateral Economic Relations

Spanish exports to South Africa also grew by 4% in 2007. The most important products exported to South Africa were vehicles, parts and accessories (€354 m), machinery and mechanical appliances (€78 m), electrical machinery and equipment (€39 m), furniture and related products (€30 m) and plastics and articles thereof (€22 m)

Bilateral trade (thousand euros)

Year

Imports from SA

Exports to SA

Total Trade

2004

1 164 652

479 758

1 644 410

2005

1 257 237

641 620

1 898 857

2006

1 351 155

742 982

2 094 137

2007

1 484 564

807 804

2 292 378

Source: Spanish Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism

Spanish outward investment to South Africa (million euros)

Spain has also been identified as a priority emerging market for South Africa in terms of outbound trade and inward investment.

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

7,25

27,98

109

3,3

62

Source: Spanish Ministry of Trade, Industry and Tourism

South Africa remains the largest recipient of Spanish outward investment in Africa. Other African recipients are Namibia, Morocco, Cape Verde Islands and Algiers.

Spain could be considered as a source of FDI in the following sectors:

Infrastructure:  Seven of the world biggest construction companies are Spanish.  The largest one in the world, ACS Dragados, has a stake in South Africa’s Platinum Highway.  The company was also part of the consortium that lost the bid for the Gautrain to the French Consortium.  The Spanish train coach manufacturer CAF, was also part of this consortium and is still very interested in the South African market.  Other companies are also looking for possibilities in South Africa.  A subsidiary of ACS Dragados (Dragados SPL) which specializes in port management concessions is looking for similar opportunities in South Africa.  (2010 World Cup related projects are to be marketed amongst Spanish construction companies).

Tourism:  Spanish hotel chains currently owned 642 hotels abroad with an accommodation capacity of 162 000 rooms.  Their biggest investments have been made in the Dominican Republic, Maya Riviera (Mexico) and Cuba.  There is renewed interest amongst Spanish hotel groups to explore possibilities in South Africa.  At this moment the Spanish Group NH hotels manages two hotels in South Africa (The Lord Charles in Cape Town and the NH Plettenberg Bay). 

Agro-processing (machinery, processing and packaging) and aquaculture:  Spain is one of the world leaders in green houses, irrigation systems and packaging machinery for foodstuffs.   The Spanish company, Ulma Packaging has invested in South Africa.

Renewable Energy:  Spain is a very advanced in the field of renewable energy, mainly wind and solar power.  Companies such as Iberdrola, Isolux Corsan, ATERSA and Isofoton are well known in developing these energy resources. Currently Isolux and ATERSA are looking at opportunities in the field of wind energy and solar energy together with Eskom.

Airlinks: Currently Iberia Airlines is the only airline flying the Madrid – Oliver Tambo International route. A relatively small South African airline called REDAIR which resorts under the ownership of Civair (Pty) Ltd has applied to the South African and Spanish Civil Aviation Authorities to commence flights to Spain from December 2008. This process has as yet not been finalised.

Health: The Spanish Company Makiber is currently in discussion with the Province of Kwazulu Natal with regard to building three hospitals in the Province. The Spanish Bank Santander is prepared to put up financing for the project.

DEPUTY MINISTER PAHAD TO INAUGURATE SOUTH AFRICA – MALAWI JOINT COMMISSION FOR CO-OPERATION

Deputy Foreign Minister Aziz Pahad will on Monday 9 June 2008 depart for Lilongwe, Malawi where he will, together with his Malawian counterpart Deputy Minister Henri Mumba, co-chair the inaugural session of the South Africa – Malawi Joint Commission for Co-operation (JCC) scheduled for Tuesday – Wednesday 10-11 June 2008.

Deputy Minister Pahad will co-chair this first session of the South Africa – Malawi JCC within the context of South Africa’s priority to strengthen bilateral political, economic and trade relations with Malawi with a view to consolidating the SADC developmental agenda as well as prepare for the integration that must be accelerated in SADC.  South Africa will host the SADC Summit in August 2008 and will remain the Chair until next year and one of the most important challenges will be, how do we accelerate the integration processes.

South Africa’s “Global Economic Strategy” places great importance on South Africa’s engagement with countries in Africa and SADC in particular, as it is believed that South Africa’s economy is inextricably linked with those of other SADC members.

In this regard, both countries regard the establishment of this JCC vital to strengthen relations and to create an environment for a more focused and well coordinated engagement in the areas of trade, tourism, mining, sports, culture, technology health agriculture, etc.  In this way, bilateral relations will move to a higher footing and is expected to yield greater benefits for both countries.

Accordingly the JCC will plan and implement bilateral programmes of co-operation while undertaking studies and surveys in the fields of common interest, including:

  • agriculture and livestock;
  • trade, industry, mining and tourism;
  • monetary and financial arrangements;
  • development of transportation and communication facilities, roads and other infrastructure of the two countries;
  • joint development and utilisation of natural and energy resources;
  • health, education and development and utilisation of human resources;
  • institutional development; and
  • nature conservation and other environmental matters of common concern.

The following South African Government Departments will be participating in the Joint Commission for Co-operation:  Agriculture, Arts and Culture, Home Affairs, Science and Technology, Transport, Environmental Affairs and Tourism, Trade and Industry, Minerals and Energy, Defence, Social Development and Health

Deputy Minister Pahad is expected to return to South Africa on Wednesday 11 June 2008.

Bilateral Economic Relations

 Year               South African Exports (R ‘000)      South African Imports (R ‘000)

 1999               1,452                                                   0,467
 2000               1,669                                                   0,205
 2001               1,902                                                   0,920
 2002               2,219                                                   0,427
 2003               1,575                                                   0,359
 2004               1,566                                                   0,435
 2005               1,637                                                    0,455
 2006               1,689                                                   0,531
 2007               1,978                                                   0,604 

In 2007, Malawi was South Africa’s 10th largest export destination in Africa (7th in the SADC region) and ranked 8th with regard to imports from Africa (7th in the SADC region).

DECLARATION OF INTENT BETWEEN SOUTH AFRICA AND THE GOVERNMENTS OF DENMARK, FINLAND, ICELAND, NORWAY AND SWEDEN PARTNERSHIPS IN AFRICA

On Monday 9 June 2008, South Africa and the governments of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden will sign a Declaration of Intent concerning partnerships in Africa.  It is clear that the Nordic Prime Ministers, having understood the constructive role of South Africa in the region and particularly in southern Africa, in terms of economic development, promotion of human rights, good governance, conflict resolution and management have determined that they should, together with South Africa, sign this Declaration of Intent which means that we will work together based on the principles of:

  • ownership
  • alignment
  • harmonisation
  • managing for results
  • mutual accountability

What is quite clear is that the Nordic countries, as distinct from what people think, have understood that South Africa plays a major role on the continent and therefore, as a collective, want to interact with us to realise the possibility of supporting developmental efforts of a third party in Africa.

So it will be South Africa and the Nordic countries working together in dealing with the challenges that other African countries face, either bilaterally or through the sub-regional and regional organisations.

We believe that South-South and tripartite co-operation will improve the effectiveness of the aid that the Western governments are pouring into Africa and will strengthen the delivery capacity of Africa to deal with our challenges.

I believe this is a very important new development which will mean that in future, in relation to Africa we will work together with the Nordic countries – Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden – and work in partnership to deal with Africa’s challenges.

PRESIDENT THABO MBEKI TO PAY WORKING VISIT TO SUDAN

President Thabo Mbeki is scheduled to pay a working visit to Khartoum and Juba, the Republic of the Sudan from 17-18 June 2008.  During the visit, President Mbeki will hold discussions with President Omer Hassan Ahmed El Bashir and First Vice President Salva Kiir Mayardit on the latest developments in the Sudan, particularly:

  • the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA);
  • the Darfur conflict; and
  • South Africa – Sudan bilateral relations.

As you know, not much progress has been made on the operationalisation of the AU-UN Hybrid Force for Darfur, there has been intensified fighting in the Abeyei Region.

All signs indicate that the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) is under severe stress.

This is an important visit for the President in terms of our overall position that even South Africa cannot be stable unless the rest of the continent is at peace with itself.  We will never solve the problem of undocumented immigrants unless we begin to deal with the conflict situations in Africa and Sudan is a very important player given its huge resources and indeed, its importance for the future of the African continent.

So this visit, we hope, will result in the unblocking of some of the obstacles to the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and the operationalisation of the AU-UN Hybrid Force for Darfur.

DEPUTY MINISTER TO CO-CHAIR SOUTH AFRICA – CUBA CONSULTATIVE FORUM

Deputy Foreign Minister Aziz Pahad will co-chair, together with his Cuban counterpart First Deputy Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriquez, the 6th session of the South Africa – Cuba Consultative Forum in Cape Town scheduled from Tuesday – Wednesday 17-18 June 2008.

Deputy Minister Pahad will co-chair this session of the South Africa – Cuba Consultative Forum within the context of South Africa’s priority to consolidate bilateral political and multilateral relations with Cuba with a view to advancing the developmental agenda of the South. 

Cuba is the current chair of the Non-Aligned Movement.  In this regard, the Cuban delegation will brief the South African delegation on developments regarding the revitalisation of the Movement.  During Cuba’s incumbency as Chair, emphasis was placed on the advancement of development issues and Cuba is seen as an active Chair that has been efficient in setting up systems for ongoing consultations between NAM member states on issues of common interest.

Issues on the agenda of the 6th South Africa – Cuba Consultative Forum are expected to include, among others:

  • Internal developments in South Africa and Cuba;
  • The status of bilateral political and multilateral relations between the two countries;
  • Global institutions of governance including the comprehensive reform of the United Nations and South Africa’s tenure as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council;
  • Political and socio-economic developments within SADC and Africa as well as within Latin America and the Caribbean; and
  • Food security and climate change.

Deputy Minister Rodriquez is scheduled to depart from South Africa on Wednesday 18 June 2008.

BURUNDI

Return of Paliphehutu-FNL to Burundi

Accompanied by Ambassador Mamabolo in his capacity as Deputy Facilitator of the Burundi Peace Process, a group of eleven Palipehutu-FNL leaders, excluding the Chairman, Mr Agathon Rwasa, returned to Burundi on Friday, 16th May 2008.  The group was led by the Palipehutu-FNL spokesperson, Mr Pasteur Habimana, who at the airport expressed the Palipehutu-FNL’s commitment to the peace process.  From Dar es Salaam Mr Rwasa expressed his intention to return to Bujumbura at a later stage. 

Re-launch of the Mechanisms of the Peace Process

The mechanisms of the peace process – the Joint Verification and Monitoring Mechanism (JVMM), the Political Directorate, and the Joint Liaison Teams (JLT’s) - have subsequently been re-launched, with the renewed commitment of the Palipehutu-FNL and the Government of Burundi.

Signing of a Cessation of Hostilities

These positive developments were put in jeopardy, however, by the outbreak of violent clashes inside Burundi between the two parties to the conflict – the Government of Burundi and the Palipehutu-FNL. The Political Directorate facilitated meetings between the two parties which resulted in an agreement signed on the 25th May 2008 to cease all hostilities. The Joint Declaration by the Palipehutu-FNL and the Government of the Republic of Burundi Concerning the Cessation of Hostilities was co-signed as guarantor by the Deputy Facilitator of the Burundi Peace Process.

The Return of Mr Agathon Rwasa to Burundi

The return of Agathon Rwasa to Bujumbura was arranged for the 30th May 2008. The Facilitator of the Burundi Peace Process, Minister Charles Nqakula, assisted by the South African Facilitation Office, travelled to Dar es Salaam on the evening of the 29th May and accompanied Mr Rwasa, the Chairman of the Palipehutu-FNL, back to Bujumbura.

Engagement in the Mechanisms of Peace

The parties to the conflict – the Government of Burundi and the Palipehutu-FNL have fully re-joined the JVMM, the JLT’s and the Political Directorate in Burundi, and progress towards dealing with outstanding issues is being made. The Department is hosting a 2nd Special Envoys Burundi Meeting in South Africa next week that will promote international peace-making and peace-building efforts to bring final and sustainable peace to Burundi.

Important Occasion

This is an important and historical moment for the people of Burundi in that it could signify the end of the long conflict, and the beginning of a post-conflict reconstruction and development dividend. It is important for South Africa as it justifies South African efforts in peace-making on the Continent towards “a better life for all”.

ZIMBABWE

As you know, the Facilitation continues to deal with the issues relating to the Presidential run-off elections.

STATEMENT REGARDING ARRESTS OF ALLEGED THREE SOUTH AFRICANS IN ZIMBABWE

The Department of Foreign Affairs has taken note of the arrests of three alleged South Africans in Zimbabwe on charges of immigration violations.

The South African Embassy in Harare is in urgent engagement with the Zimbabwean Authorities in this matter.

Consular assistance shall be rendered according to standing procedures.

MIDDLE EAST

Secretary-General deeply concerned by Israel’s announcement of possible new settlement construction in East Jerusalem

The Secretary-General is deeply concerned at the recent announcement by the Israeli Government to invite new tenders for construction in Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem.  The Government of Israel’s continued construction in settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory is contrary to international law and to its commitments under the Road Map and the Annapolis process, as stressed by the Quartet when it met in London on 2 May.

The Palestinians and the Israelis have been meeting at various levels.  Unfortunately the content of these meetings and the progress being made has not been made public and we hope that these meetings will continue so that we can find the right climate to find solutions.

It is unfortunate, that in this period, when it seems Prime Minister Olmert is working on the terms of the Annapolis Agreement to find solutions, charges of corruption have been levelled against him and now there is a possibility that he will be removed from office, which is believe will have a serious impact on even the limited successes that have been achieved in terms of the Annapolis process.

We do call on all parties not to allow the attacks against Prime Minister Olmert at this stage to detract them from the main objective which is to find a two-state solution based on the relevant UN resolutions.

Humanitarian Crisis

The International Meeting on the Question of Palestine met in Malta on Tuesday 3 June 2008.

The goal, as agreed in Annapolis, is to resolve all permanent status issues before the end of the year.  The parameters of this agreement are clear – an end of the occupation that began in 1967, an end to conflict and the establishment of a sovereign, viable and independent Palestinian State living side by side in peace with a secure Israel.

Current efforts to achieve a peace deal need to be underpinned by visible progress on the ground.

Continuing settlement activity contravenes both international law and Israel’s obligations under the Roadmap.  Also, the construction of the barrier in the Occupied Palestinian Territory contravenes the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice.  These activities must cease at once.

The Palestinian people, particularly the 1.5 million inhabitants of the Gaza Strip, enduring punishing humanitarian conditions.  UNRWA’s aid operation in the area is drastically impeded.  Two thirds of Gaza’s residents subsist in poverty and economic growth stood at zero last year.

Continuing Israeli air and ground operations only aggravate this situation, resulting in unacceptable casualties among Palestinian civilians in both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.  Equally unacceptable and deeply irresponsible are the rocket and other attacks by militants against Israeli civilians and at crossing points.  The South African government reiterates its call for the cessation of all condemnable acts of violence and for all parties to comply with international humanitarian law.  In particular, measures of collective punishment should cease immediately.

The South African government commends Egypt for its efforts to achieve calm in the Gaza Strip.

We must do everything possible to help ensure a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East, based on the full implementation of relevant United Nations resolutions and the requirements under the Roadmap.

The South African government would like to commend the Egyptian government for its efforts to achieve calm in the Gaza Strip and bring unity between Hamas and the Fatah group in the Palestinian body politic.  It is quite clear that the Yemen Agreement has not been operationalised and therefore, it is vital for us all to work towards uniting the Palestinians in order to achieve the objectives of a Palestinian state.

We will continue, as South Africa, to ensure that there is a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East as I said, based on the full implementation of resolutions of the UN and indeed, based on the reality that there has to be two states – a Palestinian state living side by side with an Israeli state within secure borders.

Lebanon

The South African government welcomes the Lebanese Agreement reached on 21st May 2008 facilitated by the State of Qatar and the Arab League.

This agreement, once again reaffirms our position that dialogue is the best solution to ending conflict.

The Agreement will ensure that the Lebanese people will emerge from the cycle of violence and enter the terrain of reconciliation and reconstruction.

This agreement will also contribute to the stabilisation of a very volatile region.

The Agreement reached on the 21st May 2008 deals with the following:

  • The parties agreed that the Speaker of the Lebanese Parliament would summon the Parliament for convening, in accordance to its established rules within 24 hours for electing the consensus candidate General Michele Suleiman as President of the Republic
  • Forming a national union cabinet of 30 portfolios distributed on the basis of 16 portfolios to the Majority Coalition, 11 to the opposition and 3 for the President and all parties of this Agreement undertake not to resign or undermine works of the Cabinet
  • Accordingly to the 1960 Law, the district should be considered an electoral Constituency in Lebanon, while Marjaeyoon and Hasbia districts remain one constituency, also Baalbek, Harmel and western Begka-Rashia.  Regarding Beirut Division, it should be divided as follows:
    • The First Division: Al Ashrafia-Alremail-Al Saifi
    • The Second Division: Al Bashora-Al Modawar-Al Marfa;
    • The Third Division: Mina Al Hison-Ein Al Marisa-Al Mazraa-Al Mesaitiba-Ras Beirut-Zogag Al Balat
    • Agreement to refer the reform clauses of the draft law submitted to the Council of Representatives prepared by the National Committee to Drft the Law of Elections chaired by the Minister Fuad Butrus to debate and consider it pursuant to applicable measures.
  • In implementation of the above Beirut Accord and particularly Paragraphs 5 and 5 which state the following:

    • 4 “The parties undertake to refrain from the use of force or resort to violence for the purpose of winning political gains
    • 5 “Launching of dialogue on strengthening the Lebanese State’s control over all its territories and relations with various organisations in Lebanon so as to ensure the security of the State and citizens?”
      Thus, the dialogue in Doha was launched on enhancing the State’s powers in accordance with the fifth paragraph of the Beirut Accord.

It has been agreed as follows:

  • Non-resort to the use of force or violence in connection with whatever disputes may arise and under whatever conditions so as to ensure commitment to the national partnership contract based on the Lebanese’s determination to live together under a democratic system and restrict security and military powers over the Lebanese and residents in the hands of the State constituting a guarantee for joint living and civil peace for all the Lebanese.  The Parties pledge to this.
  • Implementation of Law and respect for the State’s sovereignty on all Lebanese territories so that there may not be areas to which those fleeing justice may resort with a view to respecting Law and bring all those who commit crimes or offences to Lebanese courts of justice.

This dialogue shall be resumed under the chairmanship of the President  of the Republic immediately after his election with the participation of the Arab League, and the National Unity Government shall be formed promoting trust among the Lebanese.

  • The Lebanese political leaders reiterate their commitment to cease immediately the use of the language of accusation of treason or political or sectarian instigation.

The President was inaugurated on 25th May 2008.

Questions and answers

Question Deputy Minister, time is running out for the Presidential run-off elections in Zimbabwe.  When will a South African observer team be deployed?  Do you have any comment on the arrest and detention of the Opposition Leader Morgan Tsvangirai?

Question Deputy Minister, the Facilitation Process – how does the arrest of the Opposition Leader affect the process?

Question Deputy Minister, the general climate in Zimbabwe – how does this bode for a free and fair run-off election in the country?

Question Deputy Minister, can you please provide more information on the observer teams and what it is they will be required to do?

Answer The Extraordinary SADC Summit which was held in Zambia took a decision that we must do everything possible to ensure that the Presidential run-off elections, at the minimum, is carried out in the same way, as the March 29th elections.  It was also decided that SADC observers should be increased in numbers and since then, the Secretariat has been mandated, with the Chair of the Organ – Angola – to do everything possible to ensure our numbers are substantially increased.  The Director-General of Foreign Affairs went to Zimbabwe last week to make the necessary arrangements. 

We expect that the preliminary group of observers, at least South Africans, will go to Zimbabwe during this week and that the majority of South Africans to reinforce the SADC observers should be place sometime next week.  It is quite significant for us to try and reiterate that our SADC observer mission had the mandate, not just to report, but to intervene whenever accusations were made and wherever there were allegations of problems arising including violence within the framework of the electoral processes so our job was not just to observe the voting, the missions were there long before and were intervening.

Each side raised objections and on the basis of this the observer mission intervened with the other side to get clarification and take the necessary actions where allegations were proven to be true.

As you know and let me repeat it, allegations of violence have been made since the elections.  President Mbeki has dispatched a group of senior retired generals to Zimbabwe to assess the situation and to report back to him on this situation – this is an ongoing process

The issue of the violence, of the arrest of the MDC Opposition Leader, the media yesterday also reported that Human Rights lawyers are fleeing the country – I believe there are frameworks and proceses that enables all these matters to be raised officially with the facilitation.  I can provide an undertaking that the Facilitation is obliged to follow up each allegation.  Despite some sceptical thinking, we are totally convinced that the rule of law must prevail in Zimbabwe and in the end, we are totally convinced that whatever happens – the will of the people must be reflected in the coming elections.  Therefore the Facilitation has the task of ensuring that this, and any other issues that can impact on the electoral processes, have to be raised with the government authorities to ensure that we put a stop to any such activities that hinders the will of the people being expressed.  That is the task of the Facilitation.  As you know, the Facilitation is not under Foreign Affairs, it is under a special Presidential committee which deals with this on a daily basis and contrary to what the media has said about this phantom letter, when Morgan Tsvangirai gave the President a report about the militarization of the rural areas, the President on his way to the Extraordinary SADC Summit stopped in Zimbabwe for two reasons: to try and arrange a meeting between President Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai which this phantom letter alludes to but distorts and secondly to hand over this letter Morgan Tsvangirai had given to him regarding the militarization of the rural areas.  This same report was submitted by the President to the SADC Extraordinary Summit.

So, there has not been an occasion when an issue has been raised by either side to the Facilitation that has not been brought to the attention of the other side.

I have indicated to the media through my other briefings, but I am not sure you are reading it, perhaps it bores you because I repeat the same things – I said that despite all the skepticism, nobody, including the European Union, has challenged that the last elections have been the best in Zimbabwe and was the best opportunity for the will of the people to be reflected.  Nobody challenges this.  We all expressed our concern regarding the delays in the announcement of the Presidential election results but we always explained, that through the Facilitation, the process of ensuring that all results are posted outside each polling station within hours.  Everybody had all these results.

Our task now is not to speculate on things that cannot be done before the elections but to work together with others including SADC and the African Union which will send more observers to the run-off to ensure we create the conditions that even the opposition will acknowledge will give them the same conditions they had in March so we are not speculating.  We are quite genuinely trying to deal with this situation.  The Zimbabweans had an excellent opportunity in the last elections and these are reflected in the results.  There is still speculation that there was a result of 50 + 1 – but by and large the results reflect what was obvious the day after the elections.

My problem is that not that we are not aware of allegations, it is that no one is acknowledging that the March 29th elections were the best elections in Zimbabwe.  Why can’t we work to improve on this?

I’m not a soothsayer, I cannot predict what the outcome of the Presidential run-off elections will be.  We must ensure that the will of the people can be adequately expressed.

The Facilitation is not just a “toy telephone.”  There is interaction – the President himself, when things have reached a critical stage – has flown to Zimbabwe – the facilitation team constantly travels to Zimbabwe – the Zimbabwean parties come to South Arica on a regular basis so there is much direct interaction between the Facilitation the Zimbabweans involved in the process.  It is a dynamic process.  It is still incumbent for us to ensure that the 41 countries and organizations who were invited to observe the March 29th elections will also increase their participation as observers so that at the end we can emerge with at least a common understanding that some of the issues that were raised has been dealt with and that the will of the people can be reflected.

Many media reports are speaking of some form of coalition government – MDC has said the same thing – this is not a decision the Facilitation can take – this is a decision for the Zimbabwean people – what form of government they want.

The key point is the presidential election.  My view is that we must ensure that all allegations that can impact on the outcomes of the elections must be dealt with.  The Zimbabweans have stated – from various angles – leaked or unleaked – that they want a government of reconciliation/unity.  This is a Zimbabwean decision – we will support them fully on any decision they will take.  This is the only agenda we have regarding Zimbabwe so that Zimbabwe can become a player in our SADC Strategic Framework of Action.

Issued by Department of Foreign Affairs
Private Bag X152
Pretoria
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5 June 2008

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