Notes following Briefing by Deputy Minister Aziz Pahad on Current International Issues, Union Building, Pretoria, 13 June 2008

ELECTION OBSERVATION MISSION TO ZIMBABWE

In his budget speech in Parliament on Wednesday 11 June 2008 President Thabo Mbeki explained that with regard to Zimbabwe, our SADC mandate is still on track. In this regard, our facilitation helped to ensure, among others, that the March 29 elections were generally adjudged to have been credible.

“At the moment, we are doing whatever we can to ensure that we do not experience major problems in the Presidential second-round elections set for 27 June. We are at one with SADC and most of the international community that the incidents of violence and reported disruption of electoral activities of some of the parties are a cause for serious concern and should be addressed with all urgency. SADC has also resolved to strengthen its observer mission in that country.

“We do hope that friends of the people of Zimbabwe, who seek nothing more than freedom for the people of that country to elect a government of their choice and overcome the current socio-economic crisis, will work together in pursuit of these objectives.”

It is with this framework that the SADC Observer Mission will attempt to carry out its tasks.

  • The presidential run-off on 27 June 2008 will be held concurrently with the three by-elections (Pelandaba-Mpopoma, Gwanda South and Redcliff constituencies) where some candidates died before 29 March harmonised elections.
  • Following the announcement of the run-off, the ZEC issued an invitation to the SADC Secretariat on 19 May to send an observer mission to monitor the run-off. SADC pronounced that in order to be more effective and efficient it would be imperative to ensure a larger coverage in all Provinces. In order to achieve that there was a need to strengthen and enlarge the Observer Mission to more than 300 Observers as compared to 150 in the previous circle.
  • The SEOM was launched on 7 June 2008 in Harare.

Media briefing regarding the deployment of the SADC Observer Mission

During a media briefing at 11h00 on 12 June 2008 on the deployment of the Advance Team of Observers, Mr T Mothae, Director: SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation informed as follows:

  • At present approximately 120 SADC observers, primarily from Botswana, South Africa, Angola and Namibia are in Harare and ready for deployment to all 10 provinces.
  • Leaders for all teams have been appointed, equally divided between all countries on the ground.
  • Emphasis was placed on the importance of adhering to all rules and regulations as outlined in the Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections in the Region.
  • It is expected that more than 400 SADC observers will be deployed by 22 June 2008.  This is a considerable increase of the 150 that were deployed during the March elections, which is a reflection of the importance SADC attaches to the effective observation of the run-off elections.
  • In total there will be approximately 9100 polling stations for the run-off elections.  For a broader coverage SADC observers were advised to exchange information with the other observer teams on the ground, primarily Pan African Parliament and the AU.
  • The South African Observer Mission will comprise of 70 observers constituted as follows, 31 government officials, 20 Members of parliament, 3 IEC representatives, 15 representatives from the following Civil Society Organisations, NEDLAC, CONTRALESA, SAWID, GPEC, SACC, ECOSOC, SANGOCO, Commission on Gender Equity and National Youth Commission.
  • Deployment of Observers will be in two phases.  The first group of 20 is already in Zimbabwe and the rest of the group will leave next week.
  • The South African contingent to SEOM will be led by Ambassador Kingsley Mamabolo.
  • The Mission will be supported by six (6) technical staff from the DFA.
  • The Observer Mission will be deployed in all Ten Provinces namely, Bulawayo, Harare, Chitungwira, Manicaland, Midlands, Matebeleland, Masvingo, Mashonaland East, Mashonaland West and Mashonaland Central.  The Observer Mission will return on 29 June 2008.  
  • South Africa in its capacity as mediator as mandated by SADC, will do all in its capacity and capability to ensure that the observer mission performs optimally and that it is well resourced to do so.  It is in South Africa’s interest to see the Mission succeed and to see Democracy prevail in Zimbabwe and the region.
  • The presence of the SADC Observer Mission will seek to contribute towards the creation of a climate that is conducive for the holding of credible Presidential run off elections in Zimbabwe on 27 June 2008.
  • In this regard, the SADC Observer Team will monitor all stages of the election namely the pre-electoral process which will include inter alia campaigns, voter education, media coverage  the election day, where they will observe the set up, the electoral environment, the voting, vote counting, also the post electoral situation.
  • The SADC Observer Mission will intervene when necessary to deal with any allegations, and ensure that the elections are conducted within the context of the Constitution, the National Electoral law and the SADC Principles and Guidelines governing democratic elections and to ensure that the Presidential run off elections are conducted in a conducive environment, that will allow the people to exercise their vote democratically.

 UN on Zimbabwe

The UNSG Ban Ki Moon has despatched the Assistant SG for Political Affairs, Mr Menkerios to Zimbabwe. The visit is a follow up to the meeting between the SG and President Mugabe in Rome last week.  After his return he will report to the UN Secretary-General who will decide what to do.

The Security Council closed discussion on 12 June 2008 was given by John Holmes, Under Secretary-General and Emergency Relief Coordinator on the Humanitarian situation in Zimbabwe

Sudan

The South African Government welcomes 8 June 2008 Agreement by the National Congress Party and the SPLM of Sudan in which the parties have agreed on a road map to resolve the Abyei dispute, including through arbitration.”  

We particularly welcome the commitment of the two parties to allow the United Nations Mission in the Sudan unrestricted access and freedom of movement in the Abyei area.

We welcome the UN Secretary-General statement that the parties and the people of the Sudan that the United Nations will continue to provide assistance to the tens of thousands of people displaced after fighting broke out in Abyei last month.  It also stands ready to assist their return to Abyei, once security arrangements are put in place to enable a safe and dignified return.  The South African Government congratulates the two parties and urges them to implement this agreement in full to ensure a final resolution of this most serious challenge to the Sudan's Comprehensive Peace Agreement.

PRESIDENT MBEKI TO PAY WORKING VISIT TO THE REPUBLIC OF THE SUDAN

President Thabo Mbeki, supported by Deputy Foreign Minister Aziz Pahad, will pay a two day Working Visit to Khartoum and Juba in the Republic of Sudan scheduled from Tuesday – Wednesday 17-18 June 2008.

As Chair of the African Union Post Conflict and Reconstruction Committee in Sudan, President Mbeki’s visit to Sudan comes within the context of South Africa’s support for peace efforts in the country and post-conflict reconstruction and development.

In this regard, during the visit President Mbeki is scheduled to hold discussions with both President Omer Hassan Ahmed El Bashir and First Vice President Salva Kiir Mayardit, particularly on the latest developments in the Sudan and the deployment of UNAMID forces in Darfur.

We believe that the President’s visit at this crucial time is very important because clearly we must ensure that the fault-lines emerging within the Comprehensive Peace Agreement will not have a decisive impact on peace in the African continent as a whole.

President Mbeki has been in constant interaction with President Al Beshir and Vice President Salva Kiir on many occasions.  This face to face meeting will enable a better understanding of the problems and progress that has been made in the Sudanese Comprehensive Peace Agreement, and also problems in the full implementation of the UNAMID forces.

Issues on the agenda of discussions will include, amongst others:

  • The implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA);
  • The conflict in Darfur region and the full operationalisation of the Hybrid force;
  • South Africa – Sudan bilateral relations

MINISTER DLAMINI ZUMA TO PARTICIPATE IN UN DEBATE ON WOMEN AND PEACE AND SECURITY

South African Foreign Minister Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma will, on the invitation of US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, participate in a Thematic Debate on Women and Peace and Security at the United Nations Security Council on Thursday 19 June 2008 in New York, USA.

The United States, as President of the Council for June has organised this thematic debate.

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 Pretoria scheduled for Friday 20 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:

  • 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.

CONCLUSION OF 2nd BURUNDI SPECIAL ENVOYS CONFERENCE

South Africa hosted the 2nd Burundi Special Envoys Conference in Magaliesberg from Monday – Tuesday 9-10 June 2008.

Magaliesberg Communiqué on the Burundi Peace Process
10 June 2008

At the invitation of H.E. Minister Charles Nqakula, South African Facilitator of the Burundi Peace process, the Group of Special Envoys on Burundi met in Magaliesburg, South Africa from 9 to 10 June 2008 with delegations of the PALIPEHUTU-FNL and the Government of Burundi. Mr. Agathon Rwasa headed the PALIPEHUTU-FNL delegation, while the delegation of the Government of Burundi was headed by Major-General Evariste Ndayishimiye.

The Government of Burundi and PALIPEHUTU-FNL renounced violence and undertook to resolve all their differences by dialogue. They agreed to fully respect the timelines outlined in the Revised Programme of Action to Take Further the Burundi Peace Process, including the implementation of the agreements signed in 2006. Both parties will endevour to address simultaneously all the outstanding political issues, including the political accommodation of the PALIPEHUTU-FNL in national institutions as well as the integration of its combatants in the security and defence forces.

The Government of Burundi and PALIPEHUTU-FNL undertook to refrain from any inflammatory action or declaration; and find as soon as possible a mutually acceptable solution to the question of the registration and the name of the Palipehutu-FNL as a political party

The Group of Special Envoys on Burundi will continue mobilising the international community to provide financial support to the Facilitation and the peace process, including interceding with donors on the provision of humanitarian assistance until the conclusion of the disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration process.

The Group of Special Envoys on Burundi will also pay special attention to the reintegration aspects of the disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration process of PALIPEHUTU-FNL combatants. It will promote security sector reform efforts for the integration of PALIPEHUTU-FNL members in the national security forces.

The Group of Special Envoys on Burundi agreed to consider ways of providing financial support to the Government of Burundi to address the pressures caused by rising prices of food and fuel.
 

AFRICAN UNION (AU) SUMMIT: 24 JUNE - 1 JULY 2008 IN SHARM EL SHEIKH, EGYPT

The June/July 2008 Summit of the African Union Assembly, is scheduled to take place from 30 June to 1 July 2008.  The Summit will be preceded by the 16th Ordinary Session of the Permanent Representatives Council (PRC) from 24 to 25 June 2008, the 13th Ordinary Session of the Executive Council from 27 to 28 June 2008, the Meeting of the African Peer Review Focal Points and the Consultative Meeting of the NEPAD Steering Committee on 28 June 2008, and the 19th Summit HSGIC and the 9th African Peer Review Forum (APRF) on 29 June 2008.  

The July 2008 Summit will be held under the theme of “Meeting Millennium Development Goals on Water and Sanitation”. The Agendas for the aforementioned meetings are yet to be finalised.

THE EXECUTIVE COUNCIL:27 - 28 JUNE 2008

The Executive Council will consider a Report of the AU Commission on the operationalisation of the African Standby Force (ASF). 

Significant progress has been made in the development of policy documents and in the establishment of the Regional Brigades.   Similarly, the report of the meeting of the Ministers of Defence as well as other related Peace and Security reports will also be discussed.

The Council will also consider a Report on Africa’s progress towards achieving the MDGs.

The Executive Council will consider the Draft Single Legal Instrument on the merger of the African Court on Human and People’s Rights and the Court of Justice of the African Union. 

The Executive Council will, as always, receive Reports on the situation in the Middle East and from various institutions of the AU such as the Pan African Parliament, Standing Committee of ECOSOCC, the African Court on Human and People’s Rights and the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights. 

There will also be elections of the Members of the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child and of the Judges of the African Court on Human and People’s Rights.

THE AU ASSEMBLY: 30 JUNE - 1 JULY 2008

The Theme of this Summit is Meeting the MDGs on Water and Sanitation.  President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt will present the Theme of the Summit, followed by a representative of Civil Society. The pre-summit Civil Society Forum is scheduled for 17-19 June 2008.

The Report of the Extraordinary Executive Council that was held in Tanzania on 06-07 May 2008 to discuss the audit of the AU and its Organs will be presented to the Assembly for consideration.

  • The Executive Council considered the 159 recommendations and resolved to adopt some of them as presented, adopt some with amendments, rejected others and directed the AU Commission to further determine possible implementation plans on those that were mainly administrative and present these to the 13th Session.

African Government

The 1st Meeting of the Committee of Twelve Heads of State and Government on the Union Government met in Tanzania on 22-23 May 2008. South Africa was represented by President Mbeki. The meeting resolved that the debate is no longer about the desirability or otherwise of the Union Government, rather on how and when this should be established and to clarify the concept and content of the Union Government. To this end, it was recalled that the Accra Declaration articulates a step by step approach that is inclusive of RECs as the building blocks and that this Declaration remains the policy guideline of the AU on the Union Government process. The meeting also agreed on the following:

  • That the form of the Union Government shall be a Union of Independent and Sovereign States through a gradual process.
  • With regard to time frames and the road map, the Committee of Twelve resolved that accelerators and benchmarks contained in the Audit Report, are generally acceptable and should be implemented with appropriate monitoring mechanisms. Annual reviews based on progress in this regard would then be submitted to the Assembly. Their Report will be presented to the AU Assembly for consideration.

The Assembly will receive a Report on the Status of Implementation of the Regional and Continental Agenda of Integration.

The Assembly will adopt the Single Legal Instrument on the Merger of the Court of Justice and the African Court on Human and People’s Rights of the AU and appoint Members of the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child and the Judges of the African Court on Human and People’s Rights.  

It will receive a Report on the activities of the Peace and Security Council; progress Report on the Implementation of the Outcome of the Abuja Special Summit on HIV/AIDS, TB and Other Related Infectious Diseases, held in Abuja in May 2006; on Malaria; Promotion of Maternal and Child Health in Africa and on the current Food Crisis in Africa and on the Implementation of the assembly Decision on the Reform of the UN.  This Decision mandated the Committee of Ten to intensify its efforts in promoting Africa’s common position on the basis of Ezulwini Consensus and the Sirte Declaration.

NEPAD HEADS OF STATE AND GOVERNMENT IMPLEMENTATION COMMITTEE (HSGIC) AND AFRICAN PEER REVIEW (APR) FORUM, 29 JUNE 2008

The NEPAD HSGIC will have its meeting on the morning of 29 June 2008.  Amongst others, the HSGIC meeting will consider progress with the implementation of the principle of rotation of members of the NEPAD HSGIC; the status of AU/NEPAD integration process; the designation of the NEPAD Secretariat’s CEO which were all agreed upon during the HSGIC meeting held on the margins of the AU Summit in Addis Ababa in January 2008.  The NEPAD HSGIC will further discuss preparations for the G8 Summit scheduled for 7-9 July in Hokkaido, Japan.

In the afternoon of 29 June 2008, the 28-member APR Forum will convene.  It will, inter alia, peer-review Uganda, Nigeria and Burkina Faso.  It will also witness the signing of the APRM Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for accession by Togo.  

The Chairperson of the NEPADs HSGIC, HE Meles Zenawi, Prime Minister of Ethiopia, will present a Report to the Assembly on progress with the Implementation of the 13-Points agreed upon by the HSGIC in Algiers in March 2007 and on the outcomes of the NEPAD Review Summit held in Dakar in April 2008.  He will also provide update on the APRM.

NEPAD PROJECT IMPLEMENTATION: SUCCESS STORIES

1. Progress on the Implementation of the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP)

CAADP provides the clearest example of the implementation of the NEPAD agenda.  African countries and RECs alike have come to accept CAADP as the framework for Agriculture Development in Africa and are in the process of implementing CAADP both nationally and regionally. There has been substantial progress under the development of frameworks for implementation of the four key pillars of CAADP.  Current activities focus on:

  • Pillar 1: Extending the area under sustainable land management and reliable water control systems.
  • Pillar 2: Improving rural infrastructure and trade-related capacities for market access.
  • Pillar 3: Increasing food supply and reducing hunger.
  • Pillar 4: Agricultural research, technology dissemination and adoption.

The AU and NEPAD have succeeded in raising the profile of the CAADP agenda in the international development community as reflected in the declaration and commitments of all G8 summits since the Summit in Sea Island. As a consequence, a growing number of bilateral and multilateral development partners are embracing the CAADP framework and are aligning their assistance to the agricultural sector with the agenda. 

2. The NEPAD ICT Broadband Infrastructure Network

To date, 12 of the 23 participating countries have signed the protocol governing participation in the NEPAD Network.  South Africa has signed the protocol on policy and regulatory framework and the ratification process has started.  South Africa will have to harmonise national ICT policies and regulations to be in line with the Protocol by the 31st March 2008 deadline

The Department of Communications (DoC) has briefed South African telecommunication operators and potential investors on the network, aimed at achieving their buy-in to the project through the allocated SPV platforms.  Engagements continue in this regard.  An agreement is being finalised between the e-Africa Commission and the Pan African Infrastructure Development Fund for equity investment and funding for the project.  The Department of Communications has constantly been engaging South African telecoms operators, with some indicating willingness to participate and merge their own submarine cable plans with the expanded NEPAD Network. The Department has also been working closely with the e-Africa Commission to identify other potential investors. It is anticipated that construction of the cable will take 18 months to complete from time of contracting; and should be operational by the first quarter of 2010 to meet South Africa’s obligations for providing affordable broadband for the 2010 Soccer World Cup.

3. NEPAD e-Schools Project

The NEPAD e-Schools Initiative aims to offer an end-to-end ICT solution that will connect all African schools to the internet and the NEPAD e-schools network.  The objective of the project is to equip all African high schools and primary schools with ICT facilities. In April 2007, the Departments of Communications and Education and the Presidential National Commission (PNC) on Information Society and Development (ISAD) successfully launched the pilot phase of the South African NEPAD e-Schools programme.  Six schools in South Africa (rural nodal points) were selected to participate in the demo phase of the project, which is currently underway. Infrastructure layout and maintenance continues to be provided by the NEPAD e-Schools consortium comprised of Sentech, Hewlett Packard (HP), Microsoft, INMARSAT Limited, Oracle Corporation and Cisco Systems, as part of their corporate social responsibility (CSI).

SOMALIA

The South African government welcomes the agreement between the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and the opposition Alliance for the Re-liberation of Somalia, reached in Djibouti yesterday. This is an important step towards a durable political settlement for Somalia, and we urge the other Somali groups and individuals to adhere to this agreement.

These groups must understand that any destabilisation efforts by them will not be tolerated by Africa and the UN.

South Africa calls on the international community to provide strong diplomatic and financial support for the effective implementation of this agreement.

The South African government congratulates the Government of Djibouti and the relevant regional organizations for their contributions to this positive outcome.

FOOD SECURITY

The world is being rocked by increasing demonstrations against rising inflation, fuel costs and food prices.  This is why we gave such importance to the FAO Summit in Rome last week which was attended by Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka.

During the Summit, the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Prime Minister Berlusconi of Italy co-hosted a high-level working dinner with Heads of State, Heads of Government and ministers on 3 June on the occasion of the High-Level Conference on World Food Security from 3 to 5 June 2008 in Rome. More than 44 Governments representing donor countries, food-producing countries, and those affected by the current food crisis were represented.  In addition, eight heads of international organizations were also present

There was an agreement that the common challenge;  the need for a collective and concerted et all agree on the most important issues:  the common challenge; the need to focus on the poorest; and the insufficiency of food production.  A High-Level Task Force has presented recommendations that represent the collective thinking of the United Nations, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organization. Participants  discussed emergency needs; agricultural production; biofuels; and trade restrictions.

Participants recognized that the recent dramatic escalation of food prices worldwide has multiple and complex structural causes, many of which are interconnected.  It represents a challenge of global proportions and has affected millions of people.  Women are particularly at risk, when pregnant and lactating:  at the same time they are key to the response.  The crisis threatens to undermine progress towards the Millennium Development Goal of eradicating hunger and towards other Millennium targets, and risks pushing over 100 million people back below the $1 a day poverty line.  They also recognized that the world food crisis threatens the stability of several countries.

Participants recognized that the world food crisis provides an opportunity to boost agricultural production in the developing countries, in particular in Africa.  They reiterated the extreme urgency of increasing agricultural production, particularly in the context of preparing for the next planting season.  At the same time, there is a need for a long-term increase in agricultural investments -- especially for smallholder farmers -- and an increase in development assistance for agriculture (including support for agricultural research).

South Africa welcomes the commitment made by the participants to engage, actively and constructively, in the implementation of a comprehensive and coordinated strategy and action plan to address the current food security crisis and its underlying causes.

The South African government also welcomes the intention of Prime Minister Berlusconi to ensure that agriculture, food security and fight against poverty will remain high in the G-8 agenda during the Italian Presidency in 2009. Also the Italian decision to dedicate Milan’s Expo 2015 to world food security.

South Africa believes that the momentum generated by the Rome Conference will be maintained in other key meetings, interalia the G-8 Summit in July, the High-Level Event on the Millennium Development Goals and the high-level segment of the United Nations General Assembly in September.

Partnership Agreement between the Alliance  for a Green Revolution in Africa ( AGRA ), and the US government’s Millennium Development Challenge

SA welcomes the signing of a partnership plan on behalf of the Alliance for the Green Revolution in Africa, an agriculture development organisation, and the US Government’s Millennium Challenge Corporation.

Annan took the helm of AGRA in June 2007. The organisation was formed the previous year with initial support from the Rockefeller Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The deal joins two of the world’s largest grant-making organisations in African agriculture development in a partnership focused on helping small-scale farmers boost productivity.

The new partnership will initially focus its efforts in Ghana, Madagascar and Mali.

Annan said the single most important action people in developed countries can take to help lift Africa from poverty is to lobby governments for fair and open trade and completion of the so-called Doha round of the World Trade Organisation trade negotiations.

“What the average person in the street can do is to add their voice and join in the global campaign for a level playing field when it comes to international trade, for the Doha agreement to go ahead, for all the impediments that are placed in the way of developing countries to be removed“.

“When you see the amount of subsidies given to the American farmer or the European farmer, there’s no way the African farmer can…..compete“.

This is the message we have been giving for some time, but I hope that now there will be a more positive response.  There is no wall that can protect the developed countries from consequences of Africa’s under-development and poverty.  Despite many difficulties, challenges and continuing violence there has been some positive developments.

MIDDLE EAST

Israel and Palestinians hold talks

An agreement has been reached to start drafting parts of a proposed peace accord between Israel and the Palestinians, according to a senior Palestinian negotiator Ahmed Qureia on Saturday 7 June 2008.

Ahmed Qureia announced that the two sides had agreed during a meeting held the previous evening "to begin writing the positions".

Qureia's statements came as the office of Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of state, said she would be going to the region next week.

The negotiating teams of Ehud Olmert, the Israeli prime minister, and Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, have been holding regular meetings since the Annapolis conference.

The two sides have remained silent about the specifics of the ongoing discussions, which have shown little sign of progress towards their stated goal of striking a comprehensive agreement by the end of the year.
Qureia said the two sides were still focused on reaching the "comprehensive agreement" to end the conflict, as opposed to a "declaration of principles" as the Israelis have called for in the past.

"The maps have been opened, so that there has been discussion about the issues, not discussion for its own sake," he said.

Qureia said that Israel had not done enough to ease the lives of Palestinians in the West Bank, despite a pledge to reduce barriers to movement in the area as a part of peace talks: "The checkpoints should have been removed after the Annapolis conference," he said.

"As far as we are concerned, the negotiations will continue regardless of what happens internally in Israel and I have heard from the Israelis that they also want to continue the negotiations," Qureia said.

Hamas accepts talks with Fatah

Hamas has said it is ready for reconciliation talks with Fatah and called for discussions to take place under the auspices of the Arab League.

The announcement, by Ismail Haniya, the Hamas political leader, on Thursday 5 June 2008 came a day after Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, advocated dialogue between the rival factions.

"We welcome the call by President Abbas to hold a national dialogue and the new positive spirit in his speech, and we state that our hand reaches out for national unity," Haniya said.

"We call for an immediate national dialogue. We are ready to make all efforts to have a successful dialogue," he said.

Lebanon Doha Agreement

Prime Minister Olmert 'wants Lebanon talks'

The Israeli prime minister has suggested that peace talks should be opened with Lebanon, following the resumption of negotiations with its neighbour Syria.

"Just as we started talks with Syria, I would hope it would be possible to start talks with Lebanon," an official quoted Ehud Olmert as saying in a cabinet meeting on Tuesday 10 June 2008.

Israel and Syria announced last month that they had been holding indirect talks through Turkey.

Further meetings are expected for later this week.

IRAN

Tensions are once again rising and Israel threats to attack Iran installations are a matter of concern.

DG of IAEA presented a Report on 26 May 2008

South Africa supports the Statement by the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) at the IAEA Board of Governors Meeting, Vienna, Austria; June 2008

  1. NAM takes note that the Director General expressed once again that the Agency is able to verify the non-diversion of declared nuclear material in Iran, and that Iran has provided the Agency with access to declared nuclear material, and has provided the required nuclear material accountancy reports in connection with declared nuclear material and activities. NAM also notes that the Agency has not found indications of on-going reprocessing activities in Iran.
  1. NAM appreciates the cooperation of Iran in responding the issue of alleged studies despite the fact that the six “outstanding issues” reflected in paragraphs I.2 and II of the Work Plan have been resolved. NAM notes with satisfaction that Iran agreed to deal with the alleged studies issue, including additional questions, and to hold a series of technical meetings in Iran with the Agency’s delegation headed by deputy Director General for Safeguards.

  2. NAM also takes note that  it is emphasized once again in  the  Report that  ”the Agency has not detected  the actual the use of nuclear material in connection with the  alleged studies”.

  3. NAM recalls  that, regarding the alleged studies,  the agreement reached in Work Plan stipulated that “upon receiving all related documents, Iran will review and inform the Agency its assessment”, and notes that , although the Secretariat was unable  to provide the related  documents in several cases , Iran has cooperated anyway, by providing  information on these issues.

  4. In this regard, NAM takes note of the fact expressed by Director General that “the Agency received much of this information only in electronic form and was not authorized to provide copies to Iran.” He further expressed that “it was not in possession of the documents and was therefore unfortunately unable to make them available to Iran” .NAM is of the view, that this is a matter of concern since it may create impediments to the verification process.

  5. In dealing with issues related to the "alleged studies", there could be concerns that this is not a core competency of the Agency. However, NAM believes that in clarifying the ''alleged studies'', including the issues such as high explosive testing and missile re-entry vehicle, the Agency would act in accordance with its Statute.

  6. Taking into account that all outstanding issues have been resolved, which was officially reported in the March Board by the Director General, and considering the rounds of intensive discussions on “Alleged Studies” in Iran, NAM expects that the safeguards implementation in Iran shall be conducted in a routine manner.

  7. NAM reiterates its full confidence in the impartiality and professionalism of the Secretariat of the IAEA and of its Director General, Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei, and once again strongly rejects any undue pressure or interference in the Agency’s activities, especially in its verification process, which will jeopardize its efficiency and credibility.

  8. While reiterating its principled position that diplomacy and dialogue are the only way for a long term solution of Iran’s nuclear issue, NAM encourages all Member States to contribute positively to that effect. NAM also expects all concerned parties to avoid taking any measures which put at risk the constructive process between Iran and the Agency.

Thank you

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

Question: With regard to Zimbabwe, can we get some reaction to Tendai Biti’s arrest and seemingly he will be charged with treason. Has President Mbeki been on the phone with President Mugabe as he did with Morgan Tsvangarai and asked for Mr Biti’s release? Secondly, the cutting of food aid – the Zimbabwe government has banned NGOs from delivering food aid for the time being to possibly hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans – does the South African government consider that to be crime against humanity?

Answer: On the issue of the harassment of Mr Biti and the second time arrest of MDC President Mr Tsvangarai – these matters are all constantly being taken up through the channels and the processes that have been created by the facilitation at their level. But as a tried to indicate these are matters that the SADC Observer Mission have been mandated to deal with – not only to observe and report but to intervene and follow up any allegations and raise all these matters with the respective authorities in Zimbabwe. It is my view that the SADC Observer Mission team will be taking up all these issues through their channels.  The Executive Secretary of the SADC, I believe, will also be doing this and through the facilitation, which has special processes and mechanisms, this matter should also be taken up.

The issue of food aid was referred to in a report to the UNSC yesterday by Mr Holmes. His report is indicating amongst other things that:

“before the elections Zimbabwe was already facing a deep social and economic crisis, characterised by rapid economic decline and hyper-inflation of 170 000 %, collapsing social services, food insecurity and the devastating effects of the HIV and AIDS pandemic. Two million people are dependent on humanitarian assistance, and as many as four million are considered vulnerable and in need of help.” He then goes to explain that the directives on the 4th of June instructing all private volunteer organisations and NGOs to suspect all field operations until further notice, will have a very negative impact on the capacity to ensure that the UN can deal with this emergency.

He then says that he estimates that two million people are directly affected by this decision – this includes as many as 500 000 children who are currently not receiving the healthcare and HIV and Aids support, education assistance and food that they require. For example he says one major project for orphans coordinated by Unicef reaching 180 000 orphans through 35 NGOs can no longer operate. He then said that he has met Zimbabwean government officials who have indicated that they would soon clarify the directive, suggesting that it might be somewhat relaxed and that they will continue to press for full access.

Throughout the report he is raising serious concerns about the humanitarian tragedy and indeed about the negative impact of the decision to stop all NGOs, including the UN, from carrying out their humanitarian activities that they have been doing for so long.

So clearly his report is indicating that there are serious problems but we hope that their discussions with the government would enable this decision to be reassessed so that if the report, which is a UNSC report, is correct then we hope that the necessary actions will be taken.

Question: On Zimbabwe, where do we stand with the mission by South African Generals to Zimbabwe? Have they completed their mission? Have they compiled a report? Is it going to be published? Can you confirm if those Generals have gone back or not for the second time?

Answer: The South African Generals, I think, are in the process of completing their report. I have just come back from out of the country but I will check – but they have been preparing their report and I hope that the President would have been briefed and that his written report is still awaited. I do not know whether it will be made public – this is the decision of the President and the Generals he sent. As you know there were many reports that violence had increased and reports of the militarisation of the Zimbabwean society.

Question: There has been speculation about talks between the South African government and the MDC. Will there be such talks and if so when are they likely to be held?

Answer: There have been media reports that in the last few days that there have been talks between the facilitation team led by Minister Mufamadi and the Zimbabwean opposition, especially the Presidential candidate’s delegation. I cannot say or reject whether these reports are true but they have been consistent in the papers and I do believe that the facilitation team at the appropriate time will see it necessary to brief the media about the progress that has been made and the nature of the talks – if they have been taking place; what have they discussed and what are the possible outcomes.

Question: The issue in Zimbabwe of government of national unity – are there such discussions at all happening between the Zanu-PF and the MDC or is it anticipated that they may take place after the election?

Answer: The issue of the government of national unity – the latest comment has come again from the former presidential candidate Makoni, which is supported by many people. I think all political parties in Zimbabwe have indicated that they are in favour of some form of government of national reconciliation. It seems from reports in the media and elsewhere that the issue, shall it be before the presidential elections or after the presidential elections. Clearly all Zimbabweans have understood that there is no solution to the crisis unless there is a Zimbabwean approach which is collective and involves everybody in the process. We will wait for the Zimbabweans to take whatever decisions they make in this respect and we will support it, whether it is before or after the elections.

Question: Is the South African government adamant that the second round of elections in Zimbabwe must take place or do you it think it might be better if some kind of deal was be struck beforehand? The contact group, the facilitation group, particularly Minister Mufamadi – when will they be meeting with the Zimbabwean parties? The issue of the UN Security Council – the United States today said they believe the matter should come before the Security Council. Do you remain adamant that because it does not pose a threat to peace it does not belong on the UNSC agenda?

Answer: It is not our wish or in our power to determine whether elections should take place or not. This is in line with the constitution and if the Zimbabweans feel, as publicly stated by the church groups and others that these elections should not take place and they should rather move to a process of reconciliation – if that is what the Zimbabweans decide, indeed Africa and the world must accept that Zimbabweans’ wish.

Let me make it clear. It is not South Africa blocking the discussions in the Security Council. The Security Council mandate says you can only put issues on the agenda if it is a threat to regional and international peace and security.  To date, even under the presidency of the United Kingdom and the United States they have never put in on the agenda as a threat to international peace and security – they have put it as closed session to discuss the humanitarian issue. Now that the special envoy, after discussions between the Secretary General and President Mugabe, will go to Zimbabwe, obviously he would have gone as a special envoy and he will have to report to the Secretary General. The Secretary General then has the power to put it on the agenda or not to put it on to the agenda. We have never blocked as a principle, as it has been suggested that we are blocking it to defend any one party in Zimbabwe. Our objective has always been, as a facilitator, to play a role that will allow all Zimbabweans to find a solution. We do not block anything on the basis that we are supporting or trying to protect any particular party.  This is a matter that is the mandate of  the UNSC and as we are asking for the transformation of all the UN institutions as well as the Security Council, maybe this is an issue that can be taken up in the transformed Security Council on what issues can come within the framework of the UNSC.

We must understand that the UNSC is one organ of many UN institutions and many issues can be taken up at various levels and if not South Africa, then many other countries within the Security Council – I think the vast majority of the countries that are not permanent and Russia and China take the same view that you must be careful what you put on the UNSC agenda otherwise you will begin to transform the nature of the UNSC. We are just a non-permanent member. We will try to adhere to the situation where the Security Council mandate must be followed quiet religiously because we have seen on too many occasions, issues brought to the UNSC that should be handled through other structures of the UN and thereby continuously weakening the UN as a multilateral forum that can deal effectively with all the challenges we face.
                       
Question: There have been reports on numerous radio stations that President Mugabe believes that the country could plunge into civil war and that war veterans are ready to take up arms. Can we get a reaction to that as well?

Answer: I am not keen to comment about the civil war but many analysts, the church groupings and many people in Zimbabwe are saying the situation is so bad that if there is no resolution acceptable to all then the possibility of increased violence and possibly leading to civil war is on the agenda.

We ourselves work on the basis that we cannot start working on the basis of a civil war. Our objective is to try and make ensure that we can get the Zimbabweans themselves creating the conditions for them to find a solution that will prevent any further escalation of violence and indeed any possibility of a civil war. The civil war will not be in the interest of the region. As the report of Holmes said, any further violence will have a major impact on the region, especially South Africa and so we will do everything possible, firstly to deal with all the reports of the escalating violence and to make sure that we never reach a situation of a civil war because that will be disaster, not only for Zimbabwe but all of us.

Question: Is that the view at the moment that the run-off will take place under the present conditions? Are they free and fair conditions?

Answer: The President has indicated that we must do everything possible as the facilitator, as instructed by the SADC, to make sure that we can at least get to a situation that prevailed before the last harmonised elections. Nobody challenges the fact that the last harmonised elections were one of the best since 1980. If we can get back to that situation, then I think we will be able to honestly say that the elections were free and fair and the people were able to reflect their votes democratically. But this is a matter that SADC, the AU and the Pan African Parliament will honestly give their reports on the basis of their experience.

If you studied the last SADC and AU reports, they raise many issues that are problematic but they acknowledge that those issues can only be dealt with as the Zimbabwean body political situation normalises and that in the future those matters can be taken up. Anybody who reads the SADC Observer Mission Report, which was reflected on at the SADC Extraordinary Summit held in Zambia, will know that the report was constructive, determining that the conditions were one of the best since 1980, but that certain matters had to be taken up to ensure that in the future this should be resolved so that we can even have better than the March 29 election.

So it is our task as observation to make sure that we do get to a situation where the people will feel free that they can cast their votes. It is a very difficult task with many reports indicating the escalation of violence. But we are committed as SADC to honestly proclaim what we find through our observation in the run up to the elections and during the elections. This is imperative because besides that Zimbabwe will not solve its problems.

Question: How concerned are you that the number two in the opposition is not being allowed to lawyers?

Answer: This is a matter that I said I think when the President yesterday answered in the Parliamentary debate, what he said was that

At the moment, we are doing whatever we can to ensure that we do not experience major problems in the Presidential second-round elections set for 27 June. We are at one with SADC and most of the international community that the incidents of violence and reported disruption of electoral activities of some of the parties are a cause for serious concern and should be addressed with all urgency.”

What he is actually saying is that all these issues, any issue, whether it is the arrests or the violence that impact on the possibility of a free and fair elections as to be dealt with through the facilitation; through the SADC Observer Mission; through the AU Observer Mission; the PAP and 38 other organisations and countries that were invited previously to observe the elections – and I am assuming that all those have all been invited to participate again. It is a matter that we have expressed from the head facilitation team, our concern about certain developments and it is not up to the relevant structures to deal with all these matters, whether it is the arrests; or whether it is the violence, they will have to deal with it.

Issued by Department of Foreign Affairs
Private Bag X152
Pretoria
0001

13 Friday 2008



APPENDIX A

Briefing by John Holmes, Under-Secretary-General and Emergency Relief Coordinator on the Humanitarian Situation in Zimbabwe, 12 June 2008

Before the elections Zimbabwe was already facing a deep social and economic crisis, characterised by rapid economic decline and hyper-inflation of 170,000%, collapsing social services, food insecurity and the devastating effects of the HIV/AIDS pandemic.  Two million people are dependent on humanitarian assistance, and as many as four million are considered vulnerable and in need of help.

UN agencies and NGOs met with significant restrictions.

While UN agencies did not face the same range of problems, UN officials were informally told that some operations, particularly food distributions, should not e undertaken during the presidential run-off period.  By 12 May, access problems had been reported by UN agencies and NGOs in 24 out of Zimbabwe’s 81 districts.

The situation worsened further on 4 June,… directive instructing “all Private Voluntary Organizations and Non-Governmental Organizations to suspend all field operations until further notice,” on the ground that “a number of NGOs involved in humanitarian work are breaching the terms and conditions of their registration.”

UN colleagues believe that our NGO partners were acting fully in line with the core humanitarian principles of humanity, impartiality, neutrality and independence.

We estimate that two million people are directly affected by this decision.  This includes as many as 500,000 children who are currently not receiving the health care, HIV/AIDS support, education assistance and food that they require.  For example, one major programme for orphans coordinated by UNICEF – reaching 185,000 orphans through 25 NGOs – can no longer operate.

In a meeting in Harare, government officials indicated that they would clarify the directive, suggesting it might be somewhat relaxed and was indeed only temporary.  They also made clear that the suspension did not apply to churches.  We will continue to press for full unfettered access.

Indications are that this year’s food situation will be even worse than last year, when 4.1 million people were in need of food aid.  Initial indications from the joint FAO/WFP/Government Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission, concluded last month, suggest that the total cereal production this season will be about 470,000 metric tonnes – just 28 percent of the country’s annual consumption of 1.9 million metric tonnes.  This leaves a deficit of approximately 1.4 million metric tonnes.  The Government has itself acknowledged that the 2008 agricultural season will be disappointing, and has suggested that up to 60% of the population would need food assistance.

Unless imports and international assistance are made available, households in urban areas and districts in the south and the west will face severe food access problems beginning this month, with similar shortages developing throughout the country in the following months.

It is my profound hope that the current suspension of NGO operations will indeed not extend beyond the current period in the run-up to the elections.  Even the suspension of NGO field operations for three weeks has serious consequences.  For example, all WFP food assistance distributed by NGO partners has ceased, preventing 314,000 of the most vulnerable people in the country from receiving food during the month of June.  The suspension has also affected plans by a network of NGOs to feed an additional 300,000 people in June – leaving a total of 614,000 hungry.

The lack of food is bound to further aggravate health problems for these 614,000 people and lead to greater malnutrition.

I am particularly concerned by the plight of the 1.4 million people living with HIV/AIDS, of whom 100,000 are currently receiving anti-retroviral treatments.

In 2007, NGOs assisted 1.5 million people in the water and sanitation sector.  some humanitarian partners have already had to reduce or stop all activities due to restricted access and intimidation.  Between January and April this year, 982 cases of cholera were reported, with 129 deaths.

Since 29 March, the UN Country Team has continued to receive reports of widening politically motivated violence, with partners reporting incidents in 49 out of 81 districts (60%).

Acts of violence are reportedly perpetrated by security forces, youth militia, war veterans and supporters of both Zanu-PF and MDC.  The political violence is leading to increased displacement and movement towards urban areas.

We are currently providing assistance to approximately 30,000 people who have been internally displaced due to violence.  However, restrictions on movement make it impossible to estimate properly the number of those who have been displaced in the last few months.

While most of the Zimbabweans entering neighbouring countries do not seek protection as refugees, their movement cannot be characterised simply as “economic migration”.  UNHCR, for example, considers the latest movements to be forced displacement.

There are increasing reports of large groups, including entire families and elderly people, joining the exodus.

In November 2007, 42 UN agencies and NGOs appealed for US$317 million to provide urgently needed aid to the country in 2008.  Halfway through 2008, the Appeal has been only 19% funded. 

The situation in Zimbabwe is extremely difficult, from all points of view, and humanitarian agencies have little room in which to work at the best of times.  I hope the Council will continue to urge all actors to take all possible measures to reduce the prevalence of violence, and in particular will urge the Government to rescind restrictions on the work of the NGO community.

I appeal to the Zimbabwe Government very strongly to rescind in particular the decision preventing the NGOs from operating as soon as possible and to remove all other restrictions too.  This is not a political request.  The issue is humanitarian.

Quick Links

Disclaimer | Contact Us | HomeLast Updated: 13 June, 2008 4:09 PM
This site is best viewed using 800 x 600 resolution with Internet Explorer 5.0, Netscape Communicator 4.5 or higher.
2003 Department of Foreign Affairs, Republic of South Africa