Transcript copy: Deputy Minister Aziz Pahad Media Briefing on Current International Issues, Wednesday 25 June 2008, Union Buildings, Pretoria

PRESIDENT THABO MBEKI TO LEAD SA DELEGATION TO AU SUMMIT, EGYPT

South African President Thabo Mbeki, supported by Foreign Minister Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, Deputy Minister Aziz Pahad and Foreign Affairs Director-General will lead the South African Government delegation to the African Union Summit of Heads of State and Government from 30 June-1 July, Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt from Friday – Saturday 27-28 June 2008.

The Summit will be preceded by the AU’s Executive Council of Foreign Ministers which begin their deliberations from Friday.

In this regard, the Executive Council of Ministers meeting will consolidate preparations for the African Union Summit of Heads of State and Government, to which President Thabo Mbeki will lead the South African delegation, scheduled from Monday to Tuesday 30 June – 1 July 2008.  The 2008 Summit will be held under the theme: “Meeting Millennium Development Goals (MDG’s) on Water and Sanitation.”

The South African delegation will participate in this session of the African Union Assembly and Executive Council within the context of South Africa’s priority to strengthen institutions of governance on the Continent with a view to achieving the political and economic integration of Africa.

THE EXECUTIVE COUNCIL, 27 - 28 JUNE 2008

The Executive Council will prepare for this Summit.  The key aspect of the agenda is that it will discuss all the stability issues on the African continent, as you know African issues take up most of the agenda of the Security Council.  It will be an opportunity to review developments in our region since the last Summit and see what else we can do as a region to help bring about stability in our continent.

The Report of the AU Commission on the operationalisation of the African Standby Force (ASF) has to be dealt with and decisions taken.

We have made some good progress on the operationalisation of the African Standby Force.  SADC has already launched its Standby Force but in other regions progress will be determined and see what can be done to accelerate the establishment of the regional brigades.

In this context the meeting of the Ministers of Defence and Security took place two weeks ago as part of the Organ.  All the reports relating to the stability issues on the continent will be tabled and discussed.

At this stage we have to concentrate, this being the half-way stage, on what progress has been made to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.  The G8 will be meeting about a week after the Summit.  Therefore the Summit will be an important opportunity for us to get a coordinated approach to how those of our countries in Africa who are attending the G8 will be able to reflect Africa’s collective voice. 

Given the fact that human rights and good governance have become an important item on the agenda, now we have to at this meeting look at 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.  We believe it’s quite important now that we finalise this merger so that we have one instrument to deal with the whole issue of human rights governance on the African continent.

Obviously the Executive Council will receive Reports on the situation in the Middle East and on other institutions such as the Pan African Parliament, the Standing Committee of ECOSOCC which is the civil society of the Pan African Parliament, the report on the African Court on Human and People’s Rights and the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights.  This is outside of the report on the merger of these institutions.

The most important discussion would have to be, I think, on the issue of the African Union Government.  This is a matter that has been on the agenda of the Ministers’ meetings as well as the Summits, as well as the Special Summit held in Ghana under the title “The Grand Debate” to deal with this issue of the African Government leading to a United States of Africa.

There have been many meetings.  The Ministerial Committee of Ten has met at least five times.  This was then taken over by the Heads of State Committee of Ten which met in Tanzania on 22 – 23 May 2008.  They will make their report to Summit for Summit to take some decision on the processes of the establishment of the Union Government.

There are basically two positions.  The one position arguing for the establishment of the Union Government almost immediately and the other position arguing that it should be a process based on the development of the sub-regional groups and therefore this Summit will have to take a decision on the way forward in relation to the Union Government leading to the formation of the United States of Africa.  As I said, there have been several meetings and this Summit has to take a decision on the way forward.

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

The NEPAD Heads of State and Government Implementation Committee will also be meeting on 29 June 2008 which will consider the following issues:

  1. Progress regarding the implementation of the principle of rotation of members of the NEPAD HSGIC;
  2. The status of AU/NEPAD integration process.  There have been decisions taken that steps must be taken to ensure that NEPAD is fully integrated within the AU structures.  We have to get a progress report and see what progress has been made and what needs to be done further.
  3. We have to then decide on the CEO of NEPAD, and
  4. Preparations for the G8 Summit scheduled for 7-9 July in Hokkaido, Japan.

This NEPAD Summit is quite crucial, this NEPAD review, because if we want to get anywhere near the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals and implement the regional reports of the Africa implementation group of the G8, we have to make sure that the NEPAD programmes are fully implemented.

Some good progress has been made on the NEPAD processes but we need to accelerate the progress of NEPAD.  So, this meeting will take some important decisions on how to accelerate the process of the NEPAD programmes.

Significantly too, the African Peer Review Forum will also meet on 29 June 2008 at the Heads of State level to peer-review Uganda, Nigeria and Burkina Faso.  It will be an opportunity for the signing of the APRM Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for accession by Togo.   Togo is the latest member that has joined the African Peer Review Mechanism.

I want emphasise once again that Africa has taken a unique decision.  It is the only continent in the world that has set up an instrument such as the African Peer Review Mechanism.  Now that there is an increasing amount of members joining the African Peer Review Mechanism, we have already been reviewed as South Africa, and other countries have been previewed.  Now there is Uganda, Nigeria and Burkina Faso and we’ve got Togo joining.  It’s an indication of Africa’s commitment to really collectively deal with issues of good governance, human rights, anti-corruption and the establishment of democratic institutions.

So it is an important meeting that is taking place and we believe that some important decisions will emerge from this Summit that will enable us to move forward on the objectives that we hope to achieve in Africa.

INTER-STATE POLITICS AND DIPLOMACY COMMITTEE

The Inter-State Politics and Diplomacy Committee Ministerial meeting took place in Luanda, we have just returned from there.  Let me remind you that we have three institutions that are in SADC.  That is the Committee of Ministers of the Organ, which has two legs.  The one is the Defence and Security leg which I’ve just indicated the Defence and Security Ministers met two weeks ago.  On Monday in Luanda it was the turn of the Foreign Ministers to meet under the second leg which is the Inter-State Politics and Diplomacy Committee.  Later in South Africa we’ll meet as a joint Defence, Security, Politics and Diplomacy Ministerial meeting.

The Ministerial meeting in Luanda two days ago discussed many issues.  Let me deal with some of the key issues.  The main issue was the situation in the region. We have an initiative in Lesotho through the SADC initiative.  The SADC Troika has also been to Malawi, to help Malawi prepare for the elections next year.  South Africa had to give a report on the recent attacks against foreigners in the country.  The issue of Zimbabwe was also discussed.

The meeting decided that on the issue of Lesotho the facilitation of the Eminent Persons Group led by the former President of Botswana is moving quite well and we expect that we’ll resolve all outstanding issues.

On the issue of Malawi discussions are continuing to see how we can help the Malawians prepare for the elections.

On the issue of attacks against foreigners - there was a general agreement that the attacks cannot be seen as attacks carried out by the majority of the South African people, but are acts of a few criminal elements in South Africa, and that the South African government and the South African people as a whole are committed to ensuring that those foreigners who are in our country, live among our communities.  They welcomed the efforts of the government and the South African community as a whole in dealing with this matter.

On the issue of Zimbabwe - we had reports from both the Zimbabwe Foreign Minister and the Executive Secretary who had just been to Zimbabwe a few days previously.  The meeting condemned the violence in Zimbabwe and called for urgent measures to be taken to end the violence.  The meeting also recommended to the (SADC) Troika that’s at the Heads of State level to make every effort to have a meeting urgently of the Troika and the Facilitation and if need be extend that meeting to invite other members of SADC to join it.
 
THE SADC TROIKA MEETING.

The Executive Secretary, Dr Salamao, whom we were in contact with, is himself on his way to Swaziland today as part of preparations for the SADC Troika meeting.

But as the Inter-State Politics and Diplomacy Committee meeting stressed that what we expect and what we want the Troika to do, however extended it is, is to continue to support the efforts to get the Zimbabwean parties to meet and to come to agreements among themselves which will enable us to help resolve the situation in Zimbabwe so that we can move forward in dealing with the economic crisis.

We expect the announcement by the Executive Secretary Dr Salamao within a few hours as to when this extended Troika meeting will take place.

You are aware of the Security Council consensus resolution and you are also aware that there was a statement put out yesterday and that generally there is an acceptance that we must all work together to put an end to the violence that is prevailing.  Since one of the Presidential candidates, Mr Tsvangirai, has announced his withdrawal, he is apparently going to have a press conference at 10h30 this morning, we will then see how we can fast-track this process of dialogue between the two parties so that we can find some solution to this process.

The main thing in all our understanding is that there must be increased efforts to help this effort to get the two main players in Zimbabwe to meet and to come to some agreement on the way forward for the Zimbabwean people as a whole.

We will continue to be seized with this matter.  As you know the Facilitation is now based in Zimbabwe and they will accordingly report on what progress is being made in the next few days.

ARREST OF 2 SOUTH AFRICANS IN ZIMBABWE

We are aware of the arrest of 2 South Africans who were rendering security assistance to Mr Tsvangirai. They appeared in court on Tuesday 24 June. Our Embassy in Harare is trying to get consular visits to the prison and we’ll report accordingly when that does happen.

UK FOREIGN SECRETARY TO VISIT SA FROM 7-8 JULY

Finally let me say that the UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband will be coming to South Africa at the invitation of South Africa’s Foreign Minister Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma on 7 and 8 July for the SA-UK Bilateral Forum.

This Forum has been established a few years ago.  It will be an important occasion to discuss not only our bilateral issues but also all the major issues that are confronting us on the African continent and Europe. 

Thank you.

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

Question:       Could you please explain something. We were under the impression that the Swaziland meeting today was the extended Summit of the extended Troika to discuss the Zimbabwe situation. What you are saying implies that Salamao was going to Swaziland in order to prepare that Summit. And also can you discuss with us the issue of President Mbeki’s attendance because we gathered from his spokesperson that he will not be there today, has not been invited?

Answer:         I said the meeting of the Interstate Politics and Diplomacy Committee meeting recommended to the Troika that they should meet, either as the Troika with the facilitation or an extended Troika. Following that recommendation the Executive Secretary should be in Swaziland now to discuss the preparations for such a meeting. The logistics and preparations are now in his hands; he has to now try to carry it out.

We know the President is in a Cabinet meeting now. So as soon as they hear now about what arrangements are being made, the Presidency will then take a decision on their attendance. Logistically it is a difficult problem but since the Executive Secretary has gone to Swaziland we expect that within a few hours he will indicate whether it is possible to hold the Summit and which Heads of State will attend from the SADC. So he has gone there for that purpose.

Question:       So is it possible that the Summit can be held later on today or is that unlikely.

Answer:         We will wait for him to announce it. I spoke to him last night and he indicated that he was on his way to see what is possible but there is keenness on the part of the SADC Troika to meet in an extended session if necessary. So that is his task now as the Executive Secretary to implement the decisions.

Question:       From the UNSC statement released on Monday, which South Africa supported, the UN said that the election on June 27 in Zimbabwe will not be free and fair. I want to find out whether South Africa will accept the outcome of that election after the statement.

Answer:         I think the importance of the Security Council statement – it is only a few paragraphs and it is worth getting. There very important issues on the Security Council statement, as it said after discussions etc it is a consensual Presidential statement. It does say that the violence and restrictions on political opposition had made it impossible for free and fair elections to take place in Zimbabwe.

But it does then go on to then call on the Zimbabweans to meet to try to resolve the issue and this is what we have been trying to do for some time now.

Question:       Seeing that it says that it is unlikely, impossible that the elections in Zimbabwe will be free and fair. Will South Africa accept the outcomes of the elections on June 27 and if Robert Mugabe is declared President, will South Africa recognise him as President?

Answer:         We are still committed, and as the Interstate Politics and Diplomacy Committee meeting that has just concluded in Luanda stated and now what we expect the Troika plus to meet is to try to do what has to be done. In the end we will wait for Mr Tsvangarai’s press conference expected at 10:30 today. He has withdrawn from the election.

The main thing, whatever else happens I do believe – and this is what the President has said and I am reiterating it – that there is nobody else who is showing any other solution to enable and assist the Zimbabwean parties to meet and to come to some agreement in order for us to find a solution. There are no other alternatives. So we will continue to support what the President has said. And now what the Interstate Politics and Diplomacy Committee has asked for is for efforts to ensure that the people of Zimbabwe to get together to come to some agreement. We will hear what Mr Tsvangarai’s will say today. In the interest of Zimbabwe we hope that all the parties will agree to at least start talking at a level that will allow them to move forward. They have all said they were willing to talk and they are talking. The question they are all saying is differences before or after the elections (23:30).

Since Mr Tsvangarai’s has already announced his withdrawal, Zanu-PF has said that President Mugabe will go ahead we have to now look at the legal implications etc. These are matters that our facilitation team is dealing with and so I refer you to the facilitation team.

Question:       But all indications are that the elections will go ahead. President Mugabe himself has said that the elections will go ahead. So what will you do if he is declared as President? Will you recognise him as President?

Answer:         We are dealing with this situation at various levels.  The question of recognition or not, we are asking them to meet to decide what is the way forward for them and we will leave it to the Zimbabweans to determine that. I am saying wait for Mr Tsvangarai’s press announcement today.

Cabinet is meeting today too and then we will get some clarity on what is happening.

Question:       Is there any discussion about President Mbeki’s role as facilitator given that Morgan Tsvangarai’s accused him of massaging a dictator instead of showing him the door and prodding him towards it; various calls for the facilitator to come outside of the SADC, saying that the region was not able to provide the best people for this job. Does our government regard President Mbeki as still fully entrenched as the facilitator in the Zimbabwe crisis?

Answer:         President Mbeki did not impose himself as a facilitator – as you know the extraordinary meeting in Tanzania chose him as the facilitator. Since then we have had no indication, and from the meeting that I come from of the Interstate Politics and Diplomacy Committee there was no indication that there was any SADC collective decision to challenge his mediation. We are confident that SADC specifically, and in contact with Africa generally, we are able to whatever is possible to find a solution. There are no question marks about his facilitation efforts.

I have asked a question if anybody can tell us what else can be done or must be done then tell us and we will refer it back to the facilitation.

The Security Council has endorsed the mediation efforts.

Question:       On the Security Council, South Africa has endorsed the statement. Can you give us an indication of why, because in previous decisions South Africa has not agreed that Zimbabwe is a Security Council issue? Perhaps you can give us some indication into South Africa’s thinking on that.

Answer:         As I said last week, that once the Zimbabwean government had agreed with the Secretary General that the envoy or representative would go to Zimbabwe – obviously as I said last week that once he reports to the Secretary General this matter will be taken as his report and now it is clear that under the United States’ Presidency, this matter has come up in discussion – and it is not a resolution it is a Presidential statement.

What is quiet clear is reflected in the meeting which we have just come from in Luanda: there is concern about the growing violence and there is concern that we should intensify our efforts to get the Zimbabweans to meet to find a solution. That, I think, remains the real thrust of everything that is being said at the moment.

Our view is let us not grand stand at the moment, let us work out how we can influence the Zimbabweans to get together to find an agreement – there are three days to go into Friday and the situation demands that we do everything possible to get the Zimbabweans to meet to agree to some way forward.

Without an agreement by the Zimbabweans there is no solution; and this remains our position.

Question:       Is the 27th a deadline for you? South Africa, come the 27th – all the indications are that President Mugabe will be declared President again – you will then be faced with a decision whether to recognise him or not. At the same time South Africa’s international standing is being damaged by the refusal of President Mbeki to condemn what is going on there – will there come a point where you have to say “this mediation has failed?”

Answer:         We can only say the mediation has failed if we reach a situation where Zimbabwe totally gets engulfed in a state of civil war. Let me put this question to all of you. The same questions were asked before the March 29th elections and nobody challenges that through the facilitation the March 29th election were one of the best elections held in Zimbabwe, nobody. Forge the subsequent delays of the results – but even that, all the speculations that the delays were to doctor the results have been proven to be false. Even the Security Council acknowledges that the facilitation played an incredible role to enable those elections to take place.

So why do we ignore the successes the facilitation achieved till the March 29th elections?

If it was one of the best elections held in Zimbabwe since independence, how can we say the facilitation has failed? If you are now raising the issue: “post March 29th has some things happened that have set back the progress made till the March 29th election?” – that is a different matter and we will not say the facilitation has failed until we find now that there is no possibility for the Zimbabweans to come together and find an agreement – then we are all in a mess. We do not accept these false headlines of “facilitation failed” – we do not know what we have failed in. I am really flabbergasted about why our memories are so short?

Did the March 29th elections represent one of the best elections Zimbabwe has held? Who was responsible for it? – The facilitation. Is there a draft Constitution that just needs to be signed that was agreed by both sides? – Yes. Who achieved that? – the facilitation.

So if there are some difficulties that have arisen since then, it is facilitation’s task; it is SADC’s task generally and especially under the Troika, to deal with these latest problems that have emerged. So clearly as the Security Council statement states, as the President has stated at his address to the house, the violence that has taken place since the 29th of March is a matter of grave concern. The President in Parliament called on the government to take action to ensure that the elections can be under free and fair conditions. That remains our position.

My problem is we seem to be living in two different worlds. But the reality is that if you want to correctly assess; if you heard the American Ambassador on radio today he had knowledge that the facilitation succeeded. He then goes on to say problems have arisen since March 29th.

Failure is not a term that we have in carrying out our task. We were told this during the DRC talks – we have failed. Eventually now we have successes in the DRC. We were told this about Burundi and now we have successes in Burundi. We are not interested in looking at successes and failures.

Coming to your second question – I think that is strength of South Africa. We have stuck to principles; we have stuck to what we need to achieve in the interest of Zimbabwe and in the interest of Africa, including South Africa. We have stuck to trying to find solutions – and we knew this was an issue that has been used to demonise not only the government generally but also the President specifically. There has never been such a systematic campaign of attacks against a Head of State and then the government as we have had on the Zimbabwean issue. But we are not a government or a party in government that are willing to then just reject all our understanding of how to find solutions in our interest on the basis that it has led to a lot of attacks on us. This is something we are willing to accept and this is something we believe the future will determine that we are the only government, with SADC that took the correct decisions to try to solve the matter.

I have asked this question three years running in these press briefings: give us alternatives that we can look at to see what else we must do in this situation and we will look at it – we have not yet got anybody giving us alternatives short of saying we have failed. We are not acting as individuals; we are acting as facilitators of SADC. We do not believe there is any other initiative that can do what SADC has achieved up till now. We are not in because we have got nothing to do; we are involved in the Zimbabwean issue precisely because it impacts so decisively on the future of our region as a whole and we were asked to mediate we did not ourselves ask to mediate. This is the reality we are faced with and this is the reality we have to bear our responsibility irrespective of who is attacking us.

Question:       One of the alternatives increasingly being aired is military action – this is something Morgan Tsvangarai’s called for. Today we have heard that the British Ministry of Defence has a scenario involving military action in some form. What would be South Africa’s response currently to that? Do you think it is absolutely, completely and utterly uncalled for that any kind of peacekeepers – regional, United Nations to step in at this point?

Answer:         I do not know of any plan of military action, I knew several years ago when there was a theory of regime change they were expecting us to take military action. Of course we are not crazy to do such a thing. If there are people who have plans for military action let them put them forward on the table and let us see what is doable. Military action is easy to talk about but to implement it is difficult. We are still battling to implement the UN Security Council resolution on Darfur. In Burundi we still had to carry the cost and the burden of putting personnel on the ground in Burundi at South African cost to resolve that situation.

So those who are putting forward military solutions, military action, let them put it on the table and let us discuss it.

We are not for military action, we do not think it is realistic, we do not think it is possible – I am talking outside of the Security Council framework or outside of the AU framework, I do not know what other planning the British will be having; are they going to carry out military action individually. I hope not. So I do not know what planning they have. I have not heard of such planning.

Question:       A military peacekeeping action?

Answer:         That is a decision that has to come from the Security Council. It is not our decision; it is a Security Council decision.

Question:       Did President Mbeki try to convince President Robert Mugabe to postpone the June 27th election?

Answer:         I have seen it in your newspapers since my return. All the newspapers are reporting. Today’s newspapers are full of it, that the facilitation is still trying to get some solution that will enable a possible postponement. It is in the newspapers. I do not know. That you should ask the facilitation. I am not in the facilitation team.

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

 

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