Notes following Briefing to the Media on Conclusion of South Africa – Denmark Bilateral Discussions, Union Buildings, East Wing, Pretoria, Friday 23 January 2009
Opening remarks by South African Foreign Minister Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma
Your Excellency Mr Møller, distinguished Danish delegation and the South African delegation, I would like to welcome you to South Africa and to wish you a very good year, 2009. I know that you have travelled from very far from a very different clime and we hope you will enjoy your stay in South Africa. I still remember my visit in October last year with very fond memories and I think that with the unveiling of the shield of the Order of the Elephant in honour of former President Mandela the visit remains very prominent in my mind and the discussions we had with yourselves and members of parliament. I look forward to the continuation of those discussions we had in Copenhagen.
Off course, since we met in October, quite a lot has changed in the world. We now have a new administration in the United States. We had the historic inauguration of the new President, President Barack Obama and we hope to reflect on all these changes. This is indeed a historic change for us all and we hope that his slogan for change and hope which resonated with the American people and with the rest of the world, that we will indeed see some very positive changes worldwide. There are problems that confront him and us all, not least of which is the financial crisis and all its consequences. We wish him well and hope that we all will be able to work together to whether the effects of the financial crisis and the consequences on the economy.
We are also looking forward to coming to Denmark, not just for the Africa-Nordic meeting but also for the climate change conference towards the end of the year. South Africa is willing to play a very constructive role, as always, and so, you can be assured that you have a willing partner in making that conference a success. We are willing to play, in our humble capacity, whatever role we can, to be very constructive. Off course, I look forward to hearing from yourselves regarding preparations for that conference and how the Africa Commission is going. I think we have a lot to discuss with yourselves and off course, we look forward to establishing this mechanism for the regular exchange of views.
Welcome to South Africa.
Opening remarks by Danish Foreign Minister Per Stig Møller
Thank you very much colleague, thank you very much for your very kind invitation and I am very glad to be here. I think that South Africa is a very important country and I wish you all the best for the new year. You have mentioned President Mandela and we all have admiration for the fantastic way in which things have gone in South Africa. Two persons that stand out in the 20th century are Gandhi and President Mandela. So what has happened is fantastic. I think the development of the democratic process in your country is also a miracle. Now you will prepare for elections, you have new parties. That is how it should be in a democracy. In Denmark as well, we have recently had two new parties. We have a small party which has now become three parties.
I look forward to co-operating well with you on the climate conference – I am very happy that you have said you want to play a constructive role because I think it is very important for Africa to get a good result. We talked about this in October and your constructive endeavour is very much appreciated. I have just come from a meeting on energy with your Minister of Minerals and Energy and we signed an intention to co-operate agreement. I think we can co-operate very well in the field of energy – turning your economy towards renewable energy sources and we will off course, support you with this renewable energy technology – wind and solar and also carbon capturing because this will assist you with your energy consumption. Also regarding the Africa Commission – we are very glad to have South Africa represented in this Commission. This Africa Commission will describe the problems and also indicate solutions to these problems. This should be the new thing at which we are aiming.
Concerning the financial crisis and the climate change problem – I think President Obama last year made the right point that you cannot save the financial crisis without also addressing the energy problem. That has been the Danish policy for many years, as I am sure you are aware and I am very glad that President Obama maintained this even at the end of the campaign – if you want to have a strong economy you cannot send all that money out of your country to oil and gas supplying countries. We have problems in Europe because we are as dependent on Russian gas are we are. So we have 6 or 7 European countries who have been freezing because the gas supply did not arrive. Now it seems that we have found a solution – this indicates how fragile we become when we depend on others. That is why renewable energy and energy efficiency is so important. We are foreign ministers so we have the security problems and if the energy ministers fail, we also get the problems. That is why it is very important that America has a President that has taken this position – that you have to combine the solutions to the two crises. I hope that turning towards renewable sources and better, sustainable technologies, can be the locomotive of the economies of the 21st century. Now we can have a green revolution. That is also why I think it is so important that Denmark and South Africa, on either side of the world, have agreed to work together to find a solution and help each.
We are looking forward to hosting the Nordic-Africa meeting and I am very glad that you will be attending. We would want to discuss the climate change issue with you, the problems arising from the financial and climate crises and also preparations towards the Durban II Conference. I think it is very important that we find reasonable solutions. I would also like to hear about your regional challenges – we are very concerned about the developments in Zimbabwe. I read in your paper today that you now have cholera in South Africa. I think we should discuss how we can prevent extremism and terrorism from spreading. Your continent and ours experience the problems associated with this. And finally along the tropics – the issue of the World Trade Organisation talks – it has become more difficult to get a solution but we must have a solution – also regarding the financial crisis, we have to see where growth can be facilitated.
Comments by Foreign Minister Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma
Thank you very much ladies and gentlemen of the media, we are very pleased to welcome Minister Møller to South Africa. We have been looking forward to his visit for some time and we feel that visit has come at the right time. We have quite a range of issues that we have discussed and others that we will continue to discuss over lunch. We think that regular discussions between ourselves and the Danes are very important and that is why we have signed a Declaration of Intent that allows us to meet at least once a year to have a proper discuss between us. Denmark is one of those countries that has had a long history in South Africa by supporting the anti-apartheid and the liberation movements and so, it is not surprising that they would have an interest in a democratic South Africa.
We have discussed and shared with Minister Møller our views about the domestic situation, political, economic and we have also discussed issues around Zimbabwe, the Middle East, Palestine, a bit about what we think about the new administration of the United States. As you know the United States has just had the historic inauguration of President Obama and with his message of change and hope for the Americans and the rest of the world. America is also a important player in the world. There opinions are very important so we have shared some ideas around this. We will further be discussing the climate change conference, Durban II, so we have had a whole range of discussions.
I will now hand over to Minister Møller.
Comments by Danish Foreign Minister Per Stig Møller
Thank you Minister and thank you for your invitation to visit South Africa and to sign this agreement which means that South Africa and Denmark will now annually consider these various topics, to inform each other and also to have opportunities to push things in the right directions. I think that South Africa has made tremendous development. I think this democracy which you have made – created by the agreement signed between Presidents Mandela and de Klerk – created a miraculous situation. There are two great people in the 20th century – Mahatma Gandhi and President Mandela. What has been done is incredible. We see the roots of democracy have taken place.
South Africa is also a very important player in Africa with facilitating peace agreements in Africa, taking part in solutions and that is admirable. That is why good contact with South Africa is also to the benefit of Denmark. We will learn a lot about African conflicts and solutions. We have the African Commission – Denmark will present its report in May and we hope it will be constructive for Africa.
We have discussed the situation in the United States, Afghanistan, Pakistan, which we see as a very dangerous spot where anything can go wrong and where if anything does go wrong it would be very costly for the world. We discussed the Middle East. The US administration has said it will support a two-state solution immediately which was mentioned yesterday. I think it is good because the time must be right for a two-state solution. It is good that the American administration is beginning so quickly to deal with this.
I am also glad of the decision of South Africa, leading up to the conference on climate change in Copenhagen in December 2009 – we need South Africa to be an active partner and its co-operation is important for the African continent. It is important for a leading player like South Africa to ensure that when it goes into conferences that the needs of the African continent are taken into account. Off course, we also discussed Zimbabwe and I hope that the SADC countries will use their influence in Zimbabwe to create a solution. We will continue to discuss other topics but these are the ones I wanted to mention.
Questions and answers
Question Minister Dlamini Zuma, how do you see the situation on the border of South Africa and Zimbabwe regarding cholera?
Answer (Minister Dlamini Zuma) South Africa has been very instrumental in trying to manage the cholera situation in Zimbabwe working with the Zimbabwean authorities, the SADC Troika, and the World Health Organisation. Off course, there is a tension between border controls and disease management. We have to manage this very well because if we take a fortress mentality and say that we are closing our borders, people will still find a way of entering South Africa. We will not be able to monitor this or facilitate treatment for them. We need to manage this very delicately because while there is the normal border control, people can have access to health care.
It is also very important that we advise people on how to avoid being infected by cholera – like ensuring you boil the water you are going to drink, that you don’t eat uncooked meat, you eat what is cooked, you peel your vegetables so that you can prevent infection.
Question Minister Dlamini Zuma, will South Africa propose sanctions against President Mugabe and his regime when SADC meets on Monday?
Answer (Minister Dlamini Zuma) I think we discussed this – if there are sanctions to be implemented or proposed, these should be sanctions against everyone who is impeding progress to finding a solution. They should not be geared towards one group. I think you should look across and say where are the problems in moving forward in the implementation of the agreement and where there are problems, if sanctions are to be applied, they should be applied to all who are impeding progress. That would be my approach but at the moment, SADC has not taken a decision to impose sanctions.
Question Minister Dlamini Zuma, how far do you think the parties are from reaching an agreement? Are you hopeful that an agreement will be reached on Monday? Minister Møller what are your suggestions in terms of sanctions?
Answer (Minister Dlamini Zuma) Regarding the progress of the parties – I can only respond to that question by telling you a story – somewhere there were people who wanted to test the village fortune teller. So some young people wanted to test this fortune teller and they decided to tell him that if he is wrong, we will kill him but if he is right, then we will tell the whole village how good he is. They agreed to give him the most difficult test. So they argued amongst themselves until they decided that they would take a little bird and because it is so tiny we can hide it in our jackets and we will ask him to tell us what we are carrying. Another bright young man said, “no, that might be easy because he might say that is a bird. What we should ask him is whether it is alive or dead. If he says it is alive, you kill it under your jacket and if he says it is dead then you produce it alive.” They agreed to this as a very good suggestion and went off to test the fortune teller.
They went to the fortune teller and he thought very hard. He was sweating profusely because they told him that his life depended on the answer. After a long time, he told them they were carrying a little bird. They smiled, looked at each other and then asked, is it dead or alive.
Again he thought very hard and was sweating profusely because his life depended on the answer. Eventually he said, “I will not talk about the life of a bird that is in your hands. You are the only one who can tell if is dead or alive, only you can decide if it should live or die. So, I will not answer that because the life of the bird is not in my hand but in yours.”
So, maybe I can only answer the question through that story because the real solution to the Zimbabwean problem is in the hands of Mr Tsvangirai, President Gabriel Mugabe and Mr Arthur Mutambara. Those three leaders have the solution to the Zimbabwean problems in their hands so I cannot answer how far they are in solving the problem. Only they can answer this. SADC wants a solution but unfortunately the solution does not lie in the hands of SADC, the EU or anyone else, because if it was, we would have a solution by now. If it were up the EU we would have a solution by now because the EU wants a solution but because it is not in their hands, we don’t have the solution. The only three people who can answer that question for you are the ones I have mentioned.
(Minister Møller) Following that response, I should also be wise and not respond to your question. As the Minister has said, the European Union wants a solution and we have imposed a travel and visa ban on President Mugabe and his entourage and we off course, support the people of Zimbabwe. Denmark provides ₤200million in humanitarian aid to the people of Zimbabwe because it is very important that the victims of this political strife do not suffer more victimisation. I hope for a solution that respects the outcome of the election process – that is what it is all about. I really hope that SADC comes up with a solution – it is an African problem, I am hopeful that African leaders can find a solution to this situation as they have to other problems throughout the years.
Question Minister Dlamini Zuma, regarding the matter of the two Danish children in South Africa – what are your comments on this matter?
Answer (Minister Dlamini Zuma) This is a very sad and tragic case and we are all very moved by his case of the children who lost their father while on holiday in South Africa. We are very aware of the efforts of the Danish government, together with the family to secure the future of the children and bring them to Denmark. Our challenge in South Africa is our laws – our law is based on Roman-Dutch law which begins from the premise that you are innocent until proven guilty. Now the mother, as you know, is in custody accused of the murder of the father. But she has not been found guilty. That is one part of the problem, the other part is that because she has not been found guilty, she has the right to custody of the children. So, her permission is required to allow the children to be sent to the other members of the family in Denmark. She has not given her consent. That is the crux of the matter – she has not given consent for the children to go and she has not been found guilty. So, our law allows her to have custody or to be the one to consent to the children being sent to Denmark. That is the problem. We hope that his case will be considered soon and depending on the conclusion, a solution for the children can be found.
(Minister Møller) I can confirm that we have discussed this and while we are very anxious to find a solution we must accept the South African law. We are dealing with this and looking at it as a family tragedy and hope that the children can get past this.
Question Minister Dlamini Zuma, will Morgan Tsvangirai and Mr Mutambara attend the SADC Summit on Monday?
Answer (Minister Dlamini Zuma) I hope that all roleplayers will attend the Summit because firstly, the SADC Troika needs to report to the Summit regarding progress since 9 November 2008. and off course, it will be better to do this with all parties present.
I am not aware of an African Union meeting on Monday – I am aware of an AU Summit beginning on 1 February 2009. There will be a meeting of Ambassadors followed by the Executive Council next week. It will consider a whole range of issues beginning with the financial crisis, the economic depression and how Africa views this, what message Africa would like to send to the London meeting, it will discuss the Union government in terms of integration, all peace and security issues – Somalia, Sudan, DRC, Zimbabwe. It will also discuss all the socio-economic challenges as it usually does. So, it will have a full agenda.
Issued by Department of Foreign Affairs
Private Bag X152
23 January 2009