Media Briefing by Defence Minister Charles Nqakula on the Outcomes of the SADC Summit of Troika of the Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation, 20 March 2009, Pretoria.
The Southern African Development Community (SADC) will be meeting soon in Johannesburg to discuss, amongst other things, the Madagascar situation.
The Extra Ordinary Summit of the Organ Troika on Politics, Defence and Security Co-operation, which was held in Swaziland yesterday, decided to submit to SADC a number of resolutions on the development in Madagascar.
One of the Troika’s decisions was to ask SADC “to consider imposing appropriate sanctions and/or use all relevant resources available to restore order in Madagascar” should Mr. Andry Rajoelina and his supporters not co-operate or comply with calls from all corners of the African Continent to return the country to its constitutional state.
The mood at the Troika summit was characterized by a deep sense of intolerance to the illegal outage of democratically elected leaders and the subversion of democracy.
The Executive Secretary of SADC, Dr Tomaz Salomão, who attended the extra ordinary Troika Summit, was asked to go to Madagascar with the foreign Ministers of Swaziland, Mozambique and Angola, the Troika countries, to establish there a network of collaboration and co-operation between African Union and United Nation representatives already in the county and other role players. He will report back on his task within seven days.
South Africa, which also attended the summit yesterday, has already condemned the seizure of power in Madagascar through illegal means and President Kgalema Motlanthe, on behalf of the country, has said that South Africa will not recognize Mr. Rajoelina as Head of State of Madagascar.
Minister how soon can we expect a Summit here in Johannesburg and it seems in the case of Mauritania it was yellow carded while Madagascar is being red carded?
Minister you are talking about tougher actions against Madagascar. Have you thought about specific sanctions that can be imposed?
Minister was any possibility of expelling Madagascar from the SADC considered?
Minister in terms of the sanctions is South Africa planning to impose its own sanctions or only as the SADC member?
Thank very much.
It’s true that there are some examples in the African continent where there have been illegal ousting of the leaders who were democratically elected. That matter of Mauritania is one of the cases in point. It is precisely because of those experiences that yesterday it was decided that there needs to be tougher action this time around because it can’t be tolerated principally on the basis of various articles of SADC itself including article 5BMC that relates to these matters.
Therefore the recommendation that is going to SADC is that there has to be tougher action. There is no way about it. With regards to the date (Summit) when I spoke to the President yesterday the date that was already given was the 30th of March. He is unhappy about a date so far away was chosen! I don’t know what he is going to do about that but when I briefed him he was saying that perhaps that needs to be brought forward. So I don’t know therefore what is going to happen about his attitude on the matter but really he is keen that this matter should be dealt with as quickly as possible.
The issue of the actual sanctions was not discussed but it was felt that the Troika should rather approach SADC and ask for tough sanctions. My understanding is that when the SADC Summit happens the Troika is going to obviously place on the table some suggestions with regards to what kind of sanctions should be applied in this case.
Some of the matters we have raised here are whether Madagascar should continue being a member of SADC on the basis of what has happened there and many other things alluded. But it is SADC in the end, on the basis of debates discussions and proposals at the meeting itself, that it will decide what to do in the circumstances.
South Africa is the country, apart form being Chair, is a member of SADC and therefore as South Africa we are going to be guided by the decisions that SADC takes and therefore we will do whatever is necessary with respect to what would be expected of the members of SADC after the relevant decisions shall have been taken.
Minister the Constitutional Court has confirmed Mr Rajoelina as President, will SADC respond to that and if so what kind of response. Also given that the situation has been brewing there since January, do you feel that SADC should have acted much earlier?
How do you respond to critics who say that in the case of Comoros there was serious action taken when there were problems there? Why was there no action from SADC to send troops to Madagascar or stronger action taken to avert this situation? Why is that it takes so long in some cases to act?
What do you think about the view that says the sanctions against Madagascar would in fact hurt people more than leaders?
Do you see a hand of any other power in what is happening in Madagascar, I’m talking about western powers or any other power?
We are uncertain what happens with regards the Constitutional Court. (inaudible), but if any one in Madagascar were to challenge the decision of that court they would simply go to the Constitution because the Constitution in Article 52 that talks about the replacement of the Head of State has this to say:
In case of vacancy, temporary or permanent incapacity the duties of the President of the Republic shall be temporarily exercised by the President of the Senate….
And in this case these powers were not transferred to the President of the Senate. Someone else was given the powers. There are other things of course in the Constitution that the Constitutional Court may not have (inaudible) relevant to that matter. As I say therefore citizens of Madagascar could challenge even the decisions of the Constitutional Court.
Now with respect to the Troika Summit yesterday the most important thing is the fact Mr. Rajoelina seized power unconstitutionally. That is the matter! That is being dealt with! And therefore the constitutionalities that relate to the basic law of that country, those don’t come into the picture. What come into the picture are principles of that Constitution that obviously speak against any action taken by any one in that country that undermine those constitutional principles. That is what we are dealing with!
The matter of sanctions, we should not speculate on the kind of sanctions that will be taken. That matter is going before SADC Summit and I am certain that SADC will be equal to the task of defining sanctions. The bottom line is that the democratically elected leader of Madagascar has to be restored to his position. Those therefore who ousted him must therefore yield that power to the leader that the people have democratically elected. These are the things that are on the table. As I say we cannot begin here to say here these are the sanctions that I either think should be applied or that SADC will look at applying.
I accept the criticism that the African continent as a whole has not been attending to issues undermining democracy uniformly. It’s true for instance that with respect to the matter of Comoros there was a force that was sent in to deal with that situation even in Lesotho but in other instances that has not been the case. The real aim of sending the SADC Secretary to Madagascar is to collect all relevant information and working with the other structures that are there to find a common position which will assist SADC to arrive at the positions that must indeed be taken and as I have indicated this means that in all corners of Africa continent there is now this mood which has arisen that speaks against actions of this kind that we have seen in Madagascar.
The issue of sanctions, what we are looking at are not sanctions that will apply to Madagascar as a country and therefore the population of that country but sanctions that will deal with people who have led this take-over of power illegally in that country. That is what SADC is going to be looking at.
It is very difficult to respond to that last question about the countries that might be hidden hand in Madagascar but we don not want to go into that situation because when we deal with what has happened in Madagascar we shall also be dealing effectively with whatever other (inaudible) may be part of this thing. Therefore the sanctions must indeed send a clear signal that SADC does not tolerate this kind of thing.
The African Union has a similar stance and therefore what we believe is going to happen is that the Madagascan situation is going to be used as a yardstick with regards to how SADC as well as the African Union will react with regards to situations like this when democratically leaders are undermined by measures that are at complete variance with the dictates of the constitutions of the various countries of the continent.
Minister you are saying democratically elected. I know that in the case of Madagascar it was the people who appeared to be rising against the President. Is SADC not going to be perhaps in a difficult position in trying to convince the leaders there?
Minister where is Mr Ravolomanana? Is he safe where he is?
Minister do you think SADC could have avoided this thing?
I am sure as the media you know that one of Mr Ravolomanana’s offers was a plebiscite which is one of the democratic practices that those people who are fed up with him could have used. That would have been legal. Therefore there is no one in Madagascar who could say there was no other way we could have removed this person from power. He said let’s have a referendum. That referendum would have shown whether it is true that the majority of people want him or not. And to us therefore if people indeed have a case that was one of the ways in which it could have been done.
There are other ways in which you do these things through the Constitution. If you could have called for an early election and demonstrate arguing for an early election, they could have done that. You don’t today put someone in power and you say to that person your term is five years and the day after you say we don’t want you. So if you don’t want that person there are legal instruments that could be used to deal with that matter, one of them was actually to have a referendum.
Of course with all these things there will be bloodletting, there will be violence that will affect a number of people as was the case in Madagascar. And when SADC restores a democratically elected leader there will have to be measures that are designed to maintain peace there, peacekeeping. But again I don’t want to pre-empt the discussions of the SADC Summit. I don’t know how we are going to deal with these many questions, these are the questions that will be raised at the Summit itself.
And Ravolomanana, I don’t know where he is but I know he is safe and I will tell you why he is safe. It is because even Rajoelina has said no harm will be visited upon him the information we have is that he has not been harmed but I don’t know where he is!. Fortunately I am not the Minister of Intelligence.
With regards to SADC action, yes SADC should have acted long before this thing happened. But it does not mean there were no discussions of this matter by SADC. Our President was in consultation with many role-players regarding this thing, leaders in the continent and leaders inside Madagascar itself. There were discussions between our President and those people. The situation was developing in the way that it was inside Madagascar itself. You will see from the document that we have circulated that the Executive Secretary of SADC was mandated by our SADC to go in there in order for him to try and mitigate the situation so that there could be a return to normalcy in that country. So there was action!
Now whether that action should have been more than what was done is the actual question. Should SADC have done more than what was done? The problem is how would you have determined that more was, because you should remember that the first thing that the leaders in the continent do is to listen to what the leader of a given country is saying and the leader of Madagascar at the time did not say SADC I need any immediate intervention!
If that call had been made SADC would have acted long before the democratically elected leader was ousted.
One of the blemishes of the African continent as you know was the situation in Burundi where I’m involved as the Facilitator. Now we ought to have taken to the Assembly Areas all combatants of the FNL, because our mandate expires on 31st of March. We are trying to do that as I speak. The FNL took their combatants into the Assembly Areas that we have. The process of disarmament has started and registration of the combatants for the finalization of the integration process, and hopefully still by the end of March we shall have done all of that.
But there are problems with many of the countries on the African continent. And those problems have to do with underdevelopment. Two days ago the registration we are talking about should have started only for us to learn that there were no computers in Burundi, not enough computers for us to do this work. A decision has been taken, I believe that other countries are now being asked to assist with the computers, we are also being asked to assist with computers. The information this morning was that there are some computers that were mobilized. I don’t know where they came from, for us to finish the registration of these combatants.
That explains the amount of work that must be done on the African continent to facilitate development because for any country to say there are no computers to do this work, is the problem of underdevelopment. And Burundi is a country that is emerging from many years of conflict. We understood when they said there were no computers where they are coming from.
But I am happy to say that process at least of taking the combatants into the Assembly Areas, has happened.
Minister what is the number of the computers required?
I don’t’ have the numbers. But we don’t only need those computers, we have mobilized now a number of people who are IT specialist who are going to help because that process has to be completed within a day. I don’t know the number of computers that are actually needed.
Issued by the Department of Foreign Affairs
Private Bag X152
20 March 2009