Notes following a Media Briefing by the Foreign Affairs Director General, Dr A. Ntsaluba on 10 February 2009, Cape Town.
Thank very much Colleagues.
We will basically talk about three areas. The first one is basically to talk about the 12th Assembly of the AU held in Addis., and probably a few things about our neighbour, Zimbabwe and what some of the more urgent commitment that the Minster and the Department will be focusing on in the years ahead and probably one or two issues that are topical in the media now.
The African Union meeting which was in Addis, as you know the Summit was from 01-03 February, and there were a number of discussions. The first part was the reflection by the Heads of Sate and Implementation Committee on the issues of NEPAD. And as you know South Africa was supposed to present its progress on the Per Review process and that was done. I don’t think there is anything significant in that except just to say that the Heads of State appointed the new Executive Director of the NEPAD, who is the former Prime Minister of Niger.
The second day which was essentially the Sunday the 01st of February was devoted to a discussion on the Union Government and this was a carry though of the discussion that took place in Sharma Sheik and of course we can say that in the discussion the two major trends in this debate were evident. The people wanted a rapid establishment of the Union Government and rapid movement towards what is seen as the United States of Africa.
On the other side there were people who were arguing that the end bjective of the continental integration is to advance the continental agenda. And therefore the integration must be carried out in a manner that ensures that at every step it facilitates attainment of developmental objectives.
South Africa belongs to that group that essentially says the route that we have to follow is to understand that this is not going to be achieved in one giant leap and that the direction that we have to follow is via the establishment of the Regional Economic Communities (RECs) and strengthening of those RECs, greater interaction around those RECs. You know for example that there was a SADC, COMESA and EAC meeting last year to discuss the establishment of an FTA and finally that would lead to the continental integration.
So both trends were there. At the end of a very long robust debate there was an agreement that the currently Commission as structured required strengthening and part of that strengthening people spoke about resources and also the content of what they do. There was also an identification of the cross - cutting issues like poverty alleviation, HIV and Aids but we had to feature much more prominently on the agenda of the Commission., and therefore that resulted in the agreement that the Commission should be renamed the Union Authority and with the Commissioners designated as Secretaries and with the Chairperson of the Commission now designated as the President of the Commission. There was then an agreement that those changes must be sent to the Ministers for them to come back with a very clear detailed framework of how these can be actualised and what the content of this is going to be.
When the Ministers met it became clear that they ere working on, because it was produced with some degree of speed, had major implications for the Constitutive Act and there would have to be amendments of the Constitutive Act. And there were some issues that would contradict previous decisions that were taken like for example the role and the relationship between the AU Commission and the RECs . Hence the decision to say maybe our ambition to reach an agreement in this Summit was not realistic. So then the Ministers should step back , meet within three months and work out the detail of the work and next Summit will take this process forward.
So that was the discussion really around the issue of the Union Government. In our own assessment we have seen the (inaudible). Quitely clearly it’s a debate that raises the levels of passion in the continent largely because many people feel that given the sizes of our nation states and the sizes of our economies some of the people in the continent don’t stand the slightest chance of ever feeling the impact of benefiting from the waive of globalisation because their states are two small and therefore you find some of these individuals really feeling strongly that we have to move with speed.
But the counter side to that is to say if we are going to form this continental government there must be some underlying and forming principles around the issues of governance, governance around issues of our core understanding of the values around democracy. These are things that we have to systematically work on because once you move to an Union government then it must deal with something much more solid especially if it were to take us to the objectives we are talking about.
Another important thing, you will recall that we postponed the African Diaspora Summit which we were due to hold in September last year due to the political changes that had taken place in the country. Basically South Africa was urged by the EU to continue preparing for that and that we should try to hold that Diaspora Summit soonest. That is something that the new administration in South Africa will have to apply its mind to.
As you would expect there was a report that I will integrate to what was discussed there with the latest developments on Zimbabwe. The SADC team under the guidance of our the Chair, our President had to give a progress report on the task that was given to SADC in Sharma Sheik with regards to Zimbabwe. Fortunately, of course as you know, we had just hosted a very important Summit on Zimbabwe. There was a commitment of the different parties to Zimbabwe to proceed on at the time when this discussion took place in Addis.
The MDC leader, Mr Tsvangarai had just announced the decision of the National Executive to participate in the inclusive government. So the focus really was on how to make this work, and therefore call on the leaders to do everything possible to make sure that this agreement works. A full endorsement of the timeframes were agreed upon in the Summit and as you know we will have meetings tomorrow for the swearing in of the Prime Minister designate and the Deputy Prime Minister in Harare and the Ministers on the 13th .
An important element that I think we need to reflect on the discussions at the AU Summit was the expectation and the call that was made to the international community to lift whatever forms of sanctions in order to encourage the process of forward movement in Zimbabwe. And I think here people are very conscious of the fact that we need to have the parties and the leaders of Zimbabwe deliver in the interest of the people of Zimbabwe, but also the view that let us not put too many impediments, our posture should be the far more of encouraging so that we give the best possible chance for the people of Zimbabwe to succeed.
We also hold the view that the leaders would be sustained in what they were trying to do if the feel the support of the population for the new dispensation and working and supporting the framework that is there and for the people of Zimbabwe to do that it is important for them to see positive spin offs from the implementation of the framework. So we are calling for the sanctions to be lifted particularly with respect some of the humanitarian challenges I think we have to move with some degree of speed and a degree of urgency.
Of course that does not mean in anyway not to put pressure on the leaders to do what is correct essentially to focus on issues of economic reconstruction for an acceptable government to deal with the issue of humanitarian challenges and also to make sure that all these issues around violations of rights of individuals are attended to.
The other issue that the Summit had to deal with relates to concerns around worrying trends about the resurgence of the unconstitutional seizure of power as evidenced by what happened in Guinea and Mauritania and at the time that the Summit was meeting closer home in Madagascar we were seeing all these unfortunate events.
What the Summit did was to express itself very strongly in favour of upholding the principles that had been agreed which is essentially about non recognition of those leaders who assume power through unconstitutional means. And therefore the continued endorsement of the functions against Guinea Conakry as well as Mauritania and the re-affirmation of the correctness of the position that they should not attend the meetings of the AU until the issue has been resolved and of course at the same time expressing the commitment of the AU to assist those countries to speedily move to a stage of the restoration of democracy. That would have been the same spirit that would have shaped the preliminary assessment of the situation that was unfolding in Madagascar, a strong expression of the view that the legality has to be respected.
There was obviously also a discussion around the issues of Sudan as you would expect and with respect to Sudan that was essentially about the welcoming of the progress registered with respect to the programmes and peace agreement. Secondly also recognition of the progress that has been registered with respect to the peacekeeping forces, the UN, EU forces in Darfur , reaffirmation of the strong view that the continent has around the issues of impunity and the need for justice to be respected. But also the reaffirmation of the position that the continent had expressed before of the reservation of the continent about the usefulness of the current intervention by the ICC against the President of Sudan, As you will recall the view of the AU is not so much that it should not take place but they was a call to invoke the relevant provisions of the ICC statutes in particular the issue of deferring by at least twelve months so as to make sure that the Government of Sudan can participate in the processes that would help restore peace and stability in Darfur.
Now the Summit took place against the backdrop of the progress registered in Somalia. Last year we had the Djibouti processes and we saw the election of the Somali President , Sheik Ahmed who participated in the deliberations of the Assembly and I say there was some sense of the optimism especially against the backdrop of the UN resolution of January 15th and the probability of UN involvement and the support of a peace keeping mission in Somalia
There was a recognition of the effort played by South Africa during the chairship of the UN Security Council (UNSC) in particular the role that we played during our Presidencies of putting the theme of the relationship between the African Union Peace and Security Council and the UNSC, recognition of the Annual Dialogue that is taking place and calling upon the members of the African Union that are seating in the UNSC to build up on what South Arica had achieved and to make sure that we inject some momentum on this work of the partnership between the two Security Councils
There was also an appointment of the Advisory Board on Corruption within the AU and the important thing here is that the 11 member Board one of those who was elected was our former Speaker of Parliament, Ms Frene Ginwala.
Some important thing is that looking ahead the Assembly took a decision to declare the coming decade a ‘Decade for African Women - 2010-2020’, and also finalise themes for the oncoming meetings. This particular Assembly focused on issues of infrastructure and I don’t think there was any thing that was earth shattering we can took about except the reaffirmation really and collective reflection on what the challenges are and the importance of infrastructure in the continent. And to identify the types of investments that need to be made to bring about greater connectivity.
Building on that the 13th session which is going to be in July 2009 will be looking at investing in agriculture for economic growth and food security in the continent. The 14th Session which will be in January next year will look at the issues of ICT in Africa and challenges and prospects for development and the one thereafter will look at maternal, infant and child health development in Africa . So those will be the themes that will guide the next sessions.
So as you would expect there was a report that was tabled sometime early in January. There was a group of five Finance Ministers and Governors who were hosted here by Minister Trevor Manuel in Cape Town, looking at the financial crisis together with some of the financial institutions. They tabled their report which is essentially the report that is supposed to guide African input particularly in discussion that is going to take place on 02 of April, the G20 meeting in London as a follow up to Washington meeting. An important element that is key in those recommendations is the call on developed countries in particular not to advocate their responsibility and their commitment with respect to support for development in the African continent as a result of the current financial challenges.
Having spoken about these there are a few important incoming meetings. On the margins of the AU there was a Summit of the Greats Lakes which obviously received a lot of reports on the interaction between DRC and Rwanda in particular with respect to the eastern DRC, reflected on the latest developments with regards to this and on Nkunda. Generally we spoke about this in our last briefing the general sense is that things are moving in the right direction. The dialogue between Rwanda and DRC is very important. Especially because it is beginning to address the core issues to the conflict mainly the issue of the genocidaires who are present in the DRC as well as the alleged support of the rebel forces by Rwanda. There is also general cooperation between Uganda and the DRC with respect to dealing with the problems of the LRA and again some progress seems to have been registered.
With respect to the incoming meetings, there is an important meeting tomorrow in Harare and South Africa will be represented. Of course as you know that tomorrow will also be our Budget vote so it is possible that our Minister will represent South Africa tomorrow and the President will go on Friday, Its really possible with respect to that.
The Minister will also be receiving the Bulgarian Foreign Minister in Pretoria on Friday the 13th .
Also the Minister will be receiving the Foreign Minister of Mexico on 19 February, all aimed at pursuing bilateral relations.
Then during the week starting on 23rd there is Conference of the Gulf and Investment in the Gulf region which is taking place at the ICC, a number of Gulf Ministers will be here so our Minister will have occasion during that time to meet the Foreign Minister of UAE and Bahrain.
Also during that time there will be a Council of SADC meeting which will be hosted and chaired by the RSA Foreign Minister.
The Deputy Minster, Sue van der Merve will also be visiting Spain again for bilateral consultations but also as part of 2010 assignments she will be meeting the Spanish Football Association.
Of course the final point I would like to talk about is that the Minister of Home Affairs yesterday did talk about the visa waiver in terms of the decision of the UK government. It was indicated that this was the sovereign decision of the UK government but will introduce and element of inconvenience for South African travelling to the UK.
We continue to engage the UK authorities to look at how to make sure that inconvenience is minimised as much as possible building on the fact that we do have good bilateral relations and those relations are important for us to preserve and I think both countries are anxious that those bilateral relations are not affected as a result of these new developments. On our side we will continue to work with the Department of Home Affairs and continue to make the necessary representations and will handle the issue with the UK High Commission here to try and make sure the inconvenience of South African travelling abroad is minimised as much as possible.
There are reports that the R300 million given to Zimbabwe has gone astray and taken by ZANU PF, any comment?
Comments by the President that Zimbabwe may possibly use the rand as one of its currencies do you also want to comment on that?
What are the implications for the Global Political agreement if MDC’s Tendai Biti not given a Cabinet post?.
Let me start with the last one. With respect to Tendai Biti we know only as much as has been released by the MDC. We have noted the latest reports. Either way for us in terms of acceptance of the cabinet position we will continue ….. (inaudible). You know in the case of South Africa we have got a tradition here with the ruling parties that Secretaries General remain running parties. It may also be that the MDC may feel that it wants to strengthen the party within Government and Tendai Biti is a very senior member in the party and we do know that the portfolio speculated upon is a portfolio allocated to the MDC namely Finance.
So I think all of us we will probably know the truth on the 13th which is on Friday. To us whatever decisions are taken as long as they are driven by the desire of each of the parties to make sure that the agreement works and MDC can exercise its rights to decide what is the best way of giving expression to that and to us that is their decision as long as whatever decision is aimed at ensuring that there is forward movement in this process.
With respect to the issue of the rand let’s treat all these as possibilities simply because we all know that the issue about using the rand has been raised before. It is an option that is available and obviously like any other option if that is the direction that gets taken all sorts of necessary precautionary measures will have to be added to it. It is not the only option available but I think it is one of the options spoken about by the people, some far more familiar with monetary policy than we could be. But its aimed at trying to look at what is the type of intervention that would help speedily to, in a sense, stabilise the fiscal and monetary situation in Zimbabwe. I think it has to be looked against that background that there is a variety of measures that can be taken but certainly if we were to move that way the South African authorities would have to enter into a reasonable dialogue with the Zimbabwe authorities.
We have received reports and we still need to gather a bit of information around the issue of the reports (R300 million). Perhaps let me just give the first preliminary observation of this. The first thing is that it is not correct to suggest that some of the small grains as reported like sorghum and things like those the end point should have been November for their use. It is not correct. Agricultural experts would know that it could continue right through the end until the later part of January. That was basically the technical information. So I don’t think its correct. So to that extent therefore, because it … side of the argument I don’t think it’s a correct argument. We do know that except for the short varieties of maize the time of the intervention for the main stream of seeds of maize indeed around December at the time of these interventions it was a bit late. Hence the focus was on the short season variety of maize as well as the small grains.
As to the issues around that disproportionately more people are ZANU-PF supporters I think that is an issue that we do not have that information on but we will get details around the issue. But it would be very important for us as we deal with this issue to also be a bit careful about being dramatic about it largely because we do know that the patterns of support in Zimbabwe by and large the MDC draws its support from the urban areas while ZANU-PF draws a lot of support from the rural areas and therefore if you talk about communal support for agricultural purposes you are talking about a rural intervention. So if you are about to say more ZANU-PF you just have a far much more comprehensive approach. That is why our approach to this issue is to get as much support as possible, bearing in mind that the South African Government intervention of the humanitarian and development assistance framework in Zimbabwe was aimed at minimising the prospects of partisan distribution. That was the guiding principle. And we believe that our intervention was aimed at trying to do that.
I want to know RSA government response to the UK reports that there is a terrorist activity in South Africa that led to the UK decision
I think we can really work for now on the basis of the statement that the UK government has given to us. As you would expect they have formally written to us giving us their reasons and we would have to respect the reasons they have given. Other reasons that have indeed informed the decision and in those reasons I don’t think there has been any dramatic claim about South Africa as a terrorist space. So we don’t want to be hysterical about that. If we were to confirm that the UK government indeed said that we will have to discuss with them so that we can understand the evidence and the basis to that allegation but for now in terms of what they said to us initially they have not made that allegation.
What kind of government do you anticipate in the Union Government given that Mr Qadhaffi has made it clear in the African Union that he does not believe in opposition?
What will be Africa’s approach to the G20 meeting in April given that a call has been made for the developed world not to abdicate their responsibilities?
As you know the AU first of all tries to work on the basis of a rotational system with respect to the identification of people who assume the chairship. And it so happened that this particular time, following that system of rotation, the chair of the AU had to come from the North. You will recall that the Chair came from East African in the form of President Kikwete, before that it came from Central Africa in the person of the President of Congo Brazzaville and before that it came from the West in the form of President Obasanjo , before that it came from the South in the form of President Chissano and before that it was in the form of South Africa and now it will be turn for the North.
Mauritania is suspended and Algeria was the last country in the North to hold the Chair and therefore did not make themselves available and both Tunisia and Egypt for a variety of their own internal situations did not make themselves available which therefore left the candidature of Libya and of course the rest of the Assembly accepted that was the country available from the North.
Quite clearly the President of Libya has strong views on a number of things and he expresses those views. It does not mean that there is general agreement with all the views he expresses I already indicated for example one such view that he holds very strongly about the rapid movement to the United States of Africa which some countries have got disagreements on. I think about models of governments these people have different views about and I think it is the sort of contestation that will continue to take place within the AU and what I was alluding to when I said countries like South Africa are partly arguing that as we move to this notion of a United State of Africa it is important for us to clarify some of the underlying values and principles that will guide us but for now we will have to accept that we have different views and the important thing is that whoever is in charge at any particular moment respects the protocols that exist, the procedures, the decision making procedures that are established, whatever their own views whatever the system of government they pursue in their own country. I think that is what we are focusing on.
On Africa’s input on the G20 I really don’t think this was elaborated in greater detail except some of the broad principles because it was understood that the African Finance Ministers reflected on this and Trevor Manuel chaired this meeting and as you correctly pointed out South Africa has been the member of the G20 and therefore it is some sort of guaranteed to participate, we will convey some of these positions which are not different from some of the positions South Africa has been advancing like the imperative to move with some semblance of speed with respect to the reform of the Brettonwoods institutions for example which is something as you know both the DG and the Finance Minister are participating in quite actively.
The other issue that is of course on the cards is how to broaden African participation I think there is a search for all ways of doing that and South Africa supports that view and one of the modes, though not finalised, is that perhaps a representative of the AU whether it’s the commission of the chairperson at a particular point in time and backed up with some of the finance institutions within the continent might be an appropriate representation for the continent but these debates are continuing and we will know closer to the that meeting what approach we are taking with respect to the invitations to be extended.
What is your view on the status of political prisoners in Zimbabwe?
What is South Africa government response to the its Peer Review process which was discussed in this recent Summit
And would you agree with the UK government that the issuing of passports is faulty and can’t be relied upon by other countries? Have we done any investigation into all this?
With respect to the release of the political activists in Zimbabwe like …(inaudible) of course our view would be that we are urging the authorities to move with speed to try and resolve those in a manner that is acceptable to all the parties but as you that our stance has always been that some of those should not necessarily be obstacles to the government but probably would be a measure of the extent to which the inclusive government is working together in unison to try and address a myriad of these difficulties that they are faced with. So much as we would wish for the speedy release we would hope that would not become an obstacle to the formation of an inclusive government
I would be fair now to you (Peter) because in all fairness I did not sit necessarily (in he meeting) and I think the sort of response that would be fair to you it would require somebody who would have sat through the entire discussion of the Peer Review report of South Africa and the DG of DPSA would probably be the right person, so my apologies I did not sit through the report to know all the details of what was raised.
Now with respect to the issue of the passport situation lets accept the fact that we ourselves as the country and I think the Department of Home Affairs would be the first to admit that they have been some problems in our identity card authorisation system essentially and hence we have been talking about turn around strategies and all the interventions. Secondly the report that the UK authorities have released to us, the letter does recognise the fact that during the period of this interaction a lot of positive things and some progress has been registered. Yes it might not have reached the sort benchmark that they have set. I think we should accept the fact that indeed there are certain challenges we have and we are working on those challenges and I don’t that that should be a secret in anyway. So South Africa is working on those, the Department of Home Affairs has got the details of that obviously and they would be in a better position to provide those details. So our approach to this issue is that yes it’s a reflection of the challenge that we have, to some extent, been aware of but we may have different views about whether it warrants the action taken but we respect that this is the sovereign decision of the UK and whatever engagement we would have would certainly not be through the media but would be in the context of our strong existing bilateral relations.
My question is related to Somalia which has called for the extension of the peacekeeping force in Somalia from 3500, I believe to 5000. Is South Africa prepared to contribute to this peace keeping contingency. Do you think 5000 would be enough?
First of all I think we cannot comment on whether 5000 or 6000 would be the adequate force. The principle we do support which was discussed in AU which South Africa fully subscribes to is that the current strand that we are working on is inadequate to the task and therefore there has been an urging for especially in those countries who might have made pledges before to come true to those pledges especially in the light of the fact that many countries were worried that, while in principle they supported the issue of sending the African peacekeeping force, they were also keen to see visible progress on the political side because peacekeeping would in a sense give us the desired result if it is associated with the desired progress on the political side.
And secondly given the resolution of the UN which obviously gives a high level of commitment and I must say that that commitment was conveyed in person by the UN Secretary General to the AU Assembly about the UN to support the Africa forces in Somalia. So yes we agree with the increase of forces and I think there has been an appeal made in that respect. Now with respect to South Africa I don’t think South Africa’s position has necessarily changed because it was based on very objective factors and these factors are that were are overcommitted at this point in time.
If any thing we are sitting with an additional request for reinforcement on the eastern side of the DRC from the UN. It would seem to us that even if we had some room to manoeuvre it would be appropriate for us to look at strengthening the area where we are already involved but even that is not a given because we are already stretched. So I don’t think South Africa position with respect to contribution of peacekeeping has changed in anyway to Somalia.
On the DRC do we know how many more troops we are contributing?
No we don’t have the details. There is a discussion currently taking place between the UNDPK of the UN and the Defence Ministry but we really don’t have all the details. But we are being asked to give some sort of support and reinforcement to the work in the eastern part of the DRC.
Are the ICC actions against African leaders in particular, which is becoming a trend, a subject of debate and legitimacy?
Well I think as you would imagine there would be all sorts of strands to this debate and I think it would be fare actually to say that general focus on African leadership does factor in the debate. However I should stress that the element of the argument that underpins the current AU position which is certainly South Africa’s position has less to do with angle of the debate while recognising that debate is part of what other people are raising but ours is far more to do with the delicate balance we need to tread on these issues between justice and peace so to say yes we don’t want to promote impunity. We are the full signatories to the ICC. We support the ICC. We are a country that respects international legality and the rule of law and we want to remain true to that and therefore we would like to see the ICC do its work. But we also understand, given our own history, that there are times when the issues around justice has to be delicately balanced with the issue of pursuing peace, peace that with more enduring benefits. And I think its that delicate balance that the majority of countries are trying to put across hence even the African Union position is not so much to say it must never happen but to say the timing of it, at time when we are trying to encourage Sudan to co-operate with the UN and the AU to put the forces in Darfur, seems to be a bit of difficult time to expect that full cooperation while pursuing this and hence wanting to invoke article 16 which allows for the possibility of deferment of arrest for the period of 12 months. But that’s a reality.