Notes Following Briefing to Media by Director-General Dr Ayanda Ntsaluba, Media Centre, Union Buildings, Pretoria, Wednesday 8 April 2009

The South African government reiterates its condolences following the devastating earthquake that hit Central Italy on Monday 6 April 2009.  We convey the sorry that we share, as South Africa and the South African government, with the government and people of Italy.

I know that Treasury has provided a detailed briefing of this matter.  But I wish to reiterate that the government is indeed happy with the broad outline of the outcomes of the G-20 meeting because quite a number of them did accord with the beliefs and views we held particularly the effect that growth to be sustained needs to be shared and that the plan for recovery that was to discussed in London should not only be focusing on the restoration of jobs and the livelihoods of people particularly in the developed countries but that is was important to really address the challenges and the impact on the developing countries.

We are also happy with the general commitment that has been expressed relating to the reform of the mandate, scope and governance of the global financial institutions to be more reflective of the changes in the global economy and in particular, the issue of the greater enhancement of the voice of the developing nations. 

We are also particularly happy with the commitment expressed on the need to ensure as a global community and as individual nations of the world that as we respond to these challenges we avoid, nonetheless, repeating mistakes that have been made in the past, particularly mistakes made towards moving towards greater protectionist interventions and therefore the need to refrain from adding new barriers to trade and investment by doing things that countries were beginning to entertain.  So we are particularly happy about that.

We are also happy about the commitments made with respect to the reaffirmation of the confirmation of the international community to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). 

Now, as I say, I thought I would particularly highlight those specific points but generally the thrust of our response being that we are happy with the outcome.

Now, SADC has been busy of late dealing with two specific issues – the situation in Zimbabwe and the situation in Madagascar.

With respect to Zimbabwe, you will recall that we did have the JCC in the middle of March and the Extraordinary Summit last week in Swaziland.  We continue to be encouraged by the progress the inclusive government is making.  I think certainly, at the time when we met for the JCC at the Victoria Falls and also in all subsequent encounters with the representatives of the government, we get a sense of greater coherence and a strong commitment of the different parties to work together and we think that augurs well for Zimbabwe.  That does not mean there will be no challenges or immediate difficulties but I must say we are encouraged by the fact that at least, up to now, whatever challenges do exist, the inclusive government has felt it is within the capacity of the inclusive government and the structures that have been formed, in terms of the Global Political Agreement to deal with those issues so SADC has not been called specifically by Zimbabwe to intervene on any specific issue.  But off course, we know that there is also the major challenge related to the reconstruction of the economy and we believe this is a task, that with all the goodwill in the world, it is not possible for the parties in Zimbabwe to do this without a lot of support.  So, from them we expect they must send the correct signals to the investor community and particularly, the biggest signal they can send is to convey a sense of coherence and greater sense of a commitment by all to rebuild Zimbabwe.  I think this is the biggest signal that we all want from them.  I think it will then be incumbent on the international community and the region to help them with those things that they themselves cannot do alone, particularly with respect to the economic reconstruction.

As South Africa, we have stated in the past, both for reasons of good neighbourliness and also for reasons linked to our own national interest that we would do everything possible to ensure we speed up the process of the Zimbabwean economy regaining its place because Zimbabwe is an important trading partner for South Africa and an economically viable and vibrant Zimbabwe is in the best interests of South Africa so, the support that we give now, we give fully knowing it is support, as I say, in the short term it will help the people of Zimbabwe but in the longer term will help the people of South Africa.  And that is why we are also encouraged by the interaction and the moves by the South African business community particularly, and off course, we have had discussions with BUSA, we are aware of their trip to Zimbabwe and we look forward to working with the South African business community in partnership with our government to work with the government and people of Zimbabwe.

We are continuing the process of negotiations and I think we are very close to finalising the Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (BIPPA) which is obviously very important and will assist in sending the right signals to the South African investor community in Zimbabwe.

With respect to their immediate needs, South Africa has made an undertaking and we are just finalising the details – we will provide support to Zimbabwe in two forms – one form would be support to Zimbabwe through helping in some of the targeted sectors which we are currently discussing with Zimbabwe in line with our commitment to move speedily to alleviate the plight, particularly of the most vulnerable in Zimbabwe.  And off course, the second ongoing discussion is that of our Treasury and Reserve Bank and also with Zimbabwe with a view to what we can do regarding a credit line for Zimbabwe.  And let me stress, the second area of the credit line, will be a commercial agreement.  It will not be a grant, it will be, as the name implies a credit line to be used by the Zimbabwean private sector.  As to the details of that, I know there is a lot of speculation as to the amounts involved but we would prefer to not get into that because the discussions are ongoing and will be finalised pretty soon.

In conclusion on the Zimbabwean situation, as you know, our Minister of Finance is part of the Task team that has been established after the Extraordinary Summit to ensure they make representation to the international community.  We also are aware that the Cabinet of Zimbabwe met recently for their strategic planning session and that they have devised a very clear programme and have also assembled a team that will be approaching some of the countries particularly the major donors.  We believe these two endeavours will be complementary.

With respect to Madagascar, we obviously continue to be concerned with what is going on.  We have heard some of the reports around decisions taken by the new administration in Madagascar, the current administration particularly with respect to their continued membership of SADC.  We off course stand by the positions expressed of non-recognition of unconstitutional passage of power in Madagascar and we will continue, as South Africa, to work within the framework of the agreement that was reached in Swaziland to look at how speedily democratic governance can be restored to Madagascar. 

Off course we continue to follow some of the developments, we continue to be concerned about the loss of life and really the ongoing persecution, particularly of those seen to be supportive of the ousted President Ravalomanana.

Now, maybe just to say, with respect to issues related to continued membership of SADC by Madagascar as a country, the Executive Secretary of SADC will in due course be leading a delegation to Madagascar and I think out of that interaction, it will be clearer.  In the discussions with Mr Rajoelina the former Mayor of Antananarivo, we will hear then in that point in time what this is all about.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma will be attending a meeting of the Executive Council of the African Union 15-16 April 2009 in Sirte, Libya.  This is a special meeting called to discuss the establishment of the African Union Authority or the transformation of the African Union Commission to the African Union Authority.  You will recall this was a decision of the January Summit but this issue could not be concluded because of differences on the content and really of this Authority and what it will in reality do.  And so, a decision was taken and also to look at what implications the Authority could have on the constitutive act because the understanding was that whatever changes are to take place to the Commission the decision of heads of state was that it should be done within the context and framework of the current constitutive act.  And off course, this authority was seen as another step towards the ideal in the medium to longer term of the establishment of the Union Government.

So, this meeting will be looking at such things as the function of the Authority, the size of the Authority, whether new commissioners would be established within the context of ongoing discussions that some of the commissioners have very wide mandates eg. the commissioner for the Social Sector which covers about 8 sectors which would be ministries in various member states, so that discussion will also deal with that while also looking at the financial implications of these decisions.  This is likely to be a very robust meeting for the simple reason that as you would understand the formation of an Authority was decided as a compromise between the points of view that wanted consolidation of the existing commission and those that wanted to move forward with the establishment of an African Union government immediately.  It is obvious that in discussions regarding the Authority, these streams of thought continue to come up because those who wanted to establish the Union Government want to pretend that the Authority is that African Union government and want to load what is envisaged for the African Union government on that authority.  So, I think it is going to be a very robust discussion but that is what will take place.

Deputy Foreign Minister Fatima Hajaig will on Tuesday 14 April 2009 hold bilateral political, economic and trade discussions with her Iraqi counterpart Iraqi Under Secretary of Foreign Affairs Labeed Abbawi in Pretoria on Tuesday 14 April 2009.

This is really to begin to reconnect with Iraq with respect to our bilateral relations.  You will recall that at some point we had significant trade volumes between South Africa and Iraq and those have over the years decreased significantly and with the progressive restoration of some semblance of stability in Baghdad and throughout the territory of Iraq, we are then looking at how this can be stepped up.

The Iraqis are also interested on how to share ideas and probably get some views from South Africans that they will meet on how to sustain the nation building process in Iraq.

Questions and answers

Question: DG, apart from the messages you have articulated that the Zimbabwean Unity Government should be disseminating to the international community, are there specific things that South Africa would like to see?  The international community for instance is asking for the end of detentions, farm grabs, etc?
Answer: I think it is fair to say that yes we expect overall greater coherence.  This is what is was referring to when I said we are encouraged by the fact that the signals we are getting from all the parties, across the political spectrum in Zimbabwe, is that these thorny issues that needed to be sorted out – the status of the governor, senior civil servants – were all part of the agreement and obviously South Africa wants them to be sorted out.  We are urging that we move speedily towards the resolution of those but the signal we constantly get from the Zimbabwean formations is that indeed, there are discussions taking place on all these issues, and to the extent there seems to be an acceptance of a credible process they are following, we are encouraged.  But indeed, we think it is important that there is movement with speed to remove any factor that would create suspicion about whether or not this inclusive government is coherent and will last. 

We have heard all sorts of explanations about what appears to be a new wave of farm invasions and again, we have heard these within the context of which agreements were reached and some of these farms seem to be farms that were already gazetted prior to the 15 September agreement and therefore form part of the 15 September agreement in that they will not be reversed.  Even in spite of this, the images that get conveyed, or are a bit problematic to those who do not know the details of what is happening may create a sense of another new wave contrary to the spirit of the 15 September 2008 agreement.  So, indeed, we are concerned and therefore urge the government of Zimbabwe to try and deal with these issues as expeditiously as possible. 

With respect to the issue of what other potential partners would want – I think the message we are sending as South Africa and the Minister has had an opportunity to interact with various countries in Europe in the past month and the message from us is that we are really discouraging people to adopt a wait and see attitude.  We believe that what the people of Zimbabwe now need more than ever before are signals that assist them to see that the inclusive government spells the end of their continued suffering or the beginning of the end because that is what will make people give space and support the inclusive government and all the processes have started.  We are encouraged by discussions in the legislature whose essence is around establishing all the committees agreed upon for example to start working on the amendments to the Zimbabwean constitution.  So encouragement is needed and the populace must feel that positive change has come to Zimbabwe.  We expect that some people will be reluctant at the beginning but we really believe that our task is to urge as many people as possible to be supportive and off course, certain countries may have different political considerations but off course, there are certain things, especially the scaling up of the humanitarian assistance, supporting bona fides business people in Zimbabwe.  I think those should be beyond dispute and therefore even those who might have their own reservations about particular political actors should not allow their concern to inhibit assistance to Zimbabwe in a way that would amount to the punishment of the people of Zimbabwe.

Question: DG, with regard to Zimbabwe’s economic recovery – will South Africa’s interaction with Zimbabwe be bilateral or multilateral?

Answer: South Africa, as South Africa will make her own contribution, but basically the call that SADC has made is that South Africa has to take the lead.  We probably have the greatest vested interest in the success of Zimbabwe so, as SADC we have taken that decision and as SADC, we have taken a decision that we must all do what is possible within our own capacities but I think it is also fair to say that SADC countries, whilst everyone might have the intention to assist, we have got differences in terms of the means.  It would also be fair that perhaps there will be a general expectation that perhaps South Africa could do more than others.  And I think that South Africa would accept the fact that indeed, we cannot measure what we do on the basis of what everyone is doing.  We have to measure on the basis of what our own means permit us to do.  So we will do this.  But the two things are complementary.

Outside the SADC framework, we also have our own bilateral Joint Commission with Zimbabwe and that Joint Commission covers a number of very important areas to the economic reconstruction of Zimbabwe – for example, there is an agreement on which we are working regarding agriculture, we have an agreement broadly finalised on trade, we have an agreement on health, and we are envisaging that some of these agreements will be signed between 14-15 April 2009.  So, there is an attempt for us to hit that headline and that is how South Africa is involved in this process.

Question: DG, during SADC it was said there were a number of countries who had not decided what assistance to render – which countries are those?  And when will they report to the Troika?
Answer: Unfortunately, I do not have this information now but we know that Botswana and Namibia have made firm commitments and we know that there are countries like Tanzania and Zambia that were going to have consultations.  Now, those consultations were to be co-ordinated through the Executive Secretary of SADC and I must say that we have not had a consultation with him to get a sense of the progress.

Question: DG, on the situation with the farms – did the MDC accept in the 15 September agreement that all farms were state-owned?

Answer: No, I think what was accepted in the Agreement was that the processes of the land distribution that had taken place up to that point and there is a general understanding that up to that point meant the process of gazetting the farms, that process would be taken as a process that would be respected.  There would be a parallel process of trying to solicit support and funds to ensure that as agreed by the parties, some sort of fair compensation would be given to those who land had been taken.  And that was the broad agreement so that is why I was saying is that the problem with the current wave of what appears to be land invasions is that when you enquire you sometimes get an explanation that there are certain farms or pieces of land that had already been taken through that process, gazetted, but the new owners had not moved onto the land and what also seems to be happening is that with the new administration, those who believe and anticipate the transfer of the land to themselves will require government support for the land to be tilled because some of the people did not move in.  I think it is those farms to which are referred as farm grabs.  So, even where rational and credible explanations are available, the images are not good.  Therefore, the matter must be concluded speedily.

Question: DG, some of those farms are supposedly protected by decisions of the SADC tribunal and I am not sure if there is a clash of jurisdictions?

Answer: I think are right, as you know some of these cases did go to the SADC tribunal but I think there has been a bit of contestation which is a legal issue of going through the courts in Zimbabwe between those who believe that what the tribunal said should take precedence over the national legislation and there are people who think otherwise in Zimbabwe.  That process is following the due legal processes and as far as we know, that process has not been completed.

Question: What is the purpose of the visit of the SADC delegation to Madagascar?

Answer: This is a team led by the SADC Executive Secretary.  It was originally intended to convey clearly the SADC decisions to the current administration and also to go beyond the communiqué in terms of the decisions and the views of the regional leadership to the former mayor and the current administration.  That was the original purpose.  However, unavoidably, that task would now have to take into consideration the new pronouncements that they are walking out of SADC.

Question: DG, how true are reports that President Ravalomanana will seek asylum in South Africa?

Answer: Well he has not formally sought asylum in South Africa.  He has been to South Africa.  He has also, as you know, been to Swaziland.  We understand he has recently been to Addis Ababa so he is not fully stationed in South Africa but he is here with the full knowledge of the South African government and is receiving all the courtesies that would have been afforded to as a Head of State whether on a private or public visit.  But there will be ongoing discussions with him as to his longer term plans.  You must also understand that the SADC communiqué from Swaziland committed to trying to do everything possible to looking at options for his restoration as the legitimate head of state of Madagascar so I think that in that context it will be difficult for him to simultaneously seek asylum but I think what he has been accorded it to the extent that he still needs to spend some time in South Africa he can do so.  And I think there will be ongoing contact with him by the appropriate members of the South African government.

Question: DG, the matter of the Dalai Lama is now going to the Constitutional Court.  Do you believe that South Africa’s standing as a human rights champion has been affected by this matter?  Should the Dalai Lama wish to visit South Africa in future, will he be given a visa?

Answer: Our executive has communicated on this and I don’t think that there has been any communication that the Dalai Lama would not ever be allowed into South Africa.  If he makes a request to visit South Africa, that will be taken on its merit.  I must be a bit cautious because, as you correctly point out, this is a matter before the constitutional court and obviously even though it will be the Department of Home Affairs making representation, there will be a clear articulation of government response and one cannot be blind to that.  With respect to the issue of human rights, I think that probably at the end of this process, and I think the courts will help clarify this matter, to the extent that there may be a perception that this is something that has damaged South Africa’s credibility then off course, this would be of grave concern to every South Africa because I think we pride ourselves on what we have achieved and what we are doing.  I think that out of this entire process, there is something greater that may come out that will create the platform for robust debate in South Africa what would enable an understanding of human rights in a more comprehensive matter and what is means that South Africa attempts to advance human rights globally and what is the spectrum that we are talking about and I think these are very complex and emotive debates but perhaps we have not engaged as robustly as we should have.  Probably once the court case has settled, we may have greater space to do this.

Issued by Department of Foreign Affairs
Private Bag X152

8 April 2009

Quick Links

Disclaimer | Contact Us | HomeLast Updated: 20 April, 2009 10:17 AM
This site is best viewed using 800 x 600 resolution with Internet Explorer 5.0, Netscape Communicator 4.5 or higher.
2003 Department of Foreign Affairs, Republic of South Africa