Notes following the Media Briefing by the Foreign Affairs Director General Dr Ayanda Ntsaluba: 21 April 2009
Thank you very much Colleagues, few areas that we will focus on today - the first one just to indicate that indeed we are very happy with the processes that have started with respect to Zimbabwe with the Parliament in Zimbabwe and the constitution, of the quality and the process around the new constitution. We are happy also that during the celebrations it was widely reported by the media quite clearly that the MDC now in government has participated highly at the level that it did to celebrate the National Day of Zimbabwe.
We are also following very closely and we are happy about the initiative taken by the Prime Minister to appoint the Ministerial task team to look at the issues around the fund disruptions. Colleagues will recall that during the last discussions that was a major issue that we spent a bit of time discussing. We are also encouraged by the lifting of the travel warrants issue particularly by the United States and also the Government of Japan and we believe that these are positive signals and encouraging the unity of the Government and the work that is going on in Zimbabwe.
We are also encouraged and supportive of the move for the decision of the unity of the Government of Zimbabwe - the team that will be led by the Prime Minister himself that he will be visiting a number of Western countries to basically try to solicit the support for the reconstruction of Zimbabwe. We are also aware that Finance Ministers will be going to the meeting that they normally go to in Washington and that on the margins of that in his capacity as Chair of Finance Minister of the regions, Minister Trevor Manuel will consult with the Ministers of the Regions with the view to again exchange ideas on what other steps to take in order to assist with the reconstruction of Zimbabwe.
Last time I did indicate that there was a discussion going on between the Governments on Zimbabwe in South Africa about some sort of support specifically both in the form of Grant support as well as the issue around credit grants. There was a meeting in Zimbabwe on Monday in which our Treasury officials were there and the former Brigade and the meeting went well but of course whatever now has been decided or recommended by the officials will be taken to the Ministers so we are not at a point to give information on that because that has to be reviewed at the relevant Ministers, but we continue to register progress on that and just finally to say on Zimbabwe we will continue of course interacting South Africa with the Internationally community. We believe that we should clearly give all the support to the Unity government and continue to strengthen those areas in our bilateral cooperation in our own capacity to do.
The next issue I thought I wanted to talk about is just to indicate that we returned to South Africa over the weekend and the Minister was leading a delegation from Tripoli to Geneva. But as we have indicated in our last briefing we were in Tripoli for the Special meeting of the Executive of the AU which was deliberating on the issues of the African Union Authority was decided by the January Summit of the AU. The areas that were really discussed were around the nature of the authority of what we are talking about, the area of competence of the authority, the functions of the authority, and the size and also the financial implications of establishing that authority. As I hinted before in my last briefing, there are a lot I have expected. We focused a lot on different perspective around the speed and the pace and the content of this African Union Government. But what the major issues that the people felt to be clarified at the beginning which is of course philosophically part the area that is being contested was really to assert that the African Union as it stands right now is a Union of Independency and Sovereign State and that that therefore whatever structure we talk about is essentially a structure to support African Union that remains an Intergovernmental structure and this was an important point to clarify because some people argue as if we are talking about an authority in a context of a supernatural power structure that has been created.
So this was a point that was clear that has been reflective of the constitution act and therefore this is what should be underpinning most of the discussions. There was a discussion on the areas of competence and basically this were not contested around the areas of trade and issues of trade and coordination of trade infrastructure and poverty reduction intervention facilitation and movements of goods services and people. The issues around climate change, the issues around public goods care particularly epidemic statistics required to be coordinated far much stronger of course the issue of Tran’s national crime and the issue of peace and security in the continent.
So there was no major controversy around that. I think the issues that caused a bit of tension and required a bit of reflection sometimes were much more the content (inaudible) and again it reflected this tension between the Intergovernmental organisations versus supra national structure, for example if you say we are talking about harmonising views with respect to international trade are we then saying there is going to be a single spokesperson for the continent. Other people were arguing that, the dominant view which South Africa supported is that maybe the AU Secretary responsible for trade must head the African countries to coordinate that position and to exchange ideas but of course we cannot cede all our sovereignty and decision making in these areas. We have not reached that. These are the areas that there was an agreement about discussing the coordination but other people wanted to take it one step further.
And part of the tension was that other people read it as if the authority now means a union government has been established and of course as we indicated we anticipated that was going to be the tension. So most of the discussion was around that. There was also with respect to the structure and the size of the authority as a view that most of these functions can be dealt with in the existing number of commissioners and the President and the vice president of the commission especially given the financial constraints now but what needs to be done is significant beefing up of the structure particularly the Directors under the Commission. The issues around financial implications were not completed, there was a view that first of all it was difficult for the commission to cost with what the proposal is coming up. So there is an agreement that this now is going to be taken further forward to the meeting of the Summit which is going to take place is July. Now there was of course this being in Libya, the meeting was opened by brother leader. Brother Leader had his own views and expectations which he spelt out in his opening address and some of these was basically to call for the speedy movement to one Foreign Minister, Trade Minister, Defence Minister and things like those.
So at the end of it quite clearly the outcome did not sit comfortably with the expectation of the host. And so it was generally agreed that of course Libya as a sovereign state will also exercise its right when the summit comes in July to present its views from the leader of Libya to other Leaders because most of the delegates that went there had their mandates from their Heads of State and also following consultations from their countries. So indeed the meeting was successful to the extent that there was significant clarity on what this authority would be and also to clear some of the misconceptions that existed about some people thinking that the authority signals that a Union government is there but everybody understood that they are now beginning to pick more function to give to the team in Addis and therefore that we are beginning the movements towards the African Union government. I think it would be fair to say that this debate is far from over. It will be as heated as ever again in July, regrettably.
So that was it about that, apart from that there was no other matter that was discussed. There was a brief report about the Togolese government with its delegation giving us report which was not complete at that time and we still don’t have the facts, as you know it has been reported about the alleged attempted coup in Togo, in which the brother to the President was obviously one of the people who were incriminated. So it was just a statement from the delegation of Togo.
The other issue that could not be resolved in this meeting it was also formerly tabled, it was that obviously everybody was talking about where the next Summit would be. For sure it was not going to be Madagascar which was the original seat. So far we know of three countries that have put proposal, Libya has put proposal to host it, Mauritius as you know it has got the backing of SADC, and Ethiopia has also put an offer to host the next Summit. That issue will hopefully be resolved I think consultations are still on going now.
I also just like to indicate that the tomorrow being the big day, there was a preliminary part of this and the 15th in all our missions abroad. All reports that we have received quite clearly this went extremely well and I must also say that we have received confirmations from the IEC which is very satisfied with the role that our mission played in facilitating the elections.
As was expected the biggest number of voters was in London and of course as we indicated previously that we have also sent a team from Foreign Affairs from our Consular section just to assist with the election in London but everything went very well.
Today is also an important day because it is the second day of the meeting that is taking place in Geneva related to the review of the Durban declaration and the Program of Action. I think for us this is a very significant conference. We believe that the Durban Conference was very important and that is why our Minister is there at this particularly time, we are very anxious that the legacy of Durban must not be corrupted in any way because we believe that we contributed significantly greater awareness around the importance of fighting racism, Xenophobia and other intolerances.
We know that for example perhaps, the region in the world which saw the greatest benefits after Durban was Latin America. We saw the Afro descendants in Latin America scoring significant victories and we have seen them participating particularly as we were preparing for the Diaspora Conference last year.
To us the Durban declaration embodies the fair commitment of International community to tackle racism, racial discrimination, Xenophobia and other intolerances at an international level. To us it is important because no country can claim to be free of racism, that racism is a global concern and that tackling it therefore has to be a universal effort. Now there are certain principles that for us are important to protect in Geneva: First of all it is the importance of assigning primary responsibility of combating racism to states. And that states cannot absolve themselves that responsibility also that we need to put pressure on every government to ratify the International convention on the elimination of all forms of racial discrimination. And also to the extent that we emphasise in the Durban Declaration the importance of preventive and concerted action especially in the area of Education and awareness raising and also strengthening human rights education and because a lot of this revolve that if we are going to really see to future generations being free of scourge. I think the importance of Education cannot be over emphasised.
We also believe that with respect to the further issue that played itself out yesterday again unfortunately in Geneva. We believe that we need to both at one point acknowledge the Durban Declaration, express a clear concern about the plight of the Palestinian people who continue to be under foreign occupation and therefore recognise the inalienable right of the Palestinian people to self determination and their right to an independent state.
But we also recognise in the Durban Declaration the right to security for all countries s in the region including Israel and therefore the Durban Declaration has called on all Countries to support peace efforts and make sure that the peace talks in Israel and Palestine come to some speedy conclusion.
As you will recall that the Durban Declaration recalled the Holocaust should never be forgotten. So to us those are the beacons even with respect to issue of the Middle East and in spite of everything that happened yesterday, walk outs and whatever happened we could continue to have hope because the draft that is going to be seen and considered by the member state was unanimously agreed by the preparatory committee. We believe nothing that has happened should detract from that and that it is important that the delegates who are in Geneva remain seized and certainly that will be the approach that the Minister will be carrying on behalf of our own Country.
Just to say all of us now know the inauguration will be on the 09th of May here at the Union Buildings and just to indicate that we are interacting with the International community to invite Governments and Heads of States to be represented here and of course the diplomatic corps represented here in South Africa in its entirety, at least those who represent countries that are not under sanctions would be fully participating in that. At least those who represent governments that are fully recognised.
And the final point I want to say is that last time we spoke a bit about Madagascar, nothing too dramatic has changed. I referred last week to a team from the SADC that team is there we have received reports that they met a number of key stakeholders and they were still to meet at least by yesterday the former mayor and the government that has been constituted in Madagascar. But that is quite on schedule! And just to say that this afternoon at 14h30 the President will be meeting President Ravalomanana and I will have to join the President in that meeting. We are not clear now what the issues are going to be but next time we meet we will have clarity about what would this be about but this would be a meeting of our President and President Ravalomanana and President Ravalomanana would also be accompanied by the representative of the Swazi government in their capacity as the Chair of the Organ.
Thank you very much.
With regards to Zimbabwe; do you perceive the possibility of direct engagement by the community or do you think they must be keeping Zimbabwe at arms length while Pres Mugabe remains in Government?
Could you favour us with the list of countries under sanctions that will not be participating/ invited to the inauguration?
Could you give us some idea of the latest status on the Anti mercenary Act ?
DG has there been any hint of Zimbabwe joining the common monetary policy if they were to do away with their currency?
With regards to the Finance Ministers meeting could you give an indication as to who is willing to assist? Who is not willing to assist?
Let me start with the last question as it relates to the point that was raised earlier. Just to say that the approach that was taken it so happens that the Finance Ministers from all over the world will be meeting in Washington. The approach taken by our Finance Ministers is that actually that provides best possible platform for engagements with the Finance Ministers of different countries around the issues of Zimbabwe so we expect that on the margins of the Washington meeting there will be a lot of activity related to Zimbabwe. Our Finance Minister will be there, Tendai Biti Finance Minister of Zimbabwe will be there too.
And that is why I was indicating that on the margins of that we also expect, and that preparations are going on, consultations of the SADC Finance Minister of course as they interact with their counterparts to make sure that all of us are speaking with one voice with respect to what we need to say and get from the International Community. But just to say the indication that we are getting and that the there are countries that, particularly in the Nordic area, that are keen to begin to engage but most of them are of course more comfortable at this point in time to target mainly those areas about humanitarian assistance and I think they are far more positive signals that direction coming up. So we think that is going to happen and of course the other area that we are really keen that there should be movement on is much more on the developmental side on engagement on the real economy so to say. So I don’t think I can say there has been any real change from the last time we discussed. So with respect to the bailer (inaudible) community I think there is some sort of recognition that in a sense the inclusive government seems to be holding, and is holding more than anybody had expected it to. And therefore people are beginning really to be far much more open minded about that but it is still early days. As we stressed last time the only thing for us is to keep the focus of everybody that let the pre-occupation perhaps with the issue of the Head of State of Zimbabwe let lead to take positions that will add to the better interest of the people far much more broadly.
On our side we believe that in any case our rallying point is that there is a decision agreed upon by the representatives of Zimbabwe and that we should respect it. But as I said that separation between the Humanitarian versus developmental assistance is still playing itself out. But our sense is that there is beginning to be some degree of change. I think these meetings in New York and Washington and also the tour that will be taken by the Zimbabwean Prime Minister. After all as we said last week all of us can do as much as we can do at the end of the day it is the leadership of Zimbabwe that has to truly convinced people and that indeed the inclusive government is going to hold.
Some of the countries certainly in our region is Mauritania, Guinea Bissau, Guinea Conakry and of course Madagascar. I think clearly those will not be invited and I hope there is no country I forgot.
Regarding the anti mercenary act, as I understand the issue of the so called anti mercenary act I think the dominant view certainly in government I think we are just stuck a bit in legal legislative process but from the policy perspective there has been no change whatsoever on the side of the executive so I think whatever, I must confess, I don’t know the exact details of that. But I am aware that there has been no change in the policy direction around what informed basically that there would be anti mercenary act. If anything I think there are some developments that make it far more urgent for us to begin to look at into that.
The issue of Zimbabwe and the negotiations remember that we are focusing on the current negotiations. I think that is very important! Its just to say that these discussions I was talking about are focusing largely on South African support to Zimbabwe. I think there is a separate debate that is far more at exploratory level. I think Zimbabwe is looking at it, SADC is looking at it from different angle. Remember that everybody is just saying what is the best possible intervention that will help stabilise the situation. Now we already know that Zimbabwe has taken a decision about using multiple currencies, we all are following the discussion around perhaps I am being drawn to the common monetary area, to the rand area so to say. We know that there is some hesitation, for very good reasons from some sectors of Zimbabwe. I don’t think even people who are talking about it from this side of the border have looked at all the ramifications. I think all of us are throwing all sorts of ideas on the pot. There are other people for example who are talking about that for example we should deal with the issue of Zimbabwe as a logical part of the incremental growth of the custom union area as part of the formation of SADC customs union. And whether it should be dealt in that context. But those are just ideas at the present time.
And certainly the discussions going on between our Treasury the Zimbabwean Treasury are not focusing on that for now.
Is there any deadline for the SADC countries to come up with their assistance? Did the countries come up with anything except what you mentioned before?
We do know that the Executive Secretary of SADC will be tabling a report to the SADC Finance Ministers in Washington.
What about the other list of issues that were not addressed as per the Global Political Agreement (GPA) like detention of political prisoners, farms being invaded, and Reserve bank governor, and the Attorney General?
I think all those as we said last time that those are frustration that all of us wished would have been resolved. But I think we are measuring progress in Zimbabwe bearing in mind where this all came from. And I think now that we are talking probable within a space of three- four days, we are talking probably three meetings of Pres Mugabe, Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister to resolve the issues. That is progress! The fact that all those three parties continue to register the view that for now there is still a possibility of resolving those outstanding issues and secondly yourselves reported that, of course we have confirmed by the reports from our mission that you can have a team that is led by the Deputy Prime Minister comprising Ministers across the spectrum visiting farms, and speaking in such open terms against any transgression in terms of the agreement related. I think that is progress!
Quite clearly like in any transition, ourselves here would know that when you try to pull an agreement like this its not rocket science that on both sides there will be individuals probably, others fear that you have compromised too much you have given in too much on the side of the Zanu PF and others might feel that in the MDC that.
It is fair to say that there are some people in the administration of Zimbabwe that are not fully comfortable with it but the important thing is that the key decision makers and as you have said in the past our sense is that those sitting in the Executive quite clearly there is a dominant spirit over the Executive.
From all the signals that we are getting is that there is need for forward movement and inclusive government should hold. And that’s really what sustains us and the will be difficulties on the way. It’s a fact!
The Tibet monk, sort of government in exile Dalai Lama is he going to be on the list of leaders that have been invited?
We are talking about inviting Heads of States. South Africa subscribes to the one China policy so I am unaware that Dalai Lama is amongst the list of the invited guest. Certainly no representative of any government in exile!