Notes following briefing to Media by Director-General Dr Ayanda Ntsaluba Media Centre, Union Buildings, Pretoria Wednesday 29 April 2009

Outcomes of Durban Review Conference

The Durban Review Conference was recently held in Geneva from 20-24 April 2009.  South Africa is indeed happy with the outcome of the Conference.  As you know, the Conference was addressed by the United Nations Secretary General, the Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay who happens to be South Africa, there was also a message from the guest of honour of the conference our former President Nelson Mandela which was read by the President of the Conference, the Attorney-General of Kenya. 

You will also recall that we spoke about the objectives of the Conference being really to review the progress of the implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action which was adopted here in 2001.  off course, in addition, to that, as you would expect, the Conference also assessed contemporary manifestations of discrimination, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerances especially which some of which came increasingly following 9/11.  You will remember that one of the controversial issues in the build-up was that of Islamaphobia.  Now, in terms of South Africa’s position, the Minister of Foreign Affairs did deliver a statement on behalf of the Africa group.  And off course, some of the areas that were important for us to stress during this conference is the need to fight terrorism, in parallel to the fight against racism and not to undermine civil liberties as we deal with the issues around terrorism because it is quite clear to us that some of these issues that became very topical and heated like the issues around Islamaphobia are linked to the general clamour to enhance the struggle against terrorism.  And that it is also important that whatever negative experiences we have, as we try to attack any new emerging problems like the issue of terrorism that we are careful not to curtail human rights, especially to the extent that human rights themselves can assume a character that may be interpreted by others as being discriminatory and also that as we talk about, again this was an issue that was at the centre of the debate, one of the concerns of the major Western powers was that in relation to looking at Islamaphobia, there was concern that this would curtail freedom of expression especially and a case in point was the dispute around the issues related to Prophet Mohamed and Denmark.  Basically one of the points we did make was that the importance of learning from lessons of the past was to not allow the unfettered right of freedom of expression to be used as a tool to incite hatred and off course, we have argued consistently that we cannot talk about freedom of expression as if we are blind to the fact that is was people’s expressions that led to the genocide in Rwanda and it is also this notion of the unfettered freedom of expression that probably also precipitated the Holocaust.  So it was trying to get a balance on this.  I thought I should just highlight some of these key points.

Apart from that, the view of the South African government is that generally we are happy with the outcome and we are particularly happy with the connection that was established firmly between the progress that is going to be registered and the emerging programme with the achievements of Durban.  We off course, like all other countries are a bit concerned that a number of countries did not attend and we continue to reiterate the view that we do not believe that difficult issues like these can be resolved if any group decides to boycott them.  Yes, it is true that sometimes in these situations the discussions are robust, they can be painful, they can be difficult but it is in the context of engagement that we can try to reach each other.

Lesotho

Here I wish to underline the statement made by our President in respect of developments in Lesotho.  We are concerned about that, we are happy about the acknowledgement of the government of Lesotho regarding the co-operation they continue to receive from the South African Police Services and indeed, we as a government commit to doing everything in our power to assist Lesotho to apprehend all those who were involved in that dastardly act. 

Zimbabwe

In the last briefing we had I indicated that there was a meeting that was due of the World Bank and IMF in Washington.  Indeed, that meeting was concluded on Sunday 26 April 2009.  Indeed our Finance Minister Trevor Manuel attended that meeting.  Indeed, as we indicated SADC Finance Ministers did meet on the margins of this meeting to basically do two things: firstly to see how to implement the Swaziland decisions and in particular two elements of the Swaziland decision – international mobilisation through the task team lead by Minister Manuel and secondly, what SADC countries themselves can do to assist. 

We are told that the meeting was very successful.  The Zimbabwean Finance Minister participated in this meeting.  Off course, in addition to these meetings there were side meetings in which our Minister of Finance participated eg. our Minister of Finance, together with the Zimbabwean Minister of Finance and Donald Kaberuka of the African Development Bank met together with the Finance Ministers of Denmark, UK, Norway, and Australia.  There were other side meetings that took place, the focus of which was to try and look at what everybody can do to assist Zimbabwe and accelerate the process of economic reconstruction.

With regard to SADC, I think we are in a position to indicate that indeed the negotiations regarding one part of South Africa’s engagement with Zimbabwe seem to be complete and we are just working through the legal processes.  That is a R300 million budget support – grant aid to Zimbabwe in the form of budget support to assist Zimbabwe in some of the critical areas that require assistance.  We are now finalising the discussion which I think will be finalised in a few days regarding the credit line with Zimbabwe and for now, I would prefer not to become involved in the speculation around the size of that credit line.  The second issue that I would like to confirm is that the government of Botswana has concretely put an amount on the table largely for commercial transactions, for inter bank transactions and that amount is about US$ 70 million.  That is also a credit line so there are a lot of discussions that are going on.

Another important meeting that will take place in due course with respect to Zimbabwe is an IMF Board meeting scheduled for next week.  The importance of the IMF Board meeting is that it is a meeting that will also look at whether there is enough support for the proposal to lift the sanctions on Zimbabwe and that would begin to open up possibilities for many of the multilateral organisations to begin to engage with Zimbabwe.  As you know, this was something said by Donald Kaberuka when he was in South Africa recently is that the IMF, the African Development Bank and the World Bank have an arrangement that when one moves, it becomes easier for others to follow.  So, this is going to be the first important meeting.  We have always argued, as you know, that there are three sets of interventions required in Zimbabwe to assist with the economic reconstruction – to assist Zimbabwe with respect to the humanitarian component, to do what we are trying to do with respect to, for example, credit lines to support the private sector largely in Zimbabwe and finally, for Zimbabwe to regularise its position with the multilateral organisations because that will then allow Zimbabwe as an independent sovereign state to then begin to interact on its own with these multilateral entities.

In as far as the political process is concerned, as I said last week, we continue to be encouraged by the stability on the political side.  We are aware of the consultations between the President, the Prime Minister and the Deputy Presidents and Deputy Prime Minister and we are encouraged by the fact that whatever the difficulties confront the Zimbabwean leadership there seems to be a common consensus that they can resolve through dialogue and we are encouraged by this.  We are also encouraged by the growing sense amongst the leadership of Zimbabwe across the political spectrum that actually there is no other game in town.  I think everyone needs to get their hands on deck so that the inclusive government works.  And I think these are signals we continue to get.

Madagascar

There are not many new developments with regard to Madagascar.  We continue to be concerned about developments there.  There is a high level delegation that has recently visited Madagascar.  There was initially a lower level delegation that has submitted a report to the SADC Secretariat.  As I said, we continue to be concerned about what is going on there but we are encouraged also about the lines of communication between the different parties that have been opened up by the UN’s Special Representative to Madagascar.

Presidential Inauguration

In as far as the inauguration is concerned suffice to say, preparations are continuing.  Just to say, as of now, we have received confirmation from 41 countries, 21 of which will be represented by their Heads of State, the other 20 will have other senior representatives leading their delegations – the bulk of whom will be Foreign Ministers and Special Envoys.  Confirmations continue to stream in and we expect that many others will be received early next week.

Candidature of Abdul Minty for DG of IAEA

A note was sent to the media confirming that the South African government has decided to re-nominate Abdul Minty for the post of DG of the IAEA in the second round of nominations.  As off now, as you know, the closing date for applications was 27 April 2009, there are five names on the table – a representative from Belgium, Slovenia, Spain and Japan and South Africa have re-nominated their candidates.  So, we will see how this process unfolds as we continue.

Swine Flu

I am aware that the Health Department has talked to the media this morning to confirm that we are in close contact with our missions in Canada, the USA, Mexico with respect to the swine flu outbreak and that guided by the Department of Health and that the World Health Organisation, we have not thus far effected any significant changes from those countries so we have not restricted movement in line with the recommendations of the WHO and the South African Department of Health.  And, just to confirm that our Department of Health is following this very closely and that all our ports of entry have been reinforced to assist with any individuals who might land on our shores and want to receive some assistance and we are aware that our institute of Communicable Diseases in Johannesburg has also issued guidelines but we will track the situation quite closely.  Of all the countries that have been affected, the reports we have received thus far seems to indicate that the country worst affected is Mexico with a significant number of deaths.

Questions and answers

Question: DG, the UN will this week discuss the extension of the mandate of the UN Mission in Western Sahara – what is the South African position on this?

Answer: The South African view is that this Mission should continue.  That has been a consistent view of the government.  Our view is that everything should be done, despite the difficulties, not to act in a manner that would suggest we are giving up on Western Sahara because that will just lead to the re-opening of hostilities and I think the current ceasefire that exists and I think the UN peacekeeping force still acts as a sort of inspiration and hope that the situation can be resolved.

Question: DG, regarding the candidature of Abdul Minty, is there opposition that prevents him from getting this job?

Answer                I don’t think it is with a sense of arrogance that we argued at the beginning that everyone with whom we met seemed to indicate he was a stronger candidate for the job in terms of the credentials and depths of understanding of the issues required for the job.  Off course, you know that when it comes to representation in multilateral organisations that there are always strategic considerations of countries.  Remember also that as a point of principle, we began to campaign for Abdul Minty rather late because we waited for the current DG Dr ElBaradei to indicate that he would be standing for another term.  Of course, by that time, Japan had already approached a number of countries and we respected that.  One of the experiences we had was the number of commitments some countries had already made.  We will still be approaching some countries to concede that perhaps Abdul is a stronger candidate but of course, they have made commitments and we ourselves had to respect that.  We are now entering a new round and I think we will see how that plays itself out.  We are going to work on the basis, not just of talking only to those who supported us in the first round but we will go back to those who did not support us because some of them indeed may not have supported us because of prior commitments that they would have made to the other candidate.  We are not sure when the first round of votes will be but we expect it may be in the middle half of May.

Question: DG, you have mentioned that more confirmations are awaited but can you confirm whether the following will be attending the Presidential inauguration – President Obama and the Clintons, the Chinese President, the Dalai Lama and President Mugabe.  Will President Mbeki be attending?

Question: DG, will the President of Sudan be attending the inauguration?

Answer: I would prefer not to get into this at the moment – the problem is if I tell you that President Obama is not attending then you will make an assumption that all others that I have not mentioned are coming and you would understand that countries would have certain sensitivities about the early announcements of the movements of their heads of state.  So, I would really prefer to not go into this.  But maybe, to put you at ease while not setting a precedence, President Obama is not going to attend.  The Minister of Foreign Affairs was in Washington some time ago and during discussions with Secretary of State Clinton was informed that President Obama would not be able to attend due to other commitments.  We were assured that the US would be represented by a high level delegation. 

President Mbeki would obviously be invited, as are all former Presidents.  This is not the first inauguration we have had and the precedence has been that all former Presidents are invited to the inauguration. 

Zimbabwe is not under any form of sanctions from South Africa, the African Union or SADC so an invitation would have been extended to the President of Zimbabwe.
With respect to the issue of Sudan, without saying whether President El Bashir would attend or not, I am sure you are singling him out because you are aware that there is a real issue around this – that is the issue of the warrant of arrest of the ICC and South Africa’s own position being a signatory to this convention.  We hope that in the interests of the relations between South Africa and Sudan we will not have an unfortunate event.  That is as far as I can go.

Question: DG, could you please elaborate regarding the situation in Lesotho – was it an attempted coup or an attempted assassination?

Question: DG, what has been discovered about the South African who was involved in the Lesotho incident?

Answer: Our understanding thus far is that it was an attempted assassination.  Reports do not suggest it was a coup.  We are not in a position to give further details on those who were arrested except to say is that additional arrests have been made.

Question: DG, regarding the address of Minister Dlamini Zuma at the Durban Review Conference – you are suggesting that an excessive freedom of speech can lead to incitement as in Rwanda and the Holocaust.  It was not a question of incitement in the Holocaust – it was a question of a highly organised enterprise.

Answer: I think this is in the context of the debates we have been having.  As I said, the context of some of the people who hesitated to participate in the conference were concerned about what they regard as a sacred issue for them – ie. the freedom of speech and expression.  The point we have been consistently making is that it is not correct to make a statement that freedom of expression does not operate within certain parameters.  If you look at what happened in Rwanda, this was incitement of particular individuals on the basis of what was said about others.  Therefore, any reasonable person would know that as much as people are free to express themselves, no one has the right to cause hurt to others.  I would argue regarding the holocaust that there were certain things that were said even amongst the Nazis that led individuals over time to engage in systematic acts of atrocities incited by those things they may have been saying amongst themselves.  The principle issue we are raising is that we need to enter into this discussion about boundless, limitless freedom of expression.  We need to interrogate this.  We are all conscious that we should not take actions that will limit civil liberties. 

Question: DG, do you consider it safe for the President of Madagascar to return to his country?

Answer: At the present moment we do not necessarily think it is safe.  That is why we have a SADC high level team that is there.  Remember that SADC is taking the view that we believe that the President should return to the country at some point but the point of discussing with the current leadership is to engage them in dialogue so that they see that it is in the interests of Madagascar to find some other solution to the current challenges.  It is certainly not our view that he should regard himself as a perpetual refugee.  We also think it would be unwise, provocative and may even incite the deaths of many innocent people if he were to return to Madagascar tomorrow.  If the did that in the absence of political preparation this would probably cause more bloodshed and I don’t think that would be advisable.

Issued by Department of Foreign Affairs
Private Bag X152
Pretoria
0001

29 April 2009

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