Department of International Relations and Cooperation
Media Briefing by the Director General, Dr Ayanda Ntsaluba
at the new International Relations and Cooperation Building on 2009-10-13 at 12h00
Dr Ayanda Ntsaluba, Director-General, Department of International Relations and Cooperation: Thank you very much.
Colleagues, just to say first of all, we will start with the oncoming ITEC meeting, the Intergovernmental Committee On Trade And Economic Cooperation, that is ITEC, with the Russian Federation and that is on the 26th and 27th of October. You know that we do not have a structured bilateral political forum with Russia, but what we do have is this forum that deals largely with trade and economic issues. It is ITEC. It has been there for some time. You will recall that, on the South African side, it is led by the Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, (Ms) Maite Nkoana Mashabane. It used to be led by the Minister of Foreign Affairs. On the Russian side it is led by the Minister of Natural Resources, Yuri Trutnev.
So, this is a session that is held on an annual basis, alternatively in Russia and in South Africa. So, it is the turn of South Africa to host this time around. Now, this is obviously a very important meeting, because we have spoken before about the significance of Russia in our system of international relations. We have got a strategic partnership with Russia. President Putin was here. There is a standing invitation to President Zuma from President Dmitry Medvedev. which we are hoping will be honoured in the coming year. And so, in a sense, I think it would be fair to say that this is going to be a high level visit to review the state of bilateral cooperation, in a sense, before the envisaged state visit.
Now, within ITEC there are a number of sectors, apart from international relations, there is justice, there is trade and investment, there is the minerals and energy sector, there is transport, from the social sector both education and health are covered, agriculture, water affairs and forestry and science and technology. Whilst I am on science and technology, you would also know that this is a major area of cooperation between Russia and South Africa, as evidenced by the recent launch in Kazakhstan, as you would know, of our satellite.
So, we obviously would expect that in the course of the discussions, amongst the issues that will be discussed, would be some of the global challenges, particularly the growing role of the G20 in the context of a discussion of the current economic crisis. Certainly with Russia, we discuss a lot around the issues of the reform of the multilateral system generally, but more importantly for us, the issues around the United Nations Security Council. I think it would be fair that we, to appreciate that, we would also discuss with them, obviously, to get more insights on some of the plans afoot from their perspective with respect to BRIC.
But, apart from that, there are no controversial issues between us and Russia. So, this is really going to be focusing on where we proceed on implementing the decisions that we had previously taken.
SA/DRC Bi-National Commission (BNC).
After that, on the 30th of October, we will be hosting the Binational Commission with the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This is a standing BNC, as you know. As is usual, it will be preceded by both a ministerial and senior officials meeting. We will just be examining really the progress on the implementation of projects on the key sectors that we are working with the DRC, which are all related to the issues of post-conflict reconstruction, helping the DRC build its capacity within the police and security forces to basically protect the sovereignty of the DRC. Obviously, this meeting will take place against the backdrop of the DRC having taken from us as Chair of SADC, and naturally, some of the regional issues will feature prominently, because, having handed over to the DRC, we are still members of the troika of SADC. So there will be common issues to discuss there. But again, even here, we do not expect any major challenges.
And I must say, overall, we are very happy with the progress, particularly on the Eastern side of the DRC. Still some problems there, but I think the rapprochement between the DRC and Rwanda is making things relatively easy. So, we have been encouraging that and we are happy with the progress that they have made on that. We will obviously see in the discussions what other form of assistance the DRC would expect from South Africa.
Just to say that, to emphasise the point, this is a huge country, very important for our region. We are very thrilled, as we indicated, that the DRC is beginning to take and resume its own responsibility within the region, which is partly why we were more than happy to support the DRC's wish to chair SADC for the coming year.
The next area that I would like to talk about is Madagascar. Again, the progress there that the four principals have reached the agreement that they have reached. We are happy with the now constitution of a government that is endorsed by all the four negotiating parties. We hope that any other outstanding issues related particularly with the first objection that was raised by President Ravalomanana about the eligibility of Rajoelina to stand for the presidency after the transitional period, but also all other outstanding issues related to Madagascar, we hope that they would find a way to resolve those challenges. We are encouraged by the progress that they have made.
We also, as in the past, I think we continued to work very closely with President Chisano and we are indeed happy with the work that he is doing and we believe that it was indeed a correct decision by SADC to put somebody of that stature, because quite clearly President Chisano enjoys the support of the UN and of the AU, which makes it very easy, therefore, for decisions of the region to be harmonised with the steps that are being taken by the other parties.
I must say, when the President was in New York, in discussions with the UN Secretary-General, obviously, the UN has a particular interest in the situation in Madagascar. There was an exchange of ideas. But, I think, the overwhelming sense was, really, for the role that SADC is playing and the commitment by the UN to give full, wholehearted support to the initiative that is led by SADC. We also believe that this is going to be very important, because it is actually that unity in terms of the message and the signals that were sent to Madagascar, I think, that had helped us to contain what was beginning to be a tendency towards a bit of unilateral action in Antananarivo. And we believe that by holding it back and now having a dispensation supported by everybody, we probably in the longer term will save Madagascar from going down a dangerous path.
With respect to Zimbabwe, you know, there was an issue before the SADC Summit, particularly related to the SADC Tribunal. We have all heard the reports about Zimbabwe having pulled out of the Tribunal. I think of these are issues that will be discussed within SADC as to the implications of that. We are encouraged by the tone, by and large, of President Mugabe's statements when he opened the Parliament, the seventh Parliament, on the 6th of October.
We are encouraged by the continuing dialogue with the European Union. I must say that in the discussions that we have had with the EU, subsequent to their visit to Zimbabwe, we have received a similar consistent message that the re-engagement is moving apace, that the discussions there, even if there were points of disagreement, but were very frank, open, and cordial, and we believe that that is a good start. And we particularly appreciate the message from Harare about extending a hand across the divide and making sure that Zimbabwe goes out of its way also to seek ways of re-engaging with its cooperating partners and I think that is something that would be in the best interest of Zimbabwe and in the best interest of our region.
We, of course, continue to follow some of the potential fault lines within the inclusive government. We know that there are issues, certain issues that have not been satisfactorily sorted out, the issues of the Governor, the issues of the Attorney General, but we continue to hope that the three parties, the three principals, will find a way to overcome those difficulties too. We must say we appreciate the way that they have worked together in their approach to the changes that they wanted to effect or that they have effected to the committee that is driving the constitution within Parliament, working together with a view of trying to create a way in which that process can be accelerated.
During the President's visit to New York, there was a series of consultations around the issues in Sudan and these were largely led by the Minister of International Relations and Cooperation. And you would also know that, as we had reported to you, the Minister had been to Sudan before that, I think we met all sorts of parties who are actively involved in the Sudan, the EU and the US. And, by and large, we share similar concerns and those concerns are around the state of readiness to have the elections next year. We also have certain concerns about the state of readiness for the referendum, certain concerns about making sure that both the elections and referendum are not premised on divisive issues and that, hopefully, between the North and the South, they can find a way to work around some of the issues that are in contestation like, for example, the results of the census and things like those.
We continue to support and work very closely with the government of the South. I must say, that, and I think this seems to have dawned upon both parties, both the North and the South, that is really during the past four years not enough effort was put into making sure that unity is made as attractive as possible. And so, as we heard, for the referendum, we are probably going to face some pretty difficult issues. Apart from that, I do not think that our approach to the Sudan has changed.
Applications for asylum abroad by two South Africans.
Of course we have noted the latest developments in Ireland about the South African, following on what was in Canada, safe just to reaffirm the statement that we released at that time about our understanding that, whatever challenges that South Africa faces, are challenges that the Government is honesty and sincerely trying to address and that it is a tragedy that, indeed, our efforts at nation building and pursuing the policies of national reconciliation, driven by the need to re-construct our country, are abused in the manner that they have been abused by certainly these two individuals. And, of course, any notion that crime in South Africa, which is a scourge that our Government is spending a lot of time on trying to address, any notion that it is racially motivated is obviously without any basis. But, as we have said before, we will remain firm on what we are doing and we obviously condemn with contempt any insinuation that seeks to bring the efforts of the democratic Government, and also the peoples of our country, into disrepute.
Presentation of the Annual report to the Portfolio Committee
Finally, just to say, tomorrow, on the 14th of October, we will be in Parliament to present our Annual Report to our Portfolio Committee. Some of you might have seen this Report already, and that will be in the morning, tomorrow. All I can say now is that, once again, we are proud of the fact that this Department has once again received an unqualified audit. Not only an unqualified audit, but it is a clean audit. It is an audit that has got no matters of emphasis. For a department as huge as ours, that operates in about 127 missions and in many countries, you would understand that, from an administrative point of view, that is no mean feat to achieve. And certainly, we believe that it is because of the effort of many of the officials of the Department that we have been able to achieve that. But we will give more details on that when we address our Portfolio Committee tomorrow.
Thank you very much. I will be ready then you take your questions.
Member of the Press: Thanks very much. My name is Tsepo Ikaneng from SABC Radio. On the issue of the evacuation of the US Embassy that has happened again this morning amid claims of a security threat, what is the response of the Department to this development? And again, tied to that, is the issue relating to the state of our borders. It seems that there is concern that we have, for our borders, is anything being done to make sure that we correct the situation. Thanks.
Member of the Press: I am Jean Jacques Cornish. DG, do you have anything to say about the trial in Zimbabwe today of Rory Bennett, the Deputy Agriculture Minister, who is on trial? And then, related to Madagascar, my understanding is that, as we sit here, the ousted president, Ravalomanana, has not accepted the interim government. Has there been a development there that I am unaware of? Thank you.
Member of the Press: DG, Mandy Rossouw of the Mail and Guardian newspaper. My question relates to BRIC, which is the formation of the emerging economies of the world. Do you not think it would have been useful for South Africa to be part of that partnership? And why do you think we were left out?
Member of the Press: Sarel Van Der Walt, Beeld. I just would like to find out, coming back to Madagascar, I understand that Mr Ravalomanana's passport has expired. Is he now traveling on South African travel documents or what?
Member of the Press: I from e-TV. I just wanted to find out South Africa's position on Iran's controversial nuclear armament programme.
Dr Ayanda Ntsaluba, Director-General, Department of International Relations and Cooperation: Well, first of all, we have at all the stages, Tsepo, with respect to the developments with the US and the concerns and what has been reported as a security alerts on the US Embassy, obviously, as has been widely reported, you would expect that things like those are discussed with our services. I think we are in close contact with the US Administration and the US Embassy. We would prefer at the present time, Tsepo, for the time being, not to focus on getting into the details around some of the issues related to this day. But, suffice to say that we have always understood, all of us, that South Africa is not going to be, is not an island on its own and that attempts will be made at different points in time, by different forces, to advance their interests, and that the South African territory is not going to be an exception in those attempts. That is what has informed our security establishment, the work of our security establishment over the years, and I think that is what continues to inform them now.
We have had major events here in this country, and during those major events all sorts of indications have come to us that would be of concern. To date, we have managed to handle all of those events with prominent leaders across the globe and ensure that the security of the Republic is protected. So I think, let us leave that for the time being to our services and establish whether there is validity in the allegations or not. I think there is work that is going on that and I think for now we are treating these things as things that warrant our attention. But we are working very closely with the US authorities on that.
The issue of the state of our borders, I mean, I think it is common knowledge that there has been discussions and concerns about how we improve the integrity, essentially, of our borders. And I think, hence, there has been even in the public discourse at times even the speculation about whether the Defense Force will return to that or not. And all sorts of things have been considered on that. But suffice to say that there is an ongoing effort. This Department is part of that effort by the Government to improve the integrity of our borders.
But suffice also to say that whatever problems may exist, remember, some time back we hosted the Anti-terrorism Committee of the United Nations, and they had come to look particularly at our state of readiness, having in mind the preparations for 2010 and having in mind our compliance with our own international obligations. They gave us a report but I think we have indicated previously that by and large they commended and they had high regard for our state of readiness and, of course, they visited a number of entry points into the Republic. So, the point that I am trying to make is whatever difficulties exist, because it is not a perfect situation. We are working on them. We are conscious of them. But I do not think the situation is something that should cause the citizens of a country endless, sleepless nights, but it is something that we should not be complacent about. It is one of the areas that Government should pay significant attention to, especially in the current global climate.
The issue about of Roy Bennett. Remember that, we have reported before that there was an allegation against Deputy Minister designate, Rory Bennett, that the attitude of President Mugabe, which he has repeated up to and including during his briefing to his colleagues in the SADC summit, was that he was anxious that the issue of Roy Bennett be brought to court speedily, so that there could be finality on it, and the allegations made against him are tested, and that should he be cleared by a court of law, then he would be ready the following day to make sure that he does what is necessary. Now, to the extent that that was the position of the President of Zimbabwe, certainly therefore, we should welcome any attempt at speedy conclusion of the issues around Roy Bennett. And that does not mean that we are making any judgment about the validity of the allegations that are made against him, because we do not have all the facts before us.
But, certainly, to the extent that there was always a view in Harare that this is an impediment, the issue of the swearing in of Roy Bennett, was always a soft spot within the context of the inclusive government and secondly, that the view of the President of Zimbabwe was that this issue should be finalised by a court of law. Therefore, the extent to which is being handled now, we would welcome. And as I say, I want to stretch the point, we make no judgment at the present time about the validity of the allegations made. I think the court of law will be in a better position to do that. Let us just hope that the legal process itself will be seen by everybody to have been credible, so that the outcome can indeed be respected.
On the issue of Madagascar, two things. Firstly, I am unaware of the expiry of the passport. All I do know is that, and I must confess that I did not look at his passport when I happened to have it in my possession, in my hand, at some point. But just suffice to say that, remember that we have made an arrangement whereby President Ravalomanana is now a guest of the Republic. He is being looked after by the South African State to facilitate all issues around his security, to facilitate, to legalise his stay in South Africa and, thirdly, to facilitate his participation in the ongoing discussions. So, to the extent that he is therefore here with the full knowledge of the South African Government and to the extent that he is here, therefore, really as a guest of the South African Government, any issue that would arise that would require some sort of legalising his stay, all I can say is it will be done. As we speak now, I am unaware that there has been any request or any requirement for a South African passport to be issued to him.
Yes, JJ, we can check this. Indeed, I stress the point that there has been a reservation entered. But I think that there is some general acceptance that the current administration now in Madagascar must proceed on. And that is why I say that the UN and AU generally will support the efforts of President Chisano .You know also that there is a particular view that SADC held about wanting not to encourage people who assume power by unconstitutional means to have that endorsed by them being allowed them to be heads of state. But we have always said that we will subordinate that general view of SADC to the broader interest as seen by the leadership of Madagascar that is negotiating and that is trying to find an amicable way to resolve the problems. So, to the extent that there is some degree of concern that surround that, but we would respect that. But, having said that, we do know that President Ravalomanana did enter a reservation. But the reservations, as we understand it, the point of emphasis was not so much, of course he has always had a view that Rajoelina should not be the president, even of the interim arrangement, but as we understand it his stronger reservation is related to his eligibility for the period post the transition.
On the issue of BRIC. Now, let us look at it this way. Brazil, Russia, India and China are trillion dollar economies. South Africa is not a trillion dollar economy. South Africa has certain strategic advantages that, that she has, and quite clearly has a significant place on the Continent and is also a significant player amongst the formations of the South. So, we have always understood that there are certain points of conversions between us and India and China and Brazil, but there would always be some points of diversions. The points of conversions are far much more than the points of divergence. We have had not any, because the issue of BRIC is an issue that has been discussed over some time, we have not had major anxieties about the fact that there was that discussion going on and we also did not have major anxieties about the fact that the BRIC countries met in Russia.
What of course we have always wanted to understand is to understand what the implications of the formation of BRIC is, what the implications are going to be to the existence of IBSA. The ministers of IBSA, the foreign ministers met recently in Brazil. This issue was on the table. It was discussed very candidly and IBSA continues to function because, indeed, it is quite clear that they are both points of overlap and points of divergence in terms of the agenda of the two formations. So we are not, as I have said, spending sleepless nights about that. Of course, all these countries we have got good strategic relationships with and it would be logical to say if, for example, they were to take a view that they would like to invite South Africa, then South Africa would most probably view that positively.
But I do not think that it is something that South Africa would want to spend sleepless nights on trying to be agitated about precisely because, I think, quite frankly, we understand that China is a far much, is a different country to South Africa. And so we have no difficulty with that. Secondly, I think it is fair also to recognise that one of the things that do affect South Africa's participation in some of these, does relate to South Africa's sensitivity to the issues related to membership of the UN Security Council. Now, you would know that the issue of the Security Council and the reform of the international multinational architects are featured far much strongly within the BRIC agenda.
Now, India and Brazil have come out far more openly about their own ambitions. South Africa is navigating very carefully the issues around making sure that we walk together with Africa, whatever our views and our ambitions are. So, in a sense we are already on different, much as we argue, we have got the same arguments for the substance of the reform about, we have taken slightly different positions about how forthright we want to come out about what our own ambitions are. Whether South Africa will review those positions and take slightly different positions, I think is an ongoing debate and time will tell whether, in fact, we want to modify our stance on this issue. But for now that is it. So the point that I am trying to say is that there are things that we know feature very prominently on that agenda, that perhaps south Africa is not ready to engage significantly.
On the issue of Iran's nuclear program, I think you know that our standing approach has always been to say that we want Iran to recognise the fact that there is a credibility deficit that Iran does carry, to the extent that, indeed, they did have a program that they did not declare, as was expected. And, that it was important for Iran to reassure the international community, and that has been our consistent position. But it has always been clear also that our position is to ensure that the problems of Iran are not used to foreclose the space for all of us who want to pursue and exploit the atom for peaceful purposes.
We are guided on the latest announcements on Iran already by the views of the IAEA. We have got major concerns that this issue has come in the manner it has come without being declared quite earlier on. We know that there is a dispute and contestation around whether, how strong the obligation was in terms of the treaty for Iran to do that. But, if you go back to where I started, we work on the basis that Iran needs to take all reasonable steps to reassure the international community and we believe that such a stance is in the best interest of Iran. We are encouraged, basically, by the positive tone that seems to have emanated from the latest round of discussions in Geneva between Iran and the P5+1 and we hope that a positive outcome will come out of those discussions.
Member of the Press: Peter Fabricius, Independent Newspapers. On the Zimbabwe issue, could I just ask you, DG, there are two things that seem to have not been done yet. One is, I year after the GPA, there was supposed to be a review, a formal review of progress, and that is not clear whether it took place at the Kinshasa Summit. There were no indications, as I understand it, that it had. The other is, also at the Kinshasa Summit, the issue was dedicated to a troika, I understand a ministerial troika of the organ to deal with and I just want to know has there been, has this troika taken up the issue at all? Is there any meeting or discussion on the subject to try and resolve those outstanding issues which you touched on? Just on Iran, if I may also ask, when the Deputy Minister visited there recently, did he discuss with, that it tried to encourage the Iranian government to open itself to the inspection of its new facility that it has declared? Thank you.
Member of the Press: DG, firstly, congratulations on the impressive facility. There is an unqualified [unclear]. Perhaps the DG would like to talk about the facility, how it is going to, you know, help with in terms of international relations and so forth. And also, how many zeros in a trillion?
Member of the Press: DG, I just need clarity. Was there supposed to be a meeting of the AU Heads of States on refugees? I think there was supposed to be an AU Heads of States meeting on refugees done, or something like that? [unclear] and our participation?
Member of the Press: I am Kgomotso Sebetso, SABC. On the question of Ireland, what is the Government going to do about this? I mean, it happened in Canada. Now it is happening in Ireland. And also, DG, on the security alert with regard to the United States Embassy. Is it the only Embassy that is facing that, at the moment, or are you aware of any other?
Dr Ayanda Ntsaluba, Director-General, Department of International Relations and Cooperation: Now, first of all, on Zimbabwe, remember that when we went to the SADC Summit in Kinshasa, you would recall that you President Zuma had been to Zimbabwe and then had met all the principals there. And during one of the encouragements, and certainly with the engagement with the Prime Minister, Morgan Tsvangirai, there was an expressed interest to see whether the issue of Zimbabwe will then be tabled and become an issue at the Summit and to maybe have a side meeting specifically focusing on the issue of Zimbabwe, on the margins of the Summit. But I must say though, that the letter from the MDC also made it very clear, because I think they did appreciate that the time may not permit, and suggested that in the absence of that, if that was not possible, their request would be that there should be a formal review of that process, of the processes leading to the establishment of the inclusive government before the year-end.
Now, indeed, this issue, a formal request was made to SADC, this issue was tabled, for the Heads of State. And, of course, I think in their wisdom, the Heads of State decided that the time may not be adequate in Kinshasa to deal with this issue parallel, at the same time as the Summit. Secondly, it became very clear that the issues that we were dealing with in Zimbabwe now, are no longer issues of (unclear), it is about implementation of decisions already taken. And the general sense that both our President and other leaders had, was that there was anxiety amongst all the parties in Zimbabwe to make sure that these issues are resolved within the cooperation of the inclusive government. And hence, it was felt that the issue of Zimbabwe, legitimately now belongs amongst the issues that should be taken care of by the organ of SADC. And hence, the decision was taken that the organ should as soon as possible have a review of the situation in Zimbabwe, as you correctly pointed out, a review of the GPA as well as well as the review of the workings of the inclusive government.
That was a meeting in which there were some representatives of the MDC, President Mugabe was in the meeting, and that was generally accepted. So, first of all, let me just correct, I don't think it was going to be the troika of ministers. The decision was not that. It was that it must be the troika of the organ. And the idea was that then at the end of that, the troika of the organ would be in a position to make a determination as to whether the issues that they are picking up they can resolve, or these are issues that require that they convene a Summit of SADC. But that was the decision. All I know is that the troika has not done that yet. But I am unaware of whether the troika has started the process or probably negotiating times and dates with the parties in Zimbabwe. As you know, the troika has been chaired by Mozambique. I am sure, in the course of the discussion, when President Kabila is here, this issue will receive some attention in terms of the discussion between our principals.
On the issue of Iran, I do not think the Deputy President carried any specific message. Remember also that the, Deputy Minister, sorry, when the Deputy Minister went to Iran, history predated it in a sense the announcement. And so we had a bit of a difficult situation when he was in Iran. But I am sure that the Deputy Minister would have conveyed the standard view of South Africa and that is which I had spelled out. But then I am unaware that he had any, I do not think that he had any specific instruction of something that he should specifically raise. But I think the Deputy Minister would have raised the issue which we have raised with Iran consistently of how it is important for them to fully work with the IAEA. And our view is that, if they start not enjoying the support of the IAEA, or if the IAEA begins to feel that they are playing games with the IAEA, it will force countries like ours to take probably a different position, precisely because we have always maintained that we do not believe that the issue of Iran should be driven only by specific countries, because some of those countries themselves do not have credibility when it comes to this issue, but rather let everybody put the information that they have to our multilateral body and we will be guided by the decisions taken by that.
Now, on the facility, maybe I will come and last to that.
The refugees meeting in Uganda, yes, indeed, I am sorry, I should have mentioned it. It is on the 22nd and 23rd of October. This is a meeting just to look at issues of migration. Our President unfortunately is not in a position to go, but we do know that the Minister of Home Affairs will be representing South Africa in that meeting.
On the issue of Ireland, I think you will recall that even with the issues related to the Canada experience, we always want to draw a very clear distinction between statements that are made by individuals and official positions of the governments of those countries. Especially because both of these countries, Canada and Ireland, happen to be countries that we enjoy very good diplomatic relations with. You, yourself, would recall that the government of Canada itself had major reservations about the decisions of its Immigration Board. We have taken the view of assuming the same posture with respect to Ireland. We have conveyed our unhappiness with those statements. We have been reassured by the Irish that they are fully familiar with what our process of democratic transformation is all about and for now we are comfortable leaving that at that point and deal rather with rebutting the statements made by an individual. We will then see how the government of Ireland, knowing what our views are, but as I say, we have got no doubt that the government of Ireland understands fully what is going on in South Africa.
Now, on the issue of this building, I must say that we have been very happy to move to this facility. It has been very difficult for us to work from seven or eight different facilities. It has made management of the Department difficult. It had made in the past interaction very difficult. Coming together in the same facility, of course, holds the promise of significant improvement in the capacity, in the way we do things and, of course, bring some element of efficiency in the operations of the Department. I mean, I can already see significant positive changes. The fact that I want to see Nomfanelo (Kota) for 10 minutes to discuss something, or that she does is to walk across the corridor. We have a meeting for 10 minutes and thereafter she is back at her desk and she does not have to go through driving from somewhere else and go through various securities, and by the time what is a conversation of 10 minutes, actually you find that an hour has been spent. So all these things are going to help us.
We also hope that it would inspire the general cadreship here in International Relations, because, indeed, this is a significant investment. We should understand that, especially in these trying times, and given all the needs that are there, it is something that we should treat with absolute appreciation and see it as an instrument that our Government and people have given for us all the better to discharge our duties. And I think that is the message that we are sending to the officials of the Department.
It has created a very nice positive vibe and I think that it is nice to meet colleagues that sometimes, when they return from missions, disappeared in other buildings in Pretoria and you could never see them. Now, I do not want to say much about it. As you can see, it is a facility that has got conferencing capability, which obviously will help us a lot. It is a facility that would enable us to interact far much more regularly with the diplomatic corps here, because we would have the facility to call them at relatively short notice and not have to go through complicated processes of negotiating venues, because we would have the capacity to meet them here. And so, I think, it will improve also our interaction with the diplomats. And I must say that it is a facility that makes it possible for us to project the proud South Africa that we know. And so, I think, it is really something that we treasure.
Finally, let me say that at the appropriate time notice will be given because, indeed, we have been securing, and I will not say what the name of the building is going to be, but the decision has been taken and we have interacted with the family of the person concerned. That has now the full support of that family. We are in the process of negotiating between the Minister and the President, so that at the right time the President would formally open this facility.
But we think that this would certainly be before we break for Christmas this year. So it will be some time late November, early December. But you will know. We debated that whether in fact we should have this press conference here, because, and I was forewarned that in no enthusiasm Ayanda do not end up saying things you should not say.
And that is why I am sworn to secrecy, even when we break for tea, that I will not say anything about what the name of the building is going to be. But, we are extremely happy. We are extremely thankful to our country, to our Government, and our only hope is that we will live up to this, really, signal of trust and a clear signal that the Government wants us to discharge our duties without major obstacles and constraints.
Maybe just one thing I should place on, and try to correct, that we saw yesterday in the Business Day, the article by Donwald Pressly, in Business Report, okay, which is around the issue is that President Zuma has signed the agreement, the SACU-MERCOSUR agreement. No, that is not the case. As you know, this was done in Lesotho in 2009, in April this year. The agreements that were signed in Brazil by President Zuma were all bilateral agreements. So, just to correct that before we get harangued by our colleagues in SACU as to who gave us the mandate to sign on their behalf when they never instructed us to do that. You know, the President has not signed that agreement, but signed bilateral agreements. Thank you very much.
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