Department of International Relations and Cooperation Media Briefing by the Director General, Dr Ayanda Ntsaluba at the new International Relations and Cooperation Building on 10 November 2009

Dr Ayanda Ntsaluba, Director-General, Department of International Relations and Cooperation:

Okay, we will start colleagues, and I wish to introduce to you first before I start, Mr Saul Molobi. Saul is our Head of Public Diplomacy and so, he will be the main link with you then moving forward. He was working in the Department of Trade And Industry before and subsequently worked in Limpopo. He has just joined us, started on the 1st of November, and so you will see more of him in the days to come.

1. President Jacob Zuma's visit to Equatorial Guinea on 4th November, 2009:

Now, coming into today's briefing, the first part is really just to indicate, as you know, we have the successful visit by the President to Equatorial Guinea, which was more around strengthening bilateral relations. We are having specific areas that we are looking at, agriculture, mining, energy and infrastructure development. And those of you who have been to Malabo would know that there is a lot of reconstruction that is taking place currently in my Malabo, in Equatorial Guinea. We had signed a number of agreements some time back and we had felt that it was an opportune time for us to go back as part of the President's programme of really reestablishing contact with some of the countries on the Continent.

Just to say, as you know, that the President's visit coincided with the release of the South Africans who were arrested in there, and this was as a result of a Presidential pardon, which had followed the due processes in Equatorial Guinea. I think we can say that the relevant authorities in the Republic of South Africa were informed that this was going to happen and, of course, South Africa did not register any opposition to that, given that this was a sovereign decision of the government of Equatorial Guinea to take that decision, and as I said, following their own processes in terms of the Presidential pardons. As was indicated in the media, we indeed confirmed that all those who were released came back to South Africa are now with their families. You would have had the statements that were released by the Department of Justice, which alluded to the fact that, in terms of South African law, we regard the situation as closed for now and therefore, we do not believe that there is any other action that is being planned, and I think we will take our authority also from the Department of Justice.

2. Latest Political Developments in Zimbabwe:

The next area I would like to talk about is just some brief comments on the Special Troika Summit of the Organ of Politics, Defense and Security, which was in Maputo, to try and breathe some life into the inclusive government in Zimbabwe as a result of the circumstances that we are all familiar with. Just to say that this followed on a visit of the Ministerial Troika to Zimbabwe, carrying on the mandate that had been given to the Troika of the Organ by the SADC Summit in Kinshasa, as you would recall.

When they got into Zimbabwe, it was quite clear that there were some issues that they saw as impediments to the successful operation of the inclusive government and hence, the Ministers recommended that the Summit should meet. President Zuma was invited to this because of the specific role that South Africa plays in Zimbabwe. The other Head of State, who was not a member of the Organ Troika who had been invited, was President Kabila in his capacity as Chair of the SADC. Unfortunately President Kabila could not attend. You are all familiar then with the outcome of that meeting. The main things that I would really say that it was quite clear to us that it was important for the SADC to assert the fact that our own understanding is that the global political agreement and the decisions of the Special Summit, which was held here in January 2009, here in this capital, that we see those as being part of what really drives the agenda in Zimbabwe. Because there had been a lot of disputes about technicalities, when in fact the issue of the Governors and the issue of the Governor of the Reserve Bank were part of the global political agreement and I think the statement of the SADC Troika Summit was categorical in stating the point that the Global Political Agreement (GPA) is read together with the decisions that were part of an implementation of the GPA. We are indeed very happy that the MDC has gone back to the inclusive government. We are encouraged by the fact that all the parties in Zimbabwe, regardless of the differences, communicated very clearly to the heads of the region that the inclusive government essentially is the only game in town, and that everything should be done to make sure that the inclusive government becomes successful.

We are also happy with the decisions that had been taken, particularly the timelines that had been given to the parties in Zimbabwe namely, to try and make sure that they attend to all outstanding matters within about 15 days, maximum 30 days, after which then we would expect that there would a be verification by the Organ Troika to see that, indeed, that the decisions that should have been taken, have been taken.

3. The Kimberly Process:

Another issue that is related to Zimbabwe that we have participated in, and just to clarify our own position on it, as you know, there had been a meeting of the Kimberley Process, which was in Swakopmund, which ended on Thursday last week. Just to say that, of course, it was a very heated discussion. There are three sites of diamond mining in Zimbabwe. Two of them had not been under any (inaudible) . , there are no problems with two of the sites. But the one site is the site which has been an area of recent mining activities and this is where some of the problems that have been previously reported, had occurred. You know that in the discussion within the Kimberley Process there were different views. Some people had called for the suspension of Zimbabwe. Others, the majority, which was then the dominant position that was finally held, is really to agree with the governments of Zimbabwe on a very tight work plan which will try to restore the operations in that particular area, to fully accord with the expectations and the decisions of the Kimberley Process. And we are particularly happy with that outcome. We think it is the correct outcome.

4. Minister Maite Nkoana Mashabane led a South African Delegation to the Forum on Africa-China Cooperation (FOCAC), 08-09 November 2009, Egypt.

Today we also, just a day after the conclusion, or on the last day of the meeting that is taking place in Egypt, of the Forum for Africa-China Cooperation, which was a very important meeting. By all accounts, what we have got so far is that it was a very successful meeting. A number of issues were on the agenda. But perhaps just to indicate that, you would recall that the first FOCAC Ministerial was in 2000. The second one was in 2003. And the third FOCAC Ministerial Meeting just preceded the Summit which was in November 2006. So this was the fourth Ministerial of FOCAC. You would also recall that in the Summit of 2006 there was the Beijing Action Plan, which was adopted, covering the period 2007 to 2009 and, consequently, this fourth Ministerial was then going to adopt this Programme of Action covering the two-year period from 2010 to 2012.

As South Africa, of course we have an interest in this, in the work of FOCAC and our focus has been at two levels. One at a bilateral level to look at what it is that South Africa can leverage in terms of this partnership between China and Africa. But also more importantly for us has been to make sure that there is sharing of ideas, exchange of ideas with the People's Republic of China, so that FOCAC reinforces initiatives currently going on within the Continent. And it was in that context that on the 23rd of October, here in Pretoria, we did host the Head of the Africa Branch, in the Foreign Ministry of China,  who basically has been the person driving FOCAC. And we exchanged ideas and I must say we are very comfortable with the drift that this meeting was going to take, particularly around a number of issues that I would like to highlight.

The first one that we have been raising is really to make sure that China does not only deal with African countries on a bilateral and individual basis, that it is important for us to respect and strengthen the existing multilateral structures, namely the AU, and more importantly, to see greater involvement of the Regional Economic Communities. And so we expect that this would come out very explicit.

Secondly, we saw a need for us to look particularly at the area of infrastructure development on the Continent and agriculture, natural resources and energy exploration, but to link this with the issue of local procurement and also the use of labour within the Continent. Many of you would know that this has been one of the sensitive issues in terms of the projects that China runs on the Continent, and I think that we got a very clear commitment from China and, of course, we will see whether this will be carried beyond the FOCAC meeting now.

The other area was really to try and look at some cross-border projects, particularly in the Eastern African region, Southern and Eastern Africa. Now, again, I think it is important to know that sometimes what constrains the People's Republic of China in dealing with cross-border projects is their sensitivity with dealing with projects that would benefit countries who are undermining the one-China policy. And, as are most of you would know, that in our region, of course, we have got the situation that Swaziland is in that particular situation, as viewed by the People's Republic of China, because of their close ties between the Kingdom and the Republic of China, namely Taiwan. But generally, I think we will give a detailed account of that once all the outcomes of that meeting have been put into place and coordinated.

5. Minister Maite Nkoana Mashabane's visit to Sri Lanka, 11-12 November 2009

The next area that I would like to cover is just to confirm, indeed, that Minister Maite Nkoana Mashabane will be visiting Sri Lanka. We have met the leadership of Sri Lanka, first in the NAM Summit and also in New York, and they have been very anxious to want to South Africa to re-engage with the process in Sri Lanka.

We have spoken to the Norwegians (involved in peace process in Sri Lanka). Essentially the main challenge in Sri Lanka, as you know, is now the process of national healing and making sure that everybody's satisfied that what were allegations of abuse during the final push of the offensive of the Sri Lankan Army against the Tamil Tigers, that there is some halting of that and, in fact, the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) are reconnected with their families as soon as possible. And so, those are some of the issues that we will be raising very sharply. And, of course, we will be looking at issues of bilateral cooperation with Sri Lanka. But I think it will be fair to say that in addition to the bilateral agenda, looking at reactivating our own structures of bilateral cooperation, that a significant part of the discussion will relate to our own anxieties as a country about how to manage that process of national reconciliation, and moving from the position of our general concern, also because South Africa has a significant interest also precisely because we have got a significant community in South Africa that shares cultural and identity linkages with the people of Sri Lanka.

6. Minister Maite Nkoana Mashabane to undertake an official visit to India, 12-15 November 2009.

Thereafter the Minister will pay a visit to India and this will be again a bilateral visit. Obviously we will straddle on a number of multilateral issues. Whilst in India, needless to say, apart from the bilateral issues that we will focus on,  the Minister will be partly preparing for a State Visit by President Zuma to India sometime in the early part of next year.

We have also been anxious, both with India and Brazil to make sure that the bilateral agenda does not get subsumed under the IBSA agenda. So, part of this visit is also to focus on those issues that are very important for the two countries from a bilateral perspective, but do not necessarily have a bearing on the work of IBSA.

Now, there are a number of areas that are important for us with respect to this discussion with India. One, there is a discussion that has been going on around the establishment of a free trade area between India and SACU countries. There has been the issue of a number of MoUs, one telecommunication, one on SMME development, and also the issues of looking at strengthening the partnerships on SMMEs in particular, and building as the next major task to be carried out by the CEO Forum that exists between the two countries. Obviously we would discuss with them a number of regional and multilateral issues.

7. Madagascar.

The next area I would like to briefly cover is Madagascar. With respect to Madagascar, just to say that whilst we were busy with the meeting in Maputo, we were aware of the meeting that was going on in Addis Ababa  at the time. We obviously have been very encouraged by the meeting that took place on the 6th of October in Madagascar that led to some sort of informal agreement, and we are anxious that the parties should indeed, in a sense, formalise the agreements that they had reached.

We are happy that there is movement forward. We can of course see that there might be some difficulties with the implementation of some of the decisions, but we really do not believe that those difficulties are beyond the leadership of Madagascar to look at. Particularly the issues of the President and the Co-Presidents, I think, is going to be something that they will have to manage very delicately.

The second issue is going to be the issue of the President, Co-Presidents versus the powers of the Prime Minister. Again, it would require to be managed very delicately. But at least now we are in a position where the top structure of the interim administration has been sanctioned by all the parties concerned and I think that it is a significant breakthrough.

We are also following very closely the developments that are taking place within some of the movements, for example the fact that there is now reports that the former Prime Minister is now forming the anotherh movement and also the issue of the former Foreign Minister who is positioning himself to contest the presidential elections after the interim period. And all those, I think, are issues that both reflect probably a bit of opening up of the democratic space, but also at the same time are issues that may themselves be either sources of conflict and I think we will just keep a close watch on those issues as things continue.

Of course we are also happy with the fact that the allocation of the ministerial positions has been agreed on, as well as the 65 member transitional council and the transitional congress, the 258 member transitional congress. So I think all of those are positive things with respect to Madagascar and we will be following the developments very closely.

8. Guinea Conakry.

Finally, just to say, and this we will not give much detail on, because we ourselves are in the process of trying to gather some information. I am sure that some of you have picked up that there are reports which largely come from the French media which relate to involvement of what is alleged to be South African mercenaries in the current conflict in Guinea, Conakry. We are following that very closely and we are trying to establish the veracity of those reports. And secondly, we also, it has been brought to our attention that there may well be South Africans in the business sector or that there are companies that have got connections with South Africa that may actually be under stress at the present time because of the activities of the military junta there. And, again, we are keeping a close watch through our Mission in Conakry and we will do whatever is appropriate then to deal with siuation, should there be any South Africans that require support or assistance from the government, and we will deal with that as things emerge.

Thank you very much. I think that is really what I would like to end on.

Questions by Members of the Media:

Member of the Media: Lehana Tsotsetsi, SABC - The conflict in Sri Lanka has been there for some time. Why is the visit only undertaken now and not much earlier when there was active conflict?

Member of the Media: Peter Fabricius, Independent Newspapers - DG, could I just ask you if you have any comment on the meeting that was held in Bujumbura on the 5th and 6th of November about the situation in the Eastern Congo? Some discussion about maybe improving strengthening the mandate of MONUC to deal with the FDLR and also some suggestions that maybe South Africa might face some conditions on its security sector reform to the DRC Army, in the light of the fact that some of the Army personnel, including senior officers, are being held guilty of atrocities against civilians. Thank you.

Member of the Media: Denise, SAPA. Just a bit of clarity, one of my questions has already been asked, but earlier on when discussing Zimbabwe you were saying that the Ministerial Meeting, the SADC Ministerial Meeting had found that there were some issues in Zimbabwe that were  seen as impediments. You touched slightly on them, but I wonder if you could just elaborate on those. Thanks.

Dr Ayanda Ntsaluba, Director-General, Department of International Relations and Cooperation: Let me start with the last one. Let me start closer at home. No, you will recall that in Zimbabwe, essentially there was a whole host of things that all the parties raised. On the side of the MDC there was the issue of the Governor of the Reserve Bank, Attorney-General, the provincial governors and the issue of Roy Bennett, and then the issue of what was characterised as basically the re-emergence of, let us say, political insecurity in a sense, and the issue of possible new land invasions. So that was what was raised from the MDC's side. On the government's side, they have been raising a number of issues. The one issue was of course what they regard as the non-commitment of the MDC team in particular to the commitment undertaken to the full lifting of sanctions and accusations that, therefore, the MDC team has not delivered on its side of the mandate, of the bargain. And there has been the issue what they call sometimes, the existence of a parallel government, which basically refers to probably the support that the MDC team continues to get, allegations of that from some of the international cooperating partners, whose support is not given in general to the totality of the government of Zimbabwe. And then, of course, there were also contestations around the interpretation, whether some of these issues are really issues of the GPA or are issues that are just common understanding, and therefore their treatment should be separate from obligations to implement the GPA. So, now of course when the Ministerial Committee, when they had found that around these same issues the political temperature was a bit higher than normal, and we were worried also by the tone of really the attacks and counter-attacks, the accusations and counter-accusations, and hence the Ministerial Troika felt that it was important for the Summit to try and arrest this before it gets out of hand, so that we give the best possible chance again for the inclusive government to function. It was quite clear to the people, particularly the tone, because some of these differences have been there, but people felt that they could still handle them within the structures that existed. And I think it was at the tone and the mutual attacks that we are now beginning to worry significantly. So, that is what I am really referring to on the issue of Zimbabwe when I say it was a concern enough when the Ministers felt that the Summit at the Troika level should meet.

Now, the issue of security sector reform. South Africa has taken a view that we want to look very critically at all the areas of our current support and partnership with the DRC within the framework of the binational commission. Not because we want to scale down, but because we want to tighten up the support, to relate to the means available to us and also enhance the prospects of good outcomes coming out of that partnership. And of course, one of the flagship areas of cooperation has been the area around security sector reform. Now, indeed, we are worried about it, because any negative reports that come in, I am sure, are not only a concern for South Africa. All the countries that are training different units of the Congolese Army would, of necessity, be very concerned about that because to the extent that there may be atrocities that are attached to people who may be part of the battalions that we trained, then obviously that is from both a moral and ethical point of view but also from a public relations point of view, it is not an issue that is good for South Africa. So, we would be concerned that those incidents should be properly managed. We should try to see what checks and balances we can put in place, so that we, ourselves, do not do then become complicit inadvertently in something that is negative as what is going on in the Congo. But also, more importantly, that also we manage those negative reports and negative occurrences, to the extent that they occur in such a manner that they do not detract from the bigger mission, because the big a task still is that the Congolese Army should be assisted to build the requisite capacity, so that it can actually protect the sovereign territory of the DRC. So, indeed, I think that during the visit of President Kabila there has been general agreement between our presidents that in the different sectors we would look very carefully at what we are doing, what our misgivings are and work together with the Congolese Army to correct some of those. One of the areas, for example, that had been reported was again issues of possible defections of some of the people, even from the integrated, from some of the trained battalions. And, obviously, that would be of concern to us, because if they are defecting to support some of the people carrying out atrocities in the DRC, I think that is an issue of concern to us.

Peter, let me disappoint you, I am not, I do not have all the details of the meeting of the 5th and 6th in Bujumbura. So, let me not stray into that.

On the issue of Sri Lanka, just to say that you will recall that we did release a statement some time back, let me step back. Some time back, South Africa had been asked, and I think there had been a lot of pressure, even from the Tamil community in South Africa, for South Africa to be actively involved in the situation in Sri Lanka. Our situation at the time was that we did not want to create a parallel track to what the Norwegians were doing. Instead, what we offered was to work with and support the Norwegians. And you will recall that for some time before he became Deputy Minister, Deputy Minister Ibrahim Ebrahim, together with Roelf Meyer, had been in and out of Sri Lanka trying to participate in some process of reconciliation there. This Department was fully briefed by both of them on those activities, and at that point in time we were satisfied, as South Africa, that perhaps the mechanism for giving support to the talks through the involvement of Ibrahim Ebrahim  and Roelf Meyer, was the best approach, as they had established strong relations with the Norwegian team that was working on it. Secondly, when the offensive started, you would also recall that there was a discussion in Geneva at the Human Rights Council, and that we did express our reservation about some of the reports that we were receiving at that time relating to what appeared to be human rights abuses in the course of the execution of that project. The issues of women and children and, of course, now the significant numbers of IDPs that are there. Our Ambassador in Colombo, Ambassador Petho, has had a very clear brief to engage the authorities in Sri Lanka. And, as I say, of course some of the things that we are saying, as you, yourself, might have read the statement from the Sri Lankan authorities, they have been denying some of the allegations that have been made about the nature of the offenses. But, of course, our view is that, we seem to share the view that is, indeed, there are quite a number of IDPs, there are a number of people who are not easily accessible. We believe that all those areas where people are kept should be made open to the international community and that the IDPs should be re-integrated with their families and communities as soon as possible. So, it is in that context that I think that the Sri Lankan government, or at least has conveyed clearly to South Africa, precisely because they know our interest in the area, that they would really like us to engage. And we did indeed offer that perhaps the appropriate place to have that engagement would be for us, for our Minister to go to Colombo to engage on our concerns, as well as look at what concretely the Sri Lankan government is planning with a view to healing the rifts. Because it is another thing to defeat an insurgent army, but it is another thing to deal with the deep scars that will be left because of that, and make sure that, indeed, whatever exist now lays the basis for a far much more durable peace in the country. So I think that is really the approach that we are taking with, in respect to this. Thanks.

Member of the Media: Wilson from  Business Day. DG, what confidence do you have that the 30-day deadline will be met over Zimbabwe, given the recent spate of arrests, since last Friday, you know. In the last two days ZCTU officials have been detained and there were students detained last Friday and there is another 15 or so ZCTU members from a demonstration last year and, and so on. This does not give enough confidence. But, do you think the deadline will be met in terms of Zanu issues?

Dr Ayanda Ntsaluba, Director-General, Department of International Relations and Cooperation: Well, I mean, we cannot give guarantees, but I think having had the slight benefit of having been in Maputu around the discussion, I do know that the fact that there were clear timeframes that were put, and the fact that those timeframes are as tight as they are, is just really a signal of some degree of impatience of the regional leadership around the fact that the political leadership of Zimbabwe must not squander what appears to be the opportunity, perhaps their only opportunity, to pull the country out of the abyss, which is really the root of making sure that the inclusive government functions and that all these other problems are dealt with. So, I do not want, I think the message was sent very clearly. I do not think the issue of arriving at binding dates was easily arrived at, but the fact that it is in the final communiqué, communicates the sort of posture that the regional leadership had taken. And the concerns of the regional leadership about what now, because there is a general sense that the political and humanitarian situation in Zimbabwe during the period of the inclusive government was beginning to improve. And the worst fear of all of us is that the petty squabbling and politicking amongst the leadership of Zimbabwe leads to a squandering of this opportunity, and the situation slides back, because the region really wants to move forward and wants to move forward with a Zimbabwe that constructively contributes to this the region moving forward. I think that's the posture and I think that the rest of the issues, let's deal with them at the end of that period.

Member of the Media: Peter. Two questions if I may? One is about the visit to Equatorial Guinea. What surprised a lot of people is that we did not know anything about the trip by the President until the release had occurred, and secondly the President was already in the air, which is a bit of unusual in terms of lead time for announcements of state or official visits. Another question is just about Zimbabwe. I mean, does the SADC expect the MDC to actually lift sanctions, I mean, to effect the lifting of sanctions, or simply to make a sort of an unambiguous call for them, and also, would they expect the MDC to stop receiving, let us say the Ministry of Education, run by the MDC, to stop receiving donor funds, which they are only channeling through the MDC ministries, because they do not trust the ZANU-PF side. In other words, the danger then being that education money dries up because, you know, you are not supposed to be channeling it only through an MDC ministry?

Dr Ayanda Ntsaluba, Director-General, Department of International Relations and Cooperation: Thanks Peter. No, maybe just to start saying, when I gave the list of issues, I hope I was clear that I said, this is what the MDC had put and this is what the government had put. So, the issue, the formulation around the issue of sanctions was the formulation as the government puts it. I think most of the people would accept, and I think that would be the view of the regional leadership, that it would be, you cannot say that only the MDC would carry the responsibility for that, but at the same time there would be expectations that the MDC must be unambiguous. Remember, the issue of the lifting of sanctions is also now a SADC position. It was in the Kinshasa communiqué. It was in the communiqué in Maputo. It was in the statement that was released by the Ministerial Troika. So, in a sense that is the view and we would expect all the parties to be unambiguous in communicating that view. I think there are sensitivities around, and again, this is an issue about interpreting the resources that are channeled through some sort of parallel government. That is, again, the formulation of the ruling party in Zimbabwe. Our own approach is really that it is very important that we, the international community, the region, the Continent, all of us understand that we are dealing essentially with a fragile process. We are dealing with people who really have been at war with one another virtually, and that the levels of trust are not exactly where you would want them to be. And, therefore, our own actions, no matter how well intentioned, I think all of us, the international community, we need to be sensitive to the fact that they can easily be misunderstood. Now, that is not to question that some of this assistance may be well intentioned, but in the context of that contestation, all sorts of interpretations get put to it. And I think that is the issue that we need to deal with. And that is why, as South Africa, we have been really been very happy with the open re-engagement of the European Union and other major donors formally with the formal structures of the government of Zimbabwe, so that we can cross this barrier of a suspicion that the rest of the international community wants to support only one faction of the government, because  that is not conducive to any effective functioning of a cabinet collective.

Now, on the issue of Equatorial Guinea, maybe that speaks to the importance of these Tuesday (media) briefings, Peter. Because, now obviously, because we did not have a briefing, we left and in a sense this was missed. But, let me assure you, there was nothing hidden about it. And, in fact, I think we had made a statement. I am sure that it was not probably properly publicised before the President left. So, there was nothing untoward. It is true that the issue of the possible release, that was not necessarily something that was too much in the public domain. And I can confirm that even some of the officials within government were taken by surprise, but that there has been communication with the appropriate authorities in the South African government and South Africa was informed, and that is actually a fact. And if that would explain why some of you would have made inquiries and found that you found officials who were completely in the dark and who were also taken by surprise, and I do not think that it is because colleagues were hiding anything. I think that is genuinely information that was not in the public domain at that time.

Member of the Media: Peter. Sorry, just a follow-up question. I am not sure I heard you clearly. Did you say in relation to Zimbabwe on this issue about funding of the MDC, did you say that is why we would welcome, or that is why we do welcome the EU re-engagement?

Dr Ayanda Ntsaluba, Director-General, Department of International Relations and Cooperation: We welcome it.

Dr Ayanda Ntsaluba, Director-General, Department of International Relations and Cooperation: We welcome it, yes. We welcome it. I mean, when we met the EU here in Kleinmond, we had a bit of a session and a discussion around Zimbabwe. As you know, they were just on the verge of going from here to Zimbabwe. They had given assurances in the past that, indeed, they were ready on their side to re-engage with Zimbabwe. And indeed we did encourage that such a high-level visit would help, in a sense reconnect. And all the communication and all the issues that they want to convey to the government of Zimbabwe, they are at liberty to convey, but let it be in the context of a constructive engagement with the government of Zimbabwe. So, we are really encouraged by that, and also we are encouraged by the fact that even during the Kinshasa Summit, the government of Zimbabwe formally and openly acknowledged the fact that, indeed, the discussions with the EU are not smooth sailing, but they were very constructive and the general tone of the discussions was a constructive one.

Member of the Media: Lehana Tsotsetsi from SABC. What is the latest regarding the Western Sahara from the South African side?

Dr Ayanda Ntsaluba, Director-General, Department of International Relations and Cooperation: Well, with respect to Western Sahara, I think we, let me just step back. We had, first of all, you know South Africa's position that we really are supporting the existing UN Resolutions. And we respect those, we call for the adherence to international law with respect to the recognition of the right to self-determination. We regard the issue of Western Sahara as essentially an issue of an expression of the right to self-determination. Thirdly, we had opened up an open communication channel with the leadership of Western Sahara at the time when the talks were going on in the United States of America. And I am sure, previously, even during the time of Aziz Pahad (former Deputy Minister), we reported every time we were visited by the delegation of Western Sahara. We have been in contact.

Our Ambassador to Algeria, who has now returned as the Director-General of State Security, Ambassador Maqethuka, as part of his winding down, met the leadership at the highest level of the SADR, have conveyed to us also some of the recent developments. More important, I think, what we can say is given as a very detailed brief on the new initiatives that are going on. We are indeed happy with the fact that the new UN Secretary-General Special Envoy for that area, to try to help again restart the discussions, has been accepted by both parties, by both Morocco and Western Sahara and we are expecting probably before the close of this year, probably the negotiators from Western Sahara to come to South Africa for purposes of the regular discussions that we normally have with them, as they prepare for these discussions. So, that is really where we are with Western Sahara.

Member of the Media: Peter. Would you mind elaborating on what the government knows about these mercenaries in Guinea?

Dr Ayanda Ntsaluba, Director-General, Department of International Relations and Cooperation: You know, Peter, really, I want to be cautious on this, because we have not verified all the information. The information that we have now is based on leads. As you know, the main people who released this, is the French media. We have had interaction between our Ambassador in Conakry and the representatives of the French Embassy in Conakry and also other West European missions. There are allegations of people said to be South Africans who were seen in the area close to some of the training camps. The allegations are that these are people who are training militias, militias that are from the tribe or supporters of the current junta leader, Captain Camara. Now, that is what we have heard. Now, what we are trying to do is to verify that information. And that is why really I would want to be very clear, that is information that we have got from other sources. It is not information from the South African government. And as you would expect, we are working very closely with our own services to try and verify this information. Thank you very much.

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10 November 2009

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