Department of International Relations and Co-operation Media Briefing by the Director-General, Dr Ayanda Ntsaluba at the new International Relations and Co-operation Building
on 17 November 2009
Dr Ayanda Ntsaluba, Director-General, Department of International Relations and Co-operation:
1. World Food Summit
Colleagues, let’s start by indicating that the Deputy president, as you know, is in Rome in the World Food Summit, which started on the 16th, yesterday, and is continuing until tomorrow. He is accompanied by the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Joemat-Pettersson, as well as the Deputy Minister of our Department, Ebrahim Ebrahim. You will also recall that this is a follow-up to the World Food Summit that was in 1996 and also in 2002. The purpose of this engagement is really to look at the issue of eradication of hunger and also the issue of trying to see whether we can combine the collective wisdom of the leadership of the world to come up with lasting political, financial and technical solutions to the problem of food insecurity, as a way of really giving expression to the issue of the right to food.
Now, we believe that the central thrust of these discussions is going to be around investments that are necessary to build rural infrastructures, particularly in the developing world and increasing agricultural productivity, as key interventions.
You also know that in the continent, as part of the NEPAD initiative we’ve got our own framework, which is Cadep and therefore South Africa and the continent would be approaching this summit, seeing it is consistent basically with our own sense of priorities, namely the issue of agricultural revival in the continent. We also share the view that it’s very important to focus on this area, precisely because if you combine the current problems of food insecurity and you also look at the projections that by 2050 the population of the world would have increased by about 15% from 6 to 9 billion, then you can see that this situation can only be worse, unless we take some significant measures.
Of course, we also believe that discussing these issues about food security investment in rural infrastructure, increasing productivity would also help us to focus on the issue of making sure that developing countries have got a fair chance of competing in the world commodity market. As you know, in the context of the Doha Round this issue of agriculture, particularly subsidies from the north and their impact really on the competitiveness of African agriculture is a key issue and we hope that this will also be addressed, as well as we believe that indeed it is high time that there’s significant injection, both from public and private resources on the issue of agriculture.
So, overall we are participating in this meeting, encouraged by the main thrust of the meeting. Of course, we know that it’s not going to be an easy meeting that is taking place. However, we are hoping for a positive outcome.
2. South Korea/Africa Forum
The second issue I would like to indicate is that from there our Deputy Minister, Ebrahim Ebrahim will be going to South Korea, both for the South Korea/Africa Forum in Seoul on the 23rd to 25th of November, but back-to-back to that we will also have our own bilateral meeting with the South Korean Government. With respect to the Korea/Africa Forum, the focus is going to be on ICT, on infrastructure, human resource development and again on the issue of agriculture and rural development. On our side we would be, in terms of the bilateral meeting, looking at really how to enhance existing bilateral relations. There are many things on the technology side that we’ve been looking at in South Korea. You know that they’ve been participating in our JIPSA program and, of course, that will also afford the Deputy Minister an opportunity to get some assessment of the current discussions and understanding of what’s happening in the Korean stray.
3. Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting
We had previously briefly mentioned and maybe we will give a bit more detail today that the President would be attending the Commonwealth Heads of Governments meeting, so-called CHOGM, which will be on the 27th to the 29th of November in Trinidad and Tobago. That will be preceded by a Ministerial meeting and therefore the President will be accompanied by the Minister of International Relations and Co-operation.
The issues that would be on the agenda, as you would expect, this would be just a matter of two weeks or so before the meeting on climate change in Copenhagen. I don’t think we expect that there would be necessarily a consensus statement in the form of content, because as you would understand, the commonwealth countries would be as diverse as and reflective of the diversity that is there in terms of this debate globally, but nevertheless we would expect the leaders, at least, to come out with a statement that shows some commitment to the process. And more importantly, as we indicated last time we spoke, there is also the fact that a number of the countries, member states of the commonwealth are small island states, which are particularly vulnerable to these issues of climate change.
Now, this would also be what is called the 60th anniversary of the modern commonwealth. So, a substantial part, particularly the leaders’ retreat during the commonwealth, would also spend a bit of time reviewing the values, the goals and objectives of the commonwealth to make a critical assessment of the continued relevance of the commonwealth in the current context. One issue that the countries particularly from the developing south in the commonwealth have put firmly on the agenda is really to look at the progress and mutual support and the partnerships that are built around the attainment of the MDGs and this would be again another very important issue for discussion.
Needless to say there will be a discussion around the issue of the current global economic and financial crisis, its implications and again how the world should be responding to that and finally there will be some discussion on what is called the Commonwealth Youth Program, flowing from a common understanding or rather a view that started to gain significant momentum during the last Commonwealth Heads of States Meeting in Kampala, Uganda, around the need for collaborative action with respect to investment on the youth in the commonwealth member countries.
4. President Jacob Zuma’s visit to Zambia:
Coming closer home, just to say that we also are in the process of preparing for a state visit of the President when the President returns from CHOGOM and that will be to Zambia, Lusaka, on the 8th and the 9th and then I’m sure you would agree that this is an important visit for us. The Minister was there recently for a preparatory visit. It will also come just immediately after the Zambians had really honoured the former President of the African National Congress, OR Tambo, with the highest award, the Order of the Eagle of Zambia and so this would be, from the point of view of a reconnection between South Africa and Zambia, would be a very important visit, and we’ll give the details closer to the meeting.
Closer to home, again we continue to follow the developments in Madagascar. The last time we spoke we were looking at the outcomes of the meeting that was in Addis Ababa. Now we have got some sense of the outcome, the confirmation of the Presidency of Andrew Rajoelina, the two Co-Presidents, one from the Ravalomana and the other one from the Zephi movements and of course, the Prime Minister.
Now, as we indicated last time, this is a bit of a cumbersome structure, but we hope that the leadership of Madagascar will be able to marshal all the necessary will to be able to make it work. I think we are particularly encouraged by some of the decisions that they have taken, especially around the issue of some sort of understanding of what would happen, should any of the leaders, particularly those in the triumvirate so to say of the presidency, wish to stand for the presidency when the elections, the more normal elections finally come and the agreement that sixty days before that whoever is interested would have to step down and the arrangement that they’ve agreed upon and I think that removes a significant obstacle.
The second issue that I think is important for us is what we perceive as the general acceptance of that arrangement amongst the broad spectrum of the Malagasy people and of course, people doing so from an understanding of a transitional nature and again we hope that this transitional government will keep up to the deadlines and the timeframes agreed upon with respect to restoring Madagascar to democratic rule.
6. Developments in Zimbabwe:
Now, with respect to Zimbabwe, really two things, not much with respect to the follow-through from the meeting of the Troika of SADC, suffice to say that in reality now we all know, we have seen the reports about the re-engagement of the MDC within government and the fact that indeed the three-party principals met on Friday the 13th of November as a start to the Troika mandated dialogue. We know that the parties were scheduled to meet again on the 16th of November . We also know that the Council of Ministers is going to have its meeting on the 19th of November, chaired by the Prime Minister and again we are looking forward to seeing that that actually happens. So, apart from that we are really trying to follow very closely what is going on with the understanding that come the 5th of December or so, there would have to be some sort of significant reassessment and there is discussion currently within the South African Government on the approach that we would take and follow this process through.
Just to say again that on the 27th of November we are expecting that the delegation from the DTI led by the Minister, Rob Davies, would go to Zimbabwe for the signature of the BEPA and we expect Minister Rob Davies to be accompanied by a business delegation and we hope this would assist to bring some finality to this issue. And of course, let’s hope that this time around this does take place.
7. Arrest in Angola
We’ve taken note of the reports about the involvement of some individuals who were apprehended by the Angolan Military inside Angola. We are following that very closely. For what we know up to now is that none of the people found themselves in harm’s way and we are communicating with those who have contacted us with a view to making sure that we follow very closely the fate of these particular individuals. I think that’s where we are. I would be ready to take your questions.
Questions by Members of the Media:
Member of the Media (Peter): I have two questions, if I may. One, and sorry if you’ve touched on this, but probably not, but could you confirm that the investment treaty explicitly excludes any properties of South Africans that have already been seized in the farm invasion? In other words, it’s protecting investments going forward, but not existing or past investments. And if that is the case, whether you would comment on the constitutionality of that provision, which I believe is to be challenged.
The other one I would like to ask is, I heard something on the radio last week that I think possibly one of our diplomats in Pakistan was travelling to Afghanistan to try and find out what had happened to this South African working for a security company who was arrested for shooting somebody, which he says was in self-defence, where that is. Thank you.
Dr Ayanda Ntsaluba, Director-General, Department of International Relations and Co-operation: Maybe let me start with the latter point. As you know that this was a story that first broke up, we picked it up in one of the phone-in programs of 702 and we did link up with 702 to clarify the situation. Indeed, we have been in contact with the family of the person who was arrested in Afghanistan. As you know, we don’t have residential presence in Afghanistan and as, Peter, you are alluding to, we are servicing Afghanistan from Pakistan and as is the case in those places where we don’t have missions, we tend to work in part together with some of the countries that have established missions and in this particular case of Afghanistan we are working together with the British. So, there has been … I think the facts are not exactly 100% clear to us. All we can confirm is that indeed the person was taken, that indeed there has been contact that has been established with the person through the British Embassy and that we are in regular contact with their families here in South Africa. That’s what we can confirm for now.
With respect to the BEPA, it’s been a very difficult discussion. I know that what there has been an attempt to try and do and I don’t have offhand now the final formulation and one of the difficulties has been to try and to reconcile the concern obviously from the Zimbabwean Government about interventions that would not undermine their policy intents, but on the same side, as you allude again in your question, to fully respect South Africa’s constitutional obligations to her citizens.
Now, without commenting on the details of the clause, especially precisely because you are hinting that there may be individuals who would want to legally challenge, all I can say is I think there has been a real attempt by South Africa, State Law Advisors, the DTI, DIRCO to make sure that any such formulation and agreement would be consistent with our own constitutional obligations. Thank you.
Member of the Media: Erica Gibson from Beeld. Mr DG, the situation in Guinea as far as South Africans being allegedly involved in the training of some of the Junta’s soldiers there, is there any new development that you can maybe comment on as far as their possible return to South African is concerned? Can you maybe confirm or deny whether there is any South African company involved in dealing with the Junta as far as training and/or the supply of weapons is concerned?
Member of the Media: John-Jacques Cornish from Talk Radio 702. The issue in the Western Sahara of coming up to Ida who has been moved away or taken away from her home against her will and has now undertaken a hunger strike at Lancerotti, is there anything that we have done in terms of approaches to the Moroccans or to the Spanish Government on this issue?
Dr Ayanda Ntsaluba, Director-General, Department of International Relations and Co-operation: Maybe let me start with the last question. Two things – first of all, I mean, we’ve had recent interaction with Morocco. Deputy Minister Ibrahim Ebrahim attended the high level conference that was in Morocco recently and on the margins of that had the opportunity to speak to his Moroccan counterpart. Last week our Deputy Minister, Sue van der Merwe, was in Spain, and as you would expect that one of the issues that would have been on the agenda in the Spanish visit would have been the issue of, for instance, Sahara.
Now, we obviously continue to register our concerns about not only this development, but also generally, because this is a recurrence of what has happened numerous times and I’m sure Jacques you would also remember that we’ve hosted here some of the prominent human rights activists from the occupied territories and also from Western Sahara here, hosted by our Department together with the Embassy of Saharan Arab Democratic Republic here in Pretoria. So, this is something that we continue to convey and we miss no opportunity to do that. So yes, that is where we stand. We continue to be concerned and we use any opportunity generally to convey our own view, inasmuch as we also continue to convey to the Moroccan Government that our disagreement on the issue, on the principle issue of Western Sahara should not be taken as a disagreement or reluctance to have good bilateral relations generally with Morocco and I’m raising this point precisely because as you know, post recognition by South Africa of SADR that the Government of Morocco decided on its own, in a sense, to lower its level of representation in South Africa. So, we continue to have those discussions. They are not necessarily easy discussions. However, that’s what we are doing.
Now, we are still following the issue in Guinea. The information that we have is that really most of this activity, what it leads us to is basically companies that have operated largely through Dubai. Now, I want to be very cautious not to start mentioning names of companies for now, precisely because really we are dealing with information that we are trying to verify, but it’s quite clear that there is a lot of this co-ordination from the information that we are getting now. So, as to establish the strong South African connections, some of the information seems to point in that direction, but I don’t’ think we’ve got the full picture yet.
Maybe one of the things I should have mentioned, if I may, is just to indicate that the Minister, last time we spoke to you, we indicated that the Minister was in Egypt for the meeting of FOCAC and we mentioned that the Minister was going to go to Sri Lanka thereafter and just to confirm that indeed she did go to Sri Lanka and that she was accompanied by the Deputy Minister of Public Service and Administration, Roy Padayachee, to confirm that indeed they meet the leadership of Sri Lanka. They did meet the President of Sri Lanka, that they did visit one of the IDP areas. They were taken there by the Government of Sri Lanka and that flowing from that there would be a process of South Africa’s reengagement with a view to supporting Sri Lanka on the request of the Government of Sri Lanka, to assist them finding a way to make sure that there is a far more durable process of national reconciliation and in fact some sort of political dialogue that hopefully would lead to avoidance of the recurrence of the current difficulties that they’ve had.
So, that was in our assessment a very important visit and the Minister then proceeded, as I indicated, to India, where we met our Heads of Missions generally from the Middle East and Asia and the focus of our discussions were largely around the preparations for 2010, the role of our missions and what we expect our missions to do to capture the opportunity that is presented by this global spectacle.
Secondly, we are also reviewing the issues around trade, essentially focusing on our economic diplomacy activity in that area, precisely because of the significant increase in our volumes of trade with some countries in Asia. It is increasing with India, but significantly an increase with China and also trying to look and share experiences on what it is that we are doing with respect to Japan that has led to both an increase in bilateral trade, but more importantly as a significant trading partner where the balance of trade is significantly in our favour. So, there was an exchange of ideas around that. So, the focus was really around the economic issues. Of course, we spent a bit of time getting a status update from our Ambassadors, their own reading on the ground with respect to the complex issues unfolding in the Middle East, what’s happening in Palestine, what it is that we can probably do to lend support to that process. I must say that the overall assessment is that with respect to the Middle East process things are not looking too rosy, not looking too rosy from all sorts of angles. First of all, one of our major concerns is of course the issue of the unity of the Palestinians, which we’ve spoken about before. The second issue with respect to making sure that there is a credible platform between the Israelis and the Palestinians to, in good faith, re-engage and start a process of dialogue and in both areas things are not exactly looking good.
So, again on the basis of that we will be stepping back and on the basis of the ideas that were exchanged to try to redefine what it is that South African can do. The Minister also had a series of bilateral discussions whilst in India with leaders of business, the business federations in India and some of the prominent investors in South Africa like the TATA Group, had long discussions on the bilateral side with her counterpart and also had discussions with Madam Sonja Ghandi. Part of those discussions were about setting the stage for the high level visit that we expect, a state visit, which we expect to be in the early part of next year of our President going to India.
Member of the Media: On the question of Angola, do we have any understanding of whether the people who have been arrested there were there on the expedition for leisure or for military reasons? Are we supposed to be concerned at all on this? But also, on the point of Palestine, the point of unity among Palestinians themselves, at one state the former President, Thabo Mbeki, had kind of called Palestinians and Israelis here to try and engage them in a forum outside the one that was formally being managed by the United States. Is South Africa considering getting involved with the issue of the Palestinians in a similar manner, sort of call them here and see if they cannot have a united front before approaching discussions with Israel and the US?
Member of the Media: Denise Williams from SAPA. I just want to go back to the Guinea issue. Just from Government’s side, you talk about activities that there might be a strong connection with South Africans. Can you just elaborate on what these activities are? I mean, we’ve all read about them, but just from Government, what exactly are you looking into?
Member of Media: Sorry, I just had another one. The issue of our trade relations with Nigeria, there have been stories circulating recently where Nigerians were complaining in the manner in which we frustrate their business and people wanting to come to South Africa because of the tedious process of getting visas. Do we have any policy where we are trying to reduce the number of Nigerians visiting South Africa at all? And if not, is your office looking at assisting the Embassy in Lagos to try and facilitate this so that the criticism is minimised, because at this point in time it tends to have some connotations as if there is some agenda on our side to sort of continue disliking them in the manner we approach or address them?
Member of the Media: DG, just going back to Zimbabwe, I understand that SADC did give Zimbabwe about 15 days to solve their political problems. It’s 2 days until the 15-day expiry date. Just how confident are you that this will be done, if anything dramatic could actually happen in the next two days? And also, just a follow-up to that, they also promised that a mediation team will be sent to Zimbabwe going past the 15 days. Will Zuma be sent in as chief mediator, and if so, why not Kabila.
Dr Ayanda Ntsaluba, Director-General, Department of International Relations and Co-operation: Let me start by just dealing with the Guinea issue and just say that the allegations, as we said last time and this is what we are trying to investigate. The allegation is that there is a group of South Africans, mercenaries who are training militia largely recruited on an ethnic basis, supporters of the current military youth. That is the essence of the allegation and this is relevant with respect to the oncoming elections in Guinea. As you would recall, when the military took over, there was an understanding at some point that that the current military leadership will not avail itself to run for those elections, a position that has subsequently changed and having changed it, we also know that there was a civil society negative reaction to that, which then led to the carnage that we saw, which has been condemned by the international community. As things stand now, the logic of the argument is that that military leadership indeed is determined to avail itself for the presidential elections and also anticipates that there is going to be a reaction from civil society and therefore it’s trying to prepare for that eventuality. That is the logic of it and this is how then this issue of these so-called, alleged South African mercenaries comes in.
So, obviously it’s a very significant issue for us. It’s significant first of all because I’m sure all of us we love our country. We would not like to see our country and its citizens involved in all sorts of nefarious activities and especially where the effect of that essentially to strengthen activities that run counter to policies that are advanced by our continental body, the AU, and in fact, would also undermine essentially, fundamentally our foreign policy. But as I cautioned last week, we’ve heard both true and false leads when it comes to these allegations about mercenaries of South African origin. So we are trying to be cautious, to verify, to validate the information. As I indicated, we are working very closely with our services to try to establish the veracity of this.
Now, on Angola, just to say the information that we have, and I must say that this is the information that we’ve been able to get from our mission in Angola as well as from the people here in South Africa who are familiar with the purpose of that. We are told this is a bunch of environmentalists and we are told that there has been no military basis or military component to their work, but that’s what we are told and so far we’ve got no reason to think otherwise.
With respect to the Middle East process, I think we are trying to step back. You would recall that indeed as you correctly pointed out, at some point South Africa tried to encourage the peace camps, both from the Palestinians and from the Israeli side. This was the so-called spear process that the former President facilitated. We then followed that process up and we were beginning to think about another similar situation. As you would recall, we then invited a Likud leadership to come to South Africa, which they did, after the visit of Al Med (inaudible) at that time who was still Trade Minister and Deputy Prime Minister. Now, we had the discussions with Likud and we thought again we are going to build this further up, but unfortunately the situation in the Middle East changes very rapidly between Israel and Palestine. So, even now I think one of the things that we are trying to do is to look at whether in fact there are real, reasonable prospects because of success, if we were to try to create a platform and a stage for the different elements of the Palestinians to meet and discuss.
Now, as part of what we will be trying to re-examine on the basis of all the information that was shared there, because indeed we are anxious that the Palestinians must try to find singularity of purpose, because only in that way can they advance. Of course, truly speaking with the continuation of the settlement, with the continuation of all the other activities that are going on there, which really undermine every element of the peace process, I think our biggest concern is that also we are engaged, all of us, in a race against time essentially and I think things are not looking … we can’t see the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel, as things stand currently. I think that’s the honest truth in terms of our assessment.
Now, with respect to the trade relations with Nigeria, we’ve seen very fascinating articles of the newspapers that have come out of Nigeria. I think the approach we are taking is that Nigeria is a very important strategic partner of South African in the continent. We’ve got far much more in common than points of disagreement with Nigeria. There are certain issues on the trade side and on the economic side that have been contentious issues in our relationship. First of all, there is a general sense in Nigeria that South Africa is disproportionately benefiting through the entry of South African businesses into Nigeria and that we are not seeing a similar inflow. Our argument and what we’ve tried to convey to the Nigerians is that that is not a consequence of a deliberate strategy on the side of South Africa to create a barrier. I think what we are looking at, inasmuch as for example ourselves, you would recall that SAA wanted at some point to partner with Air Nigeria and we lost that to Virgin as a product of really the market competitive forces. What we’ve been saying is that maybe let’s look at it that way and of course there has also been another sensitive issue, which is around the visa regimes. Nigeria has been unhappy about that and you will see that there was a discussion in the visit to Nigeria.
The fact of the matter is that one of the difficulties that we constantly try to deal with, and this is not something unique to Nigeria, it is a situation that we are grappling with also with a number a countries, is that when you even talk about diplomatic and official passport holders, the criteria that countries use to determine that are very different. So, you would find in South Africa, for example, I’m sure if you tried to secure a diplomatic passport, you will understand how difficult and how stringent our rules are about who gets a diplomatic passport, the same with an official passport. Now, other countries do not follow and so there is always this grappling when we negotiate these deals as to exactly how much, what can you do without necessarily unduly increasing the risk, as you facilitate the movement, but these are all issues that we are working with Nigeria, as far as South Africa is concerned. We are trying to strip it of some of the emotion that attach to this and look at the issues from a factual basis, bearing in mind and I would like to stress this, that Nigeria is a very important country in the continent. It’s a very important partner of South Africa. In fact, as a manifestation certainly of how we view that, this visit of our Deputy President, as you know, was part of the 10-year celebration of our diplomatic relations and it was aimed at again trying to in a sense project this partnership between Nigeria and South Africa to really try to redefine this relationship moving forward and look at how best we can maximise the opportunities. For now that is the approach that we would prefer to take, as we deal with the issue of Nigeria and try, as I say, to contain some, but categorically there is no policy decision of the Government of the Republic of South Africa that AIDSA, as a matter of deliberate cause, targets Nigerians and wants to limit Nigerians as people from entering or being involved in businesses in South Africa. There is no such policy that exists.
Member of the Media: Can I make a follow-up? The question also had a problem with lines right now, as just getting a visa is a nightmare. People still stand, some come over to our Embassy more than three times, as if the process is just not fast enough.
Dr Ayanda Ntsaluba, Director-General, Department of International Relations and Co-operation: I think we’ve been trying, I mean, both the previous High Commissioner to Abuja and the current High Commissioner to Abuja, when Kingsley Mamabolo was here even in January and even recently, we had long discussions on this issue. We met also the DG of Home Affairs. I think our Ministers, both in DIRCO and in Home Affairs are fully appraised on some of the difficulties that are there. I think we must distinguish between two things. One is improving the capacity in terms of resourcing the South African Consulate largely in Lagos, because that is where some of these problems are reported, not so much in Abuja, because the biggest volume is through Lagos. And of course, we are doing everything possible to try and attend to that.
But then there is a second issue, which you can’t have shortcuts about, is that there is particular documentation that any country that requires a visa for entry for a foreign citizen, there would be some basic things that we have to comply with, documentation that we have to provide. We must be in a position to authenticate and be comfortable that that documentation is correct, is valid, is authentic and if there is any problem, of course, the person will be asked to improve on that documentation. So, I think to say somebody comes to the mission three times without identifying what the sources of that would be is not fair. I think let’s rather deal with the situation of when a person provides the full set of documentation that is required and that documentation is found to be suitable and appropriate and answers to all the questions, whether in fact there is undue delay and certainly if there is undue delay and that is reported, as has happened in the past, that’s when we started trying to beef up the capacity in our mission in Lagos. So, I think we should separate between those two issues. And again, I think this discussion tends to have too much of overlays of emotions, which we really want to take out of it and sometimes it creates this sense of some sort of inherently antagonistic relationship between South Africa and Nigeria, which is actually very far from the truth and all that you need to do is to look at the partnership between Nigeria and South Africa in terms of the continental affairs and you will see how both parties treasure this. Of course, any government and I’m sure the Government of Nigeria, if it gets representation from its citizenry about complaints that they raise, whether those complaints are founded or unfounded, I think it’s the duty of the Government of Nigeria to raise that with us, inasmuch as we would do the same, but all that we’ve been appealing for is that let’s strip this of emotion. Let’s strip it of any melodramatic activities and try to focus on the substance of the issues that we need to deal with.
My colleague, there is somebody who seems to be keeping a clock and is counting, that it’s now 2 days that is left after Maputo and maybe tomorrow you will tell me the number of hours. Yes, there was 15 days, but remember that Maputo had said 15 days and then there would be an intervention after about 30 days. I think let’s give that process and that’s howe we are trying to look at it and we don’t want to speculate. They are meeting on the 19th. There will be a meeting of the Council of Ministers. We know that there are informal talks amongst the negotiators. What we don’t know now is when actually the meeting of the principals is actually going to take place. Who knows? It might take place in the next 24 hours. So, I think let’s just keep our calm for the time being and not speculate and then accept that there are some timeframes that they have been given and let’s have the faith that they would be very sensitive to those timeframes. Then we can see how the regional leadership responds.
You also raised a question why South Africa, why President Zuma and why not President Kabila. I think there is a history to this. You would know that South Africa started an engagement in the process of Zimbabwe before the country was formally given a mandate to facilitate in March 2007, before that we had started acting on this file. I think there is a general acceptance that South Africa, for a variety of reasons, including the fact that we are direct neighbour of Zimbabwe, including the fact that of course the spill-over from Zimbabwe will be felt quite significantly in South Africa and including the fact that we had already invested significant resources, I think that is what informed the decision of the summit of the Troika to continue with what essentially is a SADC decision that South Africa must be the one. We continued with it when we were chairing, but it was far much more because it was South Africa that is chairing. Obviously President Kabila, as Chair of SADC, has overall oversight of what is going to be happening within SADC during this period, but I don’t think there has been a decision that the file on Zimbabwe will change every time the chairmanship of SADC changes and that’s why South Africa is continuing and that’s why then the President is going to engage in it.
Member of the Media: Peter. I have a few, I’m afraid. The one is with the South Africans in Guinea, if there are South Africans, being dragging any law at the moment. My understanding is that the prevention of mercenary blah-blah-blah act is not enforced at the moment, because it hasn’t been properly promulgated. So, I wonder if that means there is a kind of a legal hiatus or something that would make it difficult or impossible to prosecute them, apart from the political issues.
The second question is whether you are concerned that Kabila is trying to get the MONUC mandate terminated too quickly for the securing of the country, whether they have some political considerations that are interfering with the security priority and a third one is regarding the anthem at the French rugby game. I noticed the Department put out a statement in which it distanced itself by about 1 000 kilometres from that decision, but surely I mean South African Embassies abroad should be taking responsibility for somebody so badly messing up one of our national symbols, even if it was technically the decision of the French rugby authority. I mean, in the end it was embarrassing for the country and will there be any change of policy to approve anthem singers?
Dr Ayanda Ntsaluba, Director-General, Department of International Relations and Co-operation: On the MONUC issue let me just simply say that I think we’ve stated our position. If you ask South Africa’s position now, we would think that the mandate of MONUC should continue in the DRC. We fully respect it’s not our territory. We fully respect the sovereign decisions of the Government of the DRC and at the end of the day we will abide, but if they were to ask our own view, our view was that perhaps we can still work through it. We know some of the frustrations, but nevertheless we think it would be far much better to continue.
Now, I want to be cautious on the legal issues with respect to Guinea. I know that the legal issues about our laws are not cut and dried on this particular issue, but I really don’t want to be a paralegal in a press briefing, suffice to say that all I was told is that, all I know is that the fact that this was partly tested with the group that came from Zimbabwe, you will recall, that they were specific and I’m told that there were some specific features of that particular case that led to the outcome that there was and that those conditions may not be applicable throughout, but we all know that is a very difficult issue, which is why essentially there has been a move to further tighten that piece of legislation.
On the issue of the anthem, I was just saying to a Colleague, as we were coming here, that I’ve really been unfortunate. I’ve not been able to listen to this anthem and he tells me that I should remain like that. Maybe just to explain this, I think it’s not trying to run away, because things have gone wrong in this particular case. Let me give you an example. We are going to host 2010 here next year. Now, one of the guarantees that we’ve signed with FIFA, as an example, that this Department is responsible for, is on the protocol side and amongst the two very important things that on the protocol side we’ve taken full responsibility that we will do is, one, the flags of the countries. We must not fly wrong flags or fly flags that are upside down. That is going to be a responsibility we take. Secondly is to make sure that we’ve got the national anthems of all the participating teams. Now, we are not going to, in the last minute, be running to the embassy of the country that is in the final. We should have all of that now. When we are going to have any state visit in South Africa, we have national anthems of all the missions that are here accredited to South Africa. So, that is how we deal with it.
Now, indeed it is, as you saw in the statement, that some French authorities did check or rather approached our mission to find out, not so much for our mission to recommend a person to sing the National Anthem. They wanted to know South African musicians in France and they were given that and with no commitment that this is the person who is going to sing the South African National Anthem. So, I think let’s leave it there. Let’s take it as a very unfortunate mistake. I’m sure the French authorities would not want that to happen again and I think let’s just take it, painful as it was, but let’s take it as water under the bridge. By the way, tomorrow evening I’m staring a series of consultations with my counterparts from France and he will be here, the DG of Foreign Affairs will have discussions tomorrow and also on Friday morning. Maybe in a more relaxed mood we’ll talk about this issue, but certainly I don’t’ think we should … we are anxious that we should not, unfortunate as it is, I think we should hope that the French Government has learnt from it and beyond that let’s move on. Thank you very much.
Issued by the Department of International Relations and Cooperation
Private Bag X152
17 November 2009