Statement by Deputy Minister Ebrahim I Ebrahim on the occasion of the 2010 Budget Vote, National Assembly, 22 April 2010
Honourable House Chairperson,
Honourable Members of the National Assembly,
Honourable Chairperson and Members of the Portfolio Committee on International Relations and Co-operation,
Members of diplomatic corps,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Fellow South Africans,
The context under which we present this budget has been articulated by the President during his 2010 State of the Nation Address when he said, in part, that the programmes and work of various Government Departments will be measured by outcomes, developed through our performance monitoring and evaluation system. Such an approach to the work of our Government is critical because we have committed ourselves to five priorities of education, health, rural development and land reform, creating decent work, and fighting crime.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Make no mistake, these are not mere interests that we wish to pursue but as the former Secretary General of the United Nations (UN) once noted, these priorities speak to three inter-linked and fundamental freedoms namely, freedom from fear, freedom from want, and freedom to live in dignity. These are freedoms that should be enjoyed by the peoples of South Africa, Africa and the rest of the world.
Accordingly, our commitment as a Department, based on the co-operative system of Government, is to contribute to the creation of a better South Africa, in a better Africa and a better world.
It is first and foremost in our continent of Africa where we will continue to focus our energies on the realisation of these freedoms through our concerted efforts to contribute to a peaceful and stable continent. Therefore, while we join the twenty-seven African countries marking their 50th anniversaries of independence, we remain conscious of the fact that thousands of ordinary African citizens, still struggle to lead a life free from fear because of conflicts, and freedom from want because of poverty and related challenges.
We will therefore not abrogate our responsibility to see the protracted negotiation on the political stalemate in Zimbabwe coming to an end. To demonstrate our eagerness to have this stalemate resolved in Zimbabwe, our President has deployed a high-level mediation team to Zimbabwe to facilitate the implementation of the Global Partnership Agreement (GPA) in keeping with the Southern African Development Community (SADC) mandate. It is precisely because the issues at stake in Zimbabwe are of such fundamental freedoms that the political dialogue has been protracted, and South Africa, in its capacity as the facilitator has to approach this situation with much care.
For the first time in 24 years, we recently witnessed the holding of multi-party elections in the Sudan enabling the people of this country decide who should lead them. Despite claims of irregularities and pronouncements that these elections did not meet international standards, they nevertheless mark the start of an irreversible process leading up to the referendum in 2011. Our efforts will be geared towards contributing to a stable Sudan, in particular support to the people and the current Government of South Sudan.
In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) we will continue our extensive efforts to assist the Government in state building, and to deliver a better life to its people. Given the history of the DRC as one in which the main interest of foreign countries has been the exploitation of natural resources, we take pride in the fact that our country is making tangible positive interventions to enhance economic and political governance and social development.
As the rest of Africa celebrates its independence from the bane of colonialism, it is unconscionable that the people of Western Sahara are yet to enjoy their right to self-determination. With concern, our Government has noted the deteriorating human rights situation in the occupied territories of Western Sahara. In this context, it is our observation that the latest report of the UN Secretary-General on the Situation in Western Sahara failed to adequately address the question of human rights violations. In the context of multilateralism we will among other things engage on the issue of including human rights within the mandate of the UN Mission in Western Sahara. We will continue advocating our principled stance for the people of Western Sahara to exercise their inalienable right to self-determination.
Honourable Members, Ladies and Gentlemen,
In his speech to the Council of the Afro-Asian Peoples’ Solidarity Organisation (AAPSO) in Tripoli in January of 1971, Oliver Tambo spoke strongly to the issue of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and I quote:
“The intransigence of Israel in its continued occupation of Arab land and its denial of the just demands of the Palestinian people has turned the Middle East into an explosive battle ground seriously endangering world peace and security” – close quote.
Guided by Oliver Tambo’s reading of the situation in the Middle East a few decades ago, our present-day commitment to contribute to a better world will ring hollow if we deviate from a simple truth that the Israel-Palestine conflict is primarily about freedom to live in dignity.
In our continued engagement with this situation, the two events that had and will have a bearing on the Middle East Process were the Israeli invasion and assault on Gaza in 2009 and the election of a right wing government in Israel. Let me also take this opportunity, to once more salute Justice Richard Goldstone and the team of eminent Jurists that he led, whose painstaking work exposed the calculated and well orchestrated violations of international humanitarian law in Gaza.
This administration will continue to support international efforts aimed at bringing a lasting solution to this conflict. Specifically, we will also play our part as a member of the international community in ensuring that:
• The recommendations of the Goldstone Report are implemented;
• That the economic strangulation of Gaza is lifted;
• That the cleansing of Palestinians from Jerusalem and land targeted for further settlement construction comes to an end.
We will continue to call for a total settlement freeze, we will also insist on a “just peace” to be reflected in all new peace proposals, which should make provision for the right of return for Palestinian refugees, East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine, and for Palestinians to have complete control over their natural resources, such as water. To achieve this, we will aim for a seamless co-ordination between our Head Office and our various multilateral and bilateral Missions on whose agenda of work the question of Palestine is discussed.
The armed struggle in Sri Lanka between the Sri Lankan Government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) has ended, but many of the underlying issues have not been resolved. Many countries were shocked at the brutality of the war, which led to the displacement of tens of thousands of people, many of whom are still in camps. We appeal to the Sri Lankan Government to expedite the return of displaced Tamils and reintegrate them into society. South Africa in the past has expressed its willingness to assist in peace and reconciliation in the country and we are prepared to continue our efforts in this.
As highlighted by the Minister, the issues of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation remain part of our foreign policy engagements in multilateral forums. We will continue to support the work of the International Atomic energy (IAEA), as the competent and legitimate forum on issues of nuclear energy. It is in this context that we will continue to actively participate and pronounce ourselves on all matters within the IAEA especially the legitimate rights of all States to use nuclear energy for peaceful means.
Accordingly, in the run-up to the 3-28 May 2010 Review Conference of the Treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, South Africa will maintain, amongst others:
• Its support for the full implementation of the Treaty, as well as its universality;
• That nuclear disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation are inextricably linked, and both therefore require continuous and irreversible progress;
• That the peaceful use of nuclear energy is inextricably linked to nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation obligations under the Treaty; and
• That the IAEA should be provided with the necessary support and assistance to fulfil its statutory mandate.
It must therefore be expected that during the 2010 Review Conference, South Africa will focus, amongst others, on the necessity to implement all treaty obligations and previously agreed-to commitments and to ensure that such obligations and commitments are not reinterpreted, discarded, or negated.
I join the Minister and Deputy Minister van der Merwe in declaring the Department’s readiness to play its key role in ensuring that our country hosts a spectacular FIFA World Cup. On that note, allow me to express my gratitude that my work is made easier because of the comradely spirit that I find in both the Minister and Deputy Minister van der Merwe. I am indebted to the dedication of my personal-support staff; and I am appreciative of the commitment of the Director-General, his senior management team and staff to the mandate of this department.
To the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee, we are at your disposal to be called upon to account and I look forward to our fruitful interactions during this financial year.
Let me conclude by echoing the words of President Zuma during his closing remarks at the 13th Ordinary Session of the AU that: “We will … continue to be very active on the international front, in pursuit of the goal of achieving a just world and a better Africa.”