Department of International Relations and Cooperation Media Briefing by the Director General, Dr Ayanda Ntsaluba, at the O R Tambo Building on 2010-07-01 at 10h00

Convenor: I am now going to hand over to the DG who is going to make a presentation.

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

The first point that I would like to speak to is really to first congratulate, with respect to the 2010 FIFA World Cup, all the teams that have qualified for the quarter finals, and continue to express our appreciation of the way the event has unfolded up to now.

Of course, needless to say, our special wishes go to the Black Stars of Ghana and they stand now as the only remaining pride of the African Continent. They are joining, of course, an elite club, an elite group of teams that has managed up to now to reach the quarter finals, which include Senegal and Cameroon. But we see the Black Stars as having the real possibility to now take this a step further and we believe that would be indeed a great tribute to this FIFA World Cup that we are hosting on the African soil for the first time.

The preparations for the finals, with respect to the fact that we continue to invite guests for the Closing Ceremony, the hospitality, the security arrangements, all of that is going according to plan. The teams that include the Johannesburg Metro, the South African Police Service, the security services more broadly of the state, our protocol services here in DIRCO, everybody is working together. There have been a number of site visits. We have done a detailed assessment of the movements for the Opening Ceremony to see what lessons we want to learn from that and how to improve to make sure the process is as smooth as possible. So, it is all systems go, really, with respect to that.

We will be meeting again with the African Diplomatic Corps sometime early next week with a view to finalising the details around the arrangements for some of the invited guests who will be able to attend. We are again not in a position to talk about responses, who is coming, who is not coming. We will do that closer to the time.

Secondly, just to indicate that South Africa will be hosting on the 15th and 16th of this month the SACU [Southern African Customs Union] Summit which will be here in Pretoria. You know that this is the oldest customs union. We have just celebrated 100 years of the existence of the Customs Union. Also the chairperson of SACU will pass over to South Africa during the course of this meeting. And of course as you know, apart from South Africa, the other members of the Customs Union are Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia and Swaziland.

Now, of course SACU faces a number of challenges now, and I think that would be the focus of the meeting that will take place. The first one is that all over the globe we see a greater tendency towards the formation of stronger, cohesive regions to promote bilateral trade and also to make sure that the regions can compete and trade in a far much more effective manner with other regions of the world.

So, we believe that is the trend in the region that we need to consolidate, and we see SACU as a very important vehicle and as a basis for the further consolidation of regional integration and cohesion within the broader SADC area. So the key challenge would be whether in the course of that meeting we can really look at all the challenges that face SACU, and there are many of those challenges.

There are issues around the revenue sharing formula that require that our country should look at far much more closely. There are issues about how we can make sure that the resources in the region are channeled in a far more stronger, better way, to promote regional development, to improve the productive capacity in other member countries of SACU, which will be very important in order to give greater balance to the trade flows between South Africa and the other members of SACU. And of course, there will be the issues of whether in fact SACU could begin to look at whether the time has come for SACU to adopt a view that is far much more permissive to other new members coming in as a way of progressively moving towards a SADC-wide customs union.

So, those are some of the difficult and topical issues for discussion and I think we are looking forward to a free-flowing discussion and debate around all those issues.

Of course, we are also during this month going to see a series of meetings of the SADC Organ, the number of meetings that are now the elements, the building blocks, towards the hosting of the SADC Summit that will be on the 17th  and 18th  of August in  Namibia. And most of the meetings of the Organ are as usually the procedure and SADC will be hosted by Mozambique as the chair of SADC. So, there will be a series of those meetings. And I guess, the important thing with respect to those meetings of the Organ would be particularly the extent to which they will reflect on some of the hotspots, so to say, within SADC, particularly Madagascar and to an extent Zimbabwe. We will look at whether in fact we are happy with the progress made with respect to stability in Lesotho and, of course, the issues of the DRC.

The next meeting that we are preparing for now, and there will be a series of discussions in meetings starting with the Permanent Representatives on the 19th  and 20th  of July, the Ministers on the 22nd  and 23rd  and stopping on the 24th  of July a series of meetings involving the Heads of State, and that is now for the African Union. The meeting is going to be in Kampala, as you know. The theme for this meeting is around health, but I think that we would expect that also issues of the environment will feature prominently. The president of Mexico, President Calderon, as we have indicated, will be going to Kampala as part of building the momentum towards the COP 16 which Mexico will host.

South Africa will have a particular interest in these discussions, first of all to ensure consistently the forging of a common African position, which African position will then enable the continent to speak with one voice with all the difficulties that are there, and given the diverse nature of the countries of the continent, nevertheless to try and bring as much harmony in our perspectives as possible as we build up towards COP 16 in Mexico. And of course, as I have said, we would have an interest because from Mexico the roads will lead to South Africa.

On the issue of health, I guess a lot of the focus will be on the issues around maternal mortality, which is a very topical issue here in South Africa also. I am sure that you know that the Health Department has prioritised this particular area. This relates to our commitment to the MDGs, but it also relates to the concern on the Continent generally about the growing battle of disease and mortality amongst pregnant mothers. And to a large extent the deterioration in our indices in the Continent has been related to the impact of HIV-Aids.

Now the Deputy President Kgalema Mothlanthe and the Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane have just returned from the DRC to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the DRC. We spoke about this last time around. Just to say, we are happy with the way the celebrations in the DRC proceeded and we would like to again point you to the statements that both the Minister and the Deputy President made in the DRC at different points, but the essence of which is really to reiterate South Africa's commitment to partner with the DRC as the process of democratisation, as the process of nation-building and particularly the process of assisting the security forces of the DRC to build the requisite capacity for them to maintain the security of the entire sovereignty of the DRC.

We are still awaiting the results of the elections in Burundi. We obviously are concerned at the spate of grenade attacks that preceded the presidential elections and the declared view by some leaders in Burundi that they will not recognise the authority of the president that would be elected because of a dispute that has been there around the commune elections. We have also taken note of reports, to a large extent conflicting thus far, about the whereabouts of the FNL leader, Agathon Rwasa. We are particularly concerned to the extent that some of those reports may allude to a view that there are some leaders in Burundi who may again consider the military option and we would like, as South Africa, to join the views that have been expressed by the foreign ministers of the East African Community, who recently visited Burundi, who have appealed for calm and a solution for whatever differences that may exist through peaceful means and through ways that would be consistent with a need to deepen and strengthen democracy and the legality in Burundi. And that would be South Africa's position.

We continue to follow the events and so far there is nothing new to report with respect to Guinea-Bissau.

Of course, we are just in the neighbourhood of the Guineas. We followed very closely, of course, the first round of elections in Guinea Conakry. We are encouraged by the calm atmosphere that prevails. We are awaiting the results. We did send as part of the AU an observer mission. And should these results be inconclusive and there be a need to proceed on to a second round, which as you know, will be scheduled for the 18th of July, and then South Africa will again make sure that we join the observer delegations and to join the AU in that. But I must stress that we are at the present time encouraged by the relative calm that has prevailed, given the tensions and the very recent history of what had happened in the state of Guinea Conakry, and I think that it is a really good signal.

You will also know that from the African Renaissance Funds, there are some projects that South Africa had been assisting Guinea Conakry on. These were around electrification. These were around assisting them working in partnership with the Vietnamese on the cultivation of rice to improve the yields there, given that rice is the staple diet. We have continued with the projects and, of course, further in engagement and deepening of those projects and us committing to expand our engagement has to a large extent also been constrained by the uncertainties around the political process. But, nevertheless, we are continuing with that. So, we are looking forward to stability, to the presence of a democratically-elected government in Guinea, so that we can continue to partner with them. We believe that any contribution that can be made to bring stability to the Guineas is actually a major contribution to the stability in the broader Mano River Basin area in which, of course, we have seen so much instability with countries such as Sierra Leone and Liberia. So, we would really like as South Africa to make a contribution to the consolidation of democracy and  the tendency towards stability in that region.

Of course colleagues, soon after the World Cup, the whole world will then focus on the 18th of July on the celebration of the Nelson Mandela Day. With that in mind, the Minister of DIRCO, Minister Nkoana-Mashabane, will be proceeding for a Special Session that will be held at the UN on the 16th of July and she will present a statement on behalf of South Africa and, of course, thanking the international community for the decision that was taken to honour our icon, President Mandela, in the manner that he has been honoured. And this special event will also be addressed by the Secretary-General of the UN, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

The Minister, just before proceeding to New York, will start by visiting her counterpart, Minister Lavrov of Russia, the Foreign Minister of Russia, basically for them to prepare for the state to visit by the President, which will be in the early days of August and the specific dates will be given to you. So, the trip of the Minister will see her move first to Moscow and then from Moscow to New York for that purpose.

Just to say also, finally, that we have two South Africans who have been appointed in some of the international institutions. Firstly, Professor  Christof Heyns, the Dean of the University of Pretoria Faculty or Law, who has been appointed by the UN as a special rapporteur on the issues of extra-judicial summary or arbitrary executions. Now, these are part-time commitments, so Prof Heyns will be continuing with his job here, but we are very happy that an eminent personality, a South African of Professor Heyns’s calibre will then be one of those personalities who are flying high the South African flag in the international arena. We would also like to recognise Mr Eric Kieck, who has now been appointed as Director for Capacity Building in the World Customs Organisation. And these are elections that took place now on the 26th of June in Brussels, and so, he will also assume his duties there soon.

And this trend is consistent with one of the commitments that we have taken to particularly focus on in the coming years, really of ensuring that there is greater representation of South Africans in the international institutions. So far, whether we go to the SADC or the AU or whether we go to the UN, far much more broadly, I think a characteristic feature of South Africa is our inability to even send enough candidates to meet the quotas that we have. In a sense, it may be a good thing that South Africans like staying here, but South Africa would also like to play on the global stage, so we would like to see more South Africans participating in this international organisation.

So, this is what I would like to report now, and I am ready for your questions. Thank you very much.

Questions and answer session:

Peter Fabricius: During the last week you said that some clarification would emerge within 24 to 48 hours about the status of General Nyamwasa. I just wondered whether you could clarify. Has he been granted asylum? Is he going to be extradited? Where do we stand with this?

Dr Ayanda Ntsaluba: Peter, I was more optimistic than this occasion has turned out to be.

Dr Ayanda Ntsaluba: We were hopeful this would be able to be concluded in that space of time. It is proving far much more complex and I can tell you that yesterday I had, yesterday and the day before yesterday, I had extensive consultations with my counterparts, the Director-General of the Department of Justice, who has fully briefed us as to where the process is but for now I think we will leave it there. But we are not in a position to comment further on that.

Cobus Coetzee: Mine is also relating, but it is a more general question. Just, I want to get South Africa's view on if a country's security operatives are operating in a country, what is South Africa's stance specifically on that, not identifying this shooting as being such a case.

Dr Ayanda Ntsaluba: You want me to give a long preface before I respond to that question? But, nevertheless, let me reiterate and really be on record that South Africa has not made any determination, for now, about where the suspects to this case come from. So, we do not want to make any assumption so far about where they might have originated from. So, we are still at the stage where we want to be very cautious that we do not appear to be pointing an accusing finger at any state. Now, coming to the more general question that you are raising, and I did say yesterday, and this would explain, part of the issue why there is this delay, we are dealing with very complex issues. This is somebody who has been shot in the territory of South Africa. It is somebody who had entered South Africa and had gone through proper legal processes of seeking some form of regularisation of their stay. This is a person who comes from a country that has got good, strong diplomatic relations with South Africa. So, everything around it points to us wanting to deal with it with great sensitivity. So, let us then put this issue aside and let me talk about the general point that you are talking about.

Well, you know, generally, there is general acceptance and international practice that foreign missions that are based here who would also have sometimes security or intelligence operatives who are fully declared with the receiving State, and their function is, by and large, to make sure that there is exchange, sharing of views, with the intelligence community in the receiving State. So, there is that level of it which is understood, which is clear, and so we know that some of the missions that are here have declared security operatives, and those are communicating with our intelligence services, and in spite of our general contribution in terms of an exchange of intelligence information, particularly to make sure that we deal with issues of cross-border crime, with issues of global peace and security and so on.

Now, once you start having, which is your question, people from another country operating clandestinely in another state, then it shows a completely different dimension. All I can say is that, if you do that, then you must make sure that you do not get caught, because if you do get caught, of course, you compound and you complicate the relations between the countries from which you come and the country where you are operating. And of course, that cannot be something that is taken very lightly, because those activities may very well border on subverting security and stability in the state in which you are operating. So, as a general principle, that is what I would say.

Thulani Dlamini: With respect to the discussions with the EPAs, I understand that there is something going on bilaterally between member states and the EPAs? And then something going on between the EPAs and SACU. And then something going on at the level of SADC. How is it synergizing those three levels of negotiations?

Dr Ayanda Ntsaluba: Okay. Well, if we just trackback a bit. When the EPA process started, it was predicated, at least at a theoretical level, on the fact that it would assist with the process of regional integration, which therefore meant that the EPA process would not run counter to the efforts in the region to build a stronger SADC that is integrated and even to build a stronger SACU that is united. But at the level of practice, South Africa and many other countries have always pointed to a bit of a disconnect between that declared intention and what in reality was happening. So that is what has precipitated the crisis around the issues of the EPAs.

Now, but it was always understood that the negotiations that are taking place within this EPA blocks, would at the end of  the day culminate with signatures by individual countries, as individual countries commit. But it was always expected and hoped that when countries do that, they will do that on the basis of a consensus position and a negotiated framework agreed upon within the region, in which case there would be no contradiction between the signature of a member State and the general brief and the views of the rest of the region. As it happened with the issue of the EPAs, of course, within the SADC-EPA grouping, there have been different views and other countries have then seen it fit, presumably advancing their national interest, to sign. And some of those countries, of course, are SACU members. That has posed difficulties. When I was alluded to some of the difficulties that this summit would have to try to deal with, it is part of that.

But, of course, the approach that we have taken is that we have started by trying to stop this process and encouraging the EU to look at this issue differently, to show the dangers to some of our colleagues within the region. But we have always worked on the basis of full respect for their sovereignty and the independence of the decisions that they would make as independent sovereign states. They have signed. It poses complications. We still believe those problems are real. But we have also taken a view that says we can either elect to harp on what has happened or we can also take a process that says, in moving forward, what lessons have we learnt from that and how can we prevent this from happening again. But also, more importantly, given that these were interim EPAs, is there a way in which, if we find common cause now, we can still rescue the situation as we move on towards the full EPAs.

Now, the EU has or argued that it is possible, we have got our own concerns, whether it is possible not. But, nevertheless, given that the EU has promised to take a far much more open way to discuss with us on this issue, precisely because it is also divisive within the AU, so, we will try to adopt that view. So, our approach to this is not going to be an issue of blaming individuals for decisions that they have taken. As I say, we may disagree with the decisions, but we also have to balance that with our full respect for their right to exercise their sovereign powers. But, we will point at the dangers to our process of regional integration and regional cohesion and then see whether moving forward we can work together to try and correct some of those issues. And that is really the dynamic that we will have to try and play out.

Now, this particularly looks at the individual countries in SACU. When we go to the SADC-wide, we then have a bigger complication in that the SADC countries belong to thee different EPA configurations, and that is another big challenge. Now, there are many ways in trying to deal with this. At one level we are coordinating amongst those three, but also you know that one of the things on our agenda now, is to begin to work between SADC, COMESA and the East Africa Community to form what we call a tripartite FTA, which we hope will then begin to align and help us move forward in a far much more integrated manner.

Just to emphasise, we pay a lot of attention to the importance of us retaining this regional cohesion.

Peter Fabricius: Yes. You mentioned in your briefing that one option at the Summit would be to perhaps expand SACU to include other SADC countries and maybe to then approach a SADC customs union, I take it by sort of an organic growth rather than just from the SADC-wide perspective. Is that an optional strategy?

Dr Ayanda Ntsaluba: Yes, Peter, I guess what I am trying to speak to is the fact that, you know, at the theoretical level you can also say that there is a bit of a disconnect. Here is SACU. It is already a customs union and we are talking about building a SADC-wide customs union. The key question is, how do we move from here to there. There are two approaches that have been on the table for some time. The first one is to dissolve SACU and then start from scratch and build a SADC-wide customs union. Now we argued that that might not be the smartest way to move, precisely because SACU has got some sort of experiences it has had. But at the same time, there is always the danger that other countries will say, how do you expect us to come on the terms that you, SACU, have already agreed, because in the terms would have been convenient for you.

So, it takes us to the point that it seems to us, because in any event, we know that the countries will move at different paces towards trying to get into the customs union, inasmuch as they move at different paces towards fulfilling their obligations towards the FTA. And, therefore, one logical option which  we would really like SACU to explore, is then to say, maybe we will move towards the SADC customs union through a process of, as you have correctly pointed out, organic growth. But that requires that SACU then must discuss the option that part of that, organic growth may well be an incremental process of people feeling free to join SACU and that SACU does not become a closed shop for the BNLS countries as is, or SACU must be ready to then say, are we ready then if SACU is going to be the basis towards a SADC wide customs union, to make whatever adjustments within SACU. And I think that is the nature of the debate that needs to take place.

Our view, what I was highlighting, is to say, this is an issue that cannot escape the agenda, precisely because I think in this particular meeting it will probably be at the level of the broad concepts. Are we, as SACU, feeling that we should protect SACU and use it rather as a building block, but if we are going to do that, are we ready to build in the requisite flexibilities, so that other members feel confident about them using it as a base, so that we can use some of the experiences that SACU has accumulated. But also understanding that SACU is not perfect, which is part of the reason that they are also internal issues around the revenue sharing that are now being contested in terms of the way in which we should handle that.

So, it is going to be a very wide agenda. And the reason it was thought, maybe I should add this, this should be at Summit level, is because there has been a strong view that what has been lacking at the level of officials who have been meeting, at the levels of Ministers who have been meeting, but what has lacked is for the Heads of State to step back, take a long-term big strategic view and then say, move within these parameters, and then the Ministers and the technical teams proceed then to craft a way forward. And, this is more than a retreat, really, of the SACU Heads of State.

Peter Fabricius: Sorry, can I ask a follow up question? Would that address the EPA problem?

Dr Ayanda Ntsaluba: It will address the EPA problem not to undo the damage that has been done, but probably explore the possibility of whether in fact of moving forward we can find a better way to align as much as possible and from a united position put a requisite on the EU. Because, what really has given space to the EU, quite frankly, has to do with the fact that, if the EU is negotiating also from the position of entrenching its own position in the continent, and they see that we are divided, of course it is logical that they would explore those gaps as much as they can.

Jean-Jacques Cornish: On a bilateral level, has there been interaction with Britain over the Pablos Joseph-Simon Wright affair, the arrest of the two? Have the British government have anything to say, particularly about the arrest of the journalist?

Dr Ayanda Ntsaluba: No, the British government in a formal way, which would involve the British High Commissioner sending a Note formerly to the Department of International Relations and Cooperation, which would be the manner in which a high level case of concern to them would be handled, that has not happened. I am sure that you have seen their comment, is that for now that they are in a sense treating this as an issue that is left much more to the judicial processes. But the British government has not formally approached us on it.

Peter Fabricius: Do you mind if I just ask again on the General Nyamasa?has there been a formal request from the Spanish and French judges to extradite him to face those charges of genocide and war crimes, etcetera? I mean, is that part of the considerations, and the third option, if you like, asylum or extradition to Rwanda, asylum in South Africa or handing him over to the French or Spanish?

Dr Ayanda Ntsaluba: That is all in the basket, Peter, and I am sure you know that there is, they have raised those issues, those particular countries, so that is part of what is being considered by the Justice Department.

Peter Fabricius: But have they formally applied for extradition?

Dr Ayanda Ntsaluba: I have not seen the terms of the warrant. I have not seen the specific terms of the warrant I must confess.

Thulani Dlamini: Burundi. Just the other day South Africa withdrew its peacekeepers there and we see that peace is threatened there once again. Is there any discussion around returning those troops back to Burundi, given the potential explosive situation there?

Dr Ayanda Ntsaluba: We hope not. We hope not. We really hope not. We are still hoping now and that there is the best possible chance of peace prevailing. We believe that they have gone too far down the road towards peace and the democratisation of the society and that we are hoping that the temptation to move back will not be there and that they will see that the stakes are too high. And that is the message that we have communicated very strongly. Last week we did receive an envoy from the government of Burundi and that message has been conveyed by the President of the Republic very firmly to them. So, we are concerned, but we are nowhere close to making those sorts of considerations, because we still think that it should be possible for the rest of the Continent and the region to put enough pressure to the political figures in Burundi for them to see reason why they should begin to act in a manner that avoids going down that route. Really, that is where we are.

Jean-Jacques Cornish: Do we know more about the envoy from Burundi? Who was it?

Dr Ayanda Ntsaluba: JJ, let me give you this after this. I do not remember the name now. I do not remember the name.

Jean-Jacques Cornish: He was somebody who came specifically from the Burundian Government?

Dr Ayanda Ntsaluba: He came specifically from Burundi, as an envoy, to convey a message from President Bujumbura, to President Zuma, and was received by President Zuma.

Jean-Jacques Cornish: Thank you.

Convenor: Thank you very much.

Dr Ayanda Ntsaluba: Thank you.

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