Transcript following Minister Nkoana-Mashabane’s Media Briefing on Current and International Issues, 05 April 2011

Questions & Answers Session following the Media Briefing by Minister Nkoana-Mashabane:

Member of the Media: I wonder if you have up to date information about the whereabouts of President Gbagbo? And also, whether you can say whether South Africa would grant him asylum, if it took that to end the violence?

Minister Nkoana-Mashabane: I did not hear the last part.

Member of the Media: Weather South Africa would bring him here in exile, if it took that to end the violence?

Member of the Media: My question is related to the former one of my colleague. With regard to the bombardment that was carried out by the UN and the French forces, what is the Pretoria administration's reaction to that and if there are any plans from our government to evacuate some of our citizens if they are found to be beseeched?

Member of the Media: Yes. Minister, two questions. One is that you have seen that President Mugabe and Jonathan Moyo, Zanu-PF, have reacted very angrily and somewhat insultingly to the troika decisions, basically. Specifically also rejecting it seems, both Mugabe and Moyo, this plan to appoint SADC facilitators, extra facilitators, to draw up roadmap and a timetable, which has been characterized by the Zimbabweans as a kind of form of imposition on their sovereignty. I wonder if you would comment on that and what the next step is? And the other one is, in Libya you talk about the need for the bombardment to be lifted, so that the AU panel can go in. Isn't the fear that if you lift the bombardment, the result will simply be that Gadhafi's forces will accelerate their advance towards the East, which is already under way, and conquer further territory that that is held by the rebels? Thank you.

Minister Nkoana-Mashabane: Well, we have never invited any citizen of any country to South Africa for asylum, unless asked. So, Mr Gbagbo has not spoken to us about asking for political asylum. Do we know about his whereabouts? We are guessing like everybody that he is still in Côte d'Ivoire, in Abidjan or where ever. We do not know. What are we saying about the role of NATO in Libya? We guess that whoever entered that space meant to implement the 1973 resolution of the UN Security Council. And I think the question also goes to, is linked to what Peter had asked. I think we all agree with the NATO and all other forces that have gone there before, that at the end of the day there will be no military solution to the problem in Libya. So that is why we are calling for the ending of all hostilities, so that we give space to negotiations which will help us reach a political solution. That is what South Africa believes. We believe that whatever interventions that were meant were solely meant to protect human lives. Going beyond that is beyond the mandate that we thought we were giving. On Zimbabwe, I thought it was important for us to reiterate and re-emphasise the communiqué of the troika of the SADC, because that is what all troika members, including the Chair of the SADC believes in. The SADC remains the guarantor for the full implementation of the GPA. So, there is no lowering of the guard of the SADC on playing that role of the guarantor. The status quo remains, because that is the mandate we got from the people of Zimbabwe. Jomic [phonetic] is an entity of the Zimbabwean people and in the spirit of assisting them to accelerate the implementation of their own agreement that is how this proposal came about, of getting three additional officials who should work hand in hand and closely with Jomic [phonetic] to make sure that we get the full implementation of the GPA. The intention of the troika is to hand over this report with the communiqué for full implementation to the SADC Extraordinary Summit that will take place in due course. We will refuse the temptation to respond to anger, because we have the responsibility. We have the responsibility to remain not angry, but to focus on the mandate given by the SADC, as facilitators.

Member of the Media: Minister, I just want to find out about the situation in Swaziland. I thought I heard you on radio yesterday saying that you got to meet with the Foreign Minister. Can you tell us what transpired at that meeting and are we ready to assist in Swaziland if the situation gets worse?

Member of the Media: I would like to find out what are your expectations with regards to the forthcoming BRICS Summit in Beijing? What do you think that BRICS can bring to South Africa? And on the other side, what do you think of the BRICS countries can benefit from South Africa as a new member of this organisation? Thank you.

Member of the Media: My question is also related to Swaziland. Just a follow up, Swaziland has lost 60% of its revenue from, or which it previously gained from SACU trade receipts. Is there any possibility that South Africa may potentially bail Swaziland out, because they are financially in dire straits and come June, they may not be able to pay salaries?

Minister Nkoana-Mashabane: Well, Swaziland. Yes, I met with the foreign minister of Swaziland yesterday in our regular consultation meeting. And I actually was very candid with him, that I have been receiving requests for clarity from the South African media about what is going on in Swaziland. And with a very broad smile he listed the number of media agencies that he was going to be interacting with, starting yesterday (04 March 2011) and today (05 March 2011). He said, refer them to me. Tell them I am in the country to answer all the questions. As I was driving from one meeting to another yesterday, I overheard him on radio saying something. So, he asked me not to be his spokesperson, because he is around. He was quite emphatic about that. South Africa's response to what is going on in Swaziland. We are continuing with the engagements with the government of Swaziland as a neighbor, and we will continue those interactions. And we do not have a formal request from Swaziland to respond to. So we are waiting for that formal request of any kind, which we will then have to respond to. And at the right time when we have received that, we will share with you what kind of request was that and how we have responded to that. But Swaziland is a member of the SADC, so I am sure that if there are problems in Swaziland . . . I did say earlier on, that we will have very soon an Extraordinary Summit, an extended meeting of the Heads of State. We will be looking at receiving the report of Madagascar's roadmap, receiving the report of the troika again on from Berkeley and also, I guess, if there is a need for us to also discuss Swaziland, the Heads of State it will do that at that time. It is indeed a great pleasure and an honour, and South Africa is elated, to join other Heads of State at the table of the BRICS Summit. And also to say that we are quite fortunate, I think, that we have been invited at the time when BRICS will be going to their third Summit. So, BRICS is still in its formative stages and amongst the issues that will be discussed is the vision of BRICS. So, South Africa believes that we will be making an invaluable contribution in envisioning the future of BRICS. What benefits will we gain from each other? Already there is coordination of ideas in all other forums where BRICS members find themselves in, the G20 meetings, the G8 Plus 5, or other forums where we find ourselves as BRICS members. And the one, the most important one, being the Security Council, the UN Security Council, where all BRICS members are serving at the moment. But also to remind the House that we also have two permanent members of the Security Council in BRICS. Coming closer to home, South Africa has an agenda to expand and develop further the economy of this country, to eradicate poverty and create more jobs. So, we believe with the ambitious goals of BRICS, of expanding inter-trade amongst BRICS countries to 400 billion, to 500 billion by the year 2015, we believe that South Africa will not only make a contribution but will also benefit through that to enhance our national goals. South Africa goes into BRICS remembering fully well that we are an integral part of this Continent of Africa. So wherever South Africa finds itself in a forum or a mini-lateralist where other African countries are not represented, we do not speak for South Africa alone but also for all other African countries. We believe we bring into BRICS not only South Africa but a larger African market of a billion people. We are also encouraged by the fact that trade between BRICS and the African Continent was a negligible 4% in 1993, but since we have escalated positively the relations between BRICS countries and ourselves, trade has boomed by the end of 2009 and has gone up by 20%, giving a trade surplus for African countries of about R147 billion. The President of South Africa has been asked by the African Union leadership to champion infrastructure development on the Continent and the integration thereof. We believe that BRICS countries, particularly the four, have the capacity to bring investments, to also bring expertise and functional technologies that can help us accelerate integration of our infrastructure, which will also encourage inter-trade and help accelerate regional economic integration in our region. So we are quite excited about the opportunities that are abound as we join BRICS.

Member of the Media: I note that you've made this call in terms of Zimbabwe and also Libya saying, you make this call for an immediate stop to violence, intimidation and hate speech, it must end with immediate effect. This is not a first-time call. What makes you think that they are going to listen in Zimbabwe now? And what makes you think that Mr Mugabe is going to listen? Or, whoever is conducting that, it seems to me there is no chief [Unclear]. And we can make this call forever. How are you going to give this chief [Unclear], so that you can implement a peaceful solution, come up with a referendum and a solution that is happy to everyone? That is my first question. My second question relates to Libya. Has South Africa actually in recent times had any direct contact with Mr Gadhafi and his immediate close circle? And if so, has he indicated under what terms he is prepared to reach some sort of cease-fire, or is he simply saying, we want the country back?

Member of the Media: Gadhafi is offering reforms, but he insists he must stay on. Is this acceptable to South Africa? Secondly, does South Africa believe that Gadhafi is still Libya's legitimate leader? And another question, what are the plans to evacuate South Africans who are still trapped in the Ivory Coast? And if Laurent Gbagbo asks for refuge in South Africa, will South Africa be able to assist him in this regard?

Minister Nkoana-Mashabane: South Africa does not subscribe to regime change, but South Africa supports legitimate calls for change, reforms, in their own countries. So, it is not for us to say Gadhafi is still legitimate or not. It is for the Libyans to say that. And if they do that through peaceful means, we believe that they should be given space to do that. Now, did we receive any requests by Mr Gbagbo for asylum in South Africa, I had said earlier on when Donna had asked the question, that no, we have not received such a request,. So we cannot start speculating. I do not know of any government that does that. But even before you receive the request you already know what your answer is going to be. And I am sure that you are not asking us to do that. Did we have any direct contact with the Libyans, with Gadhafi, recently? No, we haven't had any contact with him recently. What makes the call to end all hostilities in Zimbabwe different? President Zuma, myself, this administration, or I joined this administration in 2009. So I do not remember such a call ever being made by the troika during our administration. So, I actually don't remember such a call like this ever being made by the SADC leadership or organs of the SADC to openly and publicly say that it is about time that it comes to a stop. I do not remember that. So, what makes it different this time around, I think, is that we are all saying or speaking with one voice and I think that communiqué of the SADC troika says it all. And if you think it is not teeth enough, that is the teeth we have. They are not artificial. They are real.

Member of the Media: You mention you do not support, and South Africa does not support regime change but supports peaceful change and that people who oppose a regime should seek peaceful change. Do you not find this rather difficult considering the nature of the regime in Libya, that it was almost impossible to seek any form of change, because there was no form of democracy to seek that kind of change? I mean, it is almost similar to what we had in this country before.

Minister Nkoana-Mashabane: Well, in Egypt, the Egyptian government and Mubarak ran that country and emergency laws under the watch of the entire international community for 30 years, emergency laws. Everywhere you go there is a policeman watching what you are doing and saying. So, it is not like you had a unique situation. Yes, it is unique, maybe different, but that was not the only one. So, it had to take the people of Egypt to say enough. So we can't say to the people of Libya, no, you have half rights. You know, here you can't do it, but it could happen in Egypt. So we have to legitimately say the same thing. So, there are no half rights for people in Libya as would have been in Egypt, because I do not see how that makes it different when you have a leadership running a country under emergency laws for 30 years

Member of the Media: Wouldn't the difference be that Libya uses military whereas Egypt's military remained . . .

Minister Nkoana-Mashabane:
Let me stop this dialogue by saying . . . I do not know if you have been to Egypt in the past, but I have been. I do not know of any other regime in Africa that had more than one million policemen just to go around and watching and listening to what people were saying, even in restaurants. So, if that was a lesser evil, I do not know what you are talking about.

Member of the Media: The top general in Côte d'Ivoire took refuge in the home of the South African Ambassador last week and he left over the weekend. Any information as to what persuaded him to leave? We are hearing that it was under duress, under threat.

Minister Nkoana-Mashabane: Can I get clarity about who was threatening him?
Member of the Media: Not the South Africans. The, Gbagbo's government was supposedly threatening his family.

Member of the Media: Minister, recently the UK, the British government hosted a meeting to look at Libya after Gadhafi. It was attended by Mr Ban Ki-Moon and Hillary Clinton was also there. Some opposition forces of Libya were there and some Gulf states, the Arab states. The AU boycotted that meeting. We know why you didn't attend that meeting and [unclear] President Barak Obama said he doesn't rule out army opposition forces in Libya. What is your reaction to that?

Member of the Media: Minister, just go back to the extra level of supervision that the troika has now agreed on Zimbabwe. Will these people be permanently based or semi-permanently based in Zimbabwe? Is that the idea? And if they are to report to the next SADC Summit, how soon do you contemplate them being on the ground in Zimbabwe?

Member of the Media: Minister, on BRICS, we know that South Africa will next week be formally accepted into BRICS. Are you confident that we have the support of all African countries, in terms of our membership, in terms of our joining BRICS? Do we have the AU's blessing, basically? [Laughter] And also in terms of resolution 1973, we know that some of the BRICS countries abstained. Do you think that that will come out in the BRICS Summit?

Minister Nkoana-Mashabane: Just before we close the briefing, let me take the opportunity once again to send our heartfelt condolences to the families of all involved in this crash, which happened at a time when they were on this very very noble mission. The reports we get, there were about 32 individuals involved in this and that the cause of it is at the moment, primarily, is blamed on bad weather. And, yes, we can confirm that there were three South Africans that were on board of this aircraft. But we are able to give you the details of the identities of these three South Africans, because we have to do the deed first. We have to contact the families first and talk to them before we come out in public about their names. Once again, condolences to all the bereaved families and, in particular, the three South Africans who lost their lives in the line of duty, helping another SADC country to stabiles.

I thank you


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