Transcript: Media Briefing by the Minister International Relations and Cooperation Ms Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, OR Tambo building, Pretoria, 10 March 2011
Chairman: Good morning once again. Thank you for responding to our invitation. The Minister of International Relations and Cooperation will read the statement on several issues on international developments and thereafter we will have an opportunity to take question from you.
Minister Nkoana-Mashabane: Good morning ladies and gentlemen of the media and thank you very much for joining us this morning.
We thought we would spend a few minutes with you just to update you of our international engagements of the past few days. This will start with the very successful visit of President Zuma and delegation to France on a state visit followed by my visit to India to participate in the South Africa-India Joint Ministerial Commission and the trilateral IBSA Ministerial meeting between ourselves, India and Brazil.
On the outcomes of President Zuma's visit to France amongst other very important engagements, was that he had very successful engagements with his counterpart, President Sarkozy. He also met with the Prime Minister of France and was also hosted by the Mayor of Paris.
In all these engagements and several other bilateral meetings between the five ministers who had bilateral meetings with their counterparts, I also had the opportunity to meet with the brand new foreign minister of France a day before my arrival. The visit emphasised on strengthening our bilateral and strategic partnership relations. It also focused on trade relations between the two countries. As you know, there are more than 120 French companies operating in South Africa.
We also took time through our two Presidents to look at the political developments in line with the South African foreign policy parameters that focus on the African agenda. We know that France is very interested in the work we do on the Continent, because they also have interests, historical interests, on the Continent. So we had discussion, as you would know, amongst other developments on the Continent, the Ivory Coast, Libya, largely the political developments in the Middle East and North Africa.
We took advantage of the visits through our President to also emphasise the important ties between the two countries and our collaboration from the Security Council to the G20. In fact, France will become a Chair of G20 and G8 at the same time, and also around the Security Council. To say, France is amongst the most vocal permanent members on the support of the enlargement of the reform of the UN Security Council, but also the enlargement of the members who should become permanent, but in particular, to emphasise and support the fact that it is about time that Africa be included on the permanent level at the UN Security Council.
I am sure you also know that President Zuma serves with President Sarkozy and the President of South Korea on the G20 Development Committee. So we will work together with them as they share the G20, and President Zuma is a member of the G20 Development Committee.
France also confirmed their support and commitment to support us as we host the COP17 to make sure that we get the outcomes that would be taking issues around climate change positively forward.
There were also very important agreements signed during visits. Amongst others, the South African agencies signed agreements with various French development agencies. One, the French Development Agency signed with Eskom to get resources to the tune of 100 million Euros for a wind farm project. ACSA had got 200 million Euros for the expansion of Cape Town Airport, Durban, on the Trans-Caledon Tunnel Authority, the building of a dam in Durban. The South African Nuclear Energy Corporation, NECSA, signed a letter of intent with Areva, on expanding cooperation between Areva and NECSA in a number of fuel and other nuclear technology areas, particularly in the capacity building programmes. So this is really some of the highlights of the visit of President Zuma to France.
I think what was important was that it was the first time that I have heard a leader of the developed world refer to our President as the outstanding leader of an outstanding country on the African Continent. But also, reiterating President Sarkozy's call that France would want to refresh, look anew, on how France engages with the Continent. He actually reiterated his own statement, which he made when he came for the state visit early 2008, in the South African Parliament in Cape Town.
On the South Africa-India Joint Ministerial Commission, which took place on the 6th and 7th of March in India, we led a delegation of several South African departments, sectoral departments, which are going to form part of the seven working groups that serve under the Joint Ministerial Commission between ourselves and India.
I am sure that ladies and gentlemen of the media in this room know that South Africa has signed more than 31 agreements with India. Now, largely the Joint Ministerial Commission work as a mechanism to monitor the programme of action of the implementation of these agreements, but also as a clearinghouse for any other issue that might come up, that might serve as a hindrance for the work that we do in the Joint Ministerial Commission.
We took advantage of the meeting to also reflect on the international developments, in particular the fact that we are now all members of the Security Council, albeit on a non-permanent basis. And we also took advantage of the meeting to thank India for their support in SA joining BRICS. We also serve with India on the G20 and we also discussed the strengthening of the CEOs between South Africa and India.
We discussed, amongst other things, the removal of impediments that might have an impact, a negative impact, on our trade relations, particularly around the issues of non-tariff barriers. We have signed bilateral trade agreements with India, but the other problems that we have begun to experience are that India is a federal country. So, in South Africa, if you sign a bilateral trade agreement with a country like India, they get access to all our provinces. They don't have to go and re-negotiate province by province. But in our case, you might find that there are some other little considerations or laws in some provinces or state in India that would necessarily negate the agreement that would have been signed at national level. We have observed that the same would apply to Brazil. And these are the things we refer to as the non-tariff barriers. We used the opportunity to also deal with these issues.
We also reiterated on the historical partnership with India, the shared vision and common values, amongst them democracy, development, justice, respect of human rights, equality, the quest for a better life for our people and justice and peace for all in the world.
Quoting the words of the Commerce Minister of India on developmental challenges between India and South Africa , that we are all tackling with, as we grow both our economies, he says that the fact that we still are struggling with poverty, this is just one unfinished business that we need to be looking at.
We also shared with India the drive that came with President Zuma of the creation of jobs. And the opportunities that come with our drive for rapid or acceleration of infrastructure development, wherein Indian companies might have an interest in what we are doing. We are very keen to expand through our Joint Ministerial Commission and through our Minister of Trade and Industry India's expertise of the cutting and polishing of diamonds, particularly the smaller stones. Because India has become the second Antwerp through Surat and other centres. We believe that this will help us create jobs and also expand our skills development sector.
India is also very much interested in our exploration and mining and coal washing technology, because India has large reserves of coal but short on the technological side. So these are some of the highlights of our discussions.
They also confirmed their support for South Africa's hosting of the COP17 and that we will continue working with them trough all other opportunities that we get..
On the 8th of March we expanded our meetings into the tri-lateral India-Brazil-South Africa, if you like, IBSA, and amongst the things that we focused on, again, we had about seven working groups. We focused on agriculture, trade and investments largely, amongst other things, and we also discussed the latest developments. The UN Security Council, as I said we are also members, albeit on a non-permanent basis, even at the three country level. We discussed Libya, Côte d'Ivoire, Sudan, Somalia, which are the discussions taking place at the Security Council at the moment.
On the tri-lateral economic development issues, we focused largely on agriculture and on agriculture the parties agreed to cooperate on four technical areas:
- Training in programmes on wine production;
- Training in soya bean production and beneficiation;
- Training in pest control; and lastly
- Training in the diagnoses and control of trans-boundary diseases focusing mainly on foot and mouth diseases
On trade and investment, the IBSA working group on trade and investment looked into the signed MOU and standard technical regulations and conformity assessment, actually here looking at that, which I had referred to earlier , on the possibility of signing tri-lateral agreement but also making sure that they work. South Africa has signed, or SACU has an agreement now with MERCOSUR, which was facilitated by Brazil. To complete the circle, India would love that we have, that we sign an India-SACU preferential trade agreement. The negotiations are continuing. We used this opportunity to update ourselves on the developments. Like I said South Africa emphasised the issue that we also focus on the issues of the non-tariff barriers.
We took advantage of our IBSA meeting to look at developments in the Security Council.
On Libya we would like to reiterate that South Africa has supported the positions taken by the African Union and the United Nations, this includes statements and resolutions imposing sanctions on Libya. South Africa has openly condemned the loss of life and barbaric attacks on civilians and reported violations of human rights in that country. So we have never really had ambiguity that is sometimes reported on our part on this matter on resolving the crisis in Libya.
As I am talking to you, President Zuma is attending a meeting together with other heads of states on the African Continent who are members of the AU Peace and Security Council to address the issues around developments in the Middle East, North Africa and in particular in Libya.
On Côte d'Ivoire, like all UN Security Council member states, we remain concerned about the deteriorating political situation in Côte d'Ivoire. Furthermore we call on both parties to immediately end the acts of violence against the civilian population.
But again here, let me take this opportunity to share with you the fact that the meeting of the AU Peace and Security Council started yesterday. It will continue today. They will look at the issues around the political and security developments in the Middle East and in particular North Africa, but more in particular to receive the report of the high level panel , regarding the situation in Côte d'Ivoire, which our President is a member.
The other discussions that are going on in the Security Council is on Sudan, and South Africa is of the view that a negotiated agreement has to be reached along the outstanding issues post-referendum, particularly here the disagreements around ownership of the Abyei region. The African Union high level panel on Sudan is currently actively involved in helping Sudanese in reaching an agreement on this difficult matter and we will be informed of developments..
On Somalia, South Africa supports a comprehensive approach that addresses both the economic and political dimensions of Somalia. With regard to piracy off the coast of Somalia, my delegation at the UN Security Council supports the ongoing efforts to address this challenge. We are of the view that addressing the scourge of piracy would require a holistic approach, which addresses both the underlying causes of the problems, promotes the economic opportunities and addresses political and security dimensions on the piracy. In this connection the economic development of the coastal and income generating activities largely around the fishing industry and the investigation into illegal fishing and toxic dumping allegations, Africa should assist in reversing this growing trend along the Somali coast. We remain convinced that piracy is but a symptom of insecurity challenges faced on land and that for this challenge to be addressed comprehensively, increased attention to the insecurity on land will have to be addressed. South Africa is still studying the proposals of the special advisor on these matters, in order to make an informed decision.
Closer to home, the SADC Council of Ministers Meeting was held in Windhoek, Namibia, last week from 3 to 4 March 2011. The Meeting was attended by all SADC Member States, with the exception of Madagascar given its suspension from SADC activities, pending the restoration of constitutional and democratic order in Madagascar. Most SADC Member States were represented at Ministerial level. South Africa was represented by the Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Mr Ebrahim I Ebrahim.
Although the Meeting discussed a number of critical issues, we will briefly concentrate on one of the most significant decisions arrived at – the decision on the proposed SADC-COMESA-EAC Tripartite Free Trade Area which basically moves us towards continental integration. The Council noted that the second Tripartite Council and Summit will be hosted by South Africa in June 2011 – the exact dates are still to be determined.
A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Inter-regional Cooperation and Integration between COMESA, EAC and SADC was signed by the Chairpersons of the three RECs in January 2011, serving as a basis for the establishment of the proposed Tripartite FTA that will be officially launched on the occasion of the Second SADC-COMESA-EAC Summit to be hosted by South Africa on behalf of the SADC region.
This will bring our briefing to a conclusion for now.
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS SESSION:
Member of the Media: The issue of Muammar Gaddafi calling our President. When did that call happen? When did that occur? And is it part of a greater reach out by Gaddafi? Perhaps, are there others that [unclear] called in the same line? Did he say anything along those lines? And then on the issue of Côte d'Ivoire, are we still saying unequivocally as South Africa that we recognise that election victor in Côte d'Ivoire was Alassane Ouattara?
Member of the Media: On the Libya issue, can you clarify South Africa's position should a decision be taken either through the UN Security Council, that the discussions of today between NATO and the EU on a no-fly zone over Libya, would you support a no-fly zone?
Member of the Media: Also on Libya, I am afraid. The statement issued by the Presidency, that Libyan TV had distorted President Zuma's remarks, did not specifically or categorically say he did not say that. And I wondered if you could clarify that. Did he not, did he, can we deny that he said that the AU should investigate a conspiracy in Libya against Gaddafi's government? And 'B', that we should not believe the foreign media, but that we should be believing Libyan media on the [unclear]? Just, just so that you know, to say distortion is one thing. To say this is just not what he said and this is not what we mean, it is another. Thank you.
Minister Nkoana-Mashabane: Well, Gaddafi has been sending envoys to several countries, Brussels and many others. Yes, Gaddafi called our President, maybe largely to try and explain his side of the story. I think what is critical here is that we should try and jog our memories and say that it is only President Zuma who has consistently followed up on any misadventure by Gaddafi in the AU itself. When Gaddafi was trying to remain a permanent AU Chair, or President of the AU, it was our President who confronted Gaddafi and told him that we have to respect the statutes of the AU and also told him that, if you try to do that at the Council, we will embarrass you by making sure that you do not become a permanent President or Chair of the AU and it is largely through the efforts of President Zuma that Gaddafi did not become a permanent Chairperson of the AU.
Secondly, before the AU Summit sat in Kampala last year.Gaddafi was trying to perpetuate his idea of passing a resolution for the formation of the United States of Africa, it was again President Zuma who took him to task and told him that we will not allow this to happen. Face to face.
This time around when Gaddafi called our President, the President took advantage of that call to tell him that the reason that South Africa had led the campaign to suspension Libya out of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, I was there, I made the statement on behalf of our country with the full mandate of our President. We took advantage of that call by Gaddafi to our President to tell him how we abhor this heinous violation of human rights against his own people.
We also took advantage of this call through our President to tell him that we abhor what is happening in his country and has to stop with immediate effect, but also to say that South Africa has supported, not only supported, but we have co-sponsored all the resolutions against Libya at the UN Security Council, coordinated with all African countries that are serving in the Security Council at the moment, that is Nigeria and Gabon. So, this is what I know and this is what the truth is. The date of the call I really can't remember. Yes.
There were two other questions. One was a no-fly zone. The matter will also be discussed in the AU Peace and Security Council. As you also know, NATO members of foreign affairs are meeting in Brussels to discuss their own business.
What remains, is that we are members of the Security Council. There will be no fly zone that will be a recommendation to be implemented without a formal adoption of this proposal at the Security Council. So, South Africa's position will be guided by the outcome of the AU Peace and Security Council meeting which will be concluding today, but also and therefore deliberated by the UN Security Council later. So there will be no unanimous decision by NATO that can be carried through without passing through the UN Security Council.
On the Ivory Coast, you know, you have been sitting in many, many, many press conferences where this matter was deliberated. I am just going to repeat exactly what we have said to you before. That South Africa, President Zuma, holds no brief for any of the two contenders. The reason that even after the international community had supported Ouattara, there was no peace, or there would have been no movement forward politically in that country, and that necessitated the appointment of the high level panel that will be finishing their deliberations with the Peace and Security Council of the AU today, and confirms that there was a problem. So, I am just reiterating a fact that has always been known, a fact that we have always made very, very clear. And I think this is a fact that we are making that it is very, very critical that we strengthen institutions of democracy on the Continent to reduce disputed outcomes of elections. But also to repeat that an outcome of elections doesn't start and end with the actual voting there. Voting is, or an election is a process. It starts with the infallibility of the institutions themselves that must run an election. So, this is a fact we have repeated time and again and it is a fact that I would want to take advantage of your question to repeat. We hold no brief for anyone else. We had, I had agreed to represent SADC in the high level panel because Ivorians themselves from both factions kept sending people here, delegations, to say, we believe that South Africa can be an honest peace broker, please come and help. Now, we can't just be married to that one fact and forget that we need to, all of us, work towards giving ordinary Ivorians an opportunity to go on with their lives. And I think that is what our leadership is busy with in Addis Ababa, starting yesterday and today.
Member of the Media: Minister, I beg your pardon, I didn't catch what you said. Did you say the panel's work will be 'concluded'?
Ms Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, South Africa: I said they are concluding their presentation of their report to the Peace and Security Council that had mandated them to work on the matter.
Member of the Media: Thank you.
MinisterNkoana-Mashabane: Working on a peace mission is a journey, but it has to start because the Ivorians have waited for too long.
Member of the Media: I just wanted to find out form you, Minister, the status of the Libyan Ambassador in South Africa. What is his status currently? And secondly, there are also reports from Côte d'Ivoire that neighbouring Zimbabwe is sending arms to [unclear] support a government for Mr Gbagbo. Can you, I mean, have you established from your Zimbabwean counterpart how [unclear] those particular reports are? Thank you.
Member of the Media: Are you satisfied that the UN Security Council resolution and the AU resolution on Libya are being adequately respected by Muammar Gaddafi? And secondly, on the international sanctions placed on Gaddafi and his family, can you tell us how the process is unfolding locally and is the South African government happy that no money has been taken out of the country by Gaddafi thus far?
MinisterNkoana-Mashabane: Okay. Let me start with the famous Gaddafi issue. As for South Africa, we would want to reiterated that whatever resolution we support, co-sponsor, at the UN Security Council, we will do that meaning to make sure that it is respected, that there is full implementation after the passing of the resolution.
When I was in India, I got a call from our Minster of Finance who had confirmed that he has received messages, from all financial agencies in this country to start implementing the decision of the Security Council. I also know that by the statues of the UN Security Council, after 120 days all countries around the world would have to submit reports about the work done, and I am sure that South Africa will be counted amongst the countries that will have done their part.
Whether Gaddafi respects the resolutions, I don't know. But what is prevalent on the ground is that people are dying on a daily basis. So, the evidence would have been if these aerial bombardments of civilians would have stopped, I would have said that, yes, he is beginning to show signs of wanting to respect the resolutions of the UN Security Council and the calls made by the international community. I don't have evidence that he is beginning to take heed of these calls.
When I was in France I read a statement, and I saw him on TV also, that he was denouncing the Gaddafi regime, and also said that he was not going to resign, because he would want to remain helping the people of Libya. So, on his status beyond that statement, that will be informed by the decision that will be taken by the AU Peace and Security Council that is also considering the status of Libya as a member of the AU today.
Zimbabwe and the rumour about carrying arms from one country to the other, I arrived midday yesterday. So I haven't heard what the rumour mill says and Loyisa I will learn from you.
Member of the Media: Can I just pick up on what you just said? Is Libya's status as member of the AU currently being discussed? Is there, are you hinting at a possible suspension?
MinisterNkoana-Mashabane: I am not hinting on anything. I am just saying that the current political and security situation in Libya is under discussion by the AU Peace and Security Council.