Address by Deputy Minister Fransman at a reception hosted by the Human Rights Watch on the theme: South Africa at the African Union -The future of African integration and South Africa’s Foreign Policy, Wednesday, 17 October 2012.
Mr Daniel Bekele, Africa Director, Human Rights Watch,
Members of Diplomatic Corps here with us today,
Distinguished Guests, and
Ladies and gentlemen
In his closing remarks of 13th Ordinary Session of the African Union Assembly of Heads of State and Government, Sirte, Libya, 3 July 2009, President Zuma said:
“We are gathered here because we believe in the fundamental principle on which the Organisation of African Unity and later the African Union were founded – the unity of the African peoples, the unity of the continent. This is a fundamental principle which binds us all. Even on those issues on which we fundamentally disagree, we should be guided by the principle of unity, and remain true to the founding principles of the OAU and the AU.As the South African government, we remain steadfast in our commitment to African unity and advancement, guided by the oldest liberation movement in Africa, the African National Congress. We have a long and proud tradition in this regard”
Please, allow me to thank the Human Rights Watch for inviting me to this august event, and indeed for giving us an opportunity to share with you some of our foreign policy postures, especially our role in the African Union. The above words by President Zuma succinctly capture South Africa’s commitment to the African Union as a Pan-Africanists vehicle of addressing multiple challenges facing the African continent.
Ladies and Gentleman,
It has become a common knowledge, in fact sceptics would call it cliché, that in our foreign policy trajectory, South Africa is committed to promoting and achieving its vision of an African Continent, which is prosperous, peaceful, democratic, non-racial, non-sexist and united, premised on the principles of Pan Africanism and which contributes to a world that is just and equitable through effective multilateralism at the sub-regional (SADC), regional (AU) and global level (UN).
However this policy position of an African agenda and an African renaissance for our country is not a cliché or the philosophy and policy perspective of an individual and or individuals. Furthermore this policy position was not created after 1994 it was only implemented by the government after 1994 when we became a democratic dispensation. This policy position (African Agenda -) is rooted within the Ruling Party’s principles and policy perspective since its founding days 100 years ago in 1912. Hence the philosophy of Pan Africanism, the regeneration of a sovereign, independent and yet interdependent Africa premised upon the principles of human solidarity free of the vestige of Colonialism and Imperialism still remains a foundation of the ruling party foreign policy today. It is the history, culture and tradition of the ruling party as it relates to foreign policy that still today informs our current and future foreign policy trajectory in general and towards Africa in particular.
We have not changed from this position prior to nor post the democratic era and will never veer away from it so long as the issues mentioned above (racism, colonialism, imperialism, lack of human rights and democracy, poverty and inequality) continue to confront our continent.
It is within this context that the words of Pan-Africanise scholar, Professor Stephen Okhonmina, bear relevance:
Pan-Africanism which is the perceived need to mobilize peoples of Africa against racism and colonialism is the political philosophy behind the current effort to achieve political unity in Africa through the instrumentality of the African Union. In this way, Pan-Africanism has in the twenty first century, transformed into a mobilizing ideology and a development blueprint.
Accordingly, South Africa’s involvement in the creation of the AU was informed by the understanding that unity of the African people would be the main instrument that would lead to the rise of the continent, hence we speak about the African Renaissance. Therefore as mentioned above South Africa’s involvement in the AU was, is and will continue to be informed by the historical policy position of the ruling party, the African National Congress. In its foreign policy perspective document, the ANC mentions that:
“With fellow Africans we share a vision to transform our continent into an entity that is free, peaceful and vibrant-a continent which is capable, given the opportunity, to make an abiding contribution in all fields of human endeavour- particularly in the sphere of international relations.
Accordingly, we join the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) with the prime objective to help the organisation in realizing its goals of deepening the unity of Africa’s diverse peoples and cultures and advancing their common well-being”.
Flowing from the ruling parties foreign policy perspective since its establishment in 1912 i.e. Premised upon the principles of Pan Africanism, the ANC government after 1994 has continued upon this trajectory. It is for this reason that one of our main foreign policy objectives has been the pursuance of the African Renaissance.
Hence, since 1999, South Africa has been a key actor in establishing the AU and in 2002 became the first African state to chair the AU, the successor to the Organisation of African Unity (OAU). More recently it is for this reason we have deployed one of our best cadres Dr Nkosazana Zuma to the AU to further strengthen it.
Thus, our role in the AU has always been informed by the historical perspective of the ruling party and what we call the “African Agenda” and as such in order to understand this role, some important points of priority for RSA within the AU should be extensively mentioned here.
We believe that the African Union needs to be taken to another level necessary to position it to better champion the interests of the continent such as the promotion of African freedom, sovereignty, independence, self-reliance and economic growth.
Based on our commitment to the African Renaissance, Africa needs to better protect herself from on-going interference in its internal affairs and resolve her challenges using African solutions. More important in this regard, is the need for democratic culture in the continent to be promoted by, among others, strengthening institutions such as the Pan-African Parliament to enable it to provide a meaningful role for African Parliamentarians to contribute to the goals of African unity and prosperity. In addition there is a recognized need to improve other institutions such as African Peer review Mechanism and New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD).
As you all know, African Peer Review Mechanism is a mutually agreed programme, voluntarily adopted by Member States of the African Union, to promote the entrenchment of principles of democracy and good governance, among others. However, there is a need for the AU to persuade other Member States to accede to this important instrument and also making it more effective to address its stated objectives.
We strongly believe that there will never be democracy without development. As such the AU needs to fast-track the process of achieving set Millennium Development Goals. Trade barrier in the continent continues to serve as an obstacle for Africa to realize her developmental potential. To address this predicament, African Union had resolved to promote intra-African trade to complement efforts geared towards establishing a Free Trade Area within the continent. Discussions are currently underway at a regional level to establish the Tripartite Free Trade area.
Successful completion of this discussions will bring together Regional Economic Communities such COMESA, SADC and the East African Community of course within the aim of creating a free market consisting of 26 countries with a population of about 600-million people and a combined GDP of one trillion US dollars.
In addition, there is a realization among AU Member States that Africa’s inadequate infrastructure is one of the main factors inhibiting trade, integration and economic development. In view of this, the AU has set up the Presidential Infrastructure Championship Initiative, a continental committee of eight NEPAD Heads of State and Government, to champion infrastructure projects at the highest level.
In this regard, South Africa is a chair and champion of the North-South Road and Rail Corridor project and the Cape to Cairo corridor. The North-South corridor cuts across eight countries in eastern and southern Africa and aims to facilitate trade by upgrading road, rail, power and port facilities, as well as simplifying cross-border regulatory procedures. This will enable producers and traders to access regional and international markets more easily.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We are proud of the role South Africa is playing in the African Union so far. With our influence, the AU moved to place an emphasis on the need to strengthen capacities and actions in conflict prevention, management and resolution, and governance. South Africa wishes in particular for institutions like PAP, ECOSOCC, the African Union Commission, and the African Court of Human and People’s Rights to be strengthened and their legal status and competencies should be clarified as a matter of urgency.
We have correctly pursued a strategy that the legal instruments governing AU organs should be reviewed and addressed in order to avoid duplications and overlaps. During the course of the past 10 years, South Africa has placed a huge emphasis on the need to adequately finance AU organs and institutions, and we support the idea of the amendment of the Constitutive Act to achieve all the above reforms; South Africa was instrumental for example in pushing for a new scales of assessment for paying dues to the AU, pays an annual contribution of 15% together with Libya, Egypt, Algeria and Nigeria who also pay 15% of the AU’s annual budget.
Given our commitment to ending Africa’s international marginalisation, of the “African agenda” we have used the approach of South Africa’s greatest diplomat and former ANC President, the Late Cde OR Tambo, of Indima which means “step-by step, acre by acre” to regional integration and development. Our policy has promoted Regional Economic Communities (REC’s) as the “building blocks” and implementing agents of the AU. Such an approach was prudent given the need for South Africa over the past fifteen years to reassure its neighbours that its intentions were noble and in stark contrast to those of the aggressive apartheid state.
South Africa was also doing the right thing in supporting the position of the Abuja Treaty of 1991, which makes the case for African integration first at sub-regional level, and then at continental market level. South Africa has supported the “harmonization and rationalization of RECs, as well as for the regional integration process”.
With regard to leadership roles in the United Nations Security Council, South Africa has been able to utilise its membership to contribute to the issues confronting the AU. You will recall that the UNSC agenda is dominated by the African issues. In our role as the UNSC Chair, we oversaw the work of the four sub-committees of the 1540 Committee which; 1) monitored implementation by Member States of the resolution; 2) facilitate assistance that Member States may require in implementation; 3) facilitate cooperation with international organizations, as well as other Security Council committees and; 4) conduct media outreach activities and ensure transparency in the work of the committee. South Africa is also Chair of the UNSC Ad-Hoc Working Group on Conflict Prevention and Resolution in Africa and serves as Vice-Chair of the Côte d’Ivoire and Liberia Sanctions Committees.
The Security Council dedicates most of its energy and time focusing on peace and security matters on the African continent. In this regard, more than 70% of Security Council deliberations are centred around African conflict situations, while six of the UN’s fourteen peacekeeping operations and nearly 80% of its peacekeepers are deployed in the African continent, including MONUSCO, DRC (23,383 personnel) and UNAMID, Sudan (27,501 personnel). The UNSC has from the beginning of 2011 adopted more than 55 resolutions and 30 presidential statements out of which a majority are on African issues. Since the beginning of its membership on the UNSC, South Africa sought to promote the continental priorities of the African Agenda.
As such, most of the policy positions adopted and pursued by the country since January 2011 were guided largely by African and AU positions on African conflicts. In this regard, South Africa continued to cooperate and work with other representatives of Africa on the UNSC (Nigeria and Gabon) to elevate the African agenda of achieving peace, security and development. However, the three African countries did not always adopt common positions or stance on African issues before the agenda of the Council.
Ladies and gentlemen,
As you are aware, South Africa served as the President of the Security Council for the month of January 2012. The Presidency of the UNSC affords the country an opportunity to leave a positive legacy of its two-year term in the Council. This is particularly important for the non-permanent members; this allows them an opportunity to highlight issues of national interest. In this context, the Presidency of the Security Council has the option of promoting a new or re-occurring theme of particular national, regional or international significance.
Accordingly, South Africa utilized its rotating presidency of the UNSC to continue a debate within the Security Council aimed at enhancing cooperation between the UN and the AU in the maintenance of international peace and security. This initiative was consistent with Chapter VIII of the UN Charter as well as the 2005 World Summit Outcome Document and Security Council resolution 1625 (2005) which underscores the need to enhance partnership between the UN and regional organisations in the prevention and peaceful settlement of disputes.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The country’s efforts aimed at bringing greater alignment to the work of both Councils is the intensification of the work South Africa had already undertaken in conflict prevention, resolution, management and post-conflict reconstruction and peace building in African countries such as Sudan, Côte d’Ivoire, Burundi, the DRC and elsewhere.
In this regard, the South African delegation convened on 12 January 2012 a High Level debate on “Strengthening the relationship between the UN and regional organizations, in particular the AU, in the maintenance of international peace and security." The debate on 12 January was presided over by President Jacob Zuma and included participation of the UN Secretary-General, representatives of the AU and other members of the UNSC.
At the conclusion of the debate, the Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 2033 (2012). Amongst others, this resolution reiterated the importance of establishing a more effective relationship between the AU Peace and UNSC, including in the area of conflict prevention, resolution and management, electoral assistance and regional conflict prevention offices. The resolution also encourages the improvement of regular interaction, consultation and coordination between the two bodies on matters of mutual interest.
Based on the platform I was ask to speak at, there is no doubt that my address will be remiss without reflecting on human rights aspects of our foreign policy. As you all know, human rights is one of the important pillars of our foreign policy. This is again reflected in the ANC foreign policy perspective document when it says:
“The rise of a non-racial, non-sexist democratic South Africa from ashes of apartheid will not terminate our quest for human rights. South Africa will immediately become a fully-fledged and vital member of the family of nations who hold human rights issues central to foreign policy. Some of these steps we will take are symbolic but, in our efforts to canonize human rights in our international relations, we regard them as far more than this.
We do believe that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights recognises two mutually-reinforced dimensions of human rights.
The first respects the fundamental rights and freedom of the individual, especially in relation to economic and social rights”
This position was to a greater extent influenced by our own history characterised by the abuse of human rights. Our position on human rights was recently commended by the Executive Director of Human Rights Watch, Mr Kenneth Roth who said and I quote:
“South Afrrest him.”
Ladies and Gentlemen,
South Africa has come a long way. Not many people appreciate how profound the changes have been. Working together through the other members of the AU, Southern African countries have been laying the foundations for long term growth and development.
There are still many challenges, however, and we cannot afford to be complacent. This can be succinctly captured with words of OR Tambo, whom we are celebrating this month when he said:
“The continent of Africa today carries a primary responsibility to defend the enormous success it has achieved over the last two decades and beyond. The reality of those successes is not in doubt. We cannot forget that only a few decades ago, Africa was described in supercilious tones as the Dark Continent”.
Whilst these words were said on 10th February 1983 they still remain relevant today.
I thank you.