Statement by the Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Mr Ebrahim Ebrahim, on international developments, 15 November 2013, OR Tambo Building, Pretoria
Good morning ladies and gentlemen of the media.
In this briefing today, we will focus on (1) our recent visit to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea; (2) South Africa’s election to the UN Human Rights Council; (3) the situations in Mozambique and Madagascar; and (4) President Zuma’s upcoming international engagements.
1. VISIT TO THE DPRK
At the invitation of the DPRK Government, I visited North Korea from 04 to 08 November 2013 to hold political consultations and review bilateral relations. This visit took place within the context of the 15th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between SA and the DPRK.
We held consultations with Vice Minister Kim Hyong Jun, and paid courtesy calls on the Foreign Minister, His Excellency Pak Ui Chun, and Kim Yong Nam, the President of the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly.
During the engagements, we shared South Africa’s experience of de-nuclearisation, highlighting the great benefits that accrued to South Africa from the decision to dismantle its nuclear weapons in 1994.
In this regard, we also related our experience of resolving conflict through negotiations and dialogue, and encouraged the DPRK to resume participation in the Six-Party Talks at the earliest opportunity.
We have noted the negative reports on human rights in the DPRK emanating from international organisations and offered to share South Africa’s own experience and technical expertise to assist the DPRK in this area.
As part of the programme arranged by the DPRK Government, we visited the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) at Panmunjom as well as various newly constructed social amenities in Pyonyang showing the progress that the DPRK has made over the past few years.
2. SA’S ELECTION TO THE UN HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL
On Wednesday, 12 November 2013, South Africa, together with 14 other Member States of the UN, was elected to serve on the UN Human Rights Council (HRC).
The HRC is the UN’s inter-governmental body that deliberates on issues pertaining to the development, promotion, protection, and fulfilment of international human rights law, norms and standards.
South Africa had previously served on the erstwhile Commission for Human Rights, and played an active role in the reform processes of that body, which culminated in the creation of the Human Rights Council in 2006. South Africa is honoured to have served two consecutive terms as a Founding Member of the Council from 2006 to 2010.
As the HRC is a subsidiary body of the UN General Assembly, the elections for the new Members of the HRC - to replace the Member States whose term of office had expired - took place during the 51st Meeting of the 68th Session of the General Assembly, in New York. South Africa received an over-whelming 169 votes from a total of 193, reflecting the important role that our country plays in the development and shaping of the international human rights agenda.
South Africa’s term on the Geneva-based HRC begins on 01 January 2014. South Africa’s election to this auspicious body coincides with the country’s celebration of its 20th year of democracy and reaffirms our commitment to the achievement of human rights for all our citizens, the citizens of the Continent and the citizens of the world.
Our country is firmly committed to work towards the strengthening of the international human rights system, particularly through the democratic Government’s principled position which affirms the inextricability between economic, social and cultural rights on the one hand, and civil and political rights on the other.
South Africa has pledged to use its position within the Council to advance a rules-based, just and equitable human rights system that is dedicated to the respect for the promotion, protection and fulfilment of human rights, and to ensure that the UN human rights system affords maximum protection to victims of human rights violations.
3. MOZAMBIQUE, MADAGASCAR
The Mozambican Government and RENAMO have been involved in protracted peace talks that are designed to reach consensus on, among other issues, matters relating to the Electoral Package, which is exploring possibilities of striking parity between Government and RENAMO representatives in electoral bodies.
The talks started in December 2012 and, so far, after the 25th round (that should have been held on 28 October 2013), little progress has been made beyond the first item of the agenda related to the Electoral Package. This stalemate has led to an escalation of the tension, with RENAMO threatening to disrupt the municipal elections which are scheduled for 20 November 2013.
Instability in Mozambique could have a negative impact on regional stability.
President Zuma, during the Joint SADC-International Conference on the Great Lakes Region, held on 04 November 2013 in Pretoria, together with regional leaders, expressed concerns and strongly condemned the acts of violence perpetuated by RENAMO. President Zuma also criticised the Mozambican ex-rebel group RENAMO for spurning President Armando Guebuza’s invitation for face-to-face peace talks to end skirmishes currently rocking the country.
South Africa’s High Commission in Mozambique has assured South Africans who wish to travel to Mozambique that the southern and central areas are safe for travel. The Department urges all South African citizens who are travelling, working, living or studying in Mozambique to register on the ROSA system.
The first round of Presidential elections in the Republic of Madagascar took place on 25 October 2013. A total of 7 822 836 citizens registered on the voters roll had the opportunity to cast their votes at a total of 20 001 polling stations across 18 270 districts.
The provisional results were announced on 8 November 2013. The two candidates who received the highest percentages of the votes cast were Mr Jean Louis Robinson, who received 21.10%, and Mr. Hery Rajaonarimampianina, who received 15.93%. This means that these two candidates will contest the second round of Presidential elections on 20 December 2013. A voter turnout of 62% of the registered voters was achieved.
South Africa was encouraged by the peaceful manner in which the people of Madagascar conducted themselves during the elections. The Government of the Republic of South Africa wishes to call on all stakeholders and the people of the Republic of Madagascar to approach both the second round of the Presidential elections and the simultaneous Legislative elections on 20 December 2013 in the same constructive, calm and responsible manner in order to foster national unity, nation building, reconciliation and political tolerance in the interests of the greater good of the Malagasy nation.
South Africa also calls upon all political and other stakeholders in the Republic of Madagascar to demonstrate political maturity and political tolerance going into the second round of the Presidential and Legislative elections on 20 December 2013. This is a crucial period to successfully conclude the full implementation of the SADC Roadmap, restoring constitutional normalcy in Madagascar.
4. PRESIDENT’S UPCOMING INTERNATIONAL ENGAGEMENTS
President Jacob Zuma is scheduled to arrive in Sri Lanka today, 15 November 2013, where he will be leading the South African delegation to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM).
The theme for CHOGM is “Growth with Equity: Inclusive Development." The theme indicates the importance of equity in economic development and that inclusive development should provide opportunities to all members of society to contribute and benefit from it as it can promote progress and advance the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
It is expected that the Commonwealth Foreign Ministers and Heads of State would focus on how to make economic growth more inclusive and sustainable, including by sharing experiences in addressing these issues and forming beneficial partnerships.
CHOGM 2013 is taking place against the prominent international focus on the 2015 target date for achieving the MDGs and a number of initiatives examining the Post-2015 Development Agenda. Due to the diverse membership of the Commonwealth, this organisation has a special interest in both the MDGs and the Post-2015 Development Agenda
South Africa's position on the theme of CHOGM 2013 is underpinned by the Government's National Development Plan (NDP), which aims to eradicate poverty and inequality by 2030. Poverty eradication, addressing income inequalities and unemployment must remain the overarching objectives of the Development Agenda beyond 2015.
While South Africa welcomes efforts to consider the Post-2015 Development Agenda, South Africa is of the view that the key development priority remains the achievement of the MDGs in the remaining period. As was decided at CHOGM 2011, members need to work together to provide financial support to, and make the policy and institutional changes needed, for the acceleration of the achievement of the MDGs.
4.2. SA-Botswana BNC
President Zuma will on 21 November host His Excellency, President Seretse Khama Ian Khama, for the inaugural session of the Bi-national Commission between the Republic of South Africa and the Republic of Botswana. The meeting between President Zuma and President Khama will be preceded by meetings at Ministerial and Senior Official levels.
The objective of the visit is to strengthen and deepen the existing historical and fraternal relations that exist between South Africa and Botswana. This meeting marks the first session of the Bi-national Commission with the Republic of Botswana and follows from the signing of the Agreement establishing the BNC during the Presidents State Visit to Botswana in August 2012. The BNC now elevates relations between South Africa and Botswana to a higher level.
South Africa remains one of the major trading partners of Botswana. Botswana imports many of its commodities from South Africa. There is a large presence of the South African companies in Botswana which are involved in various sectors such as housing, food and beverages, construction, retail, hotels and leisure, banking, medical services, etc. These companies continue to contribute to the growth and development of the Botswana economy.
4.3. State Visit to Ghana
At the invitation of the President of the Republic of Ghana, H.E. John Mahama, President Zuma will pay a State Visit to Ghana from 26-27 November 2013. This will be President Zuma’s first State Visit to Ghana since becoming the President of the Republic of South Africa.
In 2011, President Zuma invited the late President of the Republic of Ghana, Professor John Evans Mills, on a State Visit to South Africa. The highlight of the visit was the signing of seven Agreements/Memorandum of Understanding (MoU).
It is envisaged that three MoUs will be signed during this visit, namely: MoU on Transport Related Matters; Bilateral Air Service Agreement (BASA) and the MoU on Electricity. The SA-Ghana Business Forum will take place on the margins of the State Visit. A delegation of 150 – 200 business people from SA are expected to attend.
ISSUED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND COOPERATION
OR Tambo Building
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