Statement by the Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, H.E. Ms Maite Nkoana-Mashabane on the occasion of the Media Briefing on International Developments, DIRCO, OR Tambo Building, Pretoria, 15 May 2015

Good morning ladies and gentlemen of the media,

We invited you today so that we may share information on a number of issues pertinent to the implementation of our foreign policy vision, which is to contribute towards “an African Continent which is prosperous peaceful, democratic, non-racial, non-sexist and united, and which contributes to a world that is just and equitable.”

In particular, we will focus on:

(1) the situation in Burundi;

(2) our recent visit to the Islamic Republic of Iran, where we took part in very successful 12th Meeting of the Iran-South Africa Joint Commission held in Tehran on 10 and 11 May 2015; and

(3) the status of our preparations to host the mid-year Summit of the African Union.

1. SITUATION IN BURUNDI

The South African Government has noted with concern the recent attempt to seize power through unconstitutional means in the Republic of Burundi. South Africa condemns in the strongest possible terms any attempt to change a democratically elected government through unconstitutional means.

South Africa reaffirms its support for the African Union’s principle rejection of unconstitutional change of Government and its commitment to the rule of law and democratic processes and institutions, as enshrined in the Constitutive Act and the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance.  

It is unfortunate that this event happened on the day that the regional leadership of the East African Community was meeting to discuss the political and security challenges facing the sister Republic of Burundi.  

South Africa expresses its full support to the efforts of the leaders of the East African Community and the African Union aimed at assisting the Republic of Burundi to return to constitutional order.

South Africa regrets the loss of life and appeals to all the Burundian stakeholders to resolve their differences through dialogue and peaceful means within the framework of the country’s constitution and in the spirit of the Arusha Peace and Reconciliation Agreement.

South Africa as a country that played a critical role in the Burundi Peace Process will remain seized with the situation and lend her support to the efforts of the East African Community.

2. IRAN-SA JOINT COMMISSION

Regarding the 12th Session of the Iran-South Africa Joint Commission, we are happy to share with you that this was one of the most successful bilateral engagements, which culminated in the adoption of a Joint Communiqué that outlines specific, practical steps that the two countries have agreed to undertake in order to deepen our political, diplomatic, trade and investment ties.

The South African delegation at the 12th Iran-South Africa Joint Commission was the biggest and strongest to ever visit the Islamic Republic of Iran. The delegation included the Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry, over 40 senior government officials, 60 members of the business community and three Members of Parliament. 

The Joint Commission made a commitment to ensure implementation of all agreements between South Africa and Iran. Seven working groups identified a wide but focused range of key areas of future cooperation. We have set out deliverable projects and programmes that are time-bound and outcomes-based. Among these are initiatives in education, energy, health, investment, mining, transport, agriculture, science and technology.

Apart from the implementation of existing bilateral agreements, we also took advantage of the Joint Commission to discuss a range of developments internationally and in our respective regions, including reform of global institutions of governance. We also discussed developments relating to the political agreement recently reached in the nuclear talks as well as the conflict in Yemen.

Regarding the nuclear talks, we reiterated our position that Iran has an inalienable right to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, in line with the provisions of the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty (NPT). South Africa has the rare distinction of having acquired nuclear weapons and then voluntarily dismantling them.

Like Iran, South Africa firmly believes that the Middle East should be made a Nuclear Weapons Free Zone, as we have done in Africa with the Pelindaba Treaty. In this regard, the South African government will continue to encourage and support Iran as it works towards a comprehensive agreement in the nuclear talks.  We hope that the final outcome will be fair and just to the people of Iran, and that the sanctions will be lifted without delay.

Regarding the conflict in Yemen, South Africa joins the Secretary-General of the UN in expressing our grave concern about the fate of civilians in the conflict and disturbing humanitarian situation. We are calling for an immediate ceasefire and a political solution by facilitating and promoting an inclusive Yemeni-led dialogue towards the establishment of a broad-based unity government. 

South Africa is appreciative of the constructive role that Iran continues to play in international organizations and, in particular, its role as current Chair of the Non Alignment Movement (NAM), where it has made able use of its leadership to actively champion the cause of developing countries.

We are making available the full Joint Communiqué for your reference.

Communiqué of the 12th Joint Commission between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Republic of South Africa, Tehran, 10-11 May 2015 (20-21 Ordibehesht 1394)

3. AFRICAN UNION SUMMIT

South Africa will host the African Union Summit in June 2015 in terms of a decision of the AU Assembly of Heads of State and Government adopted at its meeting in Addis Ababa in January. As you are aware, this will be the second time that South Africa has the honour to host an AU Summit. You will recall that we hosted the inaugural summit of the AU in the year 2002. 

The June 2015 Summit will maintain the theme of the January 2015 Summit, which is: “Year of Women Empowerment and Development towards Africa’s Agenda 2063”.

The Republic of Zimbabwe, as chair of the African Union for 2015, will chair the Summit and its related meetings.

AU Summits are held in a particular systematic order, starting with the Meeting of the Permanent Representatives’ Committee (these are Ambassadors accredited to the AU in Addis Ababa), followed by the Meeting of the Executive Council (which is comprised of Ministers of Foreign Affairs or International Relations), culminating into the Assembly of Heads of State. Thus, the African Union Summit week will take place from 07 to 16 June 2015.

An Inter-Ministerial Committee has been set up and is overseeing preparations for our hosting of this important meeting of the African Union. Several national government departments have come together and meet on a regular basis to ensure that all logistical arrangements are in place for the summit. We are engaging the AU Commission on all the arrangements for the summit, and we are confident that the summit will be a success. 

Substantively, the Summit will focus on the implementation of a number of decisions taken at the January 2015 Summit, which relate to:

  • Agenda 2063 and its First Ten Years Implementation Plan
  • State of Continental Peace and Security, including terrorism
  • Women’s Empowerment and Development
  • Alternative Sources of Funding the African Union
  • Continental integration and
  • Operationalising the African Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (ACDCP) by 2015

I wish to remind you that in 2013, the African continent marked 50 years since the founding of the Organisation of African Unity. The struggle for liberation and the sacrifices made by countries and peoples of Africa were also commemorated on that occasion. A need to develop and realise a new vision for the Africa we want, the African Union Agenda 2063 was adopted.

In conclusion, we welcome the passage of the Bill to renew the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) by the US Senate with South Africa being included. We have noted that the Bill is extended for a further 10 years as opposed to our initial request of 15 years. We have further noted certain provisions in the Bill that affect countries that are eligible for AGOA, including the specific mention of South Africa, which we are currently studying and working on.

I thank you.

ISSUED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND COOPERATION

OR Tambo Building
460 Soutpansberg Road
Rietondale
Pretoria
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