Opening Remarks by Hon. Lindiwe Sisulu on the occasion of the Signing Ceremony of the MoU on Technical Assistance and Exchange of Notes on the Humanitarian Assistance to the Saharawi Democratic Arab Republic (Western Sahara), 29 March 2018, Pretoria
Minister of Cooperation, Hon Bulahi Siid
Ambassador Radhi Bachir, representative of the Saharawi Democratic Arab Republic
The Dean of the Diplomatic Corps, Ambassador Mpoko
Your Excellencies, Ambassadors, High Commissioners and Consul-Generals,
Members of the media
Senior government officials,
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,
Honourable Bulani Siid, I would like to welcome you here today and to extend to you and the people of Western Sahara the greetings and warm wishes of the Government and the people of South Africa.
We are here today to sign a Memoranda of Understanding between the Government of South Africa and the Sahrawi Democratic Arab Republic, which has as its objective the provision of humanitarian and technical assistance to the people of Western Sahara.
South Africa’s long-standing solidarity with the people of Western Sahara is borne out of our own history of fighting Apartheid and our firm belief in the right to self-determination of people living under foreign or colonial occupation.
It is a matter of serious concern that Western Sahara remains the last colony on the African continent, listed as a non-self-governing territory by the United Nations. This is despite the fact that the United Nations General Assembly has consistently recognized the inalienable rights of the Sahrawi people to self-determination and independence, and continues to call for the exercise of that right.
The people of Western Sahara have been waiting for decades to exercise their right to self-determination and enjoy their freedoms as other nations around the world do. To think that there are people who were born in refugee camps and who are over 40 years, who have never tasted any freedom is a strong indictment on all of us as international community, as we must ask ourselves - how could we have allowed this situation to continue for so long?
South Africa remains duty bound not to act with indifference to the plight of those who are appealing for decolonization, independence, statehood and human rights. The aspirations of an inalienable right for self-determination are not an unreasonable demand.
Thus, guided by our constitutional values and based on international legal principles, South Africa’s solidarity with the Sahrawi people remains unshaken.
Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Our support for the right to self-determination for Africa’s last colony is based on the following policy principles:
- The principles of multilateralism and international legality in seeking a just, lasting and mutually acceptable political solution, which will provide for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara.
- The centrality of the African Union and United Nations in the resolution of the conflict.
- The Constitutive Act of the African Union, in particular the principle of the sanctity of inherited colonial borders in Africa and the right of peoples of former colonial territories to self-determination and independence.
- Respect of international human rights law in the occupied territories, notably the right to freedom of association, assembly, movement and expression.
- Respect of international humanitarian law and support for the provision of humanitarian assistance to the Saharawi refugees in a way that is predictable, sustainable and timely.
- An end to the illegal exploration and exploitation of the natural resources of Western Sahara in the illegally occupied territory and the discouragement of the involvement of foreign companies in such activities.
The United Nations Security Council will be meeting next month to consider the renewal of the mandate for the UN Mission (MINURSO). We urge the UN Security Council to support efforts leading to a political solution on the question of Western Sahara and to ensure that the UN Mission is finally able to conduct the referendum on self-determination that it is mandated to facilitate.
We also support the call of the 30th African Union Summit held in Addis Ababa in January 2018, where the African Heads of State and Government called for the re-launching of the negotiation process between Morocco and the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic with a view of reaching a durable solution, consistent with the letter and spirit of the relevant OAU/AU decisions and UN resolutions.
It is in this context that working with partners in SADC, the Continent as well as with the international community, we expect to hold a SADC Solidarity Conference this year as per the resolution of the 37th SADC Summit held in Pretoria in August 2017.
On a bilateral level we will continue to seek ways and means to strengthen our diplomatic engagement with both Western Sahara and Morocco towards a lasting peaceful solution consistent with the AU Roadmap and the UN resolutions.
It is in this spirit that we trust that the technical assistance and humanitarian support from our Government as provided for in the Memorandum of Understanding will assist in providing emergency shelter, provision of nutrition, medical care, child protection and education in the refugee camps in Western Sahara.
Our support for your just and noble cause towards self-determination is thus not only historical and moral but also practical.
As we mark, through year-long celebrations this year, the Centenary of President Mandela, we reiterate his words at the OAU Summit in Yaounde in 1996, held, where he stated “Once more, we pledge our solidarity with the people of the Saharawi Democratic Republic in their efforts to achieve the freedom and self-determination that are rightfully theirs.”
We repeat his pledge here today. We, as the international community should strive to fulfil the values and principles that Madiba stood for.
I thank you.
ISSUED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND COOPERATION
OR Tambo Building
460 Soutpansberg Road