Explanation of Vote by Ambassador Jerry Matjila, Permanent Representative of South Africa to the United Nations, during the Security Council Mandate renewal of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) 30 April 2019

Mr President,

South Africa wishes to reiterate its unequivocal and strong support for the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) and the renewal of its mandate today for a period of six-months until 31 October 2019.

We recall that MINURSO was primarily created to facilitate the holding of a referendum in Western Sahara to enable its people to realise their right to self-determination.

We also wish to emphasise our firm support for the political process facilitated by the Secretary-General’s good offices through his Personal Envoy, Mr Horst Köhler. We express our appreciation for the work he is undertaking as well as the efforts of the Special Representative and Head of MINURSO, Mr Collin Stewart.

The role of the Security Council in supporting the Personal Envoy and the SRSG in the discharge of their respective mandates is critical in seeking a solution to the situation in Western Sahara.

Mr President,

Although this resolution contains numerous paragraphs with which South Africa can agree, there remain several elements of concern to our delegation. These include the following:

(i) The current text as it stands is not balanced, and it does not provide a true reflection of the efforts undertaken by the two parties, Morocco and the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), which are both Member States of the African Union. The mandate as approved tends to favour one party over the other, which is not conducive to a neutral political process.

(ii) The use of terms such as “realistic” and “realism” as well as additional references to “compromise”, are of concern to us. It is unclear as to what is meant by these terms as the principle of self-determination for the people of Western Sahara is well established by numerous United Nations General Assembly and Security Council resolutions.  We should not in any way be diluting this principle through unclear and ambiguous language. This Council must reaffirm its commitment to the right to self-determination for the people of Western Sahara in an unqualified manner.

(iii) The resolution should not try to unduly influence the direction of the political process nor should it try to pre-empt any final status of the negotiations. 

(iv) South Africa regrets that this Council continues to resist a human rights monitoring mandate for MINURSO. This is despite the fact that many around this table eagerly propose such mechanisms in other mandates. We have not seen the same vigour in terms of MINURSO thus creating the impression that the human rights of the people of Western Sahara are not held in the same regard as those of others. This lack of consistency undermines our credibility.

Lastly we wish to note that the text must differentiate between the parties to the conflict, which are Morocco and the Frente Polisario, and neighbouring states, Algeria and Mauritania.

Mr President,

We wish to reiterate that the Council’s working methods on this matter, whereby it delegates responsibility to the Group of Friends remains a serious point of concern for South Africa. We have consistently raised this issue as problematic, particularly the unrepresentative nature of this Group, which does not include a single African Member of the Council, despite this being an African issue.

This is again an example of an African issue being decided by those that are not from the Continent.

Mr President,

South Africa wishes to reiterate our principled position on the situation in the Western Sahara, which remains the last colony on the African continent, listed as a non-self-governing territory by the United Nations.  Our own national experience has taught us the value of international solidarity, which brought down the repressive system of apartheid. In the same respect, it is international solidarity that will realise the foremost aspiration of the people of Western Sahara, which is to be independent and free. It is for this reason that the Southern African Development Community (SADC) recently hosted a Solidarity Conference with Western Sahara.

As long as the Sahrawi people do not enjoy their basic right to self-determination, they are denied the opportunity to develop, prosper and enjoy a brighter future. People that continue to live with uncertainty either living under colonialism or in refugee camps are severely disadvantaged.

The Security Council must take up its responsibility and ensure that through a neutral balanced approach, it assists the parties in moving towards a mutually acceptable negotiated settlement.

Mr President,

In considering this text before us, South Africa seriously considered not supporting the resolution.

As we have stated, the draft resolutions on MINURSO continue to be dealt with in an opaque and non-inclusive manner. Council members are not provided adequate time and opportunity to meaningfully negotiate the text. This prevents Council members from effectively exercising the mandate entrusted to us by the General Assembly to contribute to the maintenance of international peace and security.

Significantly though, the draft before us does renew the mandate of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) and endorses the political process embarked upon by the Personal Envoy of the Secretary-General.

I thank you.

ISSUED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND COOPERATION

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