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 October 2019

At the outset, South Africa wishes to reiterate its unequivocal and strong support for the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO). This Mission, as its name denotes, was created almost 30 years ago with a mandate to hold a referendum to allow the people of Western Sahara to exercise their right to self-determination. We lament the fact that this referendum has unfortunately not occurred depriving the people of the territory this universally accepted right.


Once again, South Africa wishes to commend the political process, which was facilitated by the Secretary-General’s good offices through his former Personal Envoy, Mr Horst Köhler as well as the efforts of the Special Representative and Head of MINURSO, Mr Collin Stewart. A new Personal Envoy should be appointed as soon as possible to continue this process.


Although the resolution that has been voted upon 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) as they are referred to as a Member State of the African Union, represented by the Frente Polisario, in the political process. Both the parties are Member States of the African Union.

(ii) We note that once again terms such as “realistic”, “realism” and “compromise”, are being used in the resolution. These references are an attempt to undermine the principle of self-determination for the people of Western Sahara, which as has been established by numerous United Nations General Assembly and Security Council resolutions as relevant to the situation in the Western Sahara.  This Council must reaffirm its long-standing and unequivocal commitment to the right to self-determination for the people of Western Sahara in an unqualified manner.


South Africa would have preferred a six-month mandate for MINURSO, which we believe will allow the Council to regularly meet to consider progress on the appointment of the Personal Envoy and the resuscitation of the political process.  The arguments put forward for the Council to meet regularly on items on its agenda, should also hold for the situation in Western Sahara. Western Sahara should not be treated differently to other issues on the Council’s agenda and we should not allow for ‘an out sight out of mind’ approach to this matter.


South Africa welcomes references to human rights in preambular paragraphs 17 to 20, however, we wish to reiterate that there is a need for a formal human rights mandate to strengthen the monitoring of possible human rights violations on all sides.

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


We wish to reiterate again that the Council’s working methods on this matter, whereby it delegates responsibility to the Group of Friends remains of serious concern to 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.

The substantive concerns that we have raised regarding the text could have and should have been raised in negotiations on the text.  However, despite being elected by the General Assembly to serve on and participate in the work of Security Council, we have not been given this opportunity. This process of providing Council members that are not members of the Group of Friends a text with a ‘take it or leave it’ approach is not sustainable and does not allow us an opportunity to carry out our mandate.


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.

Given our concerns and in considering this text before us, while the draft resolution 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 former Personal Envoy of the Secretary-General, South Africa is not able to vote in favour of the text and will thus abstain.

I thank you.


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