Remarks by L N Sisulu, Minister of International Relations and cooperation on the occasion of the DIRCO media engagement
19 February 2019
Deputy Minister Landers
DIRCO senior officials
Members of the media
Introduction: RSA General elections
1. This morning we hosted our Quarterly engagement with members of the Diplomatic Corps, this is in-line with our commitment to keep the Diplomatic Corps informed of all important policy directions and events in the country. This engagement was important because it is the last one before our national elections scheduled for May the 8th. We also invited the IEC and the Diplomatic Police to join our engagement this morning to ensure that any questions that needed to be answered are attended to. The briefing touched on a number of issues, some of them l will touch on here this morning. We covered the coming elections as l said, report from the AU Summit, our priorities in the United Nations Security Council, challenges at ESKOM and measures being put in place to address those challenges, and other key developments in the country. As usual our engagement is frank, honest and designed to share information and also to share experiences from their own countries.
South Africans voting abroad
2. I met with the IEC commissioners led by the Chairperson and the CEO and the team from the Department. They both briefed me on the logistics and the legal requirements expected of our Missions abroad to provide infrastructure to support the IEC for South Africans abroad to register, verify their names on the voters roll and also vote. Voter registration went very well. l have directed all Heads of Missions and Consular Generals to ensure that the IEC is given all necessary support for South Africans to exercise their rights.
3. I must also use this opportunity to indicate that we have also just finalised a new cohort of diplomats who are increasing the necessary capacity in all our Missions. Over 60 young, dynamic career diplomats from DIRCO will join our Missions across the world. These are not Ambassadors or Consular Generals but diplomats who will strengthen our capacity in all our Missions to lead the coordination of the President’s vision of mobilising investments from across the world. By the end of March 2019 most of them would have arrived at their Missions and that will also increase capacity to assist with the elections duties. In June this year we will send another team of diplomats to strengthen our capacity in Missions on trade, political work, consular services and visa management.
32nd AU Summit
4. We have just come back from the successful 32nd Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the Heads of State and Government of the African Union (AU). There were a number of issues on the agenda of the AU Summit. These included Peace and Security on the Continent and an update on the developments related to the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) with South Africa submitting its Instrument of Ratification of the Agreement on the latter.
5. Key Decisions of the 32nd AU Summit included that the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) shall be an Organ of the Africa Union. The Summit welcomed the Africa Governance Report developed by the APRM. The report will enable African states to enhance good governance and share best practices at both country and continental levels. Member States were urged to develop national governance reports as a self-assessment tool for promoting good governance in line with the recommendations of the APRM Report.
6. The 32nd AU Summit also took decisions on a number of issues such as the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), institutional reform of the AU, post-2020 partnership with the European Union (EU), the election of the Bureau of the Assembly of the African Union for 2019, reform of the United Nations Security Council and the establishment of a continental operational centre in Khartoum for combating irregular migration.
7. We wish well the new Chairperson of the AU, HE President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, the Chairperson of the AU for 2019.
8. As you know South Africa was elected by all Member States as Chairperson for 2020 and as First Vice President for 2019. We have said that South Africa being a member of the UN Security Council at the same time will take this opportunity to push for the implementation of the AU agenda to ‘Silence the Guns by 2020’ and also to address the plight of women and children in conflict areas. Our President is passionate about empowering young people and the importance of peace and stability as a catalyst for infrastructure development and economic growth. During this time we will work to achieve all this with SADC and the Continent.
World Economic Forum, Davos, Switzerland
9. Before departing for Davos President Ramaphosa hosted a breakfast with all stakeholders to outline his priorities for the visit. He indicated that he is going to Davos to say to the world that “South Africa is open for business” and that message was communicated to business and different world leaders attending the annual event. The President engaged with CEOs whose companies are invested in South Africa, he also met with the Presidents of Brazil, Botswana and Rwanda. The meeting with the President of Brazil was particularly significant as he is the incoming Chair of BRICS, and President Ramaphosa is the outgoing Chair of BRICS. They exchanged notes on key issues affecting and requiring attention of BRICS members. I must indicate at this stage that all BRICS members have received a schedule of BRICS meetings for 2019; all meetings, these include meetings of offices, Ministerial and the Heads of State Summits. This a clear commitment of Brazil to BRICS.
State visit to India and Celebrations of Republic Day
10. From Davos the President travelled to India for a State visit and as Chief Guest of India on Republic Day. This invitation demonstrates our good and historic diplomatic and trade relations with India. The Republic Day was a beautiful event which fosters national pride and patriotism. The President also travelled with a business delegation. At the end of the business meetings it was agreed that DENEL will again trade in India, that SAA will finalise all logistics to again have a direct route to India among key trade and investments decisions. The Minister of Trade and Industry did outline in his statement key decisions from the business meetings.
Mozambique working visit
11. The President also travelled to Mozambique early this year on a one-day working visit to discuss bilateral, SADC, regional issues and international developments. After the meeting a joint communiqué was issued; it is on our website and it details all the engagements and all the decisions.
Elections on the African Continent
12. We pride ourselves as the SADC region and African Continent for holding regular general elections in which our people choose their leaders and governments. While there are still a few pockets of challenges in various countries, I believe we are making strides towards greater democratisation. In 2018 we witnessed a sizeable number of countries going through elections. These included amongst others, Zimbabwe, the DRC, Cameroon, Gabon, Mali and Madagascar where South Africa were integrally involved in ensuring that there was a free and fair election. This year we have a number of countries that will hold elections. These include ourselves, Botswana, Benin, Algeria and Nigeria.
13. Again we must congratulate the people of the DRC for a peaceful transition of power. As you know South Africa is a good friend of the DRC for many years, we have our soldiers there and we continue to work with them to deepen democracy and to support them to develop all necessary government infrastructure. l must say this to you, that the DRC has the potential to lift the SADC region and African continent out of poverty. Its mineral deposits, its fertile soil and its location in the Continent make the DRC a critical catalyst for industrialisation, mining and provision of energy. We are very proud of the people of the DRC and we wish them well.
14. President Ramaphosa met with President Tshisekedi on the sidelines of the AU Summit to reassure them of our full support as they build their country. We also call on our business people to explore opportunities there. l will also be visiting the DRC in the near future to meet my counterpart to discuss how we can assist them to achieve all their goals. We believe South African businesses, with their modern technology and systems have a lot to offer in the SADC region and the Continent, and they must spread their wings. The SADC region and the Continent are open for business. We challenge businesspeople to take advantage of the African Continental Free Trade Area, the peaceful atmosphere on the Continent region and the growing infrastructure which makes it easier to trade and manage logistics. We live in the best of time for business.
15. I must start by wishing Vice President Chiwenga a speedy recovery. I am informed by our High Commissioner in Harare that he travelled to India for medical attention.
16. We have noted developments in Harare following the recent protests, we have also noted all decisions taken by President Mnangangwa. We remain available to support the Zimbabwe Government and its people whenever they need us. We are neighbors and the ties that bind us are very deep.
17. We are preparing for a Bi-national meeting with Zimbabwe on March 12, 2019, our President will lead the delegation to Harare, l thought by now sanctions imposed on the Zimbabwe Government and its people would be lifted to enable the country to start afresh after all the challenges they have gone through. We call on the EU and particularly the United Kingdom (UK) to give the Government and the people of Zimbabwe a chance to change their situation by urgently lifting the sanctions. Without lifting the sanctions the Government of Zimbabwe will never be able to address its economic challenges, and this is compromising the political gains achieved since the coming in of the new President.
18. Last year the Heads of States and Governments of the South African Development Committee (SADC) resolved to hold the Solidarity Conference for Western Sahara, which remains the last colony on the African continent. We are pleased to confirm that South Africa and Namibia will jointly host this SADC conference from 25-26 March 2019 here at the OR Tambo Building. Deputy Minister Landers is working with SADC and the Namibia Government is leading our logistics team and all the preparations.
SADC facilitation process in the Kingdom of Lesotho
19. Since the SADC Facilitation Team under Retired Deputy Chief Justice Moseneke commenced with the facilitation process in July 2018, the reform process in the Kingdom of Lesotho has been progressing smoothly. The reform process is aimed at addressing constitutional reform, the security sector, legislative and public sector.
20. The Facilitation Team has conducted numerous meetings with Basotho stakeholders and all the stakeholders are on board and have pledged their full commitment to the reforms. A second multi-stakeholder national dialogue is scheduled for 20 to 22 February 2019. Deputy Minister Mhaule is busy with this important assignment.
21. It bears noting that SADC gave Lesotho the deadline of May 2019 to conclude the constitutional and security sector reforms; we expect the deadline to be met.
United Nations Security Council
22. Since taking our seat on January 1st of this year as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council we have done very well considering the number of key hot-spot issues that the Security Council has dealt with in recent weeks, including the situation in the DRC and Venezuela.
23. The rotational Presidency of the Security Council for the month of February is held by Equatorial Guinea and as part of their programme of work, Equatorial Guinea had scheduled a high-level Presidential debate held on 4th February on “Threats to international peace and security: Impact of mercenary groups on regional peace and stability”. South Africa in the debate reiterated our firm commitment to working with fellow African states and Security Council members to address the challenge of mercenary activities and its negative impact on peace and stability, both regionally and internationally.
24. Some of our priorities in the United Nations Security Council include strengthening efforts aimed at achieving peace and security in the world and respect for international law and rule of law at both domestic and international levels. Democracy means that citizens must choose their government, It is mainly for these reasons that we have called on the people of Venezuela to be given space to resolve their challenges. I receive daily reports from our Mission in Venezuela on this matter.
25. With regard to Iraq, we have noted with concern a report by the Secretary General of the United Nations which paints a bleak picture about increased violence against women and children in the country. We call on all UN member states to rally behind the efforts of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq and the UN Children’s Fund. This will go a long way in addressing the immediate needs of women and children in Iraq.
26. We also welcome a call by the UN envoy to Iraq, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert for an end of political infighting in the country. The political infighting in Iraq has denied its citizens peace and stability. We believe that the time has come for all parties concerned to put their differences aside for the interests of the Iraqi people.
27. Firstly on behalf of the South African Government l would like to convey our condolences to the Hanekom family. Our High Commissioner in Maputo is seized with this matter, he is in contact with the late Mr Hanekom’s wife and family
South African citizens arrested in China and across the world for VISA violations
28. It is of concern that some South African citizens continue to find themselves in conflict with the law in the People’s Republic of China despite DIRCO’s repeated appeals that all persons traveling to China or any other country must ensure that they obtain legitimate and correct documentation. We are aware that there are still a small number of South Africans remaining in detention in China.
29. DIRCO remains in contact with the Chinese authorities in an effort to find a solution to the current challenge and to encourage the Chinese authorities to take harsh action against those involved in the defrauding and misleading of young South Africans who seek to travel to China. We have noted recent arrests of some agents in China and we are monitoring the cases.
30. It is encouraging that the Travel Smart Campaign launched by DIRCO in 2018 is yielding positive results. More and more South Africans are heeding the message that we wanted to spread through the campaign; which is that South Africans must travel on valid documents, not engage in any illegal activities, respect the laws of the countries they are visiting and make contact with South African diplomatic missions in the countries they are travelling to. We have the contact details of all our diplomatic missions on the DIRCO website.
Update on MTN staff in Uganda
31. We have received a number of calls and enquiries about the situation of MTN in Uganda. We are aware of the deportation of the MTN executives by the Uganda Government, and we are engaging our Ugandan counterparts through diplomatic channels. Uganda and South Africa have good diplomatic and trade ties, a number of South African companies are operating there. We will continue to monitor this situation and to engage with the Ugandan Government.
32. We are encouraged by the wave of democratisation, commitment to peace and institutions of democracy and government in the SADC region and the Continent. South Africa believes strongly that we must focus our attention in ensuring that we silence the guns, that we have regular elections and peaceful transitions on the Continent. Peace and stability is a catalyst for infrastructure and economic development; we will continue through our work in SADC, the AU, the UN and UNSC to work with all partners to achieve peace and stability.
ISSUED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND COOPERATION
OR Tambo Building
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