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In­ter­na­tional Re­la­tions and Co­op­er­a­tion Min­is­ter Maite Nkoana-Masha­bane has de­fended her con­tro­ver­sial in­ter­view with Al Jazeera this week, dur­ing which she be­came angry with the in­ter­viewer and strangely stated that she had a hole in her head. Nkoana-Masha­bane be­came the butt of many jokes af­ter the in­ter­view was aired, in which she sug­gested Al Jazeera jour­nal­ist Jane Dut­ton was not qual­i­fied to ask her ques­tions be­cause she had not suf­fered through the same ex­pe­ri­ences as her­self, a black woman. Dut­ton is a South African.

In an in­ter­view with City Press, the min­is­ter in­sisted that she only re­acted to the pre­sen­ter, who was “com­bat­ive”. She also said she re­acted that way be­cause Dut­ton had not asked ques­tions that she had ex­pected and had “sounded like a mem­ber of the op­po­si­tion party”.

She said Dut­ton spoke like some­one who did not un­der­stand how black South Africans had lived.

“We were on a state visit with the pres­i­dent and I was in­formed that the in­ter­view would be about our visit to Qatar, and about our pri­or­i­ties for the visit. But noth­ing we had been pre­pared to talk about was forth­com­ing,” she said.

When asked why she spent so much time speak­ing about her­self rather than about for­eign af­fairs is­sues, NkoanaMasha­bane said she was de­fend­ing the coun­try.

“I am a diplo­mat and one of the re­spon­si­bil­i­ties is to de­fend your coun­try. So when I was asked ques­tions such as when is the pres­i­dent re­sign­ing, I was like: ‘How do I go all the way to Qatar to talk about the res­ig­na­tion of a leader?’”

She said that the ques­tions were com­bat­ive and dis­mis­sive of ev­ery­thing gov­ern­ment had done.

“I think, as a jour­nal­ist, [Dut­ton] could have been more pro­fes­sional and asked ques­tions in a pro­fes­sional man­ner. She in­ter­jected all the time and I kept ask­ing her to al­low me to fin­ish my an­swers.”

How­ever, Dut­ton told City Press that hardly any­one can de­scribe her tone as com­bat­ive.

“If any­thing, I was soft on the min­is­ter, giv­ing her a plat­form to my very broad ques­tions around cur­rent af­fairs in South Africa.

“Noth­ing I asked could be de­scribed as tricky or un­ex­pected. One must as­sume that as a high-pro­file min­is­ter who rep­re­sents the coun­try on the in­ter­na­tional stage, she would be pre­pared for any line of ques­tion­ing.”

Dut­ton added that the min­is­ter did not raise any con­cerns af­ter the in­ter­view.

Nkoana-Masha­bane, who said she had watched the video of the in­ter­view, said Al Jazeera had apol­o­gised to the South African am­bas­sador in Qatar for ask­ing a South African to in­ter­view her.

Mean­while, Nkoana-Masha­bane told City Press that gov­ern­ment was still look­ing to leave the In­ter­na­tional Crim­i­nal Court (ICC).

The ANC made a de­ci­sion at its na­tional gen­eral coun­cil meet­ing last year that gov­ern­ment should be­gin the process of with­draw­ing from the ICC be­cause it be­lieves the ICC had lost di­rec­tion.

Last year, the North Gaut­eng High Court or­dered the South African gov­ern­ment to ar­rest Su­danese Pres­i­dent Omar alBashir when he was in Jo­han­nes­burg for an African Union sum­mit, but he was able to leave the coun­try.

The court ruled that gov­ern­ment had acted un­con­sti­tu­tion­ally when it did not ar­rest him.

“When we joined the ICC, we had high hopes that it would do away with im­punity and dic­ta­tor­ships, but I was per­son­ally dis­ap­pointed,” Nkoana-Masha­bane said.

She was dis­ap­pointed when she at­tended an an­nual meet­ing in Geneva to as­sess the Rome Statute to find that only 10 min­is­ters out of 122 mem­ber states turned up for the meet­ing.

“There was not a sin­gle mem­ber from the West­ern states. This means there is no re­view of the Rome Statute.”

South Africa had not yet with­drawn from the ICC be­cause “there are many other African coun­tries that want us to co­or­di­nate with them”.

She said hu­man rights cases re­ported to the ICC re­gard­ing Is­rael and Afghanistan had not been in­ves­ti­gated. “But with Africans, they re­ally be­come overzeal­ous.” Al-Bashir re­cently at­tended the in­au­gu­ra­tion of Ugan­dan Pres­i­dent Yow­eri Mu­sev­eni and was not ar­rested, de­spite the coun­try be­ing a mem­ber of the ICC.

As her parting shot, Nkoana-Masha­bane told City Press: “I am very sweet if you want me to be sweet. If you fight, you will also find the ac­tivist in me.”


DE­FEN­SIVE Min­is­ter Maite Nkoana-Masha­bane ex­plains her ag­gres­sive ap­pear­ance on Al Jazeera

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