SA on the global stage for peace and hu­man rights

Min­is­ter of In­ter­na­tional Re­la­tions and Co-oper­a­tion Lindiwe Sisulu talks to about South Africa’s for­eign pol­icy pri­or­i­ties fol­low­ing her bud­get de­bate in Par­lia­ment this week

The Mercury - - NEWS - Is less fo­cused on the Brics part­ner­ship than the pre­vi­ous ad­min­is­tra­tion. Is there any truth to this?

Q: IF SOUTH Africa suc­ceeds in get­ting a seat as a non­per­ma­nent mem­ber of the UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil, what is­sues would South Africa like to pri­ori­tise on the coun­cil?

A:

I would like to pref­ace my answer by say­ing that we will not be rep­re­sent­ing South Africa, we will be rep­re­sent­ing the con­ti­nent. We go on be­half of the con­ti­nent and we have been man­dated and sup­ported by the con­ti­nent.

What we bring to the ta­ble is our ex­pe­ri­ence and our con­cerns about how we re­solve what we con­sider boil­ing points. We are cur­rently the chair of the SADC so we would want to start with the is­sues that con­cern the SADC the most.

As a coun­try we are re­ally con­cerned about the sit­u­a­tion in the Mid­dle East, so we would like to pri­ori­tise the Mid­dle East as that, for us, is the next big­gest break­down of the en­tire global sys­tem.

US am­bas­sador to the UN Nikki Ha­ley has said that the top 10 coun­tries least likely to vote with the US at the UN (which in­cludes South Africa) will have their aid cut. What is your re­sponse to these types of US threats?

The US has got to find a way of ne­go­ti­at­ing more than is­su­ing threats – it is not the most con­ducive way in which we con­duct in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions be­cause peo­ple vote for var­i­ous rea­sons, and a pu­ni­tive mea­sure taken against them does not solve the world’s prob­lems.

We have on oc­ca­sion voted against the US when we felt we did not agree with a par­tic­u­lar pol­icy and we voted against them on the Iraq sit­u­a­tion a long time ago and we have been proved to be cor­rect.

I haven’t had the op­por­tu­nity to in­ter­act with my coun­ter­part and share my views and to find out why they would come up with such a threat, how they in­tend to mon­i­tor votes, and why they have taken such a stri­dent po­si­tion.

Some mem­bers of the me­dia have sug­gested that the Ramaphosa ad­min­is­tra­tion is at­tempt­ing to strengthen re­la­tions with the West and

There is no truth to that at all. One of the rea­sons why the pres­i­dent is reach­ing out to ev­ery­body is pre­cisely be­cause he is con­cerned about the econ­omy and the job­less­ness of our youth. A sta­ble econ­omy cre­ates a sta­ble en­vi­ron­ment within which our poli­cies can reach max­i­mum ben­e­fit to all.

He has in­di­cated that his pri­or­ity is the in­vest­ment sum­mit that he is plan­ning to host in Oc­to­ber. The first sum­mit that he will be host­ing in South Africa is the Brics sum­mit which is an in­di­ca­tion of his com­mit­ment to con­tinue his re­la­tion­ship with Brics, and is not at the ex­pense of any other re­la­tion­ship. I don’t know why there is the per­cep­tion that he is more in­ter­ested in the West.

What are South Africa’s pri­or­i­ties in terms of out­comes at the up­com­ing Brics sum­mit in July?

Our pri­or­ity is to make the sum­mit a spec­tac­u­lar suc­cess. What we have tried to do which is dif­fer­ent in this par­tic­u­lar sum­mit is to in­volve civil so­ci­ety and labour, as we are avoid­ing a sit­u­a­tion where we are not seen as in­clu­sive.

We will have a mini-sum­mit for civil so­ci­ety and a mini-sum­mit for labour in or­der to al­low their voices to find ex­pres­sion in the Brics sum­mit it­self.

In terms of out­comes, we must see how to har­ness the fourth in­dus­trial rev­o­lu­tion and use it to leapfrog into the fu­ture as the po­ten­tial it has for us is enor­mous, and we want to part­ner with those who have ad­vanced tech­nolo­gies.

South Africa has com­mit­ted it­self to a strate­gic part­ner­ship with China, par­tic­u­larly in the con­text of Fo­cac (Fo­rum on China-Africa Co-oper­a­tion). How do you fore­see strength­en­ing our re­la­tions with China? Can South Africa pri­ori­tise the is­sue of mov­ing for­ward on the ben­e­fi­ci­a­tion of our own min­er­als at the up­com­ing Fo­cac sum­mit in Bei­jing in Septem­ber?

We have pri­ori­tised our re­la­tions with China be­cause we have found that they have in­no­va­tive ways of deal­ing with mat­ters. You your­self have re­ported on China’s in­ter­est in our eco­nomic zones and we would be in­ter­ested in get­ting as­sis­tance from China in these zones.

We have taken a de­lib­er­ate de­ci­sion to ben­e­fi­ci­ate our own min­er­als but we haven’t gone as far as we should have as we don’t have the nec­es­sary tech­nol­ogy or in­fra­struc­ture. We won’t leave this is­sue only to Fo­cac, but will also dis­cuss it at the Brics sum­mit. We are so look­ing for­ward to Fo­cac as it will be the first time that our pres­i­dent is in China on a state visit.

For­mer pres­i­dent Nel­son Man­dela said in 1994 that he wanted hu­man rights to be “the light that guides our for­eign pol­icy”. As Min­is­ter for In­ter­na­tional Re­la­tions and Co-oper­a­tion, are you pre­pared to make hu­man rights a cor­ner­stone of South Africa’s for­eign pol­icy once again, as Man­dela had en­vis­aged?

Yes­ter­day, when I put to­gether my bud­get speech I was very care­ful to in­clude that par­tic­u­lar mes­sage – hu­man rights and peace – as that is what we in­her­ited from Madiba.

The rea­son why it is so im­por­tant and dear to us is be­cause we come from a very long, bru­tal strug­gle. We have been try­ing to get South Africans to un­der­stand that hu­man rights are ab­so­lutely es­sen­tial.

That is what has been the driv­ing force be­hind our con­tri­bu­tions in mul­ti­lat­eral fora. It re­mains a cen­tral point in the ANC’s for­eign pol­icy, and it re­mains the ba­sis of our for­eign pol­icy. It is what drives us when we in­ter­vene on is­sues that have to do with the vi­o­la­tion of hu­man rights of the Pales­tini­ans, or any other sit­u­a­tion.

What has Dirco done to date to down­grade South Africa’s re­la­tions with Is­rael in keep­ing with the ANC res­o­lu­tion at the De­cem­ber pol­icy con­fer­ence?

In-be­tween the pass­ing of that res­o­lu­tion and where we are now has been a tran­si­tion, a lot of ad­just­ment has gone into that. We have not had the op­por­tu­nity to sit down and work out how we op­er­a­tionalise some of the res­o­lu­tions taken in the ANC 54th na­tional con­fer­ence.

This af­ter­noon I will be hav­ing dis­cus­sions with our am­bas­sador. We have re­called our am­bas­sador from Pales­tine to find out from him the facts of what is go­ing on in Pales­tine and there­after take the nec­es­sary de­ci­sion. We will also be dis­cussing it with the ANC Sub­com­mit­tee on In­ter­na­tional Re­la­tions.

The Jewish Board of Deputies is keen to meet with me, and I would like to meet with them sooner rather than later. My only re­quest is that they should re­late to me as a fel­low South African.

The hu­man rights sit­u­a­tion in Bu­rundi con­tin­ues to de­te­ri­o­rate, with Hu­man Rights Watch doc­u­ment­ing how Bu­run­dian se­cu­rity forces and rul­ing party mem­bers have com­mit­ted se­ri­ous hu­man rights abuses with im­punity lead­ing up to this week’s ref­er­en­dum. Is South Africa go­ing to raise its voice in call­ing for Bu­rundi to ad­here to African and in­ter­na­tional hu­man rights con­ven­tions?

We would be. We have spent no less than five years in as­sist­ing the peo­ple of Bu­rundi to move from a sit­u­a­tion of war to one of peace. We did it be­cause we be­lieved they de­served to have a bet­ter fu­ture for them­selves, and be­cause we be­lieve in ba­sic hu­man rights.

Bu­rundi was in a ter­ri­ble sit­u­a­tion when we got there, it was in the time of Nel­son Man­dela and he very quickly de­cided that we would in­ter­vene and sup­port the Bu­rundi peace process. It is there­fore a re­spon­si­bil­ity that we would like to take on hav­ing spent so much of our re­sources and time and given so much of our sup­port to cre­ate an en­vi­ron­ment where there is democ­racy.

It would be a re­ver­sal of ev­ery­thing we put there if there is a re­ver­sal of the sit­u­a­tion in Bu­rundi. When we pulled our troops out of Bu­rundi it was be­cause we thought Bu­rundi had adopted demo­cratic pro­cesses, and we thought they were on a path of democ­racy and peace. We will cer­tainly raise our voice around this is­sue, def­i­nitely.

You have ex­pressed a de­sire for South Africa to play a greater lead­er­ship role on the con­ti­nent. With re­gards to South Su­dan, how do you per­ceive South Africa be­ing able to make a mean­ing­ful im­pact on re­solv­ing the po­lit­i­cal vi­o­lence that con­tin­ues to plague the coun­try?

In Bu­rundi we were in­vited to come in and as­sist. In South Su­dan we have not been in­vited in the same way, and I am con­vinced that South Su­dan doesn’t want in­ter­fer­ence. We wouldn’t mind do­ing that be­cause we have ex­pended a great deal of our re­sources in putting our forces in South Su­dan to keep the peace there, and if we can find a way of solv­ing the con­flict, the sooner the bet­ter.

We do have peo­ple in our coun­try whose pur­pose is to as­sist the govern­ment and cre­ate an en­vi­ron­ment where there can be di­a­logue and ne­go­ti­a­tions, and cre­ate an en­vi­ron­ment con­ducive for peace.

It helps us a lot as they are the fore­run­ners of govern­ment. There is a team that are on their way to Mada­gas­car and we have given them sup­port to go there as there is a brew­ing prob­lem there, and we would like to push them to­wards a peace­ful elec­tion.

We ap­pre­ci­ate the work they do in con­flict res­o­lu­tion. They are al­ways in the shad­ows, and maybe when we have suc­ceeded, and when we have taken the de­ci­sion to send them to South Su­dan, we would like them to speak pub­licly about what they have been find­ing be­cause get­ting South Africans to have a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of what we are in­volved in means we have a greater buy-in to what we are do­ing.

I want us to en­cour­age our con­flict res­o­lu­tion teams to re­port reg­u­larly to South Africans about the progress they are mak­ing in the ar­eas they are work­ing in.

South Africa has been very gen­er­ous in al­low­ing hun­dreds of thou­sands of Zim­bab­weans to work here, and it must be a re­lief that the Zim­bab­wean econ­omy may im­prove un­der Pres­i­dent Em­mer­son Mnan­gagwa. What are your ex­pec­ta­tions for the Zim­bab­wean econ­omy mov­ing for­ward?

Zim­babwe is go­ing through a very dif­fi­cult eco­nomic pe­riod and we un­der­stand that. We would like to give them the op­por­tu­nity to set­tle down af­ter their elec­tion. They have nat­u­ral re­sources that re­main un­tapped, and if they fo­cus on that they could re­vive their econ­omy.

The pres­i­dent and I were in Zim­babwe to dis­cuss these mat­ters, and one of the things both pres­i­dents were con­sid­er­ing were joint eco­nomic ven­tures in tourism, for ex­am­ple. We have found in our tourism in­dus­try we have been able to at­tract a great deal of re­sources. We would like our tourism trade to in­clude Zim­babwe and Botswana.

In most of our dis­cus­sions with Zim­babwe, the is­sue of the re­vival of the econ­omy has been very cen­tral. When Zim­babwe has a thriv­ing econ­omy, the Zim­bab­weans are likely to go back. The down­side is that Zim­bab­weans have a higher skills level than we have, and we need to train our peo­ple in skills in or­der to have a more pro­duc­tive work­force. We need to find a way to en­sure the trans­fer of skills to our peo­ple be­fore Zim­bab­weans go back.

Ebrahim is the group for­eign edi­tor for In­de­pen­dent Me­dia

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