Tai­wan rift deep­ens

But Zuma says fall­out of mayor’s trip will be sorted

The Star Early Edition - - FRONT PAGE - SIHLE MANDA AND SAKHILE NDLAZI Sakhile.ndlazi@inl.co.za

THE fall­out over Tsh­wane mayor Solly Msi­manga’s Tai­wan trip has deep­ened, with the gov­ern­ment mov­ing swiftly to heal the rift the jun­ket might cause with China and to af­firm South Africa’s for­eign pol­icy.

Yes­ter­day, the Pres­i­dency weighed in on the mat­ter but didn’t fol­low the stance of the rul­ing party, which has called for Msi­manga’s diplo­matic pass­port to be re­voked. The Pres­i­dency adopted a calmer ap­proach, sug­gest­ing the mat­ter would be dis­cussed and sim­i­lar in­ci­dents avoided in fu­ture.

Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma chairs and con­venes the Pres­i­dent’s Co-or­di­nat­ing Coun­cil, “a statu­tory fo­rum in which the pres­i­dent meets the lead­er­ship of pro­vin­cial and lo­cal gov­ern­ment,” said spokesper­son Bon­gani Ngqu­lunga yes­ter­day.

“The fo­rum is used to dis­cuss mat­ters af­fect­ing the three spheres of gov­ern­ment,” he said.

He said the coun­cil, which meets quar­terly, had not done so since the lo­cal gov­ern­ment elec­tions in Au­gust. “It will, at the right time, dis­cuss mat­ters re­lat­ing to for­eign pol­icy co-or­di­na­tion as part of its agenda to en­sure syn­ergy within the three spheres,” Ngqu­lunga said.

This came as the ANC called for Msi­manga’s diplo­matic pass­port to be re­voked. But a highly placed source at the Depart­ment of In­ter­na­tional Re­la­tions and Co-op­er­a­tion (Dirco) has in­di­cated the gov­ern­ment would not go that route.

The source said the depart­ment was pleased the con­tro­versy had erupted as it would force elected of­fi­cials to heed Dirco’s ad­vice when tak­ing diplo­matic trips.

Msi­manga’s of­fice has brushed aside the ANC’s claims of his visit be­ing un­law­ful as merely child­ish at­tempts to ham­per the progress made by the mayor.

Samkelo Mgob­ozi, spokesper­son for the mayor, said lo­cal gov­ern­ments were free to seek in­vest­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties with any coun­tries open to ne­go­ti­a­tions.

“The in­vest­ments they may bring will help im­prove the city’s fi­nan­cial sta­tus of al­most bank­ruptcy, and cre­ate jobs for the peo­ple of Tsh­wane,” he said.

Mgob­ozi said it must also be noted it was the ANC-run Dirco that asked that a rep­re­sen­ta­tive from Tsh­wane visit Taipei on South Africa’s be­half.

But Dirco spokesper­son Clayson Monyela said Msi­manga’s trip un­der­mined South Africa’s “One-China pol­icy”. The trip was in vi­o­la­tion of the pol­icy which recog­nised Bei­jing as the sole and le­git­i­mate gov­ern­ment of the Peo­ple’s Repub­lic of China, Monyela said.

“The visit is not sanc­tioned by the gov­ern­ment. The ex­ec­u­tive mayor knows our views and was ad­vised against un­der­tak­ing this trip,” he said.

While Monyela re­frained from com­ment­ing on the ANC’s calls to re­voke Msi­manga’s diplo­matic pass­port, he said Dirco had noted the party’s call. “It’s a mat­ter we still have to re­flect on and de­cide.”

The DA said the ANC had shown how lit­tle it val­ues job-cre­at­ing in­vest­ment in the coun­try with its at­tack on Msi­manga.

The op­po­si­tion party said, with 9 mil­lion job­less South Africans, the at­tempt by Msi­manga to try to en­cour­age in­vest­ment should be praised in­stead of con­demned.

But the rul­ing party’s spokesper­son Zizi Kodwa was hav­ing none of it, say­ing Msi­manga’s visit trans­gressed for­eign pol­icy, with re­gard to the coun­try’s diplo­matic ties with China.

“Tai­wan his­tor­i­cally is one coun­try that had re­la­tions with apartheid South Africa,” he said.

“But be­yond that, many other coun­tries have de-recog­nised Tai­wan and it’s im­por­tant for Msi­manga to ap­pre­ci­ate how his ac­tions have dam­aged South Africa in­ter­na­tion­ally,” said Kodwa.

DIPLO­MATIC ROW: Tsh­wane mayor, Solly Msi­manga

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