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