For­eign pol­icy at cross­roads

The Star Early Edition - - OPINION & ANALYSIS -

THE DIPLO­MATIC spat be­tween the gov­ern­ment and the DA over Tsh­wane mayor Solly Msi­manga’s De­cem­ber trip to Taipei, Tai­wan, spells trou­ble for South Africa’s for­eign pol­icy in this age of power shifts in our met­ros.

While some, in­clud­ing in the govern­ing ANC, call for Msi­manga’s diplo­matic pass­port to be re­voked, the spat has ex­posed the chal­lenges of the “two cen­tres of power” phe­nom­e­non in the key met­ros where the op­po­si­tion swept to vic­tory in last year’s lo­cal gov­ern­ment elec­tions.

It has also ex­posed the need for ba­sic for­eign pol­icy in­duc­tion for all new councillors, in­clud­ing in met­ros gov­erned by coali­tions.

The three spheres of gov­ern­ment – lo­cal, pro­vin­cial and na­tional – have to work to­gether to bet­ter the lives of cit­i­zens and pro­tect the na­tional in­ter­est.

The Depart­ment of In­ter­na­tional Re­la­tions and Co-op­er­a­tion says Msi­manga has bro­ken the coun­try’s for­eign pol­icy pro­to­cols by vis­it­ing Taipei when South Africa recog­nises the One China pol­icy that ties us only to Bei­jing as the le­git­i­mate gov­ern­ment of the Peo­ple’s Repub­lic of China.

They add that even though Tai­wan has an of­fice in Pre­to­ria, this is not an em­bassy and South Africa has no em­bassy in Taipei, and there­fore no diplo­matic ties be­tween the two.

The depart­ment also say Msi­manga was warned about the trip be­fore he left the coun­try, but he ig­nored them. And that’s where the prob­lem be­gins – and not ends.

While the depart­ment is the cus­to­dian of our for­eign pol­icy, this is­sue re­quires party-to-party ne­go­ti­a­tions to en­sure that the in­ter­ests of the coun­try come be­fore nar­row party po­lit­i­cal bat­tles.

While DA may­ors and other of­fi­cials are within their rights to seek op­por­tu­ni­ties abroad for their met­ros, this must not be at the ex­pense of the coun­try’s in­ter­ests. For­eign pol­icy guide­lines ought to be re­spected and the in­ter­ests of the coun­try must al­ways come first, or we risk los­ing highly needed for­eign di­rect in­vest­ment, trade ben­e­fits and his­toric ties with coun­tries that sup­ported us dur­ing apartheid.

The de­bate on Msi­manga’s trip must be healthy and take the coun­try for­ward, rather than be­come a Twit­ter spat and po­lit­i­cal mud­sling­ing where me­dia state­ments con­demn­ing his ac­tions and the DA fir­ing back at the gov­ern­ment and the ANC be­come the or­der of the day.

This mat­ter de­serves a proper sit-down where all par­ties must find one an­other. A so­lu­tion must be found where the coun­try’s in­ter­ests must be put be­fore po­lit­i­cal squab­bling.

Glob­ally, China is too im­por­tant an ally to lose over petty po­lit­i­cal games. It is the world’s sec­ond big­gest econ­omy and our big­gest trad­ing part­ner, and a key role player in our for­eign pol­icy and in the in­flu­en­tial Brics bloc.

And un­til the DA wins the elec­tions and be­come the govern­ing party at na­tional level and changes the coun­try’s for­eign pol­icy, it must re­spect for­eign pol­icy guide­lines.

Oth­er­wise, we will wake up one day to find a DA mayor has vis­ited a coun­try or group hos­tile to South Africa and its for­eign in­ter­ests.

We can’t al­low that to hap­pen.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.