Lundi 22 Avril 2019  
 

N°124 - Quatrième trimestre 2018

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     Afrique du Sud
 
  S.E.Mme / H.E. Nomasonto Maria Sibanda-Thusi

South Africa: a Reconciled Nation Becomes an Economic Powerhouse
After celebrating the 10th anniversary of the peaceful overthrow of its apartheid regime on 14 April 2004, South Africa reelected President Thabo Mbeki to a second five-year term. H.E. Nomasonto Maria Sibanda-Thusi, the Ambassador of South Africa to France, speaks about her country’s successful democratic transition and the challenges still facing Africa’s new economic powerhouse.
The Diplomatic Letter: Madam Ambassador, the broad victory of the ANC following the elections of 14 April 2004 and the nomination of President Thabo Mbeki for a second mandate coincided with the celebrations of the tenth anniversary of the establishment of a non-racial democracy in South Africa. How did you experience your country’s decade of peaceful transition? How do you analyse the predominant position of the ANC on South Africa’s political scene?

H.E. Nomasonto Maria Sibanda-Thusi: My overriding sentiments when considering South Africa’s transition to a fully democratic state are joy and wonder. Joy that we have achieved as much as we have in ten short years- that not only did we avoid the terrible threat of violence that existed, but today it is impossible to imagine South Africa being anything else than free and democratic. Wonder at the capacity that South Africans have demonstrated to put century-old differences and hostilities aside in order to build their common future together. Also, I am filled with the conviction that we have laid the foundations for a great nation, a winning nation.
My analysis of the ANC’s strong position as governing party is simple – it is the natural result of the will of the people freely and democratically expressed. It strengthens the Government’s capacity to act to address the great challenges we face, in particular in the social and economic fields. However, the hard-won rights and freedoms of all South Africans remain sacrosanct, not so much because the ANC has through its liberation struggle and first decade in power proved its commitment to democracy and human rights, but because we have built solid institutions that guarantee the rights and freedoms of all. The Constitutional Court in particular comes to mind in this regard.

T.D.L.: The Truth and Reconciliation Committee (TRC), which was set up in 1996 to unveil human rights abuses perpetrated under the apartheid regime, completed its work in 2002. Do you think that all the wounds caused by the apartheid regime have been healed? How would you define today the foundations of South African national identity? In this respect, what is the place occupied by the Afrikaner culture in the South African society?

H.E. N.M.S-T.: There is no doubt that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission made a significant contribution to the national effort to heal the wounds of our apartheid past. We are proud of what we have been able to achieve as South Africans in this regard, and indeed there are a number of countries in the world that find themselves in post-conflict situations that believe there may be something to learn from this process. We are always glad to share our experiences if it could be of assistance.
However, one should be realistic when considering the legacy of a system as evil and comprehensive as that of apartheid. It still remains present in many spheres of life, and until all its effects have been eradicated it may be premature to say that all wounds have been healed. We have come a very long way in building a new, unified nation. On the constitutional and political front
I believe we can say mission accomplished:
– We have put in place a progressive, democratic constitution, guaranteeing the fundamental human rights of all regardless of race, creed, gender or religion.
– We have held three successful democratic elections in terms of this constitution.
– We have made huge progress in realizing the vision of a non-racial, non-sexist, peaceful and prosperous country.
– South Africa has returned to the community of states as a much-respected member, proudly carrying the banner of Africa’s renewal and development through partnership.
However, the bitter legacy of apartheid, which one can possibly summarize to a large extent in one word: “inequality” still remains evident in the social and economic fields. It is only when we have eradicated this legacy that we can truly speak of all wounds of the past having been healed.
I believe the foundations of our common national identity is to be found in the principle of mutual respect and acceptance, the recognition of our common humanity, of what we call “ubuntu”. This does not mean that we don’t delight in our great cultural diversity – indeed we do. Bur our diversity is the building block of a humane, people-centred society. As expressed in our national motto: “People who are different coming together”.
As all our other cultural communities, the Afrikaner community, which is in its turn quite diverse and evolving, is also a highly valued element. It comes to mind that at the funeral in September 2004 of the great anti-apartheid fig-
ure, Dr Beyers Naude, who came from a very traditional Afrikaner background, President Mbeki declared that “all of us must, today, extend our heartfelt thanks to the Afrikaner people that they blessed us by bestowing on us the gift that was Beyers Naude”.

T.D.L.: While former President Mandela was the man of national reconciliation, President Mbeki is the architect of South Africa’s modernization. What are the major initiatives launched by your government in order to make your country’s economic growth get off the ground? Or, more precisely, how do you intend to attract more foreign investment? In which sectors do you plan to pursue the privatization program?

H.E. N.M.S-T.: When talking about the South African economy one must look at the context within which it exists: South Africa has had a legacy of a very long period of colonialism, which resulted in racial disparities, gender disparities, the impoverishment of millions of people and a distorted economy. In identifying this we are better able to understand what we need to do.
To this end we have ensured that we put in place a policy framework that would address these challenges. This the South African Government is committed to do. From an economic point of view, we needed to introduce a framework that would address the challenges of getting our economy off the ground, and the establishment of the Reconstruction and Development Programme is an example of such a policy. It is a policy that looks at critical contributions that government can make to advance progress in the economy – in a sustainable way. And this has been achieved.
Regarding privatisation: Government is looking at all the state enterprises and have identified certain industries such as the Telecommunications Industry for privatisation. However South Africa is clear that we are not going to privatise for the sake of privatising – we wish to ensure that it is the best thing to do. What this means is that if we can find alternatives and better systems of sharing the wealth of South Africa, then we will look at these systems, such as, for example, private/public partnerships.

T.D.L.: If South Africa’s political transition is viewed as a unique achievement in the world, economic transition still needs to be made, given the strong social disparities still affecting South Africans, and more particularly black people. What are the measures planned to strengthen the fight against poverty, which was placed at the heart of the inauguration speech delivered by President Mbeki, and to deal with related issues, such as unemployment and Aids? How do you assess the positive discrimination policy (Black Economic Empowerment and affirmative action) implemented by your government?

H.E. N.M.S-T.: In terms of the progress made by the Government in advancing the opportunities for Blacks in South Africa, the results have been very impressive. We have established the Black Economic Empowerment strategy and one of the many aims of this strategy is to spread the wealth of South Africa to all South Africans. Of course, we have a long way to go as the concept of creating more opportunities for Black South Africans will naturally take time. We are clear that we need to start somewhere and this is the start for South Africa. However, in creating business opportunities for Black South Africans, we need to look at the ways in which conservative banks make money available to borrowers. This is one of the challenges that the South African Government has had to face – how to create more money for Black small businesses.
As far as unemployment is concerned, one needs to look at the South African economy in the context of its past. We have a large population where the education levels of people are low – particularly for Blacks. However, the government is aware of this and we will continue to put more money into education.
The struggle against HIV/Aids remains one of the priorities of the South African Government. With more than 400 000 Aids sufferers and approximately 5,5 million people infected with HIV, the scale and urgency of the challenge are evident. In November 2003, the South African Government announced its Operation Plan for Comprehensive Treatment and Care for HIV and Aids. This included prevention campaigns, sustained education and community mobilization, expanding programmes aimed at boosting the immune system and slowing the effect of HIV infection, improved efforts in treating opportunistic infections, intensified support for families affected by HIV and Aids, and the introduction of antiretroviral treatment for all those who need it.
This plan has not been the result of a change in the Government’s approach, as some critics contend. The fact was that the situation had changed significantly during the previous two years or so. For example, there was a fall in the price of drugs and new opportunities to manufacture them in South Africa, as well as successful negotiations with pharmaceutical companies, without which the plan would have been impossible. New medicines and international and local experience in managing antiretrovirals appeared; a critical mass of health workers and scientists skilled in the management of HIV/Aids had been built; and increased funding had become available to expand social expenditure in general as a consequence of the Government’s prudent macro-economic policies. For only the year 2004, an additional amount of 470 million Euro was allocated to the fight against HIV/Aids.
Clearly, much remains to be done and the roll-out of the Comprehensive Plan has not always progressed as hoped, since it must be done within the constraints of a health system that suffers hugely from the legacy of inequality left by apartheid. However, we believe we have made a solid start in beginning to roll back the curse of HIV/Aids.

T.D.L.: The Southern African countries, which experienced an apartheid regime, have not settled yet the sensitive issue of land redistribution. Whereas the white population still holds almost 80% of South Africa’s cultivable land, what would be, according to you, the right balance enabling the fears of some people and the frustrations of some others to be calmed down? To what extent is your government’s position on the Zimbabwe issue connected to this land problem which is common to both countries, although differently dealt with? How can your country contribute to normalising the situation in Zimbabwe?

H.E. N.M.S-T.: Yes, the land issue is a very sensitive and emotional one to many dispossessed people in these countries. Proper structures similar to the Land Commission in South Africa seem to be working in our case. In 1995, the Commission on the Restitution of Land Rights was established with the following aims:
– Provide equitable redress and restoration to victims of dispossession, particularly the landless and the poor.
– Contribute towards the equitable redistribution of land in South Africa.
– Promote reconciliation through the restitution process.
– Facilitate development initiatives by bringing together all relevant stakeholders, especially provincial governments and municipalities.
Initially, the Commission adopted a judicial approach to the processing of more than 600 000 claims, which meant that all claims would be referred to the specialised Land Claims Court for adjudication.
Amendments made to the relevant act in 1999 gave powers to the Minister of Agriculture and Land Affairs to make awards based on negotiated settlement agreements. This administrative approach has resulted in a phenomenal increase in the number of claims settled to date.
By 2002, approximately 68 000 claims had been lodged, of which 72% were urban and 28% rural. A total of 36 500 claims had been settled, involving about 85 000 households. Urban claims mostly involved financial compensation for victims of forced removals; the total compensation made by December 2002, approximately 572 000 hectares, had been restored at a cost of approximately 442 million Rand.
Although it may look slow for many landless people who have been dispossessed of their rightful land by the apartheid regime, the need for sustainable solutions is imperative and therefore land must be returned to rightful claimants. Thorough investigation and verification are critical to ensure that the outcome is indeed sustainable.
The Land Commission is committed to meeting the President’s directive that all outstanding claims should be resolved by 2005.
South Africa can contribute to the resolution of the situation in Zimbabwe by engaging all stakeholders in promoting a sustainable solution to the current difficulties. It is the Zimbabweans themselves who can and must find an equitable, inclusive and sustainable solution to both the political and the land issue in Zimbabwe.

T.D.L.: At the regional level, SADC has been promoting NEPAD via its Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (RISDP). How can South Africa, which is a major role-player in this regional organization, contribute to making a true area of growth emerge? Bearing the Lesotho highlands hydroelectric project in mind, how can SADC countries develop their cooperation at the economic and technical level?

H.E. N.M.S-T.: The SADC Heads of State and Government in August 2003 approved the RISDP as the key policy framework for the operationalisation of the SADC Common Agenda and the attainment of deeper and broader levels of economic integration and social development in the region. The RISDP defines, as key integration enablers, the fundamental conditions under which deeper integration and broader economic and social development can take place in the region. South Africa believes that it can make a valuable contribution to promoting these essential conditions that include inter alia:
– Peace, security, democracy and political governance
– Economic and corporate governance and
– Other enablers such as gender mainstreaming and the empowerment of women; private sector development; rapid adoption and internationalisation of ICT; diversification of regional economies; research science and technology innovation; improving productivity and competitiveness; and promoting an enabling institutional environment.
The South African Government and a variety of South African institutions are interacting with SADC as an organization, as well as individual Member States in pursuit of these objectives.
The SADC Member States are richly endowed with natural resources, including arable land, minerals, waters, flora, fauna and not least, human resources. Since some of these are cross border resources, we accordingly have signed the Protocol on Shared Watercourse Systems, the Protocol on Wildlife Conservation and Law Enforcement, the Protocol on Fisheries, the Protocol on Energy and the Protocol on Mining, all of which provide a sound basis for their equitable exploitation, for shared prosperity.
Trade within our region, estimated at 24 percent of total SADC trade, is an important vehicle for development. It must expand further and faster. We need to harmonise our trade regimes through effective implementation of the SADC Trade Protocol to facilitate the free flow of goods and services among ourselves and maximise the opportunities and benefits of regional investments and trade.
A more integrated market would be attractive to Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), as well as domestic investment. It is estimated that if our economies are to grow at a rate of 5 – 6 percent a year, we need an investment rate of 25 – 30 percent of GDP. We need to urgently increase that rate. Regional integration can be an effective means to do so. And growth must translate into social and economic development, providing a safety net for those who are vulnerable.

T.D.L.: To illustrate its commitment to the stabilization process in the Great Lake’s area, South Africa has acted as a mediator in Burundi. Furthermore, it recently signed an agreement of military cooperation with the Democratic republic of Congo (DRC). How do you see the tensions which are still strong in the Eastern part of the DRC? What are the perspectives of stabilisation in that region which is still very fragile and marked by the Rwandan genocide? Beyond regional ambitions and rivalries between South Africa and Angola, what are the possibilities for cooperation between the two military powers of the region?

H.E. N.M.S-T.: South Africa is indeed deeply committed to the establishment of peace, stability and democracy in the Great Lakes region. With regard to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), we are encouraged by the fact that the war has ended and that the transitional government is able to proceed with its work. We recognise nonetheless that the situation is fragile and that the DRC requires the continued support and commitment of the continent and the international community. The major challenge now is to integrate the various armed forces in order to create a single national defence force owing its allegiance to the country as a whole. The creation of a national army and police forces is essential to ensure stability during the elections scheduled for July 2005. Preparations for these crucial elections must be speeded up and resources mobilised to ensure their success. The South African Independent Election Commission (IEC) currently has a team in DRC to assist with logistical preparations for the elections. In Burundi, the process is moving slowly, but surely. Despite sporadic attacks in Bujumbura and in the countryside, the political process is firmly entrenched and a referendum will be held soon. On 20 November 2004, 12 African Heads of State, including President Thabo Mbeki, gathered in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania, for the first summit of the International Conference on the Great Lakes. The leaders signed an agreement to strengthen and consolidate efforts to bring peace, stability, democracy and development to the region. Regarding Angola, our bilateral relations are motivated by a mutual desire to strengthen political and economic ties rather than any ‘’ regional ambitions or rivalry ‘’. As fellow members of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC), we are committed to enhancing our cooperation in order to promote the social and economic development of our countries and of our region.

T.D.L.: Diplomatically isolated before 1994, your country succeeded in rapidly playing a major role at the international level, as attested by South Africa’s position within the G21 at the Cancun Summit and more recently within the framework of a cooperation initiative jointly taken with India and Brazil. What dimension do you intend to give to that association? Taking into account South Africa’s request for a Seat at the UN Security Council, what are your proposals for a reform of global governance?

H.E. N.M.S-T.: South Africa’s Foreign Policy and values are firmly anchored in our national policies and values – the ideals that we aspire to for South Africa are also those which we want to see become realities for the world. I believe there is great consistency in this regard. Similarly, the means that we employ nationally to address common problems, those of consultation, negotiation, tolerance and compromise, are also those that we want to see become the norm at the international level.
Until the Doha Round, international trade was determined by the stronger powers, but the Doha Development Round placed more sharply on the agenda that which is required by developing countries all around the world. In Cancun, the Committee of 21, in which South Africa was a role-player, helped to pool the resources of the developing countries with regard to agricultural subsidies, debt issues, non-tariff restrictions, etc – i.e. issue-driven changes. We believe that this association will continue, in collaboration with other groupings of the South, to be effective in promoting the cause of the developing world.
Multilateralism is the key issue for South Africa. We believe it is the only way forward for the global environment – the age of unfettered unilateral action by a super power or powers is something of the past. Issues which are of central importance to South Africa, such as the fight against poverty and promoting security, stability and disarmament, can only be addressed effectively at the multilateral level.
Within this context it is South Africa’s view, in the absence of the report by the United Nations Security Council, that the UN and all its institutions must be reformed and strengthened – ECOSOC, UNGA, and the Security Council. Regarding the Security Council, this still reflects the reality of a post-World War II scenario. However, the world has changed dramatically since then. The Security Council must reflect the world of the twenty first century; therefore it should be expanded to include countries that reflect the bigger membership of countries and regions that belong to the UN. In addition, the Security Council must be responsive to the needs of the different regions – not just those of the Permanent Five Members. In order to improve transparency and representativity, Africa is looking for two permanent seats on a restructured Security Council. The AU has established a committee of ten countries to assist in determining the way forward with regard to African representation on the Security Council. South Africa has decided it would like to be part of an expanded Security Council, and in addition it is our view that Africa should not be treated differently from the rest of the world. The dispensation applicable to the rest of the world should be applicable to Africa. We also believe the UN should become more gender sensitive.

T.D.L.: The EU, which is South Africa’s biggest trade partner, signed on 11 October 1999 with your country an Agreement on Trade, Development and Co-operation (TDCA) paving the way for the establishment of a free trade area. How is the dialogue between the two parties progressing? What is the place of the EU in South Africa’s foreign policy?

H.E. N.M.S-T.: South Africa and the EU have made great strides in implementing the TDCA on numerous levels. At a political level, the first South Africa/EU Ministerial troika meeting took place on 1 April 2004. The elevating of political dialogue (within the TDCA) to ministerial level heralded a new phase in an already good South Africa/EU relationship. In November this year President Mbeki paid a successful visit to the EU and addressed the European Parliament. Shortly thereafter, on 23 November 2004, the South Africa-EU Joint Cooperation Council Meeting took place. On this occasion, both parties expressed their satisfaction that full implementation of the TDCA deepened and broadened existing co-operation in all the areas covered by the agreement, namely political dialogue, trade, trade related issues, economic cooperation and development cooperation.
With regard to trade co-operation, the TDCA is now in its fourth year of implementation and tariffs on more than eighty percent of the EU’s industrial imports from South Africa have been liberalised. Conversely, South Africa's degree of liberalisation granted to industrial imports from the EU has reached just over fifty percent although this will increase to sixty percent in 2005/2006. In terms of development co-operation, the TDCA provides the legal basis for continued EU support for development activities in South Africa. This is channelled via the European Program for Reconstruction and Development (EPRD). The EPRD is the single largest development program, financed by a foreign donor, in South Africa.
As regards the importance of the EU to South Africa’s foreign policy, South Africa needs to continue to impress upon the EU the importance of its continued commitment to African, AU and NEPAD programs. This commitment has been enhanced with the EU expressing strong support to develop a regular dialogue on NEPAD relating to development cooperation, infrastructural development and capacity-building and training. The Co-operation Partnership Agreement is also an ideal vehicle to promote NEPAD. Other areas of mutual concern include an EU peace-keeping role in Africa, including support for AU-led initiatives, prioritisation on reform within the UN system, implementation of the Road Map to enhance the Middle East peace process, and curbing the global spread of HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.

T.D.L.: On the occasion of his State visit to France in November 2003, President Mbeki reaffirmed the close nature of the relations existing between France and South Africa. How would you describe the evolution of the relations between the two countries since 1994? When taking into consideration the joint participation of French and South African soldiers in Operation Artemis in the DRC, how can French/South African cooperation be expanded, as far as conflict resolution in Africa is concerned? What efforts have been made regarding the joint investments of French/South African companies in NEPAD-related infrastructure projects?

H.E. N.M.S-T.: Relations between South Africa and France have strengthened and deepened considerably since the advent of democracy in our country. Both the late President Francois Mitterrand and President Jacques Chirac have paid State Visits to South Africa while France has hosted State Visits by former President Nelson Mandela and President Taboo Mbeki. Given our shared commitment to global peace, dialogue and development, South Africa and France continue to cooperate closely in diverse areas such as conflict resolution in Africa, the implementation of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), the Middle East and Iraq, sustainable development and the reform of the United Nations. Bilateral economic relations have similarly expanded, with France currently our fifth largest trading partner and one of the 10 largest investors in South Africa since 1994. During the last week of November, a high-level delegation from the French employers federation (MEDEF), led by the president, Mr. Ernest-Antoine Seilliere, will visit South Africa to explore opportunities to further expand our economic ties.
Conflict-resolution in Africa requires vision, skilled and patient diplomacy and considerable resources and South Africa and France, each drawing on its respective strengths and capacities, must continue to cooperate in this field. France, which has close and longstanding relations with many African countries, can certainly play a positive role by supporting the work of the African Peace and Security Council and the establishment of the African Standby Force. NEPAD is currently moving decisively into the implementation phase and infrastructure is indeed one of the key areas identified. Each of the Regional Economic Commissions (REC’s) throughout the continent has been tasked to develop specific regional projects and programmes in order to implement the NEPAD vision. While NEPAD is first and foremost about mobilising Africa’s own resources and expertise, partnerships with foreign governments and private sectors are crucial to ensure the success of Africa’s development agenda. I believe that South Africa and France will continue to expand our dialogue to include the major issues facing our world, such as growing global poverty and inequality, terrorism, nuclear proliferation, environmental degradation and climate change and the role of the United Nations in the 21st century.
Since 1994 there has also been a strengthening of the relationship between South Africa and France in commercial and trade matters. There have been a number of areas where the cooperation has worked very well, for example we now have an established Joint Economic Commission that looks particularly at the areas of cooperation between France and South Africa.

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