South Africa

South Africa, Politics

Letter to the Editor: Inalienable rights to independence

JOHN BRODRICK takes issue with International Relations and Co-operation Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane’s seemingly inconsistent foreign policy stances.

Minister of International Relations and Co-operation Maite Nkoana-Mashabane writes of “South Africa’s unwavering commitment towards the right to self-determination of the Saharawi people”. This is something one would expect from a minister in the government of a former liberation movement.

Puzzling, though, is the apparent inconsistency in South Africa’s foreign policy. One would expect a minister in such a government to be committed also to the right to self-determination of the people of Tibet, a country that China took by force in 1951, and whose former government was dismissed in 1959 after an attempt to regain independence. Not only does our government seem to think it acceptable to deny the people of Tibet their independence, but it goes so far as to deny the Dalai Lama a visa to visit us, and he is a man committed to non-violence.

Some may argue that such expedience is necessary in order to maintain the country’s position in BRICS. The argument holds no water, because India is a member of BRICS, and not only does it allow the Dalai Lama free passage in and out of its borders, but it accommodates him and his entire exiled entourage.

The people of Taiwan seem to wish to retain their independence. Does our government also support their “inalienable right to independence”? Will it insist on their right to decide for themselves, perhaps by way of a referendum, whether or not they wish to be incorporated into mainland China before it commits us to the support of a one-China policy?

Perhaps there are subtle arguments in favour of our government’s seeming inconsistency in these matters. If that is the case, would the minister please spell them out so that we can understand the reasoning behind such apparent contradictions? DM

Photo: President Jacob Zuma and President Brahim Ghali, President of the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic address the media at the Sefako Makgatho Presidential Guesthouse in Pretoria, 6 January 2017. (Photo: GCIS)

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