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24 September 2017 03:39 (South Africa)
Africa

Letter to the Editor: South Africa plays an active role in the AU

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Photo: President Jacob Zuma and Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa at the Freedom Day celebrations held in Manguzi, uMhlabuyalingana in KwaZulu-Natal under the theme ‘The year of OR Tambo: Together deepening democracy and building safer and crime free communities’, 27 April 2017. (Photo: GCIS)

The article published in Daily Maverick ahead of the recent African Union Summit (AU Summit: Absence of Zuma and Ramaphosa raises eyebrows, 27 June 2017) argued that “since [Dr Nkosazana] Dlamini-Zuma stepped down from the [the position of] AU Commission chair, South Africa had shied away from occupying other important AU posts”. By CLAYSON MONYELA.

The Daily Maverick article, AU Summit: Absence of Zuma and Ramaphosa raises eyebrows, quoted Liesl Louw-Vaudran, a consultant at the Institute of Security Studies (ISS), who said South Africa was “ceding power to other players on the continent, such as Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame and the current AU chairperson President Alpha Condé of Guinea”.

The notion that South Africa is disengaging from the AU and the continent is misinformed. In all our work, we remain committed to our vision of championing an African continent which is prosperous, peaceful, democratic, non-racial, non-sexist and united and which aspires to a world that is just and equitable.

On the perception that South Africa is “ceding” power to individual leaders within the AU, it must be said that such a view is misplaced. President Kagame was assigned a specific task by the Assembly of Heads of State in July 2016, held in Kigali, to undertake a study aimed at reforming the AU and its organs.

The reforms are aimed at addressing some of the challenges facing the AU, such as “failure to implement decisions”, “overdependence on partner funding”, “underperformance of some organs” and “inefficient working methods”.

President Kagame was given this task by the Assembly and South Africa fully supports the initiative to revitalise the AU. Indeed, the decision of the July 2016 summit to institute the reforms was not taken overnight. Dr Dlamini-Zuma had already initiated some of the reforms, including an improvement in the working methods and financial self-reliance.

On the need for African states to take greater responsibility in funding the AU, the summit held in June 2015 in South Africa decided to establish the AU Foundation, a vehicle for resource mobilisation on the continent.

Through the establishment of the foundation, the AU undertook to work with the African people, including the private sector, to explore innovative sources for funding. At the last summit, we saw President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe make a donation of US$1-million through the foundation.

South Africa is not in competition with leaders of the AU who are assigned specific roles by the AU. The Chair of the AU, President Alpha Condé of Guinea, assumed this role in January 2017 and will hand over to a new Chair in January 2018. All AU member states, including South Africa, will continue to support President Condé for the duration of his tenure.

At the same time, South Africa continues to play an active role in the AU through various ways, including as a member of the AU Peace and Security Council. In this role, we are at the forefront of efforts to bring lasting peace and stability to the continent, particularly in countries such as Libya, South Sudan, Sudan (Darfur), Somalia and Western Sahara.

South Africa will continue to lead the multifaceted discourse on the future of the AU. In August, we will assume the role of Chair of the 15-state Southern African Development Community (SADC), one of the AU’s most dynamic Regional Economic Communities (RECs). The AU cannot operate optimally if the RECs are not operating likewise.

When President Kagame presented his report on institutional reforms of the AU, he emphasised that “there should be a clear division of labour between the AU, regional economic communities, regional mechanisms, member states, and other continental institutions, in line with the principle of subsidiarity”.

Having made the transition in 2002 from an OAU that was formed to lead the struggle against colonialism and apartheid to an AU that is waging a new struggle for Africa’s economic independence, South Africa believes that its own economic development depends on growing regional and international economic co-operation in an independent world. Accordingly, our country is fully behind efforts by the AU to launch the envisaged Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA).

On 7 July, the Minister of Trade and Industry, Dr Rob Davis, signed the agreement establishing the Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA) in a meeting held in Kampala, Uganda. The meeting was attended by the trade ministers and officials from the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), East African Community (EAC), and SADC. Once the TFTA enters into force, it will reduce tariffs on goods traded between the tripartite countries, creating new opportunities for exports as well as regional value chains.

South Africa will continue to amplify Africa’s voice globally. The outcome of the G20 Summit held in Germany saw the leaders of some of the world’s biggest economies acknowledge that any co-operation with the continent must be on the basis of “African ownership” and “equal partnership”.

Our country’s development is intrinsically connected to that of the southern African region and the continent as a whole. As such, Africa will remain at the core of all our foreign policy endeavours. DM

Clayson Monyela is Deputy Director-General: Public Diplomacy,

Department of International Relations and Co-operation

Photo: President Jacob Zuma and Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa at the Freedom Day celebrations held in Manguzi, uMhlabuyalingana in KwaZulu-Natal under the theme ‘The year of OR Tambo: Together deepening democracy and building safer and crime free communities’, 27 April 2017. (Photo: GCIS)

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