The assertion that South Africa is neglecting its responsibilities in the region and continent is without basis, argues CLAYSON MONYELA.
In the article, “SA should first sort out its own backyard, 20 July 2017”, Peter Fabricius writes that South Africa appears “ready to pursue peace across the globe – but not in its own backyard”.
According to Fabricius, this is as a result of the country being “distracted by its own bitter internal leadership struggle”.
A fair and honest look at South Africa’s role in the region suggests otherwise.
As a preamble, South Africa believes that there can be no peace and stability without development, and vice versa. To this end, we are working through various mechanisms towards strengthening the political and economic integration of the SADC region.
Our understanding is that SADC is a vehicle through which South Africa and all other member states aim to achieve development, peace and security, and economic growth in order to alleviate poverty, enhance the standard and quality of life of the peoples of Southern Africa. This is to be achieved through regional political and economic integration, built on democratic principles and equitable and sustainable development.
Member states of SADC are all sovereign states, each with an inalienable right to determine its political architecture and processes. Roles and responsibilities within SADC are shared equitably, and decisions are taken collectively through the various recognised organs and structures of the regional body.
As incoming Chair of the SADC, South Africa looks forward to working with the DRC government as well as other SADC member states and interested stakeholders, including the African Union, towards a speedy resolution of the situation in the DRC, which has been on the SADC agenda for a while.
The last SADC ministerial committee of the Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation, which met in Tanzania, urged all stakeholders in the DRC to refrain from actions that would undermine the political and security situation in the country. The meeting further urged the government of the DRC and the Independent National Electoral Commission to publicise the revised electoral calendar. The SADC is pushing for urgency and transparency.
In his list of “thorny problems” in the region, it is curious that Fabricius omits any mention of the political and security situation in the Kingdom of Lesotho. As the SADC Facilitator in Lesotho, represented by Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, South Africa has played an active role in addressing the instability in the Mountain Kingdom. At the last ordinary Summit held in Swaziland, the SADC commended Deputy President Ramaphosa “for his stewardship in facilitating the process” to implement SADC decisions in Lesotho.
Through its ongoing involvement in Lesotho, the SADC has demonstrated that it has the necessary capacity to address political matters within its jurisdiction. The DRC situation presents a set of unique challenges. Whatever mechanism that the SADC employs in the DRC, a myriad other stakeholders must be taken into consideration. The United Nations, Africa Union, International Conference of the Great Lakes Region are examples of other active role players in the DRC.
We remain confident that the strength of our bilateral relations with the DRC will play a role in finding a solution to the challenges in the DRC. President Jacob Zuma hosted his DRC counterpart, President Joseph Kabila, in June, where the two leaders discussed the process towards elections in the DRC. South Africa will remain seized with the matter. Stability in the DRC is pivotal to the region and the continent as a whole.
The assertion that South Africa is neglecting its responsibilities in the region and continent because the leadership of our government is “distracted by its own bitter internal leadership struggle” is without basis. South Africa remains an active member of the SADC community. We will assume the role of Chair of SADC next month.
As Chair of SADC, South Africa will ensue that the region remains focussed on the need to maintain peace and stability in the neighbourhood. The region and the continent cannot achieve a sustainable, developed and economically integrated Africa without peace and security. As such, SADC will continue to support countries such as the DRC, Lesotho and Mozambique in their quest for long-lasting peace, stability and prosperity.
South Africa’s own stability is intertwined with that of the other SADC states. We cannot be an island of peace and prosperity surrounded by a sea of instability. It is therefore in our national interest that we play a leading role in ensuring the stability of our region. DM
Clayson Monyela is the Deputy Director-General: Public Diplomacy, Department of International Relations and Cooperation.
Photo: President Jacob Zuma participates in the Second Extraordinary Summit of the Volunteering Nations on the African Capacity for Immediate Response to Crises (ACIRC). AU Headquarters, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. 09/11/2016, Elmond Jiyane, GCIS