South Africa

OP-ED

Tanzanian incident: SA remains committed to promoting human rights

Tanzanian incident: SA remains committed to promoting human rights
CPJ's Angela Quintal.

When Minister Lindiwe Sisulu put on public record the explanation provided by Tanzanian authorities of the reasons for their detention of Angela Quintal and Muthoki Mumo, this was unfortunately misconstrued as condonation of the actions of the Tanzanian authorities and the treatment meted out to the two journalists.

Clayson Monyela is head of Public Diplomacy, Department of International Relations and Co-operation.

On the occasion of her maiden Budget Vote Speech in the portfolio of International Relations and Co-operation, Department of International Relations Co-operation Minister Lindiwe Sisulu affirmed South Africa’s commitment to the promotion of human rights as one of the central pillars of our foreign policy.

The minister told Parliament that the fundamentals of South Africa’s foreign policy are based on human rights, peace, equality and freedom from oppression. “We who have suffered so much,” the Minister expounded, “can ill afford suffering in any part of the world.”

This commitment should allay recent fears relating to South Africa’s response to the detention in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, of the members of the Committee to Protect Journalists, Angela Quintal and Muthoki Mumo.

The CPJ’s Muthoki Mumo.

When Minister Sisulu put on public record the explanation provided by Tanzanian authorities of the reasons for their detention of the two media freedom activists, this was unfortunately misconstrued as condonation of the actions of the Tanzanian authorities and the treatment meted out to the two journalists.

A statement released by the South African National Editors’ Forum expressed concern about “the high-handed actions of the Tanzanian government, which claimed that Quintal and Mumo had entered [Tanzania] on incorrect visas”.

South Africa will not waiver in its promotion and defence of human rights, including the right to freedom of expression, which includes freedom of speech and freedom of the press. At the regional, continental and global levels, South Africa is one of the leading champions in relation to human rights.

Minister Sisulu is mindful of South Africa’s role as a beacon of hope for many media practitioners in Africa and globally. Under her leadership, South African diplomats will continue to make use of their offices to champion the rights of journalists to play their watchdog role without fear, favour or prejudice.

South Africa will continue to use available diplomatic and other channels, primarily the African Union, to engage its sister African states about the human rights culture and conditions on our continent. It is encouraging to see more leaders across the world, and on our continent in particular, being more vocal about the need to respect and uphold human rights.

More African states are leaning towards democracy and good governance. The AU is on record about its intolerance of undemocratic practices. Human Rights Watch’s “World Report 2018” notes that:

One of the most encouraging responses to anti-rights autocrats could be found in Africa.” The report points to renewed efforts to entrench democratic governance in parts of Africa, including in countries such as The Gambia and Zimbabwe.

South Africa has a moral and legal obligation not only to uphold and respect human rights within its borders, but to do likewise on the international stage. The same obligation rests on the other members of the international community. The UN Charter enjoins members of the organisation to observe “respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples, and to take other appropriate measures to strengthen universal peace”.

South Africa will maintain its leadership role in advocating for greater respect for human rights within the context of an African continent that is steadily democratising and adhering to good governance and promoting socio-economic development. Minister Sisulu can be counted among those who will be championing this renaissance of our great continent. DM

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