Zimbabwe crisis cannot wait until President Ramaphosa returns from Davos

Earlier this week, the Democratic Alliance (DA) wrote to President Cyril Ramaphosa, calling on him to intervene directly in order to stop the ongoing human rights violations being carried out by President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government in Zimbabwe. It was made clear that if the President fails to abandon his “quiet diplomacy” approach and intervene by Friday, 25 January, the DA will approach the International Criminal Court (ICC) requesting a preliminary investigation into these clear human rights violations.

In response, the Presidency has stated this is not possible as the President is abroad at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos. This response is unacceptable. Our country’s duty to protect and promote basic human rights for fellow human beings cannot be put on hold. There is nothing stopping the President from picking up the phone and doing the right thing.

Therefore, the DA’s call stands. The President must advise the nation on what immediate steps his government will take to ensure an end to the violence in Zimbabwe and the full reinstatement of all civil liberties by tomorrow, Friday 25 January, failing which we will approach the ICC for relief for the people of Zimbabwe.

To date, Ramaphosa has simply called for the end to sanctions against Zimbabwe. There has been no advocacy for the citizens, justice for the deceased, or protection of civil liberties for those who are still detained.

The President is mistaken to focus solely on the economic situation in Zimbabwe whilst turning a blind eye to the dictator-like military clampdown on citizens which has to date claimed the lives of at least 12 people.

If President Ramaphosa fails to intervene and stop the human rights abuses in Zimbabwe, he will need to answer to the ICC as why his government failed to act to put a stop to these grave human rights violations.

DA notes serious concerns with aspects of the “Rome Statute Repeal” Bill

The International Crimes Bill 37 of 2017 was tabled in Parliament on Wednesday night and seeks to repeal the Implementation of the Rome Statute Act and withdraw South Africa from the International Criminal Court (ICC).
While it seems that the Bill pays lip service to South Africa’s role as a leader in the African context, and as a champion of dispute resolution, the DA is currently combing through and have made the following observations:

  • Having previously attempted to withdraw from the ICC, with no alternative for the prosecution of international crimes being presented, the ANC is now seeking to confer jurisdiction over these crimes on domestic courts;
  • Jurisdiction is limited to crimes committed in SA, crimes where the accused or a victim is a South African citizen or resident, and crimes where the accused is present in the country after the commission of the crime;
  • In order for any prosecution contemplated by this Bill to even begin, a warrant of arrest must be applied for by the National Prosecutor, or an authorised prosecutor. This already introduces administrative delays that may allow an accused time to flee the state. Vesting this discretion in a political appointee, like the National Director of Public Prosecutions, currently Shaun Abrahams who we know to be a lapdog for President Zuma’s cabal of cronies and cadres, is a recipe for disaster;
  • Administratively, a request for arrest issued by the ICC to member states applies immediately upon receipt, with the effect that subjects may, and ought to be, arrested upon arrival in the country. This Bill fails to achieve that, probably deliberately;
  • The ANC has maintained the illusion that the decision not to arrest Al-Bashir, a decision found to be unlawful by the High Court and Supreme Court of Appeal, was a principled one. They claim that they have ideological differences with the ICC, and that on this basis, they did not feel obliged to arrest Al-Bashir. However, it is abundantly clear that this is false. In reality, the ANC’s decision was a political one, intended to protect a brutally authoritarian dictator in the interests of reciprocity and impunity;
  • The impropriety of the Bill’s prosecutorial mechanisms is also present with regards to investigations. While the Rome Statute allows South Africa to outsource international justice, this Bill will place the onus to construct and manifest a criminal case squarely within domestic structures. Therefore, it shall fall to the Hawks to investigate complaints relating to international crimes, a duty they are singularly ill-placed to carry out; and
  • The Bill seems to be aware of the shortcomings of a Hawks driven investigation, as it lists factors to be considered when deciding whether or not to investigate, but it fails to address these shortcomings and in so failing it leaves open an enormous loophole for prosecutions to be stillborn at the investigative phase.

While there is a great deal more in the Bill to analyse and engage with, which the Democratic Alliance shall be doing in due course, it is clear on a first reading that the Bill is not intended to achieve justice for international crimes, but will only assist in the evasion of justice.
This ‘Impunity Bill’ will not pass through Parliament unchallenged, and the ANC will not be permitted to absolve themselves of their duties to victims of genocides and other human rights violations taking place on a daily basis across the continent and the world.

DIRCO has failed dismally

Note to editors: The following speech was delivered in Parliament today by the DA’s Shadow Deputy Minister of International Relations and Co-operation, Sandy Kalyan MP, during the Budget Vote on International Relations and Co-operation.
The Department of International Relations and Co-operation (DIRCO) places economic growth and investment as a priority.
However, on reflection, we have strayed very far off that course.
DIRCO raves about its 125 missions worldwide. But, is it financially sound to have Embassies in countries where the trade and investment potential is poor?
There are Missions in 23 countries that are of little strategic importance to the countries’ interest and Foreign Policy. These represent 18.4% of missions abroad and closure could lead to savings of R2.2 billion.
What is the average age of South African diplomats?
It is well known that most Ambassadorial postings are given as a reward for service in the struggle, jobs for pals and of course, nepotism.
DIRCO supposedly has a Placement Policy in place. The recent run of embarrassing events at some of our Missions casts doubt on South Africa’s integrity. Let me give a few examples:

  • Take for example Ms Mohau Pheko. She who claimed to have a PhD. Only for it to be revealed that she lied;
  • What about Ms Francis Ngubeni? A convicted drug trafficker appointed to the position of High Commissioner in Singapore;
  • Then there is Mr Obed Mlaba, who openly used Government letterheads to source business for his daughter’s company; and last, but not least; and
  • Ambassador elects to Japan, Thulani Dlomo, who has a dubious background and has been accused of corruption.

These are the type of people the Department is deploying to represent our country.
I suppose it is fitting if you take into account who is running our country.
Given the history of our country, President Mandela stressed the absolute need for human rights to underpin both our Constitution and Foreign Policy.
Our track record at the UN is a poor reflection of our commitment to uphold human rights.
Some prime examples:

  • South Africa voted to deny the Committee to Protect Journalists observer status;
  • We initially abstained from the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) vote. Why? Equality, regardless of a person’s sexual orientation, is enshrined in our Constitution. Yet we were initially swayed by the African block. While we eventually voted in favour, our flip-flop approach seemed highly questionable and unacceptable; and
  • We also recently voted against the UN decision on the promotion, protection and enjoyment of internet freedom.

What is going on, Minister?
South Africa is a member of the AU and the host country to the Pan-African Parliament (PAP). The Annexures to the host agreement and the relocation of the Parliament to more permanent quarters must be sorted out as a matter of urgency. Approximately R32 million is paid in rent to Gallagher Estate.
A Member of Parliament in this House is a major shareholder in Gallagher and one wonders whether the delay in moving to a permanent facility is in actual fact all about guaranteed income for one of the friends.
Also of concern is the apparent violation of the quota for employment of South Africans at PAP. During the last sitting, persons from Egypt were employed to do basic housekeeping tasks. Why?
South Africa has not ratified the Protocol to make PAP a legislative body. I’m happy that this is the case as there are some unintended consequences which may need Constitutional amendments. Mostly, I wonder why legal opinions are not sought before Protocols are signed, as was the case in your failed bid to withdraw from the International Criminal Court (ICC).
As a Member of PAP since 2009, I feel that our Parliament does not take it seriously. Reports and resolutions are not tabled and debated in this House. In the last sitting, I submitted a motion to amend the rules to include the Principle of Rotation of the Presidency. The motion was unanimously adopted.
While South Africa was not in favour of the motion to readmit Morocco to the AU, we have to be more vocal about their compliance of AU instruments and reiterate our support for the UN motion to allow Western Sahara independence.
As a country, we have a duty to look at the implications for diplomacy. DIRCO has been largely silent on BREXIT and the impact on SA-EU relations. Maybe that could be due to the Minister’s response on national television where she showed her complete lack of knowledge on her portfolio.
DIRCO has failed dismally and employed a bunch of criminals. Yet, today we offer voters an alternative. The values of equality, liberty, non-racialism, global and regional integration and a government for all citizens are very much alive within the DA and we urge every South African to vote for these values come 2019.

Human rights need to be the guiding principle of our international relations

Note to editors: The following speech was delivered in Parliament today by the DA’s Shadow Minister of International Relations and Co-operation, Stevens Mokgalapa MP, during the Budget Vote on International Relations and Co-operation.
Today, as we mark the 54th anniversary of the AU, we salute the founding fathers and visionary leaders of the African continent. Happy Africa Day.
Agenda 2063 contains the blueprint for a paradigm shift in Africa’s future that aims to create an environment of inclusive economic growth and sustainable development. It strives for an integrated continent with shared values, good governance, democracy, rule of law, justice and a peaceful and secure Africa.
We want to acknowledge and commend the hard work done by the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) and African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) programmes that seek to facilitate Africa’s renewal and reshape its future. Unfortunately, the current crop of leaders are working hard to reverse the noble deeds of our forefathers and in the process, are tainting the legacy of our continent. Africa is still ravaged by civil wars, conflict, underdevelopment, unemployment, power-obsessed dictators, undemocratic regimes, human rights abuses and corruption.
The current global environment is volatile, as the rise of populist, nationalistic and extremist movements are posing a threat to global security and undermines international order, which brings fear and mistrust among people and states.
This trend has led to many states adopting a narrow nationalistic approach as opposed to globalisation to foreign policy. For example, the presidential election in the USA and BREXIT.
This trend is compounded by growing expectations and disappointments, as well as demographic shifts and migration.
All of this leads to a scramble for scarce resources due to jobless economic growth which contribute to unemployment and poverty. National interests become the focal centre of a state’s approach to foreign policy. States are pursuing a zero-sum game through a narrow nationalistic focus in trying to outsmart each other for the maximum benefit of attracting Foreign Direct Investment (FDI).
Globalisation and urbanization are a twin reality which must be managed by states, as non-state actors are intensifying their role and involvement in the foreign policy space.
Chairperson, allow me to address you on some of the Department’s programmes:
Programme 1: We are concerned about the ill-discipline of the staff and urge the Minister to take steps against the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) immediately.
Programme 2: International Relations addresses the core business of the Department with a budget of R3.6 billion. This programme still remains a source of concern with 126 missions abroad in 107 countries and 160 resident in South Africa. This is unsustainable and hurtful to the fiscus under the current economic conditions.
It is prudent under these circumstances to follow the National Development Plan (NDP) and National Treasury’s advice to consider rationalization of our missions and to cut expenditure on foreign infrastructure projects.
It is also important to consider the reduction of maintenance costs on foreign leased properties, as over 1000 properties are leased at a cost of R575 million.
Economic diplomacy is still lagging behind the number of high level visits and bilateral commissions still yield little in terms of value for money. We need quality outcomes, not quantity in number of visits. This requires a concerted effort in skilling and equipping our diplomats as economic diplomats to market and sell our country abroad.
Our current crop of diplomatic cadets are a shame as they serve personal interests rather than public interests.
Some are criminals, others are dishonest by faking their academic credentials.
We need more vigorous vetting processes to ensure that these cadets are beyond reproach and are people of integrity, ready to serve with pride, dedication and patriotism.
This is the reason why the DA supports the finalization of the Foreign Service Bill to professionalise and regulate our foreign service and eliminate the dumping ground syndrome.
Programme 3: This provides an opportunity for South Africa to play a meaningful role and take leadership in global politics by influencing the multilateral agenda through its constitutional values.
However, South Africa is failing dismally in multilateral forums when it comes to promoting our constitutional values and principles and championing human rights. This is evident from our failed withdrawal from the International Criminal Court (ICC) and our relationship with dictators like Mugabe, al-Bashir, Nkurunziza and Kabila.
We cannot afford to be quiet when opposition leaders are persecuted and on fabricated charges as is the case in Zambia with Hakainde Hichilema. That is why DA leader, Mmusi Maimane, will attend the treason trial of Mr Hichilema in Zambia tomorrow to offer him our full support.
We must also use our chairmanship of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to address this serious issue. In a seemingly democratic country like Zambia, the intimidation and suppression of opposition parties should be strongly condemned.
Programme 4: On public diplomacy, we are happy to see an increase in the allocation to this programme. We would like to see this programme provide early warning systems on major international events and we suggest organising a national dialogue on South African foreign policy and national interests to ensure participatory diplomacy of non-state actors and civil society in foreign policy matters.
Programme 5: We need to evaluate our participation and commitment to international membership. We also need to ensure that we respect and uphold our constitutional values in the global arena.
The DA is concerned about the recurring and serial adverse audit opinions. For three consecutive years, the Department has received a qualified opinion. This raises serious concerns in the Department and we hope that these issues will be addressed urgently.
We have abandoned our moral high ground to stoop low to a slippery slope. If South Africa is to realise its vision of a better South Africa in a better Africa and a better world, we must shape up and be counted or ship out and lose all credibility in the global arena.
We must be vocal and speak out against wrongdoings and also be bold to challenge our allies when they do wrong. The days of failed quiet diplomacy are over. We need to redeem ourselves by ensuring that our voting patterns in the multilateral forums are consistent with our values.
In conclusion, Chairperson, the DA foreign policy is centred on three key pillars of constitutionalism, human rights and economic diplomacy. Under the DA government, we will not roll out a red carpet to dictators and mass murderers. We will respect international law and institutions, we will speak out against wrongdoings, we will ensure our diplomats are well trained in economic diplomacy and are assessed on what value they add to FDI.
Human rights will be the guiding principle in our international relations as we aim to promote intra Africa trade and prioritise regional integration and trade. In 2019, South Africans can choose more racial nationalism, populism and division on the basis of race, or we can choose progress towards an open opportunity society for all. Our country’s national interest consensus will be defined clearly and pursued in all our international relations for the benefit of the people and not only the connected elite.
I thank you.