SA Foreign Policy independent, says Zuma
President Jacob Zuma with Vice Chancellor and Principal Cheryl de la Rey at the University of Pretoria
Photo Ntswe Mokoena
Pretoria - President Jacob Zuma has clarified South Africa’s foreign policy, saying it was independent and the country’s decisions were informed by its national interest.
Delivering a lecture on South Africa’s foreign policy at the University of Pretoria on Thursday 13 October 2011, Zuma said Pretoria was not dictated to by other countries, individuals or lobby groups.
“We look at what is of benefit to the South African people, and what will advance our domestic priorities at that given time,” said Zuma.
Government has come under fire recently over the delay in the visa application of spiritual leader Dalai Lama, with some assuming that Pretoria was being pressurised by China and the country’s recent inclusion in the Brics (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) bloc of emerging economic powers.
Zuma went on to explain that a visa application in any country was subjected to the normal due processes and the outcome was communicated to the applicant.
He said South Africa’s policy was guided by four pillars, which include the African Agenda, South-South Co-operation, North-South Dialogue, Multilateral and Economic Diplomacy, and bilateral relations with individual countries. At the same time, the country was mindful not to lose sight of its domestic priorities and national interests, which he says must continue to inform international engagements.
Zuma outlined how South Africa conducted its foreign policy in key regions of the world including Africa, Asia and Europe, which he said was built on the grounds of an “open society, in which government is based on the will of the people”.
The President also pointed out that South Africa was committed to “transformation of the global system of governance from power-based to a rules-based system in a just and equitable global order”.
He emphasised that multilateralism – addressing international issues through international organisations like the UN, rather than through individual nations – was a key foreign policy platform for South Africa.
Questioned on why South Africa abstained from the UN Security Council (UNSC) vote on the situation in Syria, Zuma said Pretoria was being cautious because recent Security Council Resolutions have been abused and their implementation went far beyond the mandate of what was intended.
The draft resolution in the Security Council had strongly condemned Syrian authorities for their violent crackdown against pro-democracy protesters this year and called for an immediate end to human rights abuses, according to the UN news agency.
Zuma said they were concerned that this resolution should not be part of a hidden agenda to yet again institute regime change.
Pretoria is of the view that a holistic political solution must be found, one that would respect democracy, political reform, justice, human rights as well as the socio-economic development needs of the people of Syria, in order to ensure long-term peace and stability.
Zuma was referring to the UNSC Libyan resolution, which he said was abused because military action was chosen instead of peaceful resolutions.
“The AU was not given space to implement its roadmap and to ensure an African solution to the Libyan question,” said Zuma, adding that the UN undermined the AU’s work.
He called on the UN and international community to partner and support the AU’s efforts in bringing about peace on the continent. He said the way the UN dealt with the recent African conflicts, the Libyan crisis in particular, had strained relations between the two organisations.
“We have addressed the UN on the need to maintain a positive and cooperative working relationship between the UN and the AU on peace-making and peacekeeping, and generally on matters that affect Africa.”
On other matters, Zuma committed Pretoria to supporting the AU’s efforts of bringing peace, political reform, justice and human rights to many conflict affected countries like Sudan, South Sudan, Zimbabwe, Somalia, Madagascar, DRC, Darfur and the crisis in the Middle East.
He also urged the international community to support these countries’ quest for freedom, human rights and dignity.
South Africa hopes to use its UNSC’s non-permanent member seat to sway this agenda.
“We believe we are playing a constructive role, pursuing the interests of our country and the continent.
“Our pressing priority currently is the reform of international institutions, including the United Nations Security Council. Africa and Latin America are not represented as permanent members on the Council. This is a serious anomaly which reflects negatively on the UN system,” said Zuma.
The President also highlighted that government remained committed to promoting economic diplomacy, which will attract investment and tourism, remove barriers to trade, support the development of larger markets in Africa and expand the markets for South African products.
This, Zuma said, was linked to the domestic imperative of eradicating inequality, unemployment and poverty.
Over the years, South Africa has been more aggressive towards the pursuit of the country’s economic interests, with Zuma playing “super salesman”, who was never shy to promote South Africa’ s interests with foreign leaders, including those of India and China. – BuaNews