Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Naledi Pandor. (Photo: Gallo Images / Sydney Seshibedi)
President Cyril Ramaphosa and other regional leaders will meet with Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi before the end of May to hear from him whether he will accept a regional military intervention force in his country to fight a growing Islamist insurgency.
Last month, military experts from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) drew up a plan for a SADC force of nearly 3,000 troops, armed with helicopter gunships and warships, to defeat and dislodge the Islamic State-affiliated insurgency terrorizing Mozambique’s northernmost province, Cabo Delgado.
SADC security organ troika presidents, including Botswana, South Africa and Zimbabwe, were due to meet with Nyusi at a summit in Maputo on April 29 to review the response plan. But the summit was postponed indefinitely, supposedly because Ramaphosa was then appearing before the Zondo Commission and Botswana President Mokgweetsi Masisi was quarantined because of Covid-19. But the long delay in rescheduling the summit began to reinforce existing doubts about whether Nyusi really wanted a SADC force to come to his rescue.
Many regional officials and analysts believe it would rather negotiate military aid from individual countries and private military companies than have to rely on SADC – and thus lose face with its neighbors.
This week, Ramaphosa met Nyusi on the sidelines of French President Emmanuel Macron’s Paris summit on refinancing African economies. The two leaders have proposed a date for the postponed SADC security organ troika summit, Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Naledi Pandor said at a press conference on Thursday. She was at the Paris meeting.
After discussions with Botswana as the chairman of the SADC security organ troika, a date had been agreed and would be announced by the SADC secretariat, Pandor said. It would be this month, she said.
“Mozambique wants SADC to be active in helping to resolve this issue of extremist incursion into Cabo Delgado,” Pandor added.
However, government officials and analysts remain skeptical. They point to Nyusi agreements or negotiations for military assistance like Portugal, the United States, the private military company Dyck Advisory Group (DAG) and now, it seems, Rwanda. These suggest that Nyusi wants to keep tight control over any foreign intervention and fears that a relatively large SADC force will continue its own agenda.
Some observers believe Nyusi does not want 3,000 troops from neighboring countries to see up close how bad things are in Cabo Delgado. Many believe that the insurgency erupted there largely because the province was deprived of adequate government services.
Nyusi may also want to prevent regional troops from learning too much about drug and natural resource trafficking in Cabo Delgado, in which Frelimo elites would have an interest.
Pandor was speaking before his speech to Parliament in the debate on his ministry’s budget vote. She said the Covid-19 pandemic had disrupted many ministry goals over the past year and resulted in significant budget cuts. The ministry’s initial 2020/2021 budget had been reduced from Rand 6,850,179,000 in April 2020 to Rand 6,314,968,000 today.
Meanwhile, the ministry’s budget for 2021/2022 was announced at R7,038,531,000 in the 2021 budget speech, but has since been reduced to R6,452,372,000. Among the cost-saving measures would be the closure of 10 of South Africa’s 122 embassies or other missions abroad, Pandor said. These included the Embassies in Helsinki in Finland, the Vatican in Rome, Minsk in Belarus, Port from Spain to Trinidad and Tobago, Muscat to Oman, Suva to Fiji, Bucharest to Romania and Lima to Peru.
Pandor said his department would do everything possible to maintain good relations with these countries, including covering the relations of neighboring countries, appointing honorary consuls and increasing engagement with the embassies of those countries in South Africa.
Pandor also appeared to suggest that Pretoria was considering closing its embassy in Israel due to heavy Israeli airstrikes in Gaza in retaliation for a barrage of rockets fired at Israel by the Islamist group Hamas, which controls Gaza.
She said South Africa had already taken “pretty strong steps” by withdrawing its ambassador to Israel two years ago. She added: “I receive a petition that we have addressed to our government, calling on us to close the embassy in Israel because our presence there is not fulfilling the role we had hoped for, to help move the discussions forward. towards peace and freedom for the Palestinian people.
“This is something we will continue to discuss,” she added. However, a senior government official insisted that “the option of completely shutting down our embassy in Israel is not even on the table.”
Pandor also encouraged South Africans to continue the picket line against Israel.
“We should demonstrate regularly, highlighting the plight of Palestine and any support we can provide in humanitarian terms – given the devastation that the West Bank and other parts of Palestine are suffering – is the support that South Africa should bring.
In his budget speech to Parliament on Thursday, Pandor called for greater international action, including sanctions against Israel, and said South Africa should support the International Criminal Court in its planned investigation into human rights violations. human rights by the Israeli government.
The Jewish Council of SA Deputies, representing the Jewish community in South Africa, condemned Pretoria for criticizing Israel for its airstrikes in Gaza, but remained completely silent on the hundreds of Hamas rockets fired at Israel.
On another issue, Pandor did not disclose whether the government would extradite Mozambique’s former finance minister Manuel Chang to Mozambique or the United States to face charges of fraud and corruption in the government. part of a $ 2 billion scam involving the purchase of fishing and patrol vessels.
Both countries have blamed Chang, and Ramaphosa has been sitting on the difficult decision for several months. Last week, the Mozambican government filed a petition with the Johannesburg High Court for an order requiring Justice Minister Ronald Lamola to extradite Chang, who has been detained in South Africa for nearly 29 months.
Pandor said on Tuesday his government would take his case to court.
The minister also insisted that her government’s stalled mediation effort in the Zimbabwe crisis was still ongoing and that she would discuss it with the new Zimbabwean Foreign Minister, Frederick Shava, during the his visit to South Africa on Friday.
“I hope we will be able to open further discussions on further assistance South Africa could provide to Zimbabwe to address these two key issues … an economic and socio-political challenge.”
The two had to be addressed simultaneously to “make progress,” Pandor said. Ramaphosa sent three special envoys to Zimbabwe in 2020 to discuss the deteriorating economy and politics in the country. They met with President Emmerson Mnangagwa, but he did not let them meet the opposition.
His continued refusal to do so prevented the envoys from returning to Zimbabwe.
“We discussed, through President Ramaphosa with his Zimbabwe counterpart, the return of the envoys to Zimbabwe to complete the work that had been started,” Pandor said.
“We believe that without the envoys meeting with stakeholders outside the ruling party, we will not have a full picture of the challenges and possible responses to the problems facing Zimbabwe.
“So the envoys who were originally assigned will return as soon as we can agree on the dates. There has been a more receptive response to President Ramaphosa’s ongoing proposals. ”
However, officials said they had detected no easing of resistance from Mnangagwa and the ruling Zanu-PF to South African envoys meeting the Zimbabwean opposition. Zanu-PF insists that Zimbabwe is facing only an economic crisis precipitated by international sanctions and that no political intervention by South Africa is therefore necessary. DM
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This notice was published: 2021-05-20 21:32:28