Aziz Pahad hits back at US and UK over UNSC criticism

Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs briefing to media July 15 2008


UN Security Council Resolution

The result of the vote was 9 in favour to 5 against (China, Libya, Russian Federation, South Africa, Vietnam), with 1 abstention (Indonesia). Due to a unique joint veto by 2 permanent members, the Council did not adopt the draft resolution.

It is the view of the South African government that this resolution was not timeous, and indeed, coming in the wake of the AU resolution on this matter which I believe gave the guidelines, was not in the interests of peace and stability, nor indeed did it try to ensure that the Security Council does not take up issues that do not fall fairly and squarely within its ambit.


Prior to this discussion and we had hoped this would influence the co-sponsors not to pursue this path, the AU sent the resolution to the President of the UN Security Council and said:

"Mr President

Pursuant to Article 54 of the United Nations Charter, I have the honour to forward the attached Resolution adopted by the Assembly of Heads of State and Governments of the African Union during their 11th Ordinary Session held from 30 June - 1 July 2008 in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt concerning the situation in Zimbabwe.

I also cease this opportunity to inform Your Excellency, and to underscore the fact that African leaders have fully assumed their responsibility in efforts towards addressing the political crises in Zimbabwe, as you are aware. Indeed, the adoption of this Resolution following in-depth discussions and consultations by African leaders. We believe the support of the Security Council for its implementation would be crucial, as in other instances. We therefore urge for the Council to lend its full support for this process at the present stage of its consideration of the situation in Zimbabwe."

Despite this and all other efforts to encourage the co-sponsors to not act hastily in imposing this resolution, the co-sponsors went ahead and as you know, the results speak for themselves with a historic double veto from Russia and China.

Let me reiterate, we do believe that the AU resolution provides the only possible position to move ahead. Indeed, the co-sponsors and many others who supported the resolution where quite aware that there was a joint statement issued on Friday 11 July by the SADC Facilitation, the ZANU-PF and the two MDC formations which read:

"Joint statement by the SADC facilitator, representatives of ZANU-PF and of the MDC Formations 11 July 2008

Talks between the Zimbabwean political parties consisting of Zanu-PF, MDC-Tsvangirai and MDC-Mutambara, chaired by the Government of South Africa as mandated by SADC, resumed in South Africa yesterday. The talks are aimed at finding solutions to the challenges in Zimbabwe."

It is quite clear that many of the people who were trying to express caution at the UN Security Council were quite clearly indicating that steps were already being taken to implement the AU resolution on this matter and it is therefore, that the co-sponsors went ahead with this resolution and unfortunate that most extraordinary and non-extractable statements were made both within the council and outside by some of the major powers. These are matters we will take up through the diplomatic channels.

We will now proceed with the matter of the Facilitation and we hope that the talks that have started will yield progress so that the AU resolution can be implemented.

As you know, the Chairperson of the African Union Commission will be in South Africa on Friday 18 July 2008 for talks with President Mbeki and to be briefed about developments in the talks so that within the context of the AU resolution and the context of our Facilitation, we will keep all the relevant parties - the SADC Organ, the Chair of SADC, and indeed, through the AU structures all other parties in the African Union briefed about the progress that is being made and therefore continue to get the support of the entire African continent in general and SADC in particular to achieve the objectives called for by the AU Summit.

We believe there is tremendous goodwill within Africa to find a solution and we believe that the only way forward is to adhere fully to the resolution of the AU Summit and therefore allow Africa to solve its problems and ask the international community to not do anything that can impact negatively on the solution and rather assist the Africans to find a solution that is very necessary in Zimbabwe.

Many speakers within the Council said that the task of the UN Security Council is to deliver in terms of its mandate and indeed anything it does must help regional structures to achieve the objectives of peace and stability.


Questions and Answers

Question: Deputy Minister, do you expect an agreement this week on the framework of the Zimbabwe talks?

Question: Deputy Minister, will the talks in Pretoria resume today? Can you update us on the agenda and progress of the talks?

Answer: As I have indicated, there was a joint statement put out last Friday by all parties indicating that they have started talks and that their objective was to find a solution.

There was a decision by all parties, including the Facilitation that we could not negotiate such a complex and crucial matter through the media and therefore it is our view, that because of the sensitivity and issues of the Facilitation and the three parties, we would best leave it for the progress to be made and for the public announcements to be made at that time. I see the South African media are speculating on leaked information - I am not privy to such information but it is clear that everybody understands the need to move expeditiously to find a solution to the Zimbabwean political and economic crises.

We expect that the Facilitation, will at the appropriate time, make an announcement about the progress that has been achieved.


Question: Deputy Minister, you mentioned extraordinary remarks by some members of the Council - could you please expand upon this?

Answer It has been widely reported - you know that in the Council the British representative stated that while they support our mediation, we have achieved "nought." They went on to explain why we have achieved nothing and went on to call for sanctions. [See here]

The American representative in the Council made some remarks about the Russian Federation to which Russia has already responded - about them having given some undertaking at the G8 and therefore they may not be suitable members of the G8. The Russians responded by saying that they were discussing the Zimbabwean issue at the G8 without discussing Chapter 7 resolutions at the UN Security Council and therefore the US representatives comments about Russia and China (in relation to the Chinese veto) were unacceptable.

In relation to South Africa, the US representative, outside the Security Council chambers went on to suggest that President Mbeki is out of touch with his own country and then referred to other South Africans who may be more in touch and therefore he was suggesting that the time was right for the President to go. [See here]

These are not acceptable statements and we will take this up through the relevant diplomatic channels. We do not make statements about the performance of other countries and therefore I hope that there most senior UN representatives will also understand how diplomacy works and go through the right channels.

I am not sure if they were all shocked about what eventually happened. If they had asked for our advice we would have given it to them. We would have said that there was great concern amongst two permanent members of the UN Security Council and other members of the Security Council about pushing ahead with such haste and without allowing for us to get a better understanding of the African Union resolution and allow the UN Security Council to assist rather than hinder the way forward. But, we are now sitting with a situation and we hope that we can reconcile the different positions to get the UN to support the AU mandated SADC mediation process.

You are aware, as I have said, that the Chairperson of the AU Commission will be here on Friday to be briefed by the President about progress so there is constant contact with all structures of the African Union about progress that is being made or not being made in the mediation process.

Question: Deputy Minister, it was indicated yesterday that the visit of Mr Ping to South Africa was an emergency measure? Can you comment on this? Will the broadening of the SADC mediation effort be discussed between President Mbeki and Mr Ping?

Answer: Mr Ping is not coming to South Africa in an emergency situation. As you know, Chairperson Ping is in France at the Mediterranean Summit from where he travelled to Accra to prepare for the Turkish-Africa Summit and in the context of the AU resolution, which is the resolution we have to continue to work from, it is quite important that the Chairperson of the Commission of the AU is regularly briefed about the process.

Our view has always been, and I am stressing it, we are being diverted by a fake argument about the expansion of the SADC Facilitation - the Facilitation is not South Africa only. South Africa is conducting the Facilitation on behalf of SADC and therefore involves the Organ Chair, who, through the processes by which we work, have to brief the Chair of SADC; the Chair of SADC has to brief the Chair of the AU who has to brief all other members including the Peace and Security Council. Africa is totally involved in supporting the mediation that is being carried out by South Africa and President Mbeki as mandated by SADC and now by the African Union.

It is not a single country mediation, it involves everybody and it is incumbent upon the mediation to brief all relevant roleplayers on a regular basis about developments in this process because in the end, we have to carry out a SADC mandate endorsed by the African Union. So, there is no emergency reason for Mr Ping to visit South Africa.

Question: Deputy Minister, if so many countries are involved in this mediation, then it would be very easy to acquiesce to what the MDC wants and have somebody else in the room. Why doesn't this happen?

Answer: This must then emerge from their discussions. I say this is a fake argument and diverts from the real fundamental issue and if the parties feel strongly, then through the mediation, and others, they all have contacts with many other Heads of State in Africa, they can continue to reflect this.

I don't believe that at this very crucial moment, adding new bodies, simply to sit in the same room, is what is required. What is required is that Zimbabweans, given their understanding of the view of all of Africa, about our concerns about developments in Zimbabwe post-March elections, that the Zimbabweans don't have the luxury of not finding a solution to which they have all publicly committed themselves. They have committed themselves to an inclusive government. The task is now, not to just add more people for the sake of adding them, I am not aware if they raised this issue when they met last week or not.

The mediation is continuing - why we receive continuous reports about them being unhappy - why don't we just allow the process to proceed and where they believe the process is not succeeding, let them indicate this and we can see how we can deal with this.

My personal view is that, and I am stressing this, I think this is a diversion. It is a fake argument.

Why did 53 African Heads of State at the AU Summit, after hours of robust discussions come to the conclusion that the SADC mediation carried out under President Mbeki is what they are supporting. They have understood what the reality is on the ground. They have understood at what the stage the mediation process is currently at and therefore, did not want to do anything that merely becomes a diversion rather than continuing the process that is currently underway and achieving progress.

That was a decision of 53 Heads of State by consensus - there was no different position.

Question: Deputy Minister, (inaudible)

Answer I am not aware, I being at Foreign Affairs, have not received anything officially on this matter. What I have picked up is through the media. I am not sure if this has been raised in the mediation. In Zimbabwe, we are briefed at all times so I am not aware of official communication in this regard other than what I pick up through the media.

Question: Deputy Minister, how would you characterise the relationship between President Mbeki and the MDC?

Answer: Very good - I can only judge by what I can see - why else would they be in the talks. I say very good, in relative terms to what you as the media refer to hostile. His relations are equally good with each of the MDC parties and the Zanu-PF. There is nobody who has proven to me that President Mbeki, in the mediation, has taken sides on behalf of one or the other.

I have repeatedly said in these briefings that we continue to ignore that it was precisely because of the mediation that the elections in March were held successfully. We continue to ignore the progress. Nobody has said that until the March 29th elections that President Mbeki was biased against one side or another. The media was saying that, the media was speculating that the elections were going to fail but to everybody's surprise, they were regarded as the best elections in Zimbabwe. So, for me, this indicated that there was something wrong - people were receiving incorrect information and were not aware of the reality on the ground. This was the only conclusion to which I could come.

Question: Deputy Minister, since the failure of the Security Council resolution, the British and Americans have indicated that they will be maintaining pressure on President Mugabe? Do you think this is useful?

Answer: As you are aware, EU and US smart sanctions have been place for some time now. You have sanctions or not. Nobody has been talking about whether we like it or not - that is an independent decision.

The Security Council is another matter - it is a whole new dimension to this debate - it is a chapter 7 resolution and comes at a time where it takes no notice of what 53 African Heads of State have resolved and were therefore going against all precedence in allowing regional groupings to solve their problems and supporting them and not doing things that impede the process. There was a difference in what has long been in place by the EU and US. If they want to increase this, they do not have to go to the UN Security Council to get Chapter 7 resolutions. These sanctions have been increasingly toughened. We were concerned about the incorrect position that was being taken in the UN Security Council after the Sharm el-Sheikh resolution on Zimbabwe. You either have sanctions or not - not smart or stupid sanctions. That does not make sense.

Question: Deputy Minister, does the South African government agree with Zanu-PF that these smart sanctions have contributed to the deteriorating economic situation in Zimbabwe?

Answer: This is a very complex issue and many factors have led to the political, economic and social crisis in Zimbabwe. And, nobody challenges that we are facing a very serious crisis in Zimbabwe. This is reflected by the observer mission report, this is the essence of the AU resolution, the essence of what many countries have said. The causes of numerous. I don't think we can now say only one reason contributed to this. I have not sufficiently studied this. Many people have indicated that although the sanctions may have contributed to this, it could not have been the sole reason.

This is an extract from the transcript of the media briefing by Aziz Pahad, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Pretoria, July 15 2008