STATEMENT ISSUED BY BANTU HOLOMISA, MP
PRESIDENT: UNITED DEMOCRATIC MOVEMENT
UDM's criticism that Government and its Department of Foreign Affairs are
partisan in the Great Lakes conflict has been vindicated by the fact that the
Minister of Foreign Affairs is only now belatedly trying to talk to the
government of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Even then they want to discuss
the composition of the peacekeeping force in which South Africa wants to
participate. It becomes clear that South Africa's role in the DRC conflict
continues to be suspect as evidenced by the DRC government's concern regarding a
South African troop presence in a peacekeeping force.
It is a reality that the people of the DRC do not want South African troops in
their country because they identify them with the enemies who are invading their
country. They know that the weapons with which the war is waged against them
originate from South Africa and are operated by South Africans.
It would be fool-hardy for the government to force their hand and deploy troops
in the DRC against local popular opposition, because that would expose our
troops to reprisals from an enraged population.
We strongly advise that the peacekeeping process in the DRC is not a national
priority. We must not be goaded into making it one by other external forces who
want to use us in the process. We should divert the material resources meant for
that purpose to address the crises created by the recent floods in South Africa.
We know that a delegation of Government ministers that visited the DRC where
informed in no uncertain terms that the people of the Congo are strongly opposed
to our presence in their country. In the light of this development, President
Mbeki, who already has the tacit approval of Parliament to deploy troops in the
envisaged peacekeeping force must as a matter of urgency apprise Parliament of
the attitude of the Congolese people so that we revisit the whole role that we
are playing in the Great Lakes region.
Any cessation of hostilities in the DRC that may be agreed to, must include in
its terms, a commitment by the Ugandan and Rwandan presidents to pull out all
South African weapons from the Congo. It is South Africa's responsibility to
ensure that this is done. It would be tragic to deploy our troops there only for
them to be killed or maimed by our weapons. The UDM believes that the withdrawal
of South African military hardware from the Congo would be a far more meaningful
contribution to the peace process than an unpopular troop presence in a hostile
22 March 2000