Address by Mr Bantu Holomisa, MP in Extended Public Committee Debate: Budget Vote 3 - Foreign Affairs (29 May 2007)

Madam Speaker and Honourable Members -

Once more we meet to take stock of what has happened since the last budget vote debate. Judging by the involvement of SA in peace-missions and peace-keeping activities across the continent, there is no doubt that we've had a busy year once more. Unfortunately in some of the areas, such as Cote d'Ivoire, there are forces who have sought to undermine the integrity of South Africa.

In the Portfolio Committee of Foreign Affairs, when it comes to SA, we jealously guard anything that is negative towards our country, and that is why we have endorsed most of the policy positions of the present government. But if some of the policies are simply going to be changed overnight by telephone without a reasonable explanation to this Committee and the people of the country, it will create confusion. I'm calling on the Minister and the country's diplomats to remember that they must remain accountable to the public representatives and people of South Africa.

At other international forums there was a great deal of hype and hope when South Africa was elevated to be a member of the UN Security Council and also to serve briefly as President of that body,  especially the G-77 countries and Mainland China. For some reason it looks as though our short tenure of President was characterised by a lack of policy direction and clarity. For instance, we were misconstrued in our opposition to the motion against the Myanmar, and we received criticism even back here in South Africa. Our tenure was marred with controversy, I use the term advisedly, because according to the briefings we received in the Committee our policies have been clear, for instance on Iran where SA is encouraging them to use their nuclear technology for peaceful means, as we do here in SA. But for an outsider it looked as though our UN representative was told at the last minute to change the set-up and adopt what other superpowers want regarding Iran without defending our established principles.

One would have expected SA would be more vigilant after the US and UK were misled by their intelligence agencies about the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Even that process was preceded by international inspections by the UN nuclear watchdog body, and that report was inconclusive. But some countries decided to unilaterally resort to force. We are beginning to see the same trend in the case of Iran, but the difference right now is that South Africa will be remembered as voting in favour of sanctions against Iran. We need clarity. We don't know whether this was a Cabinet decision, or the decision of one individual, because a foreign policy controlled by one person would be very reckless. Already there are threats of military intervention from the US. The danger is that SA, a developing nation, would be accused in future of having voted in support of action against Iran, on the basis of inconclusive evidence, as was done in Iraq.

After many years of calls for South Africa to get involved in Zimbabwe, we have now finally received a mandate from the AU to broker talks between the stakeholders in that country. While we appreciate that there is a reported black-out on the media by all the players involved in these negotiations, we nonetheless call on the South African government - as leader of this process - to release periodic interim reports on the progress of these talks. We need this so that such a report can be matched with the daily reported realities in that country. It would avoid the possibility of any of the players involved undermining the process in their daily activities and would assist South Africa in assessing its own efforts in leading this process.

The UDM supports the Budget Vote.

I thank you.

Back to 2007 Archive