SA 'not declining as continental power' under Zuma

2017-02-14 18:42
President Jacob Zuma (File: AFP)

President Jacob Zuma (File: AFP)

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Cape Town - Is South Africa declining in stature as a power in Africa? It depends on how you look at it, ANC MP and chair of Parliament’s porftolio committee on international relations, Siposezwe Masango, has said.

"It depends on whether you look at South Africa from the point of view of a president, or from the point of view of an individual, or if you’re going to look at South Africa as a country with particular institutions like Parliament, government, et cetera," Masango told a discussion on the African Union’s agenda, organised by the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation.

"If those things are still firm, they are what they were, then the stature of South Africa should be strong."

Masango was answering to criticism that South Africa's foreign standing has declined under President Jacob Zuma, particularly after the African Union summit in Addis Ababa last month where South Africa had lost on some of its positions, like on the admission of Morocco to the AU.

South Africa wanted Morocco first to acknowledge the independence of the Western Sahara, but this did not happen.

"The point is that some actually demand that South Africa should intervene in certain places in the continent, but South Africa doesn’t want to behave as a sub-imperial force," Masango said.

Deployment of soldiers 

"I've been asked this question many times as I travel all over, ‘why are you allowing this thing to happen in Swaziland, why are you allowing Lesotho to do this, why are you allowing Zimbabwe’ .. as if these are our provinces!”

Masango said the perception that the status of South Africa after former presidents Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki has diminished was true in some respects, because the New Partnership for Africa’s Development “as a project has actually gone down”.

NEPAD was a brainchild of Mbeki and it is expected to be incorporated into the AU Commission as part of the continental body’s reforms.

Masango said, however, the Presidential Infrastructure Champion Initiative, an AU project proposed and championed by Zuma, was going well and it was a sign that South Africa’s stature had not been diminished.

The same went for the training South Africa had done with electoral commissions, interventions through special envoys and mediations as well as the deployment of soldiers in various areas.

Sanusha Naidu from the Institute for Global Dialogue, however, urged more caution. She said South Africa needed to temper its perception about its own power in the continent. She said the return of the African Peer Review Mechanism – as an official AU governance monitoring agency – and NEPAD is interesting because South Africa, Nigeria and Algeria were the key architects of these bodies.

“The question is, if we’re moving into the next 15 years, who are the drivers (of initiatives in Africa and the AU) and where will they come from? With big, bulky institutions like the AU you need drivers. It can’t exist without them. Right now I don’t think South Africa is in that position, so we have to be careful on how we perceive ourselves.”
Read more on:    au  |  jacob zuma  |  sa  |  southern africa

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