‘Nkandla saga won’t destabilise SA’

The German foreign minister stressed South Africa’s importance as a mediator in regional conflicts as he downplayed the threat of political debate.

The country had a “peace builder” role in countries such as South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier told journalists in Pretoria on the second day of his visit to the country today.

He also expressed confidence that growing domestic criticism of the African National Congress would not destabilise the country.

Heightening scrutiny on ANC is a normal part of civic debate, said Steinmeier, making reference to criticism of President Jacob Zuma over the R246 million upgrade to his rural homestead in Nkandla.

The minister also expressed concern about the protection of German investments after South Africa cancelled a bilateral agreement regulating questions such as taxation and eventual expropriations.

Germany needs a “clear message” that South Africa can provide an “investment-friendly environment,” said Steinmeier.

South African Foreign Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane said about 600 German companies were expanding their activities in South Africa and that they had “nothing to fear,” adding a promise to review German concerns.

South Africa has been cancelling agreements signed under the 1948-94 apartheid regime, according to German diplomatic sources.

Steinmeier said it was unclear whether South Africa would replace bilateral investment protection agreements.

German companies have investments worth billions of euros in South Africa in fields including electronics and the car industry.

South Africa is Germany’s top economic partner in sub-Saharan Africa, while Germany is South Africa’s top trading partner after China.

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