Johannesburg - The Department of International Relations and Co-operation has released a transcript of Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane's comments at a recent press conference on Brexit. Nkoana-Mashabane has since come under fire for saying she didn't know about Brexit and only saw it on television. Here is the transcript of her comments at the briefing on July 4.
Question by RFI: "Question is on the visit to France. I would like to ask you about the importance of this visit in the context of Brexit and how that's going to change South Africa's relations with France especially accessing the EU market."
Answer by Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane: "Before I go to this question before I forget even on the things I want to say on a lighter note. For some reason there is something very special between us and France. When we were campaigning for Mme Dlamini-Zuma we were told that: "Aren't you aware that you are up against France?", so we wondered, France is a member of the European Union. We are members of the African Union so this can't be true. So Brexit, we don't know about it. We saw it on television. We hear that it would impact when it started, negatively to our trade and investment relations with countries from that part but we haven't seen real evidence. Maybe it is still coming but one thing first we are not members there and we can only say viva democracy."
Question by Carien du Plessis from News24: "Also another question about Brexit. It looks like after Brexit, the EU project is crumbling a little bit. A lot of people want to pull out. Do you think this affect negatively the philosophy that the AU is currently chasing the whole integration idea or integrated market. Do you think this could affect the AU negatively?"
Answer by Minister Nkoana-Mashabane: "The Europeans were never colonised. They colonised others. So whatever we do here starting from the Organisation of the African Union to the African Union we were not mimicking the European Union because we come from two different backgrounds. If their project failed or is failing we wish it shouldn't fail because people nowadays in 2016 if we understood what globalisation was about is that they would follow opportunities.
So if you say we would build high walls to stop them we do not know how practical that is. That even when Brexit or Britain was exiting people were arriving in boats in Europe so I don't know how immune is the UK from that. But I know that there is a big shanty town that's building up between the two countries. Am I correct?
So those people are in limbo so one day they would have to go somewhere because they would not go back to their home countries. Of course we focus on protecting and respecting the sovereignty of our individual member states and practically deal with issues of border control that would not necessarily inhibit people, genuine travellers who are carrying...who are documented to be able to do business with their own backyard market. President Museveni says it takes two weeks to transport cattle by truck in the same region called the EAC from Uganda to Kenya.
So if we had good roads and rail infrastructure it wouldn't be a problem. At a given checkpoint on whether this cattle are healthy and have all their documents they could pass but that which has been an inhibition it's not whether they were healthy or not, it's because the roads infrastructure made it difficult. So we are still dealing with basics here. But we say it's not necessary for me to fly to France in order for me to connect to Nouakchott. I should be able to fly from OR Tambo to Nouakchott so these are the things that we are still dealing with. So really we are not at the level where we can be saying you know the Union on the other side of those who once colonised us is falling apart so stop integrating".