South Africa proposes 'dialogue' in Eswatini, doesn't want to say who the 'aggressor' is

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Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Naledi Pandor.
Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Naledi Pandor.
Eduardo Munoz - Pool, Getty Images
  • International Relations and Cooperation Minister Naledi Pandor says "South Africa supports peaceful settlement of disputes through dialogue" in Eswatini.
  • She didn't want to name the "aggressor" in the conflict between the absolute monarch King Mswati and pro-democracy protesters.
  • This bears a similarity to government's stance on the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

While the South African government is loath to condemn Russia's invasion of Ukraine, it has been similarly reticent to pronounce who has been the "aggressor" in the conflict in neighbouring Eswatini, calling for "dialogue" instead.

DA MP Darren Bergman asked in a parliamentary question about the government's approach to the Eswatini situation it used to "determine who is the aggressor and victim".

He also wanted to know what assistance the government intended to offer to show solidarity with the victim.

International Relations and Cooperation Minister Naledi Pandor responded that, "South Africa is working within the established protocols of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to address stability and the political situation in Eswatini".

"The SADC is already engaged to support the kingdom to resolve the challenges. This work is done within the overall objective of the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Co-operation which is to promote peace and security in the region as stipulated under article 2.2. of the Protocol on Politics, Defence and Security Co-operation.

"President Ramaphosa, in his capacity as chairperson of the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Co-operation appointed special envoys to engage with His Majesty King Mswati III of the Kingdom of Eswatini on the escalating security and political developments in the kingdom. This was a follow up to a SADC Organ Fact Finding Mission which visited Eswatini in July 2021.

"Consultation with stakeholders, including with the king, the government, civil society and diplomatic corps on the ground, highlighted the need for an inclusive national dialogue in an appropriate forum.

"Following a meeting between President Ramaphosa and King Mswati III held on 2 November 2021, it was agreed that the SADC Troika would assist in the development of terms of reference for the national dialogue. The National Dialogue will work to facilitate a peaceful, orderly and inclusive national multi-stakeholder political engagement in order to identify and implement sustainable solutions to Eswatini's political and security challenges. In this regard, a draft framework has been developed by the SADC Troika and will be presented to the Eswatini Government in due course."

READ | Eswatini bans protests as hospital floors 'drenched in blood', mediation begins

Pandor said South Africa was part of the SADC collective and could not alone decide on who should be held responsible for the conflict.

"South Africa supports peaceful settlement of disputes through dialogue and does not impose its will on the territorial integrity of other countries."

She said the SADC Troika was pursuing an inclusive process, and therefore the proposed dialogue was not premised on who could be an aggressor or victim. The dialogue would be undertaken by "parties representing all sectors of society for their common good".

Eswatini is an absolute monarchy ruled by King Mswati III, who had a chequered human rights record.

Last year, pro-democracy protesters clashed with the kingdom's security forces, who shot live ammunition at protesters, leading to deaths and injuries. Two pro-democracy MPs had also been jailed. There had also been internet and social media shutdowns.

South Africa's initial reaction to the Russian invasion of Ukraine had been to call for mediation and not taking sides in the matter.

As Russia invaded Ukraine last week, Pandor in a statement called on Russia to withdraw its troops. However, Ramaphosa was reportedly angry about this statement and continued with the line that South Africa wasn't taking sides.

Ramaphosa had also publicly called for mediation, a stance echoed by the ANC.

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