South Africa confirms desire to fight for Robert Mugabe at UN Security Council
JOHANNESBURG – South Africa would again vote "no" to UN sanctions against Zimbabwe should the issue return onto the agenda of the Security Council during its second term.
"If a similar situation were to arise, South Africa will vote no," said International Relations director general Ayanda Ntsaluba in Pretoria on Tuesday.
He was referring to last term (2007-2008) when South Africa blocked sanctions against Zimbabwe — also voting against resolutions on Myanmar and Iran – "areas which materially we voted wrongly as some people say. We would contest that."
South Africa surprised many during its first term on the council, when it joined Russia and China in voting against a Security Council resolution on human rights issues in Myanmar.
It also frustrated efforts to discuss the Zimbabwean situation on the agenda before the signing of a global political agreement and the installation of a unity government in that country.
This in turn led to the country being seen as siding with countries that had bad human rights records.
Ntsaluba said South Africa had learnt a lot after its first tenure as a non-permanent security council member, adding that it would from hereon communicate better and state its case more clearly.
Ntsaluba said even on South African soil, there would never be 100 percent agreement on the Zimbabwean issue.
Asked how South Africa would vote in its second term with regards to Myanmar, Ntsaluba said this would depend on the context in which it was shaped.
"It’s difficult to deal with it in abstract…. South Africa is concerned about rights violations. We continue to urge co-operation with the military junta to ushering a democratic dispensation in Myanmar.
"Their behaviour thus far has not been encouraging," he said, dismissing views that the country had acted in a manner that betrayed the South African constitution.
He said the country was sensitive to what was broadly called "mandate creep", a tendency of the council to raise issues of particular interest to the council’s five permanent members — China, Russia, the USA, UK and France.
Ntsaluba said the council had a tendency of doing this even if issues should best be addressed by the council’s other organs.
"This is an issue we feel strongly about…The critical issue is being able to distinguish between issues of bad governance, issues of violation of human rights and issues that pose threats to international peace and security.
"The three are different and they should not be conflated," he said.
There was a need to see greater consistency in UN Security Council decisions, Ntsaluba said, emphasising the council was not a platform for narrow national interests.
"We wish to see greater consistency in decisions and recognition of its primacy to… global peace and security. We will present ourselves in a manner that looks beyond narrow national interests."
He said the challenge was how a small country from the southernmost tip of the continent, tried to pursue independent thought reflective of its own values.
"How do we make a genuine contribution without being bullied into submission by the powerful who happen to be the permanent members of the Security Council," he questioned.
"…And how do you take these independent positions and accept that there are consequences in taking those positions that the powerful might not like."
Admitting some issues would be "tricky" to deal with, Ntsaluba said South Africa needed to be careful not to perpetuate those Security Council practices South Africa felt needed to be changed.
The country wants to use its newly acquired non-permanent seat on the council to fight for the reform of the powerful world organ.
"We want to strengthen multilateralism… so we’ll engage the Security Council conscious that we are members of an organ deserving of reform."
Ntsaluba previously said challenging the current status quo was a slow process that the country was hoping would bear fruit in future.
Global peace and security matters were "very delicate", especially in the context of war against global terrorism.
"We’re also anxious that all actions, no matter how legitimate the need, should be underpinned by international legality."
Ntsaluba said the country would engage and participate in the UN, fully conscious of the responsibility that rested with council members.