Letter to the Editor: South Africa plays an active role in the AU

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    The Daily Maverick article, AU Summit: Absence of
    Zuma and Ramaphosa raises eyebrows,
    quoted Liesl
    Louw-Vaudran, a consultant at the Institute of Security Studies
    (ISS), who said South Africa was “ceding power to other players
    on the continent, such as Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame and
    the current AU chairperson President Alpha Condé of Guinea”.

    The notion that South Africa is disengaging
    from the AU and the continent is misinformed. In all our work,
    we remain committed to our vision of championing an African
    continent which is prosperous, peaceful, democratic,
    non-racial, non-sexist and united and which aspires to a world
    that is just and equitable.

    On the perception that South Africa is
    “ceding” power to individual leaders within the AU, it must be
    said that such a view is misplaced. President Kagame was
    assigned a specific task by the Assembly of Heads of State in
    July 2016, held in Kigali, to undertake a study aimed at
    reforming the AU and its organs.

    The reforms are aimed at addressing some of
    the challenges facing the AU, such as “failure to implement
    decisions”, “overdependence on partner funding”,
    “underperformance of some organs” and “inefficient working
    methods”.

    President Kagame was given this task by the
    Assembly and South Africa fully supports the initiative to
    revitalise the AU. Indeed, the decision of the July 2016 summit
    to institute the reforms was not taken overnight. Dr
    Dlamini-Zuma had already initiated some of the reforms,
    including an improvement in the working methods and financial
    self-reliance.

    On the need for African states to take greater
    responsibility in funding the AU, the summit held in June 2015
    in South Africa decided to establish the AU Foundation, a
    vehicle for resource mobilisation on the continent.

    Through the establishment of the foundation,
    the AU undertook to work with the African people, including the
    private sector, to explore innovative sources for funding. At
    the last summit, we saw President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe
    make a donation of US$1-million through the foundation.

    South Africa is not in competition with
    leaders of the AU who are assigned specific roles by the AU.
    The Chair of the AU, President Alpha Condé of Guinea, assumed
    this role in January 2017 and will hand over to a new Chair in
    January 2018. All AU member states, including South Africa,
    will continue to support President Condé for the duration of
    his tenure.

    At the same time, South Africa continues to
    play an active role in the AU through various ways, including
    as a member of the AU Peace and Security Council. In this role,
    we are at the forefront of efforts to bring lasting peace and
    stability to the continent, particularly in countries such as
    Libya, South Sudan, Sudan (Darfur), Somalia and Western
    Sahara.

    South Africa will continue to lead the
    multifaceted discourse on the future of the AU. In August, we
    will assume the role of Chair of the 15-state Southern African
    Development Community (SADC), one of the AU’s most dynamic
    Regional Economic Communities (RECs). The AU cannot operate
    optimally if the RECs are not operating likewise.

    When President Kagame presented his report on
    institutional reforms of the AU, he emphasised that “there
    should be a clear division of labour between the AU, regional
    economic communities, regional mechanisms, member states, and
    other continental institutions, in line with the principle of
    subsidiarity”.

    Having made the transition in 2002 from an OAU
    that was formed to lead the struggle against colonialism and
    apartheid to an AU that is waging a new struggle for Africa’s
    economic independence, South Africa believes that its own
    economic development depends on growing regional and
    international economic co-operation in an independent world.
    Accordingly, our country is fully behind efforts by the AU to
    launch the envisaged Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA).

    On 7 July, the Minister of Trade and Industry,
    Dr Rob Davis, signed the agreement establishing the Tripartite
    Free Trade Area (TFTA) in a meeting held in Kampala, Uganda.
    The meeting was attended by the trade ministers and officials
    from the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa
    (COMESA), East African Community (EAC), and SADC. Once the TFTA
    enters into force, it will reduce tariffs on goods traded
    between the tripartite countries, creating new opportunities
    for exports as well as regional value chains.

    South Africa will continue to amplify Africa’s
    voice globally. The outcome of the G20 Summit held in Germany
    saw the leaders of some of the world’s biggest economies
    acknowledge that any co-operation with the continent must be on
    the basis of “African ownership” and “equal
    partnership”.

    Our country’s development is intrinsically
    connected to that of the southern African region and the
    continent as a whole. As such, Africa will remain at the core
    of all our foreign policy endeavours.
    DM

    Clayson Monyela is Deputy Director-General:
    Public Diplomacy,

    Department of International Relations and
    Co-operation

    Photo: President Jacob Zuma and Deputy
    President Cyril Ramaphosa at the Freedom Day celebrations held
    in Manguzi, uMhlabuyalingana in KwaZulu-Natal under the theme
    ‘The year of OR Tambo: Together deepening democracy and
    building safer and crime free communities’, 27 April 2017.
    (Photo: GCIS)

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