With the General Elections fast approaching, International Relations and Cooperation Minister, Lindiwe Sisulu, has called on Heads of Mission to rally behind the Electoral Commission (IEC) to allow for smooth elections for South Africans living abroad.
“I have directed all Heads of Mission and Consular Generals to ensure that the IEC is given all the necessary support for South Africans [living abroad] to exercise their right to vote,” said the Minister.
The Minister made the call at a quarterly engagement and post-State of the Nation Address with members of the diplomatic corps on Tuesday.
The engagement is in line with the commitment of the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) to keep the diplomatic corps abreast of all important policy directions and events in the country.
Members of the diplomatic corps were briefed on a number of issues, including preparations for the national elections taking place on 08 May 2019, developments on the continent and South Africa’s tenure as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council for the period January 2019 to December 2020.
On the country’s 2019 elections, Sisulu said she met with IEC CEO Sy Mamabolo, who briefed her on the logistics and the legal requirements expected of missions abroad in preparation for the elections.
Mamabolo, who delivered a presentation to the diplomatic corps, assured them of the country’s state of readiness to hold elections.
On elections further afield in Nigeria, the Minister said there was “nothing untoward” in the postponement of the elections, which were set to take place on 16 February 2019.
“It has happened before in Nigeria and there was nothing untoward about it and we will wait for the announcement on what the technical glitch there was that led to the postponement,” Sisulu said.
More African countries sign the AfCFTA
Taking the members of the diplomatic corps through developments in the region, Sisulu highlighted that progress is being made on the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement.
To date, 52 out of the 55 African countries have signed the agreement, which is set to create a single continental market for goods and services and pave the way for accelerating the establishment of the Continental Customs Union.
Zimbabwe protests and sanctions
On the recent protests in Harare, Zimbabwe, the Minister said South Africa stands ready to support the Zimbabwean government and its people whenever needed.
Sisulu also wished Vice President Chiwenga a speedy recovery. “I am informed by our High Commissioner in Harare that he travelled to India for medical attention.”
With a bi-national meeting with Zimbabwe scheduled for 12 March 2019, Sisulu said South Africa would call on the international community to lift sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe.
“We call on the EU and particularly the United Kingdom (UK) to give the government and the people of Zimbabwe a chance to change their situation by urgently lifting the sanctions,” she said.
Sisulu said without lifting sanctions, Zimbabwe will never be able to address its economic challenges, which are compromising the political gains achieved since the coming in of the new President.
Last year, the Heads of State and Government of the South African Development Community (SADC) resolved to hold a Solidarity Conference for Western Sahara, which remains the last colony on the African continent.
In light of this, Sisulu confirmed that South Africa and Namibia will jointly host a SADC conference from 25-26 March 2019 in Tshwane.
Update on MTN staff in Uganda
Following the deportation of cellular network MTN staff in Uganda, Sisulu said the matter was being addressed through diplomatic channels.
“We are aware of the deportation of MTN executives by the Uganda government, and we are engaging our Ugandan counterparts through diplomatic channels.
“We will continue to monitor this situation and to engage with the Ugandan government,” said the Minister.
Sisulu called on travellers to sensitise themselves with the relevant countries’ laws when visiting the countries.
“It is of concern that some South African citizens continue to find themselves in conflict with the law in the People’s Republic of China, despite DIRCO’s repeated appeals that all persons traveling to China or any other country must ensure that they obtain legitimate and correct documentation.”
Sisulu said her department remains in contact with Chinese authorities in an effort to find a solution to the current challenge. – SAnews.gov.za
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