The Committee, at its last meeting of the Fifth Parliament, met with the Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Ms Lindiwe Sisulu, and Deputy Minister, to be briefed on political developments in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the recent devastation caused by Cyclone Idai in Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi. The briefing on the political developments in Venezuela was stood down as the matter had yet to be served in Cabinet.
The Minister briefed the Committee on Cyclone Idai and the efforts of South Africa in assisting the countries affected. On Friday, 15 March 2019, an emergency call was received from the President of Malawi calling for support for relief efforts in light of heavy rains in his country. In response, a search and rescue operation was immediately set up. Countries in the SADC region heavily depend on South Africa’s strong capacity as had been previously shown. In Zimbabwe, support is being provided by the Red Cross and Gift of the Givers in providing donations for the time being. The damage in Zimbabwe is beyond the support of South Africa as it will need the concerted effort of everyone. The disaster is perhaps the biggest catastrophe ever on the African continent. The biggest problem faced was that the Meteorological Receptive Antenna was defective. The Minister implored the Committee to extend its assistance to the SADC countries just as the South African Defense National Force (SANDF) had been dispatched.
The Committee called on NGOs, business people and other private entities to coordinate to send aid materials however, these people contributing items must know where they are sending these things to. It was also said that Parliament needs to trigger all constituency areas to ensure donations are come up with for the people of Malawi, Zimbabwe and Mozambique. Members appreciated the Minister and the Department for the good work they have done in regard to the recent disaster in the region. There was now a need to be aware of climate change as the disaster may even be experienced by South Africa. It was recommended that municipalities closest to the affected regions be reached out so relief efforts can be coordinated from there. In 2014, the Minister condoned the use of funds from the African Renaissance Fund (ARF) for matters such as this – it was suggested this be done. The Department of Social Development can also be called to provide assistance.
Minister Sisulu then briefed the Committee on political developments in the DRC speaking to the election held in early 2019. South Africa used its position as chair to pressure the DRC into proclaiming it will hold elections and the country did. The briefing covered the contestation around the results of the election and current processes thereafter including the pact reached to form a coalition. The pact is an internal matter and South Africa is still unaware of the type of coalition to be formed but has been invited to act as guarantors of the pact signed by the parties to take the government of DRC forward.
The Committee briefly discussed the contestation around the election and the need for representative government including those who contested the results, provinces not participating in the election due to an outbreak of the Ebola virus, defective election machinery, risk of militias and voter turnout. There was concern that the end to the mandate of the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework (PSCF), mandated to neutralise negative forces in the DRC, and the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the DRC Congo (MONUSCO), whose mandate is expected to end in March, may expose the nation to the risk of the militia re-grouping and threaten the peace in the nation.
The Committee conveyed messages at its last meeting of the Fifth Parliament expressing appreciation for the camaraderie between Members, leadership displayed by the Chairperson, Minister, Deputy Ministers and Department and the support provided by the Committee staff.
The Chairperson welcomed the Director-General of the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) and other senior Department officials present. He also welcomed the Parliamentary Counsellor to the Office of the Deputy President Mr E Ebrahim, visitors from the United States Consul General and British Consulate. The Chairperson also welcomed the Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Ms Lindiwe Sisulu, and the Deputy Minister, Ms Reginah Mhaule.
The Chairperson announced the sad demise of the daughter of the Chip Whip of the ANC in the National Assembly, Mr Jackson Mthembu. He advised that the Committee send a message of condolence to the family of Mr Mthembu.
The Chairperson stated that neighboring countries, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, and Malawi, had been facing a Tropical Cyclone Idai and in its wake had inflicted death and destruction. The Chairperson gave a statement in Parliament yesterday to which the Minister responses in terms of what the South African government were doing to assist the affected countries. The Chairperson requested the Minister also provided similar information to the Committee.
Minister Sisulu advised the briefing on the political developments in Venezuela stand down because it was yet to be served to and adopted by Cabinet.
The Committee agreed.
Minister’s Remarks - Tropical Cyclone Idai
The Minister appreciated the opportunity to brief the Committee. She requested that she keep her phone switched on as she was currently engaged in coordinating efforts from the United Nations (UN) and other countries assisting relief efforts in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region.
The Minister began her addressed by speaking to Cyclone Idai which had recently hit Southern Africa. She stated there was a need for the SADC region to increase its capacity for weather detection as the disaster the region is currently facing took it by surprise. She stated that on Friday, 15 March 2019, an emergency call was received from the President of Malawi calling for support for relief efforts in light of heavy rains in his country. In response, a search and rescue operation was immediately set up. However before the parties could complete its first meeting, which was held for a day, and get to Malawi, the worst happened. The disaster which occurred was of a nature requiring swift response. Countries in the SADC region heavily depend on South Africa’s strong capacity as had been previously shown between 1999 and 2000 - in the wake of terrible floods, South Africa’s defense forces gallantly rescued a child born in a tree. However South Africa’s capacity has since declined and now depends on the public sector for support. Due to the inability to respond swiftly to the disaster in Malawi, many lives were lost and the dead are still being counted in their hundreds. At the moment, Malawi needs food and tents. South Africa is currently in Malawi assisted by non-government organsations. The Malawian President has appreciated the people of South Africa for the support rendered.
Minister Sisulu said Zimbabwe was also hit by a cyclone - at first, the harsh weather was merely suspected to be the seasonal heavy rain however large parts of Zimbabwe have been washed away throwing the nation into more crises in addition to the humanitarian crisis it faced. In Zimbabwe, support is being provided by the Red Cross and Gift of the Givers in providing donations for the time being. The damage in Zimbabwe is beyond the support of South Africa as it will need the concerted effort of everyone.
The Minister stated that yesterday morning, 19 March 2019, Mozambique’s President called to inform that the Cyclone cannot be dealt with by Mozambique and the Beira dam had burst leading to the city being covered by water. The Red Cross estimates that about 10 000 people may be dead - the disaster is perhaps the biggest catastrophe ever on the African continent. The biggest problem faced was that the Meteorological Receptive Antenna was defective. People are currently being advised to get to higher ground. The Minister implored the Committee to extend its assistance to the SADC countries just as the South African Defense National Force (SANDF) had been dispatched. The strong winds constitute a problem to the relief efforts as it continues to interfere with helicopters. Six helicopters were donated by the private sector in support of the rescue operation and Gift of the Givers also donated a ship. The Minister called for prayers and support from other NGO’s and private businesses, like Shoprite and Woolworths. The UN has been performing outstandingly as all its agencies are on the ground and it is coordinated relief efforts well. Soon all relief groups will be putting together a common center to ensure there is a coordinated place for deployment of efforts. The Minister advised the Committee to send messages reassuring support to the Parliament of Mozambique.
The Chairperson said he issued a media statement and was asked by a journalist who and how the relief efforts are being coordinated by i.e. who is the person in charge and where items are to be donated. He stated that even though he informed the media that aid items should go to the Department, the Department needs to make a clear statement on it. The Chairperson stated that in his statement he called on NGOs, business people and other private entities to coordinate to send aid materials however, these people contributing items must know where they are sending these things to.
Ms S Kalyan (DA) informed the Committee that she went to the office of the Gift of the Givers in Durban where she had a conversation with the NGOs officials. She also stated on Lotus FM (a community radio station in Durban), pleas are being put out to the community for aid materials.
Ms D Raphuti (ANC) stated that a higher amount of the victims are women and pledged to make donations.
Mr M Maila (ANC) advised that the disaster needs to be acknowledged and as it is a natural occurrence, it is bound to happen again therefore in rebuilding Mozambique, there is a need to take cognizance of certain factors and the government should be assisted with the locating of people in the course of rebuilding. Parliament needs to trigger all constituency areas to ensure donations are come up with for the people of Malawi, Zimbabwe and Mozambique.
Ms C Dudley (ACDP) asked whether there is any value in Committee Members being dispersed in various areas of the relief effort as it must be terrifying for everyone at every level in these countries and so being deployed somewhere, for some purpose and meeting with whomever, will help in assisting at this time.
Mr L Mpumlwana (ANC) appreciated the Minister and the Department for the good work they have done in regard to the recent disaster in the region. He expressed interest in knowing where the aid centres are located in order to make donations and send relief materials.
Ms T Kenye (ANC) stated the news of the deaths is saddening. She said the helicopters will be helpful in light of the fact that there are no trees in the aftermath of the disaster. There was now a need to be aware of climate change as the disaster may even be experienced by South Africa. She commended the efforts to send helicopters to aid during this difficult time.
The Chairperson recommended that municipalities closest to the affected regions be reached out so relief efforts can be coordinated from there. In 2014, the Minister condoned the use of funds from the African Renaissance Fund (ARF) for matters such as this – he suggested this be done. The Department of Social Development can also be called to provide assistance.
Minister Sisulu appreciated the sympathies and constructive comments from the Committee. She stated that she would like Members to go to Mozambique at some point when things are a little quieter as at the moment, things are chaotic. Government has not created a center but as soon as that was in place the Department will let the public know. In the meantime, relief materials can be kept in constituency offices from where they can be transferred to relief centers when those are put in place. Contingency arrangements have been made for DIRCO to be the receiving entity for the time being until there has been an official declaration.
Defense and civilian humanitarian aid are different - defense is a structured institution whereas DIRCO is a part of the civilian humanitarian assistance. The SANDF have not been able to operate maximally because of the cyclone and heavy winds. They initially had two helicopters but now have more. The Minister acknowledged the effects of climate change and stated that it is something to discuss in the future. There is a need to increase capacity to detect climate changes so that disasters can be prepared for. Organisations assisting aid and relief operations include Gift of the Givers, Red Cross, Doctors Without Borders etc.
The Minister made a special request to Democratic Alliance Members in three municipalities having the capacity to assist in terms of skilled personnel, namely, Western Cape, Tshwane and Johannesburg. DIRCO wrote to request services of personnel skilled in disaster management expertise in those two municipalities but received no response. She went on to ask for the assistance DA Members in the Committee in securing the release of those personnel to join the relief operations.
Political Developments in the Democratic Republic of Congo
Minister Sisulu gave a foreground on the situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). She stated the situation with the DRC began with the election in the country. The DRC is a part of the SADC and its choice to go into elections happened when South Africa chaired the regional organisation.
South Africa used its position as chair to pressure the DRC into proclaiming it will hold elections and the country did. After this, the next step was to pressure former DRC President, Joseph Kabila, against running which he agreed to and announced in Namibia. This opened up space to a more democratic process. At the meeting in Namibia, Mr Kabila declared the election date and the Electoral Commission was present and it demonstrated how the process was to be conducted by displaying the gadgets to be used. Although there were challenges with the gadget not being a familiar technology, the Electoral Commission was able to convince the SADC that the gadgets were analog gadgets unconnected to anything else. Generally, the choice to hold an election was a source of relief but also of great concern.
The Minister stated the elections were declared by monitors to be as peaceful and as fair as expected in light of the circumstances. One of the contestants, Mr Martin Fayulu, petitioned the Constitutional Court challenging the preliminary election results as announced stating there was a miscount and consequently calling for a recount. The matter went to the Constitutional Court where he was giving space to defend his case and the Court ruled. The development was worth celebrating because it was peacefully conducted and declared as fair as possible given the circumstances of the DRC. The development is a step in the right direction and could have turned out to be way worse. President Felix Tshisekedi has been sworn in as the fifth President of the DRC. At the inauguration, the President was wearing a bulletproof vest leading people to speculate that he was poisoned but this was not the case.
There were discussions between the party that won the majority in the DRC Parliament and President Tshisekedi’s party and discussions led to a pact to form a coalition. The pact is an internal matter and South Africa is still unaware of the type of coalition to be formed but has been invited, along with Kenya and Egypt, to act as guarantors of the pact signed by the parties to take the government of DRC forward. Kenya and Egypt (the current African Union chair) has agreed and South Africa will be sending someone forward soon. President Tshisekedi was expected to visit South Africa in line with the SADC tradition for every new President to introduce himself to his neighbours however he was advised to cancel his arrangements and make the traditional visits when an Ambassador and Minister of Foreign Affairs has been appointed.
The Minister concluded by stating South Africa will continue to keep its fingers crossed on political developments in the DRC. She restated the fact that this was the best scenario to have emerged from the DRC in the over 11 years since South Africa had been with the country - in those years it has been a long road of bloody elections and as such, the current situation is the best outcome that could have happened in all the circumstances put together. The outcome was accepted by the African Union and the new government of the DRC is a member of the Union.
The Chairperson thanked the Minister for her input, analysis and presentation on the situation in the DRC.
Mr E Ebrahim (ANC) asked whether, in light of the claim by Mr Martin Fayulu that he won the elections, it would be possible to convince President Tshisekedi to include Mr Fayulu in his government to prevent the likelihood of a continuation of the instability.
Ms Kalyan asked whether the fact that elections did not take place in three provinces, due to the Ebola virus, will have a material impact on the outcome of the elections when it is held. Being that a President has already been sworn in and has started forming a coalition, can the numbers change?
Mr Maila appreciated the Minister’s presentation and agreed with the Minister that the elections were indeed the best outcome to have occurred in the DRC. He asked what the voter turnout was like, besides the three provinces which were excluded from the elections due to the Ebola outbreak, and also what can be read from that. Was there still any indication of the activities of militias taking place around the DRC’s many borders?
Ms D Raphuti (ANC) appreciated the Minister’s presentation and her vast knowledge of world matters. She also expressed her appreciation for the work the Minister, her Deputy and the DDG of the Department were doing for South Africa on the continent to ensure there is peace and stability. She went on to ask if the people in the three provinces excluded from the elections due to the Ebola outbreak have been briefed, whether they are happy with the outcome of the election and whether there is a likelihood of any political turbulence there.
Mr Mpumlwana asked whether there was a likelihood that peace will be disturbed in the DRC in light of the fact that the country is big and rich and there are a number of interests and militates as well as the influence of neighbouring countries impeding peace and stability.
Ms Kenye expressed concern that the end to the mandate of the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework (PSCF), mandated to neutralise negative forces in the DRC, and the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the DRC Congo (MONUSCO), whose mandate is expected to end in March, may expose the nation to the risk of the militia re-grouping and threaten the peace in the nation. She asked whether the mandate of MONUSCO will be renewed.
Mr D Bergman (DA) stated that politicians in the DRC had the tendency to call results too quickly. He also stated that building up to the election, there were allegations that there was some kind of Chinese electronic equipment being used to interfere with the outcome of the elections and matters relating to the elections being called off due to a virus outbreak which were unsubstantiated. These stories give hints on the type of elections expected however there was collaboration and the best result was found in terms of non-violence and acceptance and this was commendable. On the tragedy in Mozambique and the Minister’s request for aid from the DA, he stated that he heeded to the Minister’s call and had already messaged DA leaders in those areas. He said that he was informed that while the DA in Johannesburg is already coordinating with the Gift of the Givers, Tshwane had not been contacted by DICRO yet but is standing by. He added that he was awaiting a response from the Western Cape on the matter.
Mr Ebrahim informed the Committee that when he spoke to the opposition in the DRC, it said the areas that could not vote would not have made a difference to the overall results. Machines used for the elections came from a private company from South Korea and he tested the machine and it proved to be adequate. The counting was not done by the machine but was rather done manually.
The Chairperson said that if the polity of the country and its political culture is historically negative, it takes years to be corrected and the DRC, Lesotho and Nigeria are examples. In addition to the external problems the DRC has, the leadership of its polity does not accept results and so it is correct to observe the insidious role of the leadership of the country and as a part of the democratisation processes therefore, it must be discussed. He asked whether in the move towards a government of national unity, if all the political players will be brought into the government so that they find common space for the reconstruction of their country on all levels. He also asked whether a peacekeeping mission is adequate in the DRC or if there is a need for an offensive force in addition. The DRC needs Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR) to restore stability.
Ms Raphuti expressed appreciation of Minister Sisulu on behalf of the women in the Portfolio Committee for the opportunity afforded to them to undertake a capacity building programme in negotiation, peace building and conflict resolution.
Minister Sisulu stated that South Africa understands women to be bearers of humanity and because they have a way of dealing with conflict and difficult situations, South Africa has always advocated for women as bulwarks of peace and this has worked. She expressed hopes that South Africa will institutionalise it in its peacekeeping forces.
On MONUSCO, the Minister stated that South Africa has lobbied and the operation has been renewed for a year. As far as the African Union is concerned, all hands are to be on deck to sustain progress. She stated that progressively, democracy is taking root in Africa and even though it may not always be perfect, it will be gradual.
The Minister showed Mr Bergman the letters that were sent to the DA to request aid for Mozambique.
On the elections in the Ebola provinces, she reiterated that when the votes were counted, it was calculated that the numbers would not have made a significant difference to the outcome of the elections. However, the moment the epidemic is handled, opportunity will be given to those provinces to participate in the provincial government. The matter was discussed with the SADC and the African Union.
The Minister mentioned there were a number of unverified posts on social media of militia fighting in the DRC She stated that even though potential for violence exists, it will not be the kind seen in the past.
On the possibility of Mr M Fayulu being drawn in to even out the spread of representation, the Minister stated that Mr Fayulu is already well represented in Parliament. The pact between the two parties was brokered internally and they only wanted some external parties to guarantee the pact will survive. In the light of this, persuading the parties to pull in Mr Fayulu may amount to meddling into the intricacies of the internal politics of the DRC. On a final note, the Minister wished the DRC the best stating that South Africa has given it the best and hopes it can move into a more stable democratic society.
Closing Remarks by the Committee
The Chairperson gave the opportunity to Members to make their final remarks to the Department and to the Minister for the time spent with the Committee.
Mr Mpumlwana thanked the Committee and the secretariat for being a family despite the political differences between them. He stated that the Department was also a good partner.
Ms Dudley stated the Committee appreciated the Minister’s appearance at meetings and the Department's gracious responses to queries of the Committee. She also appreciated the Chairperson for being amazing along with every other Member of the Committee.
Ms Kalyan admitted that she had been the greatest thorn to the Chairperson and apologised if she offended anyone on the Committee. She appreciated the secretariat for its dedication and stated that it was an honour and privilege to serve on the Committee and serve the Parliament of South Africa.
Ms Kenye appreciated the Committee and stated it was a pleasure to serve on the team even though there were differences in opinions. She appreciated Members for their patience and kindness. She also appreciated the Department for the advice and assistance granted to the Committee. She also appreciated the secretariat for its dedication.
Mr Bergman appreciated the Minister for her service to the people of South Africa. He also appreciated the Chairperson for being dedicated and smart with the performance of his duties. He appreciated the Committee for shaping the future of the country.
Ms Raphuti appreciated the Minister and the Deputy Minister for the dedication and leadership showed as well as the service rendered in different ways to the people of South Africa. She also thanked every Member of the Committee for the time spent and progress made.
Mr Maila appreciated the Committee for the time spent together. He also appreciated the support staff, officials from the Department and the Minister for the teamwork and for the pro-South African approach to matters. He stated this was also the mode of engagement by people from the Department as well as the support staff.
The Chairperson thanked all his colleagues and officials for the honour and privilege given to him to serve. He thanked the Committee for always putting forward a unified position on matters. He appreciated the Committee Members for ensuring party lines were not visible in the discharge of duties. He also appreciated the efforts and the diligence of the support staff in their different ranks.
Minister Sisulu announced that the Department would like to host the Committee and its staff for lunch at a convenient time.
The meeting was adjourned.
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