Secretary-General's press conference with President Kgalema Motlanthe of South Africa [unofficial transcript]
Pretoria, South Africa, 25 February 2009SG: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen of the media. Sawubona.
It is a great pleasure for me to be here on my first [official] visit to South Africa as Secretary-General of the United Nations. And I thank President Motlanthe and the Government of South Africa for the warm welcome and the kind hospitality provided to me and to my delegation.
South Africa holds a particular place in the United Nations family because of our own long engagement against apartheid, in support of the struggle of the South African people.
That particular place has sustained the test of time, as South Africa is today an important partner for the United Nations, because of the major role South Africa plays in international and regional peacemaking, peacekeeping and peace building efforts.
It is facilitating the peace process in Burundi and mediating in Zimbabwe. It is contributing more than two thousand troops to United Nations operations from the Congo and Sudan to Nepal, and it has paid a heavy price for that commitment.
These are some of the subjects I discussed a few minutes ago with President Motlanthe and other cabinets ministers, including the Foreign Minister, the Environment Minister and the Finance Minister. We have just held a very fruitful and constructive meeting.
On Zimbabwe, I welcomed the inauguration of the new Government of National Unity. The partnership between the Zimbabwean parties will need to be nurtured. Although the United Nations has no direct mandate to help implement the Agreement between the parties, we are ready to ensure that the enormous challenges confronting the Zimbabwean people are effectively addressed. That said, I remain concerned about reports of arrests and detention of opposition activists and human rights defenders. I hope that these people will be freed as soon as possible.
Also, in the face of the rapid deterioration of the humanitarian situation in Zimbabwe, especially the current cholera epidemic, the UN will do all possible efforts to increase its support to Zimbabwe, including for nationally owned stabilization and recovery programmes. My Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Catherine Bragg, is currently in Zimbabwe. She will recommend how the international community can step up its humanitarian efforts in the country.
On the DRC: I commended the role of South African peacekeepers in saving, daily, the lives of Congolese civilians under extremely difficult circumstances. As Secretary-General of the United Nations, I hope we can count on South Africa's continued and significant support to reform the Congolese security sector.
We also discussed with the President South Africa's key role as an economic powerhouse with by far the largest, strongest and most diversified economy on the continent. We discussed the forthcoming G-20 meeting in April, where South Africa's President will be once again the only African leader in attendance and an effective voice for the millions of voiceless and most vulnerable.
I am here in South Africa to concretely reach out to countries that have a potential leadership [role] in confronting global challenges. One such challenge is climate change. While South Africa has been an effective advocate on behalf of the G-77, much of Africa has not benefited from the current international climate change regime. It is time to change that. Africa must help shape the Copenhagen deal in a way that benefits the interests of the continent and its citizens. South Africa has shown commendable leadership and can do more.
As to issues specific to this country, I stressed to President Motlanthe my appreciation of the fact that South Africa has made remarkable strides in consolidating democracy since the end of apartheid. It has built solid and reliable democratic institutions. The forthcoming elections present a historic opportunity to showcase South Africa to the region and the world as a country that is capable of effecting peaceful democratic change.
But, perhaps more importantly, I wish the best of luck to the Bafana Bafana when they set out next year to become hopefully the first African football champion of the world, as they have done so in rugby. And while our United Nations teams might be able to compete on other fields, we cannot claim to have Benny McCarthy or Steven Piernaar on our side.
We will contribute instead in our own way to the success of the next World Cup through a joint project of the Global Environment Facility, supported by the UN Development Programme and environment agencies. We will spend 11 million dollars to upgrade the South African public transport system ahead of the 2010 World Cup. The project's environment objective is to reduce greenhouse gases from urban transportation in South African cities for the World Cup and beyond.
Thank you very much. Siyabonga.
Q: You have expressed concern about the plight of those in Zimbabwe still detained. I just wondered how both of you feel, despite the undermining of the global political agreement?
SG: I discussed this matter with President Mugabe when I met him in Addis Ababa during the African Union [inaudible] meeting. I urged him and also appealed to President Mugabe, while I would support and welcome the launching of a unity government, it would be appropriate and it would be a welcome gesture for leaders from Zimbabwe to embrace all different parts of opinions and leaders in the country by releasing all these detained people. I hope that he will listen to the expectations of the international community by releasing them all as soon as possible.
SG: I really appreciate the Government of South Africa offering for accommodating those refugees coming from Zimbabwe. I know that it will be a huge challenge, economically and politically and socially, to accommodate so many refugees at this time. In that regard I really appreciate President Motlanthe's very generous providing for human rights and humanitarian assistance.
I have dispatched the senior advisor on humanitarian affairs, Catherine Bragg. She is currently in Zimbabwe. She met President Mugabe and Prime Minister Tsvangirai and other leaders of Zimbabwe to discuss how the United Nations can better coordinate and better mobilize humanitarian assistance to the Zimbabwean people. I discussed this matter also with President Mugabe in Addis Ababa last month. He was not [inaudible} to the international community's assistance and humanitarian goals. I think that that is the right thing to do, for him as well as for the international community. I will receive a report from Catherine Bragg on her recommendation on how we can mobilize more humanitarian assistance, including these refugee issues. At the same time I would count on the continuing support and assistance by the South African Government and people for them.
Q: Sir, I am concerned about the situation in Zimbabwe. [inaudible]
SG: I think that four tracks should proceed in parallel. On the part of Zimbabwean parliament and leadership, particularly President Mugabe, they should carry out and implement the September 15 power-sharing agreement in a sincere and full way. The best way to meet the expectation of the international community is to meet and uphold the aspiration of the Zimbabwean people. The economic situation is very dire. The humanitarian situation is also very worrisome and there is a cholera epidemic which has cost thousands of lives. According to WHO reports, there are more than 83,000 people who are sick and more than 3,000 people have been killed. These are very serious issues.
President Mugabe should promote national reconciliation, and at the same time promote economic cooperation. The international community, led by the United Nations, stands ready to provide the necessary assistance, humanitarian assistance and the promotion of human rights, by providing all medical and sanitation support to the Zimbabwean people. But all these efforts would be better mobilized, would get stronger and more support from the international community if we can see the promise in political and national reconciliation. The releasing of political prisoners will be important and desirable not only on the humanitarian and human rights front, but also for the national reconciliation process.
Q: [Inaudible question on the International Criminal Court]
SG: If I may answer from my perspective as Secretary-General of the UN, as everybody knows the pre-trial chamber of the ICC has announced that [decision will be announced on 3 March]. So we are all awaiting that decision. As the Secretary-General of the United Nations, I hope that whatever the decision may be, the President of Sudan, Mr. Bashir, should react responsibly to the decision of ICC and also address the issue of peace and security. When I met him in Addis Ababa, I urged him that he should ensure the safety and security of the United Nations population and civilian population. And he should also keep his commitment on the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. That's what he needs to do. I am aware of the position of the African Union for the [inaudible] of this ICC decision. But that is something that the Security Council should decide. For that to be possible the Sudanese Government and President Bashir should take also the necessary judicial measures which can satisfy the Article 16 requirements of the Rome Statute. Thank you very much.
Q. [inaudible] From the agreement between the DRC Government and the Rwandan Government, a number of 5,000 soldiers have crossed the border of the DRC, taking weapons from the bush into Rwanda. Particularly, a population of refugees is creating confusion. Who is a general and who is not a general, so how are you going to intervene in that situation?
SG: That's a question which the Congolese Government and people should discuss on that particular issue. As the Secretary-General of the United Nations, we are mandated, MONUC is mandated to assist and cooperate with FARDC [the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo] in keeping peace and stability. I am going to meet with President Kabila of the DRC and President Kagame of Rwanda later this week. I will discuss how to bring this process of rapprochement between the two Governments, with the support of the international community. I would welcome this rapprochement; that is very encouraging to the development of the situation. But this has also many difficulties and uncertainties. Therefore this process of rapprochement should be nurtured by the international community so that there can be always stability and peace.
The people, particularly the civilian population has suffered too much. Many of the civilian population were killed and there were many cases reported of sexual violence and crimes. These are all something that we must eradicate. As the Secretary-General I am committed to seeing the end of this prevalence of sexual crimes propagated against mainly women and girls. We are very much committed also to protect the lives of the civilian population there. Therefore we need concerted efforts. In this regard, as President Motlanthe has just mentioned, we really appreciate this facilitating role, the leadership role of the South African Government and count on continuing support, including the support of soldiers, peacekeeping soldiers, to uphold them.