Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen of the media.
Our briefing this afternoon will focus on a number of matters, including the outcomes of the recent 20th Ordinary Session of the African Union Assembly of Heads of State and Government, including the situation in Mali, and the floods in Mozambique.
2. African Union Summit
His Excellency President Jacob Zuma led the South African delegation to the 20th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on 27 and 28 January 2013.
President Zuma’s delegation included the Ministers of International Relations and Cooperation, Defence and Military Veterans, Public Service and Administration, Health and the Deputy Minister of Public Service and Administration.
This was the first summit that our compatriot, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, presided over in her capacity as Chairperson of the AU Commission.
The Summit was very successful and resulted in a number of important decisions being taken towards a united, peaceful and prosperous continent.
2.1. The situation in Mali
One of the outcomes of the summit was the consideration of the State of Peace and Security on the continent. While noting that progress had been made in some regions and conflict areas, the Summit remained deeply concerned over the situation in Mali, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Guinea Bissau.
In this regard, it is significant to note that the Assembly took a decision to contribute 50 million USD from the AU budget and assessed contributions to a special fund established by the United Nations, towards enhancing the capacity of the Mali Security Forces – and the operationalisation of the African Standby Force for Mali, AFISMA. The decision to deploy a standby force is based on the Constitutive Act of the AU, the PSC Protocol and UNSC Resolution 2085.
In addition, an international pledging conference on Mali under the title “African Solidarity Initiative” was held on 29 January 2013. South Africa pledged the amount of 10 Million USD, in addition to supporting the 50 million USD pledged by the AU. South Africa has already pledged 10 million Euros for urgently needed humanitarian assistance in Mali.
The participants at the pledging conference pledged a total amount of 455.53 million USD, with further pledges of technical assistance, training and energy needs such as petrol and gas for the military operation.
During this conference, South Africa stressed the need for African States to fully respect the Lomé Declaration of July 2000, which addresses the issue of unconstitutional changes of Governments, and noted that adherence to the Lomé Declaration was the backbone of democracy in Africa.
Regarding the destruction of the Ahmed Baba Institute of Higher Learning and Islamic Research, as well as other shrines in the ancient city of Timbuktu, the South African Government strongly condemns this act.
The Institute, built through the African Renaissance Fund, was completed and handed over to the Malian Government on 29 May 2010. Some 30,000 manuscripts were scheduled to be moved from their previous storage at the old Institute site to the new Institute. Reports have indicated that there is extensive damage to these holdings, representing a great loss of the cultural, scientific and historical knowledge contained therein.
South Africa, during its tenure in the United Nations Security Council continuously expressed concern for the security of all the treasures contained in the World Heritage Site at Timbuktu. South Africa believes that those responsible for any destruction of these invaluable and unique building and manuscripts should be held fully accountable.
2.2. The situation in the DRC
Member States of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) met at Troika, Ministerial and Summit level on the sidelines of the AU Summit to consider the situation in the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The meetings considered regional and continental efforts to support the International Conference on the Great Lakes (ICGL) initiatives, with SADC playing a vital role.
2.3. BRICS Leaders-Africa Dialogue Forum
During the Assembly, President Zuma briefed the Member States of the AU on the hosting by South Africa of the first “BRICS Leaders-Africa Dialogue Forum Retreat” on the afternoon of 27 March 2013 under the theme “Unlocking Africa’s potential: BRICS and Africa cooperation on Infrastructure”. This initiative was welcomed by the Assembly.
South Africa will host the Fifth BRICS Summit on 26-27 March 2013 at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal Province. Preparations for the Summit are at an advanced stage.
3. Floods in Mozambique
In conclusion, we’d like to update you on the relief efforts following the floods in our neighbouring country, Mozambique.
Mozambique, especially Southern Mozambique, has experienced large amounts of rains from the 14th of January 2013 as Mozambique is currently in the middle of its rainy season and the country has a history of floods.
A number of people died due to the heavy showers and due to the lack of drainage in Maputo, and some roads have been severely damaged.
The Government of Mozambique has subsequently activated the emergency institutional alert code “red” for floods, particularly in the south and centre regions of Mozambique.
In Gaza Province, the Government is preparing to evacuate affected families, in particular in Chokwe district and the remaining areas are reporting high levels of water and eminent evacuation will possibly occur.
The Mozambican Government has subsequently asked the South African Government’s assistance in the evacuation efforts.
Upon receiving a request for three helicopters for rescue operations from Mozambique’s President Guebuza on 24 January 2013, the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) deployed two helicopters and two fixed wing aircraft for rescue purposes on 25 January.
The rescue operation has moved to an humanitarian assistance phase whereby civil society, represented by The Gift of the Givers Foundation (GOGF), in partnership with the SANDF, is expected to deliver 135 tonnes of emergency aid this week. This will augment the rescue efforts of the SANDF, which include the provision of boats, divers, aquatic rescue personnel, paramedics and medical teams.