BOKAMOSO | SA needs a foreign policy based on facts and principle, not friends and ideology

About this Article

Happy 2017! I hope you have all emerged from the festive season feeling relaxed, renewed and ready to tackle the challenges that lie ahead. For us at the DA, 2017 is a year to build on our gains of 2016 and prove beyond doubt that in government we are a party that delivers to all.

It is also a year to look outward and fight harder than ever to promote liberal democracy and the protection of individual human rights worldwide. SA should play a leading role in foreign policy issues but for years we have aligned ourselves with despots and human rights abusers around the world. We have squandered a wonderful opportunity to show the world what value South Africa can add.

South Africa has unique experience in the world as one of the only countries that has found a negotiated, peaceful solution to a seemingly intractable conflict. We can harness it to play a proactive, constructive leadership role in opening communication channels between Israeli and Palestinian leaders, to help bring them together to negotiate a peaceful solution and an end to conflict. This is why a DA
delegation visited Israel and Palestine earlier this month.

Diplomacy cannot be based on propaganda or historical alliances of government. It must be rooted in the present and based on facts. To hear both sides of a story is not only a legal and moral principle, it is also a practical necessity. If you really want to know what is going on, do what Helen Suzman did and go see for yourself. This is exactly what we did. We went to Israel and Palestine to get the facts and to establish constructive relationships of trust with leaders on both sides of the conflict – and also to learn about innovation and trade opportunities in the region. In addition to political leaders, we met with members of the broader community of civil society, business people and religious leaders from both sides.

Our meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was cancelled on the day we were scheduled to meet. Nevertheless, we visited the Palestinian Territories – both Gaza and the West Bank – to meet with other members of the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah, and to gather first hand accounts and see for ourselves. We came away feeling much better informed, with renewed confidence in our position regarding this conflict and the role South Africa should be playing in resolving it.

Essentially, we support an end to violence and a return to negotiation for a two-state solution. Above all, we call on all parties to respect human rights. We support open trade in the region and beyond. Our role is to encourage and enable constructive negotiation, not to pronounce on the specifics of the settlement – those are for the parties themselves to negotiate.

The ANC has criticized us for visiting Israel. We reject this outright. You cannot hope to resolve conflict by breaking off relations and refusing to meet those involved. We make no apology whatsoever for visiting both Israel and Palestine.

The ANC’s reaction to our visit is revealing. Without establishing the facts, they accused us of only visiting Israel. This is not only inaccurate, but downright hypocritical, given that an ANC government delegation from the Department of Water and Sanitation visited Israel in October 2016 – without visiting Palestine. The ANC’s policy of rejecting Israel and severing diplomatic ties is destructive and will only serve to amplify the bad blood between parties that desperately need to be able to engage constructively with one another. Nothing will be achieved until Mr Netanyahu and Mr Abbas are able to talk to each other.

The ANC’s outrage is both manufactured and selective. They vilify Israel, and yet have failed to come out strongly against Mr Jammeh’s dictatorial conduct in refusing to accept defeat in Gambia’s recent elections. Similarly, they have lacked the courage to stand up for human rights and democracy in Zimbabwe, Burundi and the DRC. At the United Nations they have voted against LGBTI rights and Internet freedom.

Rather than leverage our unique experience of peaceful negotiation of the early 1990s, the ANC has opted for a foreign policy that is still rooted in the geopolitics of the 1980s. For the ANC, the Berlin Wall is still up; the world is still split on communism; Russia is great, the West is bad; and Castro and Mugabe are still heroes.

The world has changed, but the ANC is still seeking guidance and drawing inspiration from Mugabe’s Zanu-PF while protecting Al Bashir, charged by the ICC for his alleged campaign of mass murder and rape of civilians in Darfur, in contravention of our constitution and international obligations. Their foreign policy is inconsistent and archaic, based on personal friendships, race, outdated ideologies and historical baggage.

The DA is committed to a foreign policy that is consistent and rooted in fact and principle; a foreign policy that takes South Africa and the world forward, promotes liberal democracy and protects individual human rights. We intend to engage more leaders from across the world – in order to prepare for being in government, innovate and forge good relations. In 1993, Nelson Mandela stated that: “Human rights will be the light that guides our foreign affairs”. Under Zuma’s ANC, South Africa’s foreign policy has strayed from that path. The DA is committed to getting South Africa back onto it.

5 YEARS LATER, WE'RE STILL WAITING FOR JUSTICE

The Farlam Commission Report was released over 2 years ago, but nothing has been done since then to provide closure on the greatest tragedy of our young democracy.


  • unemplyed

    If your kid is at loggerheads with the neighbour’s kid, and as a grown-up you want to know why, ( to try and help resolve the problem ) , should you listen to your kid if he says ” don’t talk to him, he will lie ! ”
    or do you listen to both sides, before deciding ?

  • Chris

    Unfortunately the ANC is proving itself morally bankrupt. Pals trump principle.

  • Charlotte

    Well said! Going to Israel and Palestine to see for yourself and draw your own conclusions, is what good leadership is all about – and you are to be commended for doing so.
    It is the D.A. today that honours everything that Nelson Mandela stood for.
    The Z.ANC defies it. They continually play the ‘race card’ and the ‘blame game’ against any opposition as the reason why the country is in such a mess and mainly,so that they can protect their on-going corruption, greed and ineptitude.

  • danepol

    Much power to you, Mmusi!

  • danepol

    When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him.

    Take a bow ANC dunces.

  • Frank Payne

    This comment really highlights the ANC’s lack of appreciation of international relations. Their collective head is buried in the sands of ignorance which in this world is both stupid and dangerous and they stagger on pursuing antiquated policies with ignorant abandon. The really worrying state is that they don’t know that they don’t know.

  • Joy Alcock

    It is only by “walking in someone else’s shoes” that one can understand the hopes, fears and aspirations of that person. Cultural exchange promotes harmony, nationally and internationally.

    The A.N.C is taking us backward, with its divisive policies and censorship of free, individual thought.

    But we are not ostriches with our heads in the sand. The world should be our oyster.

    Roll on 2019…..!

    • Kelly

      Can’t wait for 2019, to get more glimpses of the coming of Jesus. And see the organization that tries to be a prophet goes hiding with its tail between us legs.

      The ANC needs to wake up. People are tired of ideology. They will vote for the party that’s committed to delivery, not nice promises.

  • Donkey

    The visit was a strategic mistake, rather naive. What a pity the DA’s leader considers him self to solve this crisis!! Is this ignorance? What a disappointment: wake up DA!

    • Frank Payne

      An attempt to meet with opposing parties to get first hand knowledge, cannot ever be classified as a strategic mistake. Strategy as practiced by accepted diplomatic procedures, more often than not is palliative and doesn’t get to the root of issues, but builds over time into an insurmountable problem. Honest personal interaction is essential to understanding. Intermediary intervention easily causes misunderstanding and uncertainty, both conditions from which we have suffered enough.

    • Greg Brown

      Perhaps you could embroider, since you are the only one so far to have called the visit a mistake.

      • Donkey

        Perhaps the only one on this platform…but many DA supporters apply critical thinking. How many of the opposition leaders in Israel did he speak to? We see only photos with Netanyahu, while Abbas cancelled the appointment! The timing remains strange….

        • Kelly

          Donkey, why are you so bitter?

          • Donkey

            To differ from someone does not mean one must be “bitter”.
            To think critically, does not mean I do not support the policies of the DA. However, the ANC is surely not a source to provide reliable facts on Israel and Palestine: why use that as a reference?
            Reading the Israeli Haaretz everyday may give you and the DA leader a more honest picture on the land grabbing settlements, even the report of the recent UN decisions.
            By the time the DA is in government (if ever!) the whole situation in Israel/Palestine and Middle East may be totally different …………….

          • Kelly

            Your response acknowledged and appreciated.

            Donkey, I read Haaretz, and I read three other Israeli newspapers. On a daily basis. One of which is A Hebrew language newspaper. I read The Jerusalem Post, Israel Hayom, and I also read Debka. I’ve been to Israel, and am going again this year.

            If you are not reading it yet, I recommend you read Honest Reporting, if you have the time. While you’re at it, familiarize yourself with the content of the San Remo Conference of 1922.

            And perhaps you may want to answer for yourself this question; whose land is Israel “illegally occupying”?

            Does it belong to the now non-existent Ottoman Empire, or to the British (who were custodians of the mandate), or the Jordanians (who illegally occupied Judea and Samaria from 1948 to 1967 and renamed the territory West Bank) or the “Palestinians” (who were immigrants from around the Middle East)?

            You see Donkey, the West Bank has been known for more than 2000 years as Judea and Samaria. I suppose you’d know why iur was called such!

            You may also want to research the origin of the name Palestine, as well as who the “Palestinians” are.

            The thing is Donkey, how can you be a settler in your own country?

            And your know why that conflict isn’t about to be resolved? One of the reasons is UNRWA! That’s one of the reason the conflict isn’t about to be resolved.

            My apologies for using the term “bitter”in my last response to you Donkey.

          • Donkey

            Kelly, history is a strange instrument used and abused by those whose interests certain “facts” may support. It is used like tweezers: pluck out that what does not appear good on the surface. Unfortunately, the unsightly keeps growing back……..
            Referring to Israel/Palestine, I often wonder what the world would be like if each and every “nation” or tribe on our planet would like to turn the clock back to 2000-5000 or even 500 years ago: e.g. How about the original inhabitants(presently living in reserves) of the USA reclaim their land from the European and other “settlers” from foreign countries? Should they also be entitled to the same arguments that the 61 year old state of Israeli would like us to believe?

            Although I have sympathy for both sides, it is clear you are not objective enough to look at the many sides of historical facts, and prefers to drive a particular viewpoint. This is not the place for debate on historical facts, be it that of the reasons for the recent 20thC Israel/Palestine conflict, or the land that was promised to Moses.

            I do not think that the DA’s platform is the place to drive a particular agenda in support of contemporary Israeli policies and reasons for building walls and settling in occupied territories etc.
            It would be an audacity to try to work for peace there by means of visits by the DA leader (the Madiba era has passed !) while the DA should first get the majority in SA to agree with its world view, policies and values. Presently SA and the free world have far greater problems to be solved……………

          • Kelly

            Eina Donkey,

            Look, I might come across as pushing one particular point of view. Maybe it looks like that because you’ve only heard me agitate for one side!

            My concern is that a lot of us engage in heated debates about the conflict without establishing the historicaland legal basis of our arguments.

            We can try to water down the historical background is the conflict, and rewrite the story so it fits in with our preferred narrative, but Donkey, you and I are not daily affected by the distress created by this ongoing conflict.

            I salute you for your sensitivity for both sides, I do too. I believe both the Arabs and the Jews can live together peacefully in Israel. The problem though is when one side goes all out to deligitimize t the other side, distort history, and create facts on the ground. And we, the bystanders will only listen to the side of the story that is popular.

            My take on this is that by refusing to be honest with the historicity of the region, peace will never be achieved. And, in the meantime, both Jews and Arabs are suffering.

          • Donkey

            Archaeological finds tell us a lot more than a history written in Hebrew, of the many civilizations with their specific cultures and religions who settled in that ancient land, before Judaic tribes arrived in what they still insist to be the ‘promised’ land (only) of contemporary settlers of the Jewish faith, who identify with an exclusive Jewish state.
            Not to forget, since Moses, a lot happened there, especially over the past 2 millennia …… but, let us forget it. This is my last post here re Israel. Have a pleasant day.

          • Kelly

            Have a pleasant day too mister.

          • dandan

            If the conflict in the occupied area changes significantly then the only likely drastic change would be that the issue is resolved if it is by a two state solution or dissolving the apartheid.

            Either way not opening dialogue is not likely to bring about such change. The DA must develop its international relations and resolving international conflicts fits in with the South Africa of Nelson Mandela and how our foreign relations were based on the values and rights described in the constitution. I dont think anyone can reasonably be against that.

    • Kelly

      Donkey, Mmusi never considered himself to shove the crisis. He went to listen to both sides. Unfortunately, the ANC doesn’t want us to listen to both sides.
      Not all of us are stuck in the ideologies of the 80’s. We’ll go to Israel. We have no quarrel with the Jewish people, we will not succumb to the anc’s attempt to teach us to hate workout any basis.

      What a disappointment Donkey, wake up and think for yourself.

  • v_3

    The real question is: Ate the ZANC pro-Palestine (or pro-Arab to be pedantic) or anti-Israel/anti-semitic?

    Since Egyptian-born Yassar Arafat died a dollar-billionaire he demonstrates somebody who, while definitely anti-semitic, failed to be be pro-Arab. Pretty much the same as the ZANC nomenklatariat — both are a predatory kleptocracy, feeding off the wretchedness of “their people”.

    “The ANC is yet to meet an anti-western despot it did not like” — Cato Institute

  • Waheed Adam

    Mr Maimane, what your article fails to mention is what you learnt about the conflict in Palestine and Israel. Is there oppression? Is there apartheid? Is there Human Rights Violations? Or….?