Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Minister Zulu chooses African unity over the rule of law

Minister of Small Business Development, Lindiwe Zulu, has clearly forgiven Robert Mugabe for describing her as "a stupid woman" and as "a little streetwalker" after she called for the 2013 Zimbabwe elections to be delayed.

In this evening's snap debate on the escape of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir from the AU Summit in Johannesburg last Monday, Minister Zulu was deployed to trot out the ANC party line that African unity is more important than observing both international and South African law for the government in which she serves.

The decision to let him leave the country was a collective cabinet decision, she said.

In 2013, Zulu was President Jacob Zuma's foreign affairs advisor and briefly occupied the moral high ground in questioning preparations for the Zimbabwe elections. Today, she declared her loyalties loud and clear. And it wasn't a pretty sight.

Hauled in, no doubt willingly, in the ballast role as ANC heavyweight speaker in the debate, she began by applauding this week's visit to South Africa by the Cuban Five. The Cuban Five were tried and convicted of spying on the United States in 1998. They were released in 2014 after questions arose over the legality of their trial. They occupy hero status in anti-imperialist quarters, including the ANC.

Another ANC hero, Fidel Castro, facing imprisonment in 1953, defiantly announced he did not fear prison at the hands of imperialist forces and that "history will absolve me". 

Zulu used the analogy to make her point: "People are bent on distorting our hard-earned commitment to human rights. History will absolve us" she said.

She went on to state that in 1962 the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) was founded to promote unity in the continent and rid it of colonialism and apartheid. "We never thought it would be easy. Our efforts to resolve conflicts in Africa and Sudan are evidence of our commitment to ridding Africa of conflicts."

To paraphrase her words - South Africa's foreign policy prioritized promoting the African agenda. Escalating the judicial elements of the issue was the wrong approach. Had we taken this route some members of this House would not be sitting here today, she asserted.

She made much of the fact that SA was instrumental in the establishment of the ICC. 34 members are African states - the largest continental contingent.

But at the 12th AU Ordinary Summit in July 2012, which Zulu attended, the AU changed its tune. It decided it would not cooperate with the ICC, due to its refusal to address supposedly legitimate concerns surrounding al-Bashir’s indictment for war crimes, genocide and rape, among other alleged crimes. 

The AU requested a deferral of the ICC ruling when it issued a warrant for al-Bashir's arrest. This was informed by the peace initiative in the Sudan in which South Africa played the lead role.

She said the ICC did not act upon the AU request to defer the indictment.

For this reason, she concluded, the ICC must think again if it intends to go and arrest an African head of state.

This is the crux of her argument: that the ICC is a European tool to target African leaders in pursuit of its neo-colonial quest to assert dominance over its erstwhile colonies. 

Minister Zulu has conveniently ignored the following facts:
  • South Africa during apartheid was not a democracy for all the people. After 1994 it was. The people sitting in today's parliament all participated in signing the 1996 constitution which asserts the rule of law as paramount. 
  • In 2002 South Africa's parliament ratified the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court Act 27.
  • The statute was domesticated in South African law, making it binding.
  • al-Bashir was President of Sudan during the conflict in Darfur which resulted in 300 000 deaths and 2.5 million Sudanese being displaced. 
  • Last Sunday a court ordered al-Bashir not to be allowed to leave the country pending a court decision on whether to arrest him.
  • On Monday the North Gauteng High Court ordered the arrest of al-Bashir.
President Robert Mugabe was reported saying he approached President Jacob Zuma to ensure al-Bashir's safe exit from South Africa. The South African government denies its complicity in ferreting al-Bashir out of the country. This notwithstanding the covert flying of al-Bashir's jet from OR Tambo airport on Sunday to Waterkloof Airforce base to facilitate his easy escape under the protective cloak of SA security forces.

In view of Lindiwe Zulu's impassioned defence of African unity, who do you believe?

Once the South African government had changed its mind on the ICC it should have followed due legal process and tabled a Bill in Parliament revoking our obligations to the Rome statute. Instead, the ANC simply gave the ICC and international law the middle finger.

The DA and all other parties in today's debate, apart from the ANC and the overweening Themba Godi of the APC, were adamant the ANC had colluded in the escape of al-Bashir, an indicted criminal.

We await the government's response to the court order to account for the events of last weekend. We will then see if the ANC and Lindiwe Zulu's defiance of the law will pass muster or leave them with more egg on their face, and international opprobrium.

A sidebar to the saga is this: will the US Congress regard the al-Bashir affair as the final nail in the coffin of the AGOA treaty which soon comes up for review? If it does, Ministers Davies and Zulu will be able to raise an ironic glass to African unity at the expense both of jobs and our tattered reputation amongst nations committed to the rule of law and South Africa's position as a trusted international partner.

History will not absolve you, Minister Zulu.

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