The African National Congress (ANC) has noted the trip by City of Tshwane Mayor, Councillor Solly Msimanga, to Taipei, Taiwan and the resultant public discussion and debate.
We welcome this debate and hope that it will add to our country’s understanding of the complexities that attach to international relations. This statement is intended to add to the discussion and, in doing so, asserts the following:
1. The Constitution of the Republic determines and allocates various competences to all three spheres of government and enjoins them to work together in co-operation to advance the national interest.
The constitution specifically vests the conduct of international relations in the office of the President of the Republic, with the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) as the implementing arm of the country’s foreign policy and other engagements.
Although neither the constitution nor any other law precludes other governmental entity from entering into cooperation agreements with foreign governments and multilateral institutions, the constitutional provisions on cooperative governance require that such interactions and arrangements be undertaken in strict conformity with South Africa’s existing foreign policy.
2. In furtherance of our national interest and commitment to fostering international peace and security, our country in 1997 recognised the People’s Republic of China (PRC) as the legitimate government of the territorial space known as China. By then, the Gross domestic product (GDP) – the monetary measure of the market value of goods and services produced in a quarter or year – of the Chinese economy stood at US$863.75 billion. Today it stands at US$11.4 trillion and projected to reach US$29.3 trillion in 2030. Today, China is the world’s second biggest economy after the United States.
3. As a result of the establishment of diplomatic relations, China has become South Africa’s biggest trading partner. In 2014, two-way trade between the two countries reached US$60.3 billion and has been growing since. Like our trade with our non-African trading partners, trade between China and South Africa is largely in favour of China. This is due to structural and capacity factors of the South African economy rather than a conspiratorial manoeuvre on the part of China.
4. The recognition of China necessarily entailed the de-recognition of Taiwan. Apartheid South Africa had established diplomatic relations with Taiwan in 1949. South Africa has, like many countries throughout the world who recognise the PRC, maintained a “Liaison Office” to facilitate trade, travel and other administrative requirements.
5. South Africa is not the first and only country to de-recognise Taiwan. For example, the United States (US) de-recognised Taiwan when she established diplomatic relations with the PRC in 1979. In this regard, the Joint Communiqué of the US and PRC governments of December 15, 1978 on the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries read, in part: “The United States of America recognises the Government of the People’s Republic of China as the sole legal Government of China. Within this context, the people of the United States will maintain cultural, commercial, and other unofficial relations with the people of Taiwan.” The communiqué also stated that: “The Government of the United States of America acknowledges the Chinese position that there is but one China and Taiwan is part of China.”
6. Earlier, on October 25, 1971, the United Nations General Assembly passed Resolution 2758 which recognised “the People’s Republic of China [as] the only lawful representatives of China to the United nations…” and “expel[led] forthwith the representatives of Chiang Kai-shek (Taiwan) from the place which they unlawfully occupy in the United Nations and in all the organisations related to it.”
7. Sometime during December, Councillor Msimanga contacted DIRCO to inform the department of his intention to travel to Taipei on the invitation of the Mayor of Taipei. DIRCO advised him of the South African government’s “One China” policy. Councillor Msimanga ignored DIRCO’s advice and decided to travel to Taipei nonetheless.
8. One of the crucial factors in understanding China-Taiwan relations and South Africa’s recognition of the PRC is the Chinese Civil War of 1927 – 1950 fought between the Kuomintang and the Chinese Communist Party which resulted in Taiwan asserting statehood notwithstanding the fact that it is historically part of China. Taiwan became one of the Asian-Pacific theatres for the execution of Western Cold War stratagems against China. It is in this context that having positioned itself on the right of the Cold War ideological divide, apartheid South Africa established and nurtured diplomatic relations with Taiwan.
9. As Mayor of the City of Tshwane, Councillor Msimanga is a senior government official and therefore bound by existing government policy. The City government of Tshwane is not an autonomous state which acts on a frolic of its own outside of government policy.
By travelling to Taiwan against the considered advice of DIRCO, the executing arm of South Africa’s foreign policy, Councillor Msimanga has transgressed (i) government policy with respect to our existing diplomatic relations with China, (ii) the spirit of cooperative governance as enshrined in the constitution and (iii) brought our foreign policy into disrepute. He has started a precedence which, if allowed, can only render the entire system of government impotent.
10. Councillor Msimanga’s conduct puts paid to rest, the DA’s claim of respect for the Constitution of the Republic. The DA simply does not respect the Constitution!
11. As an important reflection of the DA’s image of the world, Councillor Msimanga finds it perfectly natural and obligatory to resuscitate relations with one of the National Party’s staunchest friends, Taiwan. As the saying goes: “Show me your friends and I’ll tell you who you are!”
12. The ANC’s primary concern is that the DA is clearly intent on running a parallel government with its own foreign policy to the detriment of existing government policy, the country’s international image and her national security.
13. The ANC therefore calls on DIRCO urgently to:
(i) issue a strong demarche to the Taipei Liaison Office in Tshwane to protest the extreme disrespect for our foreign policy implicit in Councillor Msimanga’s invitation to Taipei
(ii) remind all government departments and parastatals of our foreign policy and the centrality of the Presidency and DIRCO; and,
(iii) confiscate all official and diplomatic passports from officials who are found to be wilfully undermining our foreign policy.
14. The ANC also calls on the Departments of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs and the South African Local Government Association to induct newly elected councillors on the structure and processes of our country’s system of cooperative governance.
Issued by the African National Congress