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Zuma calls for ‘cooperation between spheres of government’ in wake of Msimanga’s Taiwan visit

The Presidency reacted to the “ongoing debate” on Solly Msimanga’s Taiwan visit by saying it is “committed to sound relations and cooperation between the three spheres of government at all times‚ and to continuously promote coordination and communication”.

This came after the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) described Tshwane mayor Msimanga’s recent sojourn‚ which saw him receive the freedom of the city of Taipei‚ as “highly regrettable”.

Dirco spokesperson Clayson Monyela said on Monday that the Tshwane mayor’s sojourn was in breach of SA’s “One China Policy”‚ and said the “Constitution enjoins the president of the republic with the powers and responsibilities to conduct South Africa’s foreign relations”.

The Presidency on Tuesday did not offer an opinion on the visit‚ but noted that President Jacob Zuma “chairs and convenes the President’s Coordinating Council‚ a statutory forum in which the president of the republic meets the leadership of provincial and local government”.

It said in a statement that “the forum is used to discuss matters affecting the three spheres of government‚ to share ideas and coordinate government programmes for the benefit of citizens” as well as “promote sound cooperative governance”.

It also said that the council‚ which “meets quarterly and has not met since the local government elections…will at the right time‚ discuss matters relating to foreign policy coordination as part of its agenda in order to ensure synergy within the three spheres”.

Dirco’s Monyela had said on Monday that “Taiwan is not recognised as a sovereign state by South Africa and the United Nations”.

“South Africa maintains a liaison office in Taipei as do the Taiwanese in Pretoria‚” Monyela said‚ adding that these do not “enjoy the status of an embassy”‚ and exist “to facilitate people-to-people contact”.

“It has no political mandate and therefore interaction between political office-bearers is not allowed.

“Representatives of any sphere of government must ensure that their engagements with international entities are aligned to existing mechanism and programmed and that such relations are coordinated in a manner that advances South Africa’s foreign policy and national interests.”

Monyela did not say if any action would be taken against Msimanga. The African National Congress on Monday called on Dirco to “confiscate all official and diplomatic passports from officials who are found to be wilfully undermining our foreign policy”.

Centre for Constitutional Rights director Phephelaphi Dube questioned whether this was the correct way forward‚ telling Radio 702 on Tuesday that “the government is not in position to take simply away one’s passport”.

She said the issue‚ however‚ “raises quite interesting questions on intergovernmental relations and cooperative governance‚ because the Constitution makes it clear that “different tiers of government “can make their own policies and make their own rules.. in pursuing their own development strategy”.

The “bottom line”‚ Dube said‚ “is that the Constitution does allow a certain measure of independence” to different tiers of government.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) defended Msimanga’s trip‚ saying: “The reality is that their baseless attacks stem from their unwillingness to accept that they have lost control of many municipalities across South Africa.”

The party reminded the ruling party “that neither the ANC nor the national government it runs can dictate who DA Mayors meet with in order to obtain job-creating investment‚ and that such international trips are allowed”.

The DA said the ANC’s comments amounted to a “hypocritical attack”‚ and the party’s Dean MacPherson tweeted details of a 2014 trip to Taiwan undertaken by Trade and Industries Minister Rob Davies.

Dean Macpherson ‏@DeanMacpherson posted: “Here’s a trip to Taiwan by @the_dti paid for by taxpayers to increase orders and job opportunities according to (ANC) Minister Rob Davies.”