South Africa could in future withhold aid from neighbouring countries if they go against issues it takes a strong position on.

A Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) official told News24 there was even a feeling that a country such as Madagascar should return the roughly R30 million South Africa gave to help conduct its election last year.

Madagascar’s newly-elected president, Andry Rajoelina, snubbed the two-day Southern African Development Community (SADC) solidarity summit on Western Sahara which ended on Tuesday and sent his foreign minister, Andriantsitohaina Franck Michel Niaina, to attend the rival conference on Monday in Morocco instead, according to an attendance register distributed by a Moroccan government official.

Dirco deputy director-general for Africa, Xolisa Makaya, told News24 this debate was ongoing in the department.

Debate

“There is a feeling that sometimes we don’t put conditions to support we provide to a number of countries, and some people feel strongly about the non-attendance by certain countries. They are asking themselves the question ‘why do we continue to support those countries if they can go to a general meeting that is essentially to undermine this very important conference of SADC?’,” he said.

“It is an ongoing debate; we can’t hide that.”

South Africa and many countries in the SADC accuse Morocco of being colonisers of the Western Sahara. In their view, Morocco should not have been allowed to become an African Union member in 2017 because colonial powers are not allowed to be members according to the continental body’s Constitutive Act.

READ: Mantashe slams Morocco over parallel Western Sahara conference

Only two out of the 16 SADC member countries – Madagascar and Comores – did not attend the two-day conference hosted by South Africa. Eswatini, Tanzania, Zambia, Malawi and Angola were among the countries represented at both conferences.

Makaya said South Africa did not have a problem with that.

The SADC region hosted the Solidarity Conference with the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR)/Western Sahara in Pretoria on 26th March 2019. In attendance at the Conference were Presidents, Ministers, Ambassadors/High Commissioners and Special Guests. #SADCSaharawiSolidarity pic.twitter.com/bvmNZcyJmg

— DIRCO South Africa (@DIRCO_ZA) March 27, 2019

Zambian high commissioner to South Africa Emmanuel Mwamba told News24 his country was “neutral and [we] encourage dialogue” and was guided by the position taken by the African Union and the United Nations on the Western Sahara issue.

“Zambia has always brought warring parties or belligerents on one table of discussions,” he said.

SADC chairperson Namibian President Hage Geingob, said in his opening speech that Africa could only move forward if all people were free. He also mentioned that there were “some SADC members” attending the Morocco gathering.

“We must ask if SADC is united in its support for freedom for the Saharawi people, or do we need a new approach?”

Appeal

Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic President Brahim Ghali said the conference was “an urgent appeal to the United Nations and its partner the African Union, and to the Kingdom of Morocco to expedite the organisation of that referendum [on Western Sahara’s self-determination] as the just, democratic and only solution endorsed by the international community”.

The SADC conference called for the “unconditional implementation of all UN resolutions and AU decisions on Western Sahara that will lead to a positive, peaceful and permanent solution”. It also said the Kingdom of Morocco and Polisario Front should “engage faithfully in direct negotiations without preconditions”.

It also said human rights violations should be monitored and Western Sahara’s natural resources should not be exploited.

According to the Moroccan government, 38 African countries attended its conference. It is not clear whether these represented the same countries that indicated in 2017 – behind closed doors during the African Union summit – that they did not oppose Morocco’s entrance into the African Union.

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