Motlanthe defends SA's assistance to Somalia

Although difficult to quantify, South Africa’s contribution to relief efforts in Somalia exceeds R20-million so far, Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe said on Thursday.

African Union countries have been criticised for not doing enough to help Horn of Africa countries beset by famine and drought, with relief organisers saying the AU should offer a minimum of $50-million to relief efforts, but has only pledged $500 000 so far.

Replying to questions in the National Assembly, he said the government had responded to the humanitarian crisis confronting Somalia by raising R8-million towards the famine relief programme, R4-million of which was donated to the Gift of the Givers organisation towards transportation and logistical costs of delivering aid to Somalia.

Furthermore, and in line with South Africa’s foreign policy objective of consolidating the African agenda, the government in partnership with Brand South Africa had teamed up with the Gift of the Givers and launched the Somalia Relief Campaign to raise public awareness of the dire situation in Somalia.

The government also provided transport in the form of a South African National Defence Force C130 Hercules supply plane to the Gift of the Givers to deliver 18 tonnes of essential food and anti-malaria medication to Mogadishu on August 16.

This latest consignment brought to 112 tonnes the total aid delivered to Somalia by the Gift of the Givers in two weeks, Motlanthe said.

In addition, government collaborated with other South African-based organisations contributing to relief work for Somalis in Somalia and refugee camps in neighbouring countries.

These included Islamic Relief, Africa Muslim Agency, Netcare, the Al Imdaad Foundation, and the Somali Community Board of South Africa.

Members of the South African business community had also contributed food and other essential items.

“The total amount of the South African contribution, including government and civil society is difficult to quantify at this stage, but certainly exceeds R20-million,” he said.

South Africa would make further pledges at the AU-hosted pledging conference this week in Addis Ababa, he said.

“Let me use this opportunity to restate that South Africa, SADC [Southern African Development Community], and the African Union’s position on Somalia is that it is only under conditions of peace, stability, and unity that a humanitarian crisis like this can be mitigated.

“We therefore call on all parties involved to work towards a lasting solution to the political crisis in that country,” Motlanthe said.—Sapa

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