/ 8 July 2016

Brexit and the cattle problem

Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane of international relations and co-operation.
Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane of international relations and co-operation.


Government representatives often criticise the media for not presenting the government view of matters. (“The media”, here, presumably means the Mail & Guardian and the Sunday Times and Business Day, because the SABC, the Independent Group and the Guptas’ media outlets are all pro-government and ANC-supporting.)

So here is a transcript, provided by the department of international relations and co-operation, of some replies to questions given by Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane at a July 4 media briefing on Brexit.

A journalist from Radio France Internationale asked about Nkoana-Mashabane’s visit to France “in the context of Brexit and how that’s going to change South Africa’s relations with France, especially accessing the EU [European Union] market”.

Nkoana-Mashabane: “Before I go to this question, before I forget even on the things I want to say on a lighter note, for some reason there is something very special between us and France.

“When we were campaigning for Mme [Nkosazana] Dlamini-Zuma [as African Union head] we were told that: ‘Aren’t you aware that you are up against France?’ So we wondered: France is a member of the European Union, we are members of the African Union, so this can’t be true.

“So Brexit, we don’t know about it. We saw it on television. We hear that it would impact, when it started, negatively on our trade and investment relations with countries from that part, but we haven’t seen real evidence. Maybe it is still coming, but one thing first, we are not members there and we can only say: ‘Viva democracy’.”

Carien du Plessis of News24: “It looks like, after Brexit, the EU project is crumbling a little bit. A lot of people want to pull out. Do you think this will affect negatively the philosophy that the AU is currently chasing, the whole integration idea or integrated market? Do you think this could affect the AU negatively?”

Nkoana-Mashabane: “The Europeans were never colonised. They colonised others. So whatever we do here, starting from the Organisation of [African Unity] to the African Union, we were not mimicking the European Union because we come from two different backgrounds. If their project failed, or is failing, we wish it shouldn’t fail because people nowadays, in 2016, if we understood what globalisation was about, is that they would follow opportunities …

“Of course we focus on protecting and respecting the sovereignty of our individual member states and practically deal with issues of border control … President [Yoweri] Museveni [of Uganda] says it takes two weeks to transport cattle by truck in the same region called the EAC [East African Community] from Uganda to Kenya. So if we had good roads and rail infrastructure it wouldn’t be a problem …

“So we are still dealing with basics here. But we say it’s not necessary for me to fly to France in order for me to connect to Nouakchott [in Mauritania]. I should be able to fly from OR Tambo [International Airport] to Nouakchott.”