South Africa and Morocco set to re-establish diplomatic relations

South Africa and Morocco look set to re-establish diplomatic relations after 13 years of giving each other the cold shoulder.

President Jacob Zuma, international relations minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, South African ambassador to the AU Ndumiso Ntshinga, as well as Zuma’s lawyer Michael Hulley, met Moroccan King Mohammed VI on the sidelines of the African Union-European Union summit in Abidjan, Ivory Coast on Wednesday night.

A Moroccan publication, which is partial to the king, gushed that the meeting was a “master stroke” and “warm”. The two heads of state “agreed to work together for a promising future, especially as Morocco and South Africa are two important poles of political stability and economic development, respectively in the extreme north and the extreme south of the continent,” the publication reported.

There were also economic incentives at play as the two countries “agreed to maintain direct contact and to launch a fruitful economic and political partnership in order to build strong, lasting and stable relations and go beyond the situation that had characterised bilateral relations for decades,” Maghreb Arab Press reported.

A South African official said the meeting signalled the strengthening of diplomatic relations between the countries after Morocco withdrew its ambassador from Pretoria in 2004 when South Africa recognised the independence of the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic, also known as the Western Sahara.


“After their admission into the AU it becomes diplomatically unsustainable not to allow them to establish a diplomatic mission in Pretoria,” the official said.

South Africa wanted Morocco’s recognition of Western Sahara as a precondition to it being readmitted into the AU in January, but that didn’t happen.

The issue of Western Sahara almost disrupted the two-day summit, which is set to end on Thursday. The Ivory Coast, which is hosting the gathering, initially did not invite Western Sahara, but after other AU member states threatened to move the summit back to the continental body’s headquarters in Addis Ababa, Western Sahara was invited.

The official claimed South Africa played an important role behind the scenes to make the summit happen. “We’re trying to prevail on [Morocco] to go easy on Western Sahara,” he said. “Our intervention ensured they were invited to this summit. Morocco had lobbied France and the host not to invite them. We put our foot down to say if this is an AU-EU Summit, all AU member states must be invited and participate.”

Only three months ago an unpleasant physical altercation between the Moroccan and Saharawi took place at the Tokyo International Conference on African Development in Maputo.

According to a senior South African diplomat who was present at the meeting, the Moroccans tried to block the Saharawi delegation from having access to the conference room. A member of the delegation was pushed and fell to the floor.

The official said it was easier to prevail on Morocco to tolerate Western Sahara’s presence this time because the EU was worried about the inroads other world powers, like China and Russia, were making into the continent, and therefore put pressure on Morocco to “behave”.

South Africa regards Morocco’s non-recognition of this territory’s independence as the last vestiges of colonialism on the continent. 

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever. But it comes at a cost. Advertisers are cancelling campaigns, and our live events have come to an abrupt halt. Our income has been slashed.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years. We’ve survived thanks to the support of our readers, we will need you to help us get through this.

To help us ensure another 35 future years of fiercely independent journalism, please subscribe.

Advertising

Taxis and Covid-19: ‘The ideal doesn’t exist’

After months of complaining about the regulations imposed on the industry, taxi owners have been given a lifeline

Mask rules are not meant to ‘criminalise’ the public

Shop owners and taxi drivers can now refuse entry to people who defy mandatory mask-wearing regulations

Ramaphosa asks all South Africans to help to avoid 50...

Calling this ‘the gravest crisis in the history of our democracy’, the president said level three lockdown remains, but enforcement will be strengthened

Reinstated Ingonyama Trust managers hit with retrenchment notices

The effect of Covid-19 and the land reform department’s freeze of R23-million because the ITB didn’t comply with budget submissions are cited as some of the reasons for the staff cuts
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday