28 June 2013
South African International Relations and Cooperation Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane hosted her Western Sahara counterpart, Mohamed Salem Ould Salek, for talks in Pretoria on Thursday.
The two signed three memorandums of understanding on diplomatic consultations, financial contribution toward the construction of a youth sport development complex, and financial contribution towards the humanitarian landmine assistance programme in Western Sahara.
“The signing of these agreements will further solidify the strong relations that already exist between South Africa and Western Sahara,” Nkoana-Mashabane told reporters after the meeting.
The two ministers also agreed on the need to increase humanitarian support to the Saharawi refugees, who continue to live in harsh desert conditions due to the non-resolution of the conflict in the Sahel region in north Africa.
“The current difficult security situation in the Sahel region may also have a negative impact on Western Sahara, and there is a need to urgently convene a referendum to allow Saharawis to choose their destiny,” Nkoana-Mashabane said.
South Africa’s policy on Western Sahara is based on the principles of self-determination, decolonisation, the promotion of human rights and international law.
Nkoana-Mashabane reaffirmed South Africa’s view that the issue of Western Sahara was a question of decolonisation and the inalienable right of people to self-determination, in accordance with the United Nations Charter.
“We note with concern the deteriorating human rights situation in the Western Sahara occupied territories, where gross atrocities have been committed against the Saharawi human rights activists and prisoners of conscience by the Moroccan occupying security forces.
“As such, we reiterate our call that the mandate of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara be expanded to incorporate a human rights monitoring mechanism.”
Nkoana-Mashabane also deplored the continued illegal exploitation of mineral resources in the Western Sahara occupied territories, which is not permitted by international law, given that Western Sahara has the status of Non-Self-Governing Territory, as per Chapter 11 of the UN Charter.
The United Nations has been involved in efforts to find a settlement in Western Sahara since 1976, when fighting broke out between Morocco and the Frente Polisario after the Spanish colonial administration of the territory ended.