Cape Town - International Relations and Cooperation Minister Naledi Pandor has ruled out any possibility of downgrading the diplomatic relations of the Republic of Cuba any time soon.
This emerged when Pandor was responding to parliamentary questions from DA MP Nicholas George Myburgh.
Myburgh asked whether South Africa will consider downgrading the status of the South African Embassy in Havana to that of liaison office in order to demonstrate commitment to democratic values and human rights.
He cited the basis of his questions to the alleged large-scale and persistent abuse of human rights, including the denial of free and fair democratic elections, in Cuba.
In her written response, Pandor said downgrading diplomatic relations was a drastic act that could be considered when states persistently disregarded international law.
“The South African government is not considering the downgrading of its diplomatic representation in Cuba as the Government believes that institutions such as the National Human Rights Commission and the Office of the Attorney General have demonstrated their ability to deal with alleged human rights violations.
“Downgrading diplomatic relations is a drastic act that can only be considered when states continuously disregard international law in circumstances where states are illegally occupying the territories of other countries, deny people a legitimate right to self-determination and practise systemic forms of oppression, including breaching important international conventions, including for example, the Convention Against Apartheid,” she said.
In 2017, the ANC had in its national policy conference adopted a policy recommendation to downgrade the South African embassy in Israel to a liaison office in a bid to reduce diplomatic ties to Israel.
Myburgh also asked Pandor about any steps her department and the government were taking to encourage the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) to embrace democracy in a region where the state of Israel was known to hold regular, free and fair elections.
Pandor said while the South African government worked closely with the PNA to address the challenges it faced in building and strengthening of Palestine’s democratic institutions, it cannot ignore the reality that Palestine’s ability to hold a credible free and fair election in all its territories, including East Jerusalem, was negatively impacted by Israel’s inflexible positions on several matters.
These included refusal of Israel to allow Palestine to hold elections in East Jerusalem, the freezing of Jewish settlement construction on Palestinian land in the West Bank, and reneging on commitments agreed when the Oslo Accords were signed in 1993.
“South Africa consistently calls on UN member states, the international community, as well as all political formations and parties in South Africa, to support the efforts aimed at resolving the Israel-Palestine issue and to continue putting pressure on Israel as the occupying power to realise that relentless acts of repression, oppression and brutality serve only to undermine efforts directed at achieving a viable and sustainable peace plan that delivers Palestinian sovereignty, territorial integrity, and economic viability, with sovereign equality between Palestine and Israel,” she said.