International Relations Minister Naledi Pandor described the late Radhi-Sgaiar Bachir, Ambassador of Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic to South Africa as a tireless champion for Saharawi's cause for freedom. Picture: Katlholo Maifadi/DIRCO

Pretoria - International Relations Minister Naledi Pandor on Monday described the late Radhi-Sgaiar Bachir, Ambassador of Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic to South Africa as a tireless champion for Saharawi's cause for freedom and self-determination.

"On behalf of President Cyril Ramaphosa, our government and our [people] I wish to express our heartfelt condolences to Ambassador Bachir‘s family, friends, the government of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic and the Sahrawi people," Pandor addressed a memorial service for the late diplomat in Pretoria.

"Ambassador Bachir showed great passion and tireless determination in championing the Saharawi cause for freedom and self-determination and was well known for his intellect and sharp analytical abilities as well as his deep sentimental knowledge and dedication to the Saharawi cause through presenting them at different international fora."

Bachir passed away following a short illness last week whilst in hospital in Spain. He had assumed his duties in South Africa in January 2017.

Pandor said Bachir consistently fought for the rights of his people, for the right to self-determination, in all fora where he represented both Frente Polisario and the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic.

"In all the engagements he had with our government he conveyed messages emphasising the Saharawi’s inalienable right to self-determination and the restoration of the Saharawi’s territorial integrity. It is sad that Ambassador Bachir lived a difficult life because of the pain of separation from his family, his friends but most of all from his beloved homeland.  As a result of his illness he travelled back to a place called home, the camps in Tindouf," said Pandor.

"As we gather here today, to pay our last respects, we are reminded of this injustice.  In this 21st Century, whilst many countries have gained their independence from the oppressive shackles of colonialism, we still have an entire nation living in camps in Tindouf Algiers, unable to reap the full benefits of their territorial rights. This is an indictment on all of us.  We must stand firm in our commitment and solidarity with the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic, and assert the need to act on standing [United Nations] UN resolutions especially a Referendum on Western Sahara."

Pandor said Pretoria's position on the highly contentious matter is very clear, and it is a stance supported by the International Court of Justice "that the occupation of Western Sahara by Morocco is illegal".  

"The United Nations agreed that the Saharawi people must be allowed to exercise their right to self-determination. We continue to support Saharawi and hereby reiterate the position of the African Union (AU) on the determination of a date for the holding of a referendum on self-determination, as Western Sahara remains the last territory in Africa under colonial rule, inscribed in the United Nations and Decolonisation list of “Non-Self Governing territories," said Pandor.

"This status-quo cannot be allowed to continue.  We need action in memory of our dear colleague.  We call on the United Nations Secretary-General to expedite the appointment of a Special Envoy for Western Sahara and the pursuit of concrete outcomes that will result in  freedom."

Until this year, Morocco has not had an ambassador in Pretoria after the previous left South Africa when the Southern African powerhouse recognized the self-proclaimed Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic in 2004.

New Ambassador of the Kingdom of Morocco to South Africa Youssef Amrani was welcomed by Ramaphosa this year, pledging to deepen diplomatic ties between his country and South Africa, to spark inclusive development across the continent.

African News Agency (ANA)