I felt a sense of unease reading the analysis by Shannon Ebrahim “Hard to understand Zwelithini and DA’s stance on Morocco”. I wondered whether her opinion was informed by a possible lack of understanding the efficacy of the African Union (AU), being fed a one-sided story from people in the know and running with it, or maybe being too close to the topic to comment.
The ultimate form of journalism is taking the reader on a journey whereby all sides of an argument are presented and then having faith in the reader to reach their own conclusion based on the clarity of the piece. In the past, I have read Ebrahim’s analysis on the Middle East, on regional conflict and issues of the West and wondered whether Ebrahim could ever distance herself enough to give the reader an objective commentary based on the information she had obtained rather than her own personal bias.
I have never had faith in the African Union and there are a number of leaders on the continent, particularly in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) region, who share the same opinions on the AU as myself and my colleague, Stevens Mokgalapa. The AU celebrates leaders like former Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir and many other infamous leaders on the continent and completely ignores the welfare and good-governance of states under its membership.
I trust Ms Ebrahim did her research to note that 46 African states ignored the AU resolution for its members to boycott the Crans Montana Forum (CMF).
Furthermore, to assume that by attending an international conference gives credence to one side over another in the Morocco/ West Sahara issue is preposterous. The likes of Reverend Jesse Jackson and some prominent South African leaders that were in attendance would cringe at this assumption. Assuming the author gives a little credit to some of the delegates in attendance having an open and engaging mind, they would be able to interact with residents of Western Sahara, take their concerns to their forums to highlight these issues.
The line that made me the most uncomfortable was probably, “at a time when many politicians are for sale”. This is a cheap line that shows the author has taken this assignment too personally. A lesson in foreign affairs – just because one party shouts louder than the other party does not mean that the victims and persecutors are evident. The UN membership audit will reveal that the same countries that advocate for human rights in one country, are the same countries which not allow their women to drive cars or to vote; do not allow freedom of speech or association.
Journalists, like politicians, have an important role to play in educating themselves with the conflicts they speak of and ensuring that the will of the people is tested and respected. If the author is solidly behind South African foreign policy maybe she can answer in her next piece why South Africa is so involved in the Morocco/West Sahara and Middle East issue on the one side but totally ignore the China/Tibet side on the other?
* Darren Bergman is the DA Deputy Shadow Minister for International Relations and Cooperation.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.