People have the right to choose their leaders: Zuma

Friday, March 4, 2011

Pretoria - President Jacob Zuma says people have the right to choose their own leaders and determine their own destiny peacefully.

Referring to the situation in North Africa, particularly Libya, Zuma said people, especially the youth, are writing a new chapter in the history of the continent.

"Although these events bring uncertainty, they also bring the hope of a better future for many. We strongly believe in the protection of basic human rights and freedoms and the right of citizens to choose their own leaders and determine their own destiny peacefully," Zuma said on Thursday. 

Speaking at the French Institute for International Relations in Paris, Zuma said South Africa supports the pronouncements and measures taken by the United Nations and the African Union. The organisations took tough restrictions against Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, whose rule seems to be hanging by a thread.

More than 6 000 people have reportedly been killed in Libya since a revolt against Gaddafi broke out two weeks ago. Gaddafi has refused to bow to pressure for him to end his 40-year-rule, vowing to crush all opposition.

The UN Security Council imposed an arms embargo, assets freeze and travel bans on Gaddafi and members of his family and associates. The council has also referred the Libyan crisis to the International Criminal Court.

Referring to the situation in Tunisia and Egypt, Zuma said SA supports the people in the freedom that they have won for themselves. 

What was left was for Africa and the international community to provide support to these nations to help them through the difficult transition, added Zuma.

On the stalemate in Cote d'Ivoire and the continuing crisis in Madagascar, Zuma said this reminds leaders that there are still major challenges to be resolved.

Zuma, who is also a member of the five-leader panel appointed by the African Union to mediate in Ivory Coast, was confident that working with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), they will help the country find a solution. The panel is meeting in Mauritania this morning. 

Turning to the positive trends, where Zuma mentioned the successful referendum held in January in the Sudan, he said he was "proud" of this African success story. 

"With the support of Africa and the world, the Sudan will prove that it is possible to find solutions even to the most difficult of conflicts in our continent," said the President.

Despite these difficulties, Zuma assured the French that Africa is doing well and offers great economic potential. 

For the continent to realise its full potential, he said it needs to invest in some critical areas such as infrastructure development, ensuring intra-Africa trade, promoting regional integration and boosting industrialisation.

"Africa is a market of one billion consumers and also a source of raw materials that need to be beneficiated locally to create jobs and to ensure a modern industrial economy on the continent," said Zuma. 

The President has now concluded his two-day state visit in France. During the visit, he held talks with Prime Minister Francois Fillon, President of the Senate Gerard Larcher, Mayor of Paris Bertrand Delanoe as well as Bernard Accoyer, President of the National Assembly to discuss various economic and cultural relations.

Zuma participated in a remembrance ceremony for Dulcie September, the ANC Representative in France, who was brutally murdered in Paris on 29 March 1988 by unknown persons.

"South Africa owes its present stable, democratic and free society to men and women such as Dulcie September, who stood for an equitable and just world for all, where the values of non-racialism and non-sexism are upheld," said Zuma. 

A nuclear agreement, which aims to assist South Africa double its energy capacity by 2030, was also signed. 

The French Development Agency announced a more than one billion Euro fund towards infrastructure development in South Africa.

Zuma described his state visit as successful. Speaking to the SABC after talks with his counterpart Nicolas Sarkozy, Zuma said there was a lot of convergence on many other issues. - BuaNews