SA reiterates position on Madagascar

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Cape Town - South Africa has reiterated that it does not support the illegal ousting of a democratically elected leader and does not recognise Andry Rajoelina as Madagascar's leader.

"We support the non-recognition. We support pressure including whatever may be agreed to make sure that they go back to constitutionality," Foreign Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma told reporters in Cape Town on Wednesday.

She said South Africa was a member of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) and the African Union (AU) which do not subscribe to power through unconstitutional means.

This follows the Mr Rajoelina's take over from President Marc Ravalomanana last week. Mr Ravalomanana, 59, handed over power to the army on 17 March, which in turn appointed Mr Rajoelina as the country's leader.

Mr Ravalomanana, who is reportedly in either South Africa or Swaziland, has not asked South Africa for asylum.

"He has not officially asked for asylum. When and if he asks for asylum we will then look at it," Ms Dlamini Zuma, responding to a question.

Imposing tough sanctions on Madagascar will be top of the agenda when SADC meets in Swaziland next week.

Defence Minister Charles Nqakula said the SADC Extra Ordinary Summit of the Organ Troika on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation would make a proposal that SADC make an example of the Madagascan situation and how SADC and the African Union will respond to situations like this in the future.

The African Union has suspended Madagascar's membership, while the United States has cut its humanitarian aid to the country.

Mr Rajoelina, a former disc jockey, spent nearly two years as Mayor of Antananarivo.

At 34-years-old and still six years too young to be president under the current constitution, he has promised new elections within two years after a new charter is adopted, but this has failed to satisfy donors.

On Wednesday, the new army-backed government offered to start talks with allies of Mr Ravalomanana to defuse political tensions that risk prolonging the months-long crisis. The talks would include discussions of when to hold a new presidential poll, the government said.

Unrest prior to Mr Ravalomanana's fall killed at least 135 people, crippled the island's $390 million-a-year tourism sector and unnerved foreign investors in the Indian Ocean island's burgeoning mine and oil industries.