Opening Remarks by Mr Luwellyn Landers, MP, Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation of the Republic of South Africa, at the Western Sahara Side-Event, on 27 February 2019, on the European Union and its Member State’s responsibility for the Decolonisation of Western Sahara

Fellow panellists
Distinguished guests
Ladies and gentlemen

It is a great pleasure and privilege for me to be here today to deliver opening remarks in my capacity as Deputy Minister for International Relations and Cooperation of the Republic of South Africa.

Permit me to re-state that my country and its people stand resolutely in support of the freedom struggle of the Sahrawi people and their right to self-determination. For South Africa this principled support is cast in stone.


We are all well aware and welcome the many legal opinions and judgements of the United Nations, the International Court of Justice, the European Court of Justice, and even the High Court of South Africa, stating unequivocally that the Kingdom of Morocco as the occupying power has no sovereignty over Western Sahara. Furthermore, that its natural resources can only be extracted and traded legally with the free, prior and informed consent of the Polisario Front.


It is therefore extremely worrying to note the recent decisions by the European Commission and the European Parliament which have ignored this whole body of legal jurisprudence and judgements. A case could be made that this directly contradicts Article 1 of the UN Charter, which calls for respect and peace among states and peoples. These decisions are driven by narrow national political and economic interests, and are taken with complete impunity and a shameful disregard for the rule of law.


It is against this background, that we look forward to the valuable contributions from the panellists, who hopefully will seek to shed light on how powerful political and economic interests strengthen and perpetuate the violations and abuses of the human rights of the Sahrawi people.


During the height of the liberation struggle, Nelson Mandela developed a practice of politics in which moral force was the core element. This was about deploying human dignity against brutality and forcing oppression to yield ground. This kind of politics has a long history in anti-colonial and anti-racist policies.

It is time for us to start a conversation about the manner in which the political and economic interests of the powerful are perpetuating the oppression of the Sahrawi people. My fellow panellists are part of that conversation. We look forward to what they are going to say.

I thank you.


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