The ANC-initiated squabble over Tshwane mayor Solly Msimanga’s visit to Taipei in Taiwan could open a can of worms for the department of international relations and cooperation (Dirco), the mayor said yesterday.
The island of Taiwan, a country which had declared its statehood at the end of the Chinese Civil War in 1950, is not recognised by the South African and US governments as an independent state.
This principle forms part of the trade relations with China, South Africa’s biggest trading partner. The ruling ANC issued a statement yesterday calling on Dirco to confiscate the passports of officials seen to “be wilfully undermining our foreign policy”.
South Africa, however, has a diplomatic office in Taipei, which the DA claims has been visited by many ANC and government officials over time. But the DA has not named them.
“If they want to, they will have to confiscate quite a number of officials’ documents, including deputy ministers and interesting individuals from KZN,” said Msimanga.
“I am not disclosing any names – you will just have to wait and see. Nobody said anything when other people were seen there. I have seen some interesting photos in those offices of people who have been there, including CEOs.”
Msimanga’s recent visit sparked lively debate regarding the ethical and political implications of the contact.
The ANC, meanwhile, has fanned the debate in the mainstream media. Former Business Day editor Songezo Zibi took to Facebook to weigh in on the matter.
“I see quite a few people are having the proverbial fit over Tshwane mayor Solly Msimanga’s visit to Taipei, a territory with whom we do about R15bn in trade every year,” his post reads.
“We also have a permanent representative office there, whose objective is to officially promote trade and investment. I also hear some people arguing that the mayor has committed some form of treason.
“I do not think mayors have the legal standing to forge political ties. But trade links are open season if there are no sanctions against a country or territory.”
Zibi challenged his audience to direct him to any law the mayor purportedly had broken.
“The trip may have been politically ill-advised, given the fanfare with which he was received, obviously for the Taiwanese to make a political point to the Chinese about ‘recognition’. But it certainly broke no law,” Zibi said.