BuzzSouthAfrica has been informed that the Kingdom of Morocco will resume diplomatic ties with South Africa in a major change of policy.
This development was disclosed by President Jacob Zuma, on Sunday, during an interview with reporters at the South African embassy in Abidjan, Ivory Coast.
The diplomatic ties between South Africa and Morocco turned sour in 2004 when Morocco withdrew its ambassador from Pretoria after the ANC, under the leadership of former president Thabo Mbeki refused to recognise Morocco because of its treatment of the Sahrawi people, in the Western Sahara.
The ANC – as one of Africa’s oldest liberation movements – has long backed those seeking independence in the Western Sahara and had accused Morocco of occupying the region.
According to Zuma, Morocco would be sending its ambassador back to Pretoria as a first sign that the two countries are resuming diplomatic relations.
He admitted that South Africa would have resumed relations with Morocco before now but that the move was frustrated because the Kingdom had not been part of African Union (AU).
Following AU’s readmission of Morocco into the continental bloc, it paved way for reigniting diplomatic ties between South Africa and the North African country, Zuma added.
“Morocco is an African nation and we need to have relations with them. We never had problems with them anyway; they were the first to withdraw diplomatic relations.
Because they had left the OAU [Organisation of African Unity, the predecessor of the AU], we [the current government] did not have a chance to meet with them. They had left and abandoned the AU because they were unhappy with African countries’ views relating to the Western Sahara issue.
At that time, South Africa had clearly sided with the oppressed people of Western Sahara. So, there was no opportunity for dialogue, which is why we were meeting for the first time. One of the reasons we met with them is that Morocco is now back in and is part of the AU.”
The Kingdom of Morocco was officially readmitted into the AU earlier this year. This move was highly criticized by the ANC at the time.
The chairperson of the ANC’s international relations subcommittee, Edna Molewa, said AU’s “decision represents a significant setback to the cause of the Sahrawi people and their quest for self-determination and independence in the Western Sahara.”
Last Wednesday, Morocco’s King Mohammed VI and his delegation met President Zuma and International Affairs Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane. The meeting took place on the sidelines of the two-day AU-EU Summit at Abidjan.
According to President Zuma, the Kingdom of Morocco was one of the countries in which former president Nelson Mandela acquired military experience in the early 1960s.