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The Portfolio Committee on International Relations and Cooperation has today said there is a need to elevate the struggle of people of the Western Sahara (Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic) in South Africa among all sectors of society.

On Wednesday, the Committee got a comprehensive analysis from the Deputy Minister of the International Relations and Cooperation, Mr Luwellyn Landers, on the situation in Western Sahara as well as South Africa’s position on the matter.

The public lecture, themed: “The role of South Africa in mobilising the international community in pursuit of the independence of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic”, was hosted in collaboration with the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco)..

Western Sahara is the only country still colonised (by Morocco) on the African continent.

Committee member, Mr Brian Molefe, said it was commendable that an effort is being done to get the friends of Western Sahara initiative going.

“The struggle there requires material support from us (South Africans). All organisations should identify the material support and see how we could coordinate the material support. It is important to popularise the struggle in Western Sahara in society and disseminate as much information and we could, even consider scholarships for students from Western Sahara,” Mr Molefe said.

Committee member, Mr Stevens Mokgalapa, concurred and said the issue of Western Sahara has been relegated for a long time and now needed to be elevated and put at the forefront of African politics.

“We should indeed create public awareness and condemn the human rights abuses in whatever shape or form happening. We support sovereignty of the Sahrawi people and the running of the referendum,” Mr Mokgalapa said.

He said another burning issue was the readmission of Morocco without conditions into the African Union.

Mr Landers commented that the challenge with the readmission of Morocco is regarded as “cheque book diplomacy” – where a lot of money was used during lobbying to get Morocco readmitted into the AU fold.

“South Africa did not have the kind of money that was used and had tried unsuccessfully to ask that conditions be put and met, but West African countries said conditions were not important. South Africa and few other countries found themselves in the minority,” Mr Landers said.

By Sibongile Maputi
15 March 2017