On Thursday 13 October, the University of Pretoria received its first visit from President Jacob Zuma. The president was asked by the Department of Political Sciences and the newly-established Centre for Mediation in Africa to deliver a lecture on South Africa’s foreign policy. The lecture was attended by the Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Ebrahim Ismail Ebrahim; Jerry Matjila, the department’s Director-General; and various foreign ambassadors and high commissioners. In his address, President Zuma gave a brief overview of the South African position in the world of international relations and the country’s relationship with various states, regional groups and organisations. He stressed that South Africa’s “foreign policy is independent and decisions are formed by national interest. We are not dictated to.” The president thanked the university for its interest in conflict resolution in Africa, as he outlined the stance of the country on the various conflicts in Africa. Most notably, President Zuma said of the situation in Zimbabwe: “We will continue to call on parties to spare no effort in creating a peaceful environment for fair and credible elections.” The president has played an active role in facilitating dialogue between Robert Mugabe’s ZANU PF and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC. A student posed a question about South Africa’s vote for UN Security Council Resolution 1973, which authorised using “all necessary measures” against Gaddafi’s forces. President Zuma responded by saying that South Africa only signed up to restrict Libyan airspace. He said, “Western countries used the resolution to do what was not in the resolution. They used the airspace for themselves. They abused it. That’s a fact.” In closing, President Zuma expressed a desire to build a closer working relationship with the university. “We look forward to working with the University of Pretoria to build a better Africa, and a better world.”

Photo: Desré Barnard

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