Wide Angle

South Africa left angered over Morocco’s conference on the Sahara

The chairperson of the African National Congress, a ruling party in South Africa, criticized Morocco for hosting a parallel conference on the same day SADC was organizing a meeting to support the Polisario Front.

ANC chairperson Gwede Mantashe and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa./Ph. DR
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The chairperson of the African National Congress (ANC), South Africa’s governing political party, is angry at Morocco for organizing a parallel conference as Pretoria hosts the Southern African Development Community Development Community (SADC) solidarity meeting on Western Sahara.

Gwede Mantashe, who attended the two-day conference in his capacity as ANC Secretary-General, accused Morocco of «paying representatives» to attend its ministerial conference on the African Union's role in supporting the UN-led political process, held Monday in Marrakech.

Mantashe told reporters at the opening of SADC’s conference that «[he] would have expected that from Morocco because [it] has resources», News24 reported on Monday. The South African politician has even gone further with his accusations, claiming that the Kingdom «exploits the Western Sahara resources (…) and use them to buy support».

South Africa's anger at Rabat

Mantashe did not stop there, but referred to diplomatic relations between Rabat and Pretoria, alleging that South Africa was «forced» to accept the ambassador appointed by Morocco because the North African Kingdom is an «African Union member now». «You don't howl at the organization you belong to», stated Mantashe who couldn’t hide his anger at Rabat.

The ANC chairperson promised to continue «campaigning in the AU» in the favor of the Polisario Front, adding that South Africa would show the Moroccan ambassador, Youssef Amrani, that Rabat «should move out of Western Sahara and give the people self-determination».

Mantashe’s comments came as Morocco managed to attract several African countries to the conference held Monday in Marrakech. Only 12 member states from SADC, the organization which chairs the meeting supporting the Polisario Front, attended the meeting in South Africa. The SADC conference saw the participation of two delegations from Algeria and Sao Tome, in addition to representatives from other European political parties.

Meanwhile in Marrakech, 36 African delegations showed up, Monday, to be part of Morocco’s own conference on Western Sahara. 

Furthermore, some member states from the Southern African Development Community (SADC), an inter-governmental organization founded in 1992 and headquartered in Gaborone, Botswana, were present in both Morocco and South Africa while others opted for Marrakech only.

Angola, for example, sent a representative to Pretoria and, at the same time, assigned its ambassador to Rabat to attend the conference in Marrakech. Malawi, did the same thing, sending its Justice Minister to the SADC conference and its Foreign Affairs Minister to the Kingdom. The Democratic Republic of the Congo, which is a member of SADC, followed the same strategy, sending one of its ministers to Pretoria and its deputy Foreign Minister to Morocco.

Furthermore, other SADC countries preferred to send delegations, only to Marrakech, including Comoros, Madagascar, Swaziland and Tanzania. Even Zambia, which was quite hesitant on its recognition of the Polisario in last couple of years, was among the African countries that sent its Foreign Affairs Minister to the Kingdom.

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