SA casts controversial vote
Less than a month after South Africa took its seat on the UN Security Council for the first time, it has caused a stir by casting a controversial vote.
A resolution calling for Myanmar (Burma) to improve its appalling human rights record was opposed by only three countries: China, Russia and South Africa.
While Russia has been questioned over its own record and China has vested interests in the Burmese junta, the vote by South Africa came as a surprise. Archbishop Desmond Tutu has already spoken out against the vote, calling it “ a betrayal of South Africa’s past”.
On Thursday, the Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu) joined Tutu and others in saying that South Africa should have condemned Myanmar’s military regime and supported the call for sanctions against it. The Democratic Alliance’s foreign affairs spokesman, Douglas Gibson, said: “The very first opportunity South Africa had to vote in favour of human rights and good governance against dictatorship, and we chose the wrong side.”
The vote is a hot issue, considering it was similar inaction in the Security Council during the apartheid years, with the UK and USA voting against action to end apartheid, that may have kept the regime in place. South Africa has already lost moral credibility for its perceived inaction over Mugabe’s regime in Zimbabwe.
Christopher Alden, senior lecturer in International Relations at the London School of Economics and an expert on Southern Africa, said the vote was deeply disappointing: “South Africa seems to have amnesia in regard to its own history.”
The official reason behind the vote is that the internal situation in Myanmar does not pose a global security risk and therefore does not fall under the mandate of the Security Council.
The ANC endorsed the government’s position.