What is the purpose of your visit to South Africa? Any special agreements to be signed? Any major German investments to be announced?
Development Minister Dirk Niebel and I are travelling to Africa together because we want to develop closer relations with key countries on your continent. Germany is already engaged in many spheres in Africa – whether it be as a close trading partner, via the branches of the Goethe-Institut, through health projects or peace missions. We see potential for developing existing relations further. I’m therefore looking forward to my political talks in South Africa. Your country is already one of Germany’s key strategic partners. I’m looking forward to exchanging views on many bilateral and international issues. Furthermore, our two Governments will sign the outcome of the intergovernmental negotiations in the field of development cooperation.
Why is South Africa important to Germany?
Germany and South Africa are linked by a shared value base, for example when it comes to human rights and democratic governance. We therefore want to conduct an intensive dialogue with South Africa on global issues and challenges. Your country is playing a very active and constructive role as a member of the G20 and as a non-permanent member of the Security Council. However, South Africa is also Germany’s seventh largest trading partner outside Europe, and the most important in Africa. When German companies invest in Africa, they prefer to do so here.
How would you characterize relations between Germany and South Africa?
They are intensive and cover a broad range of spheres. This includes environmental policy, our excellent cooperation in science and research, for instance in the fields of energy and renewable energies, as well as cooperation programmes between our Ministries of Labour and Social Affairs. What’s more, Germans constitute one of the largest groups of foreign tourists, while around 100,000 Germans live in South Africa on a permanent basis. You can see that there is much on which we can build.
Does German industry retain its faith in South Africa? Are investments bound to expand?
Following the temporary dip due to the global economic crisis, I’m convinced that trade between South Africa and Germany, as well as German investments, will rise again soon. South Africa needs investment for its large-scale infrastructure programme, and the German business community, also that based in South Africa, can offer this. For its part, South Africa now exports ever more industrial products to Germany – a key investment incentive for German companies.
German media and some soccer bosses etc. have been very critical of South Africa’s competency to host the World Cup. Do you have complete faith?
I don’t believe there’s any reason to doubt South Africa’s ability to host the World Cup! The Confederations Cup in June 2009 was a resoundingly successful dress rehearsal. I’m firmly convinced that we’ll see a very special World Cup. We’re glad we can play our part in this: we have been engaged in an intensive exchange of information on the World Cup with South Africa, covering many different areas, such as organization and police cooperation.
Germany has lent some of its 2006 experience to South Africa to help it prepare for the Cup. Could you elaborate?
Since 2004, German and South African police, disaster management and fire fighting experts have been in close contact. Behind the scenes, too, many experts from Germany are at work: communication professionals in the organizational committee, logistics experts at matches, cameramen at HBS, the organization responsible for broadcasting the television images. Since October 2008, the German football expert Michael Nees has been acting as a technical adviser to the South African Football Association.
Germany has been helping South Africa’s peacemaking efforts in Africa. Can you call this a success? What would you point to as evidence of success?
I’m impressed by the extent to which South Africa assumes responsibility for peace in Africa, for instance the mediating role played by President Mandela and the current President Jacob Zuma in the 1990s and South Africa’s engagement in African Union peace missions, for example in Burundi or the Comoros. Usually, it’s difficult to measure successes in this sphere. But Africa has become safer during the last few years thanks to joint African efforts, also under the auspices of the African Union.
In this regard, how does Germany feel about the current state of Zimbabwe and the unity government? Do you think that South Africa has done all it can to effect necessary change?
Although some progress has been made in Zimbabwe, at present we are witnessing a rise in political violence and the intimidation of political opponents by ZANU and its allies. The EU hasn’t imposed any economic sanctions against Zimbabwe. However, there are visa restrictions on the Mugabe regime and those who profit from it, while European development aid has been frozen. We don’t believe the time has come yet to reverse these measures. Zimbabwe will certainly be on the agenda during my political talks.
You are standing for election to the Security Council for 2011 and 2012. So is South Africa and some of the other G4 countries. Do you see this as a potential trial run for the expanded Security Council you are aiming for?
Members elected for just two years have a different status to permanent members. The term “trial run” is therefore perhaps not completely accurate. Just like South Africa, we want to shoulder responsibility on a lasting basis. But I’m quite certain that – regardless of our status – we both want to achieve good results through our work.