“Shame” over SA’s abstention in UN resolution is not enough

“[The decision] was a mistake.”

Earlier in the year, I said that South Africa’s foreign policy is dodgy. Turns out I was right. At a public lecture with Rhodes University Politics students and staff, the South African Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Luwellyn Landers, said he is ashamed about South Africa’s decision to veto a UN resolution to stop LGBT and gender violence. But does an apology really cut it?

The resolution, passed in July,  aims to appoint an independent watchdog on sexual violence and discrimination based on gender and sexual orientation for the next three years. No African country voted for the resolution.

“[The decision] was a mistake. A part [of the responsibility of diplomats aboard] is to follow the dictates of the [South African] Constitution,” said Landers, “You’re not there representing yourself. You can have your personal views, but once we put you in that position, you have a particular mandate. Your first port of call is our Constitution. []If that fails, you pick up the phone and you ask us for help.”

In defense of the UN Ambassadors, Landers says UN resolutions are amended constantly, and that diplomats have to keep up with these changes to ensure that it meets with what is in our Constitution. “It is not as simple as it seems,” he said.

It seems South African foreign policy continues to be incoherent. According to Landers, this is not the first time something like this has happened and he has not had time to interrogate the issue yet.

But as Mail and Guardian writer Melanie Judge says, these decisions and mishaps are “reckless”. Gender and LGBT based violence are real issues that deserve serious attention, not half-hearted miscommunications.  When it comes to an issue so close to home such as this, regrets simply do not cut it.

Photo: LGBT pride flag. Photo source: Flickr. 

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