South Africa Rebukes Mayor for 'Highly Regrettable' Visit to Taiwan

  • Visit contravenes South Africa’s One China policy: government
  • Criticism is baseless, hypocritical, main opposition says

The South African government said a visit to Taiwan by the mayor of a municipality that includes the capital, Pretoria, breached foreign policy and was “highly regrettable.”

Tshwane Mayor Solly Msimanga, from the main opposition Democratic Alliance party, ignored advice from the Department of International Relations and Cooperation when he traveled to Taipei, contravening South Africa’s “One China” policy, the department said in a statement Monday.

Solly Msimanga.

Photographer: Omar Torres/AFP/Getty Images

China, South Africa’s biggest trading partner, considers Taiwan a breakaway province and South Africa endorses the stance of the government in Beijing that the island and the mainland are part of the same China. South Africa switched diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to China in late 1996. Msimanga became mayor after the Democratic Alliance entered into coalitions with other opposition parties to oust the African National Congress in Tshwane, Johannesburg and Nelson Mandela Bay following local-government elections in August.

“Representatives of any sphere of government must ensure that their engagements with international entities are aligned to existing mechanisms and programs and that such relations are coordinated in a manner that advances South Africa’s foreign policy and national interests,” the department said in its statement.

The DA said the criticism directed against Msimanga was baseless, petty and hypocritical.

“Neither the ANC nor the national government it runs can dictate who DA mayors meet with in order to obtain job-creating investment,” Stevens Mokgalapa, the party’s spokesman on international relations, said in an e-mailed statement. “South Africa maintains relations with Taiwan through the South African Liaison Office in Taiwan. The party of national government chooses to ignore this in order to score cheap political points.”

About 18 percent of South Africa’s trade is with China, with two-way flows amounting to $32.6 billion in 2015.

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