Visit by South African Delegation.

It gives me great pleasure to welcome to today's meeting an old friend of ours, Mr. Kadar Asmal, the South African Minister for Education and the South African Ambassador, Ms Melanie Verwoerd. We also have the director general of the Department of Education in the Republic of South Africa, Mr. Thami Mseleku, the private secretary to the Minister, MsNurunessa Moolla and the office manager, Mr. Maxwell Fuzani. Mr. Peter Mogoadi, first secretary at the South African Embassy is also with us. You are all very welcome.

It has been a long journey, Mr. Asmal, from the time you first came to Ireland in the early 1960s. You were founder of the Irish Anti-Apartheid Movement and its chairman until your return to South Africa in 1990. You were also president of the Irish Council for Civil Liberties, dean of arts of Trinity College, lecturer in law in Trinity College for 27 years, human rights specialist and advocate, delegate to CODESSA, a member of the multi-party negotiating forum and now Minister in a South African government that is truly democratic. You have come a long journey.

We in Ireland follow the pace of progress in South Africa with great interest and we are pleased with the progress your people have made. I had the pleasure of meeting with you and of seeing, from the education point of view, what we could exchange with one another. On behalf of the joint committee I want to say how pleasant it is to receive you in the Oireachtas and to hear from you of the developments which are ongoing in South Africa and in the region generally.

We, in Ireland, have a special interest in Africa, particulary in the least well-off regions. We are deeply disturbed by the news of famine in areas such as the Horn of Africa and in your own region and by the conflict in some other regions, particularly in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Last week the joint committee heard from people who had just returned from the Congo and just before you arrived, we completed our report on Ethiopia. We are very appreciative of South Africa's attempts to bring peace to the Congo and to the Great Lakes region. Your leadership in the African Union, and particularly in the New Partnership for Africa's Development has been a steadying influence in these organisations and we commend you for it.

We would be grateful to know what progress is being made in the Great Lakes region and what are the prospects for peace in the Congo. We are also very interested in and concerned about the situation in Zimbabwe and the prospects there for a return to full democracy. The United Nations should be playing a deeper and wider role in many of these issues. We are very much of the belief that the Security Council should be involved more at the first sign of conflict and play a more robust part in finding solutions than heretofore. If not, it will continue to lose ground to those who find it necessary to intervene without universal approval.

On development, we are pleased with the South Africa-EU agreement and hope this is working towards South Africa's benefit. Trade between Ireland and South Africa has greatly expanded in the past ten years and we hope this will continue to our mutual benefit. Our beef trade was cut off because of BSE in Europe but that no longer poses a problem for the food chain. I invite the Minister to respond to my comments and my colleagues will then wish to ask questions.

Mr. Kadar Asmal

I say go raibh maith agat to the Chairman for inviting me to attend the committee. It is a history making experience. I take a great deal of pride in the fact that we are doing things which are entirely new. Although I am not the Minister for Foreign Affairs, I have a close interest as chairperson of the arms' control committee, the export of arms from South Africa. It is rather unusual for me to chair this committee because I am a person who is more regulatory. I am not a strong believer in arms' sales but I notice that Ireland is increasingly buying arms from South Africa as part of its process of diversification.

I am closely interested in the development of South Africa in the context of southern Africa and the world. I am grateful to this committee for an opportunity to address its members and to meet so many old friends. I explained to the ambassador who the members are and how I came to know them.

South Africa has good relations with Ireland and we are good friends. I will not use the diplomatic cliché that our relations are normal and congenial because they go beyond that. As Africa takes shape, it is important for Ireland to play a more leading role in this process. Both Governments are keen to strengthen our ties and friendship politically, economically and in new forms of partnership and co-operation. We have to move on from the past ten years to new forms. I am confident this committee will be supportive in this matter.

Later this month, South Africa will end its Presidency of the African Union. It will hand over to Mozambique at the Maputo Summit. South Africa was the chairman of the non-aligned movement and the non-aligned conference was held there. Ireland played an important role in the two major conferences which were held in South Africa, the world conference on racism and xenophobia and the world summit on sustainable development. At present we chair the UN Commission on Sustainable Development. We hope it will be given some teeth. Square brackets are something I learned about when I was Minister for Water Affairs. The idea of square brackets is where there is no agreement. The last time I was at the United Nations, the pages were replete with square brackets. After the conferences in Rio de Janeiro and Johannesburg, I think we have passed the time of square brackets.

Ireland is, as of today, a member of the EU Troika and it assumes the EU Presidency in January 2004. Our two countries share close views on many international and political issues. Multilateralism is the bedrock of international relations. As a former teacher of international law for 30 years, respect for international law and for small countries is something I learned from Frank Aiken. Utmost respect for international law is the safeguard for small countries. In a unipolar world where choices are very limited, respect for law and international law and multilateralism must form the basis of inter-state relations for smaller countries such as ours. In his speech to the world newspaper congress last month, the Taoiseach said: "We need a concerted and global effort to address the challenge of an increasingly divided and dangerous world". He concluded: "The United Nations must remain the central pillar of the international order.".

President Mbeki and the South African Government take precisely this view. In his state of the nation address in February this year, the president made the point, and called for respect by all countries of the principle and practice of multilateralism, and for the continuing responsibility of the United Nations with regard to the issues of international peace and security and the peaceful resolution of international conflicts. Recently, the EU presidential declaration was made in the context of weapons of mass destruction. We can debate the issue of intervention in relation to this matter but it is clear that in terms of enforcement there must be a decision by the Security Council.

Breaches of the peace or acts of aggression must be dealt with multilaterally. Our two countries, therefore, must work in close partnership. It is vital that there should be close partnerships to advance this vision of an international order resting on multilateralism and the central role of the United Nations and other international institutions. It is especially important now with the Doha round and the World Trade Organisation which, I understand, will not reach its conclusion in September, at Cancun in Mexico. The Doha round is vital if multilateralism should triumph.

Our countries are also fully committed to bridging the gap between developed and developing countries. We share many similar views on debt, trade, the role of development assistance, support for capacity building and encouraging investment flows to developing countries. As President Mandela said, one has dialogue between friends and one negotiates with one's enemies. That is the same for everyone. We can increasingly act together and not just agree with each other, which is what we tend to do.

I will make some comments on political and economic developments in Africa. For too long, Africa has been viewed as beyond redemption or in Pliny's view: "Semper aliquid novi Africam adferre", meaning in a patronising way that something odd would come out of Africa every now and then. We now demand a fair deal and we are moving towards addressing the challenges that are our responsibility.

The formation of the African Union a year ago, offers a real chance. I grew up with the Organisation of African Unity which was established in 1963. It played a crucial role in the decolonisation of Africa. In the liberation of Mozambique and Angola, Namibia and South Africa, it acted as the single united voice. It is very difficult to find regional organisations acting with a single voice. It served its time and it had fundamental defects in its structure and approach.

The African Union has created institutions to advance African interests. As in the case of Ireland and the European Union, this will involve some pooling of sovereignty. We have set up the African Union Commission and the Peace and Security Council is soon to be established as well as a range of other structures. The Parliament is an important development and South Africa is bidding to have the headquarters of the Parliament based there, largely because we have a most redoubtable Speaker who keeps us in order in our Parliament.

We are an infant democracy. Women are taking a leading role in that they comprise 40% of our Parliament and 40% of the Cabinet. They are represented in the strategic areas of mining, mineral affairs, public service, health, education and foreign affairs. A larger number are Deputy Ministers in the Cabinet. The impetus in Africa is coming from women, which is a good idea.

The terrible conflicts in the DRC, Burundi, Angola and Mozambique, are human catastrophes and have caused enormous damage. One of the lessons there was that foreign intervention is not always benign in these matters, particularly when mineral wealth is concerned. Now, of course, Africa must deal with this as we have dealt with the issue of Mozambique and Angola.

South Africa has played a role as you rightly said, Chairman, to bring an end to conflicts in the DRC. We believe that the movement towards peace and the establishment of an interim government with minor variations is binding by the Sun City agreement that was signed in South Africa. Soon an EU force will be working side by side with South Africans in Bunia. As Members know, we have a few hundred troops in Burundi because we want to seek protection for the political leaders of the negotiation teams and, of course, Mr. Mandela and our Deputy President, Mr. Jacob Zuma, played a very important part in bringing all the parties together in Burundi.

Of course we must tackle causes of conflict in Africa also and enable African countries to respond effectively. The patterns of trade, for example, are vital. I think Ireland has an interest in this. If there is no economic and social development, there will be refugees. That is the iron law of life. So it is in Ireland's interest. Rather than making a fortress Europe of exclusion and denial, it makes more sense to be involved in developing the economies on the basis of African Union, which is a different sort of intervention. We must welcome, therefore, the joint Africa-G8 plan agreed in Evian to enhance African capabilities to undertake peace support operations. However there must be no impression left of great power intervention in these battles.

On economic issues, the new programme policy of NEPAD represents the best chance for decades to advance African economic interests. This is a classic example of multilateralism also. South Africa is very careful to ensure it does not play the kind of role that may be allegedly associated with its economic, political and social power and authority. We are very careful. When I was Minister with responsibility for water affairs, and was negotiating the Lesotho highland scheme, which was the biggest infrastructure scheme in the southern hemisphere, we stood back and allowed Lesotho to make the running. Although we had the capacity, we felt we must ensure there was genuine bilateralism in the relationships.

We in Africa fully accept the need for good political and corporate governance, hence the African peer review mechanism that is now in place. We must recognise that the peer review cannot be a punitive instrument. That is as relevant to Zimbabwe as to any other area. It is to support building up democratic institutions. Europe never tried to be punitive in any case. There was the old fascist government in Portugal for years; there were the Greek colonels. There was no intention in the Council of Europe or anywhere else to take a punitive position and the same must be applied to Africa.

This must be a partnership. Africa needs foreign direct investments. It needs fair trade since free trade is now one of those great incantations of inter-state relations. Free trade must be associated with fair trade. It needs greater debt relief, building on the World Bank IMF heavily indebted poor countries initiative. It is an urgent matter.

I mentioned the Doha World Trade Organisation development round. It is interesting that for the first time a multilateral trading approach said that the next round must be developmental, not simply trading. We want to see evidence of that. The first signs were rather modest at Monterey, when the financial institutions took part in developing an approach in this area, but there must be a sharper understanding. It is important that the European Union and Ireland help to resolve the current impasse, including an agricultural export subsidies issue. However there is an impasse. It may be that the Cancun talks could be a disaster and after Seattle, we cannot afford another disaster.

So the wider point I want to stress to the Government is that South Africa wants to see the EU and Ireland do everything in their power to help us make the AU and NEPAD succeed. President Chirac emphasised this when at the Evian meeting, he invited the heads of states from other countries to the associated meetings. Obviously the dynamics of the European Union should encourage emphasis on Africa.

Ireland's increasing development co-operation role is appreciated by South Africa and Africa. It is important to recognise that Ireland is largely involved in niche areas. The 0.7% target by 2007 could be an example for other developed countries. I understand this was re-iterated by the Taoiseach in a speech to the World Newspaper Congress last year.

I was asked what would be the challenges of Ireland's Presidency of the EU. Certain African issues will be important during the Irish Presidency. These include the EU-African Union relations. I hope it will be possible that the EU-AU summit that was postponed earlier this year could be held during Ireland's Presidency next year. The EU should have an unyielding focus on helping advance peace in the Great Lakes region. Technical assistance will be very important in developing the structures in Burundi and also in Rwanda. The world has largely ignored the blood letting and genocidal behaviour in Rwanda, during which 800,000 people died. Rwanda needs special attention in developing its judicial, court and administrative structures. The world lost an enormous opportunity in 1994 and 1995 by not responding in a meaningful way. I praise the role of Mr. Ajello, the EU special representative, up to now.

As far as Zimbabwe is concerned, it must be recognised that the perspectives in Africa differ from those in Europe. Land is the central issue. Undertakings made about land reform at Lancaster House were not fulfilled. As it wanted huge social development in schools, health and education to overcome the legacy of colonialism, Zimbabwe borrowed enormous amounts of money and had possibly the best educational system in Africa. As colonialism had left a deficient system, it borrowed enormously.

As South Africa has not borrowed a penny from any institution since 1994, we can now embark on our basis with infrastructure development, social development, and social security development a comprehensive social policy for South Africa - possibly the first Third World country that could embark on a comprehensive social welfare system. We did it on our terms.

By 1995 or 1996 Zimbabwe faced an enormous debt issue because it borrowed money, which it used for subsidising schooling, hospitals and very cheap food. After 1995 the paymasters called and that was when the stress and tension came. Quite clearly what has happened in the last four or five years pales into insignificance compared to what has happened in the Congo. Our view is that we persevere. We have been accused of quiet diplomacy. However by its very nature all diplomacy is quiet. Megaphone politics have not worked. It may have sounded very good to impose smart sanctions, but they were a joke. EU member states may have felt good in imposing them but they had no effect on Zimbabwe. On the contrary, they tended to strengthen the position there. Nobody can disagree with the argument that smart sanctions have not worked.

Without a physical intervention in Zimbabwe, for which nobody has called, one finds, for example, that South Africa continues to supply electricity to Zimbabwe. If we cut it off, the country's economy and social institutions would collapse. Our view has been that the troika, which has been working on this issue, is taking the correct approach. The issue of an interim government is clearly central. What kind of interim government will there be? One cannot have regime change as it is an impermissible approach. The most sophisticated approach is called regime legitimacy - the phrase used now - which should be worked out by the Zimbabwean people. In the past three or four days, the possibility has arisen of movement towards greater participation by the opposition.

I end by examining EU-South African relations which are generally excellent. The trade and development co-operation agreement is now provisionally in force and is working well. South African exports to the European Union increased by 24% in 2000 and 21% in 2001. Ireland played a role in solving some of the tricky issues of negotiation of the trade and development co-operation agreement, notably in wine, spirits and levels of access. This did not go unnoticed in South Africa, although, as a lawyer, I noted Ireland expressed a reservation that South Africa should not make Irish whiskey and wanted Irish whiskey to have the same patent rights as grappa. While I drew this to the attention of our negotiators, we do not have the slightest intention of committing ourselves to Irish whiskey.

The Cotonou agreement between the EU and ACP countries is a model of its kind. Let us give new strategic, political focus to strengthening EU-African relations as a whole, politically, economically and in every form.

From a South African perspective, our relations with Ireland are excellent. A decade after the ending of apartheid, we have consolidated our democratic order. While I am aware Ministers do not like to be second-guessed by courts, our constitutional court is playing a vibrant role in determining and advancing economic and social rights by interpreting the constitution. Politicians and Ministers like to decide policy on investment and economic and social rights. The court is not making policy decisions but declaring that there is a constitutionally protected right to education which the Government must advance. In addition, it must develop infrastructure and pursue policies which do not result in higher education or schooling being reduced.

As someone who fought for including economic and social rights in the constitution, I am pleased the constitutional court is performing its functions. We are in the process of establishing a commission on language, culture and religion, a central participative structure and the last of the great commissions. Our human rights commission is an active body and we also have gender and youth commissions. We have what we call agencies to assist in the constitutional order.

As a lawyer, I am pleased that our constitutional system has been strengthened by two sets of local government elections. Incidentally, as we do not have a dual mandate no one can take us to court to request the right to participate in local government and Parliament. We are strengthening local government and investing significant sums in it because it is vitally important. Our next elections will be held next year, the tenth anniversary of our freedom, and presidential elections will also be held.

Ireland exported €73 million of goods to South Africa in 1993. Last year, the figure was €304 million. In 1993 South African exports to Ireland amounted to €16 million, while last year the figure was €111 million. Ireland clearly benefits most from our trading relationship. With our common interests, we can do much more. South Africa is a gateway to Africa which offers major opportunities for increasing world economic growth.

South African and Irish parliamentary co-operation is important. We have a lively Parliament and portfolio committee system, much to the chagrin of Ministers because our portfolio committees are preoccupied with amending legislation introduced by ANC Ministers. We also have committees dealing with women's rights in Parliament outside the normal portfolio system. I understand members of the committee had intended to visit South Africa but the trip was cancelled. It is important to strengthen ties between our Parliaments.

I will raise the question of the beef trade with our Minister for Agriculture as I did following my last visit. Our Minister for Agriculture is a remarkably strong woman. I will also bring to her attention the fact that foot and mouth disease has been extirpated and there are no problems with the Irish beef trade. I thank the committee.

I thank the Minister. The visit to South Africa has been postponed and will take place later in the year. I ask Senator Norris to bear in mind that we must finish by 1 p.m.

That will be sufficient time for my contribution.

Other members would also like to speak.

I will make my points quickly. I am delighted the Minister is before the committee. He is most welcome as an old friend and colleague from Trinity College, the Irish Council for Civil Liberties and the anti-apartheid movement. It is refreshing to see somebody who does not appear to age.

I will start on a positive note but, as one would expect, I also have a few queries and barbs. I agree entirely with Dr. Asmal's comments on fortress Europe. The issue affects not only Africa but the whole globe. There will never be easy relations unless matters become much more equal. The current imbalance is created by our economic position. I welcome the talents and diverse views of the many people arriving here but wish they were not driven here by pressure. In many cases, economic migrants have a justifiable cause.

I am delighted with the Minister's support for the United Nations, which is important in the context of the events of the past year or thereabouts. We have been greatly enriched by the visits of President Mandela, his continuing idealism, the inspiration he gives us and his forthright criticism of the illegal American intervention in Iraq. I am also impressed to learn that 40% of members of the South African Parliament and Cabinet are women. We can learn from this.

Dr. Asmal referred to the intervention of European countries in Africa. While I hope that period is over in the broad sense, this is now being done by multinational companies, including European companies. It would help us if our friends in Africa named the companies in question, even privately. If they showed us where the money trail leads, we could attack them from inside the European Union.

I ask Dr. Asmal to take back to South Africa the message that those of us who have been involved in the area of AIDS - I am glad he is wearing the ribbon——

Mr. Asmal

It is my fáinne.

——find it disappointing and discouraging when senior politicians with no scientific background dispute the connection between the human immuno-deficiency virus and AIDS. While I say this in a mutual manner and without naming individuals, I am sure Dr. Asmal is aware of what I am talking about. This is a counter-productive and dangerous approach in many ways.

What I also find a little disappointing and very difficult is that Dr. Asmal almost appeared to justify the situation in Zimbabwe. There is no justification for it, nor is it a question of Europeans not understanding the situation in Africa. There is a level below which one does not go but they have gone there. How are the Zimbabwean people to achieve what Dr. Asmal spoke about? He said the matter should be left until such time as they hold an election. They did have an election and there was massive corruption. It is not a question of being European or African; South Africans of all racial backgrounds will say the same. The question is, how can the matter be resolved? It is a very difficult one. It is not just a question of land, there is also the matter of misrule and the squandering of resources in what is a wonderful and rich country.

Congratulations are in order in regard to many matters. I welcome Dr. Asmal back to his other home. Apart from my two queries, most of what I have said is positive. As Dr. Asmal said, friends talk, enemies negotiate. I know as an old friend that he appreciates straight talking.

I welcome Dr. Asmal. It is a great thrill to see him ten years after the apartheid regime was brought down. He came to be one of our own in Dublin and Trinity College life and is now a Minister in the new and transformative government in South Africa where we keenly watch developments because of our long-standing interest, support and solidarity in respect of its people. This is partly due to our aid programme which, as Dr. Asmal has acknowledged, is exceptional. While most of the projects we support in Africa are to be found in least developed countries, of which South Africa is not one, there are difficulties in the distribution of wealth. Most of our work involves helping to bed-down and enhance the democratic transformation taking place in South Africa which is a joy to watch.

The last time I was in South Africa I think Dr. Asmal was the Minister with responsibility for water and the scale of unmet needs at the time soon after the new government had been formed was breathtaking. The challenge in delivering clean water, sanitation, housing, health and education services to millions previously unserviced was awesome. Great credit is due to the South African Government and democratic institutions for responding so quickly to the needs of a great many.

One of the recommendations of the review of the aid programme which I chaired last year was that we should deepen our engagement with South Africa because of its central importance to the entire region. A prosperous, stable and happy South Africa is important for the entire southern African region. The stability of many other countries in the region depends on the stability, economic and otherwise, of South Africa. A country strategy programme will come up for review at the end of 2003 and I would be pleased if Kadar made some suggestions on how we might broaden and deepen our engagement in an appropriate fashion.

On the conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, we acknowledge the leadership South Africa has given in conflict resolution mechanisms throughout the region. It is important that it continues to give that political leadership through NEPAD.

To pick up on what Senator Norris said, because we are friends, we can raise issues which are challenging to the South Africa Government. I refer to the high incidence of HIV and AIDS. There has been a slowness in responding through the provision of drugs for those in need, particularly when it comes to mother and child transmission. South Africa has one of the highest HIV infection rates in the world. Some 4.5 million South Africans are living with HIV and AIDS, of which some 400,000 will die in South Africa this year. Many children have also been orphaned.

Ireland wants to help with this problem. We are actively engaged in a regional HIV programme of assistance which includes South Africa. As a former Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs which made HIV-AIDS a major plank of our development assistance to Africa, I echo the plea of Senator Norris that South Africa respond in a more positive way to the needs of its people. I understand the constitutional court has recently ruled against the government on the issue. As Dr. Asmal said, that is what democratic institutions should do - challenge the government to improve services for the people.

On that note I welcome Dr. Asmal. Through my work with this committee, I look forward to working with him as a Minister in the South African Government. There is and always will be great goodwill in Ireland for the new South Africa.

As inevitably happens, most of the issues have been covered by previous speakers. The Chairman will be glad to hear I will not go over all of them but there are two points on which I wish to focus. It would be churlish of me not to extend a warm welcome to Dr. Asmal. Growing up in rural Ireland, the name, Kadar Asmal, was a strong force for good and right in the world. In some ways it is true to say my abiding interest in human rights issues was greatly influenced by his courageous stand during the apartheid years in South Africa. I am pleased to see that he has been duly acknowledged in his home country.

I am particularly interested in the position in Zimbabwe. I accept the remarks Dr. Asmal made about quiet diplomacy and agree with my colleagues that South Africa is a powerful military and economic force. It has enormous power and influence in Africa. Surely it cannot stand by and allow the Opposition in Zimbabwe to be dealt with in the current manner by what appear to be forces of the government which have been allowed to run freely without the sanction of law.

Dr. Asmal placed great emphasis on the rule of law, yet the law seems to be flouted on a regular basis in Zimbabwe. An attempt is being made to discredit the Leader of the Opposition on trumped up charges reminiscent of the show trials in the Stalinist era. Can Dr. Asmal go a little further and perhaps give us some indication of the direction in which he sees this matter going? Obviously, it cannot continue.

I fully appreciate that one cannot have a regime change but the point was made that this was a matter for the people of Zimbabwe to resolve. I accept that I am getting into controversial waters but it reminded me of comments made in regard to Iraq - that it was for the people of Iraq to resolve the issue of Saddam Hussein. How can the people do anything when the full panoply of law and order is ranged against them? Illegal forces are operating at the behest of the government against those who wish to effect democratic change, the reason this is a serious issue. It is not just about Mugabe and the way in which he is handling the economy. He recently failed to negotiate an oil deal with Libya which will have an even greater adverse effect on the ordinary people of Zimbabwe.

Does Dr. Asmal agree that South Africa, as Zimbabwe's neighbour, but also because of South Africa's colonial history, should do more? I fully appreciate that in making these comments Europeans will be seen by native Africans as somehow holding a colonial view. However, this is not about a colonial view but basic human rights for the people of Zimbabwe. The matter now transcends all other considerations. In that context, historical baggage should be set aside. Without labouring the point too much, will Dr. Asmal expand on what he envisages will happen in Zimbabwe?

I echo what has been said about the role South Africa is playing in conflict resolution, which I applaud unreservedly. It is using its power wisely and well.

I will be brief because I know that others want to speak and our time is limited.

I join the Chairm an and others in saying what a real pleasure it is to have with us the South African Minister for Education, Dr. Asmal. This is important for a number of reasons. It is also very symbolic. For somebody who was a human rights activist, who had to leave the country and go into exile for a long time, who has now come full circle and is a distinguished member of the government serving his second period of office, it is of immense importance. It is, therefore, all the more important for us to remember what happened. Not all of the people of Ireland were cheering wildly when pickets were placed outside Lansdowne Road. I recall quite a few, in good weather and bad, telling Dr. Asmal and people like me where we could go. It is the nature of protest that it is singularly educational. One gets to look not only at one's friends but also at one's temporary opponents and may come to understand them. It is a marvellous qualification for office in terms of tolerance.

I want to raise a few points about what Dr. Asmal said because it is important. There are issues we have discussed in the Dáil but not in detail at this committee: the preparations for the WTO meeting in Cancun, for example, about which I have great concern. I am not sure that the common agreed position at the level of the European Union would necessarily be to Africa's advantage as a continent. It was the single biggest loser in the Uruguay Round. To put it starkly, the trade loss is $134 billion per year, exactly twice the aid figure. Debt repayments amount to $128 million per day. Every 1% added to the combined health and education budgets in Africa saves the lives of 11,000 children. I could go on but the UNDP report will be out next week. I hope South Africa will have risen in its position.

We cannot walk away from these figures. If the meeting in Cancun produces the same results as that in Uruguay, there will be practical consequences in terms of loss of life and opportunity. I do not see the evidence that others see. We are going into it with very bad faith and mixed messages. There is no commitment on the US side to alleviate the complete distortion of the agricultural industry. The European Union's proposals on decoupling are not very advanced and are in conflict with those of others. I put it to the Chairman - it will be interesting when the Minister with responsibility for water is present - that the development of the role of the WTO into new areas such as the four Singapore issues could be disastrous. The next wars and conflicts will probably be less about oil than water resources. How can anybody on a continent which has been colonised, suffered so much and needs change so badly advocate the extension of a free trade regime that would serve transnational corporations in areas such as water and other services provision?

Nothing has been achieved since the meeting in Doha in the position of those countries which do not have the capacity to produce generic alternatives to AIDS-management drugs. The pharmaceutical companies have been running a campaign which includes Ireland, one of the principal recipients. We were all uplifted by PresidentNelson Mandela's straightforward defence of multilateralism and the rule of law at the United Nations. He chose Ireland to deliver his message that although there might be other considerations, economic interests must become secondary to a moral position. We are in the same position in relation to what pharmaceutical companies will look for in Africa, Asia and elsewhere.

With some of the people who work and have worked with me in NUIG, I have considered NEPAD and as it was just a few years ago, I cannot be as enthusiastic. To some extent, it is an IMF-World Bank instrument in African clothes. I would be delighted to be proved wrong but I would be interested to see the influence of the new young generation of African economists who are constructing their own transition. I do not accept it, except as another form of colonisation, if one agrees that Europeans were entitled to 40 years of Keynesianism and a mere 20 years of the diuretic of Thatcherism, why should Africa, Asia and Latin America not be entitled to alternatives?

I agree 100% about Lancaster House. In the discussion on Zimbabwe the people who did not follow through on the agenda and walked away from full agreement carry a great burden. I also appreciate what has been attempted for the Congo but unfortunately President Joseph Kabila is implementing that which facilitates himself. Because of this, the inter-Congolese dialogue is suffering.

As I would say to any delegation to this committee, it is useful to listen to what UNCTAD has to say on economics, society, trade and so on because it is pro-development. It is a waste of time to listen to the ex post hoc condemnations of the OECD, to which the Government and so many European governments are disastrously committed.

Most of what I have to say has been said more eloquently than I could say it. I join others in welcoming Dr. Asmal as Minister for Education in South Africa. He does not remember this but he was a very esteemed member of the Dublin Institute of Technology-TCD liaison council in the 1980s, which I had the great pleasure of chairing. I hope some of the insights which he brought to our discussions are being implemented in South Africa. The last time I met him he was also Minister with responsibility for water. This has been one of the most refreshing interventions I have heard at this committee. One wonders whether South Africa should set up a consultancy on how to set up a democracy properly because much of what it is doing ought to have been done by us a long time ago.

I heard Dr. Asmal on radio one evening last week. He was discreet - he said he did not want to tell Ireland what it should be doing. He raised the issue of racism and xenophobia. I concur with others that unfortunately we are creating a "fortress Europe". As somebody marginally involved in the development of a new constitutional treaty for the European Union, I am not at all assured that we are not moving towards this. I agree that if there is no economic development in developing countries, the flow of migration will continue. Dr. Asmal might tell us how he feels Ireland ought to deal with its undoubtedly xenophobic tendencies. There are also racist tendencies which are probably easier to understand but xenophobia is not well understood, as Dr. Asmal pointed out.

Deputy Higgins mentioned the other issue about which I wanted to talk and which came up in the context of our report on Ethiopia - the IMF and the World Bank and their influence. When I was reading the briefing material last night, the same thought occurred to me as was mentioned by Deputy Higgins about NEPAD: is it the IMF and the World Bank in disguise?

Dr. Asmal talked about the impasse on agricultural subsidies, in which undoubtedly Africa was a loser. I am concerned, however, that it may lose out again in the forthcoming talks. Is there anything Ireland in its Presidency can do to assist in this respect? I do not want to dwell on Zimbabwe other than to say that I agree that if the Lancaster House recommendations had been more fully implemented we might be dealing with a different issue. I am more interested in an answer to my first question, and what analysis Dr. Asmal has of how we might deal with the racism and xenophobia emerging in our country.

I welcome Dr. Asmal, who is a frequent visitor back to Ireland. The first time I met Kadar Asmal, other than on a picket or at a protest meeting was in the United Nations in 1998. He spoke both for South Africa and on behalf of the Commonwealth which, given that he is a man with strong republican tendencies, was a good indication of the way the world had progressed.

Dr. Asmal

Mr. Mandela made me do it.

We have to confront the issue of the degree to which the CAP is distorting trade to the detriment of developing countries. It is a theme at every conference I have attended. Another issue is the hostility of most developing countries, or at least their political representatives, to the idea of minimum international labour standards. A prominent Malaysian diplomat at a conference accused me of defending all the things to which I have been opposed throughout my life because I suggested that in Malaysia and other countries there ought to be at least some minimum labour standards, commensurate with economic development. I would be interested in a comment on that.

Like everybody else, I am concerned about what is happening in Zimbabwe. Does Dr. Asmal think that if the current president of Zimbabwe was as pro-Western as the previous president of Kenya the Western powers would have been as sensitive about his human rights record? After all there are many countries in which human rights are far from perfectly observed. I would like a political judgment on that issue.

Finally, we all agree about multilateralism but does Dr. Asmal have any thoughts about how to make that work since the single largest power in the world seems to be determined to operate in total independence? How can we use international solidarity to persuade or lead it to accept this because there is no point in having multilateral institutions if the single biggest power chooses to ignore them?

It is a pleasure to hear Dr. Asmal speaking here. If he has learnt a lot from Ireland we have also learnt a great deal from him, so it was a fair exchange. I compliment South Africa on its many achievements in improving water, health and housing services. While they may not be enough, they are significant statistically and compare well with the post-Marshall Plan developments in Europe, which people here often do not appreciate.

As Minister of Education Dr. Asmal has a particular interest in reform of the third-level sector. The university set up by the Belgians in colonial times in Rwanda is in Butare which is miles from anywhere and is rather like the apartheid era university which I visited with Dr. Asmal, the University of the North. I will not say it was in the middle of nowhere because that would be disrespectful to people who lived there but as the major black African university it was very far from anywhere in the sense of giving people an opportunity for an ordinary campus life and all the things students are supposed to enjoy.

Democracy and governance issues have become extremely popular now in aid programmes. While many of these are helpful, the collapse in different parts of Africa of the third-level sector has probably been the greatest loss to civil society over and beyond what has happened as a result of war and conflict. The Irish programme has fallen behind in recent years in looking at the impact that a real renewal of partnership, exchange and friendship at third level might have, particularly in institutes of technology. It could be beneficial in giving intellectuals, who often reside on campus, an opportunity to be heard in their own countries. When I was a Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs I was responsible for the Irish programme deciding to go for poverty alleviation but in terms of governance the third-level institutions are essential and I would like to hear Dr. Asmal's comments on that.

With regard to Zimbabwe it is important to hear people like Dr. Asmal taking an opportunity to speak here. How is the land issue in South Africa progressing because historically that must be of great importance?

I want to associate myself with the welcome to Dr. Asmal and his colleagues. Many years ago when Dr. Asmal was a leading light in the anti-apartheid movement in Trinity College I met him with a group of similarly motivated students in UCD and I look forward to renewing his acquaintance informally afterwards. His presence here today proves that sometimes men of conviction and passion who pursue their goal by peaceful means triumph over the mightiest forces of arms. The world can take pride in, and hope from, the fact that he is here as the South African Minister for Education.

Is there an exchange between Irish teachers and research scientists and South African teachers and scientists? Last week Deputy O'Donnell talked about the HIV rates in South Africa, and a young Irish scientist who has made a monumental breakthrough which we think will lead to a cure for AIDS. A photograph of that young scientist appeared in the newspaper; she appears to be about 26 or 27 years of age and is studying at NUI Maynooth. Ireland and South Africa would benefit politically, socially and economically if we were to agree on an exchange programme. If we do not have a meaningful exchange arrangement we should develop one.

Dr. Asmal talked about foreign direct investment. Last Sunday I read in a newspaper that many of the buyers of holiday homes in South Africa are Irish. That is a good thing and I hope Dr. Asmal might see it as a form of foreign direct investment.

I welcome Dr. Asmal whom I have not met before. I am very impressed by his track record. In 2000 I attended the World AIDS Conference in Durban and the fact that it was hosted by the South African Government led us to hope that there would be a new departure by the South African authorities on the domestic policy in dealing with that problem. Sadly, all the statistics presented to us suggest that at best the problem has not been effectively tackled and at worst it has been virtually ignored. We are advised that within the next four or five years 25% of the South African workforce will be HIV positive. Perhaps Dr. Asmal will tell us what new policy departures his government will take to stem this appalling tide of human misery. I recall that at the Durban conference there was an expectation of new policy departures but if that happened they have not worked. Will Dr. Asmal advise us on what extra measures his government intend to take. I concur with the comments of my colleagues on the situation in Zimbabwe. During the 1970s, as a teenager, I had the sad habit of listening to the BBC World Service. The first international dispute I became interested in was that in Rhodesia, as it was called then. At the time, the onward march of Robert Mugabe, Joshua Nkomo and their colleagues seemed to be a great leap forward for civilisation and democracy.

All this, sadly, seems to have come to very little. What is presiding as a government today in Zimbabwe was not elected on a democratic basis. The opposition has been stymied and blocked and its leaders are facing trumped up charges of treason. To identify the difference betweenRobert Mugabe's Zimbabwe and Ian Smith's Rhodesia is now difficult. Zimbabwe is back almost to a dictatorship.

I take on board Dr. Asmal's assertion that the Zimbabwean people must chart their future. However, they are facing insurmountable odds. Will Dr. Asmal develop his ideas as to how we can help to restore the democracy that appeared to have been put in place in Zimbabwe in 1979 to 1980. It is depressing if there is a cyclical event where democracy is put in place and then reverts to a form of dictatorship.

I also extend a warm welcome to Dr. Asmal. I had the pleasure of meeting him in South Africa and we had a long discussion about South African and Irish mutual interests. South Africa's role has changed since Nelson Mandela became president of that country. It has tremendous responsibility in the region. The respect for South Africa has come to the fore very much since that time. The last point made by Senator Bradford on Zimbabwe is apt. Repeatedly different groups and organisations here have asked what role can Ireland play in African affairs. The NGOs met the committee recently and expressed their concerns about the situation in the Horn of Africa. We can play a role as a small nation. However, I believe that South Africa must continue to lead in the region and we will give it all the support we can. There is a tremendous challenge to be faced in the region and with commitment and dedication progress can be continued to be made. I congratulate Dr. Asmal and his colleagues and I wish them every success for the future.

We do not expect the Minister to reply to all questions as we do not have the time. If Dr. Asmal would like to answer a few of the questions, we can continue our discussions over lunch afterwards.

Dr. Asmal

I have to meet the Minister for Foreign Affairs at 3.30 p.m. but I will not take till then. I thank the committee for its expressions of support and goodwill. It is still a most exhilarating period in my life. The kind of experiences I have undergone over the past ten years could not have been anticipated 15 years ago. It is good to apply much of the background and information one thought about as a lawyer, as a civil libertarian to working in the South African cabinet.

There is an intersection between law, morality and self-interest. This is an issue that we have to face all the time whether it is US planes overflying from Shannon when 80% of Ireland's direct investment comes from the US, or looking at how we can deal with a situation like Zimbabwe where the spill-over effects could be disastrous for South Africa. We have to take them into account. The issue in Zimbabwe is one that we face all the time. We get reports at almost every cabinet meeting on Zimbabwe. Clearly, these reports come from intelligence sources. Pressure is being exerted and it is therefore difficult publicly to say that the South African position is immobilised. This is not true as there are different ways of dealing with this issue. There is a constraint on me as a minister which comes from occupying an office. It is not decadent or immoral to say that but it is one that just exists. That is why I believe that smart sanctions were a symbolic kind of feelgood factor.

The issue of physical intervention is an emotive one. There was physical intervention in Kosovo yet no one cared what happened to the Serbs afterwards. I have views as an international lawyer about the nature of the humanitarian intervention where the consequences can be much worse. We intervened at the request of SADAC in Lesotho. The results of that intervention far exceeded anything we had anticipated. Lesotho objected to the intervention of Botswana and South African. This was a physical intervention where South African troops died. The calculation, therefore, has to be made. It must be remembered that the capital Maseru was only 12 kilometres away from South Africa, so the intervention was easy to mount.

Physical intervention in the case of Zimbabwe is out, partly because of the reaction it invokes, but mainly because it has never worked elsewhere in the world. One looks at the consequences in Iraq. It was an artificially created state in 1920 where the irredentist and xenophobic parties were held together. Now the coalition has released a genie from the bottle which no one can control. The consequences, even with the EU president's statement, are quite clear. There are questions to be asked about the right to intervene, even on the direction of the UN Security Council. Knowing the logic of power deferential in the Security Council, I have problems whether one can intervene against weapons of mass destruction. By its very nature it is selective. There are countries with weapons of mass destruction that have been left alone. Historically, they were developed by the very countries that say we must now intervene.

I regret to say there is a fundamental difference of opinion on this and on the issue of AIDS. There is also a great deal of ignorance too. The South African Government's position was made clear on 17 April 2002 about the direct connection between HIV and AIDS. We are an argumentative people in South Africa. We do not take anything for granted, even scientific matters, because of what happened in the past. For example, the bombings by Churchill, who relied on one scientist, resulted in the committing of war crimes over Leipzig.

We are an argumentative people. The government's commitment now is to roll out mother to child programmes and increase knowledge for nurses. The important thing about rolling-out a mass programme is that it will centre on the issue of drugs. The majority of people live in townships and rural areas. One could create an infrastructure of supervision of the anti-retro virals, which we are now doing. There cannot be an instant solution.

Second, which anti-retro virals? We are now working on a vaccine which is about to be released in South Africa by the Medical Research Council. Perhaps the members do not know about that. The Ministers of finance and health have now agreed on a solution for rolling out anti-retro virals but it is important that we do not have any reaction from the drug companies about allowing us to manufacture the generic drugs. It is impossible, therefore, to roll out a programme.

The third point is that the first real survey about the incidence of HIV-AIDS was carried out by the Nelson Mandela Foundation and the Human Science Research Council, which is a semi-state body. They conducted the survey on 8,000 people, which is a sufficiently large sample. From the mouth tests we now know that 6% of whites and 6.8% coloureds are HIV positive. The figure is about 4 million for Africans and is out even for the most crucial age group, 15 to 24. We have now reached a plateau. Why? UNAIDS, which is a United Nations body, said we have the most developed educational programme in the world.

I am not asking for the committee's support or for a comfort zone. I want members to understand what we are trying to do in a country like ours. Education is the important area. We are now involved in sexuality education in a way very few European countries are. I believe, as a Minister of education, that the best way of dealing with HIV-AIDS and other abuses of women is through proper sexuality education. I do not support the Minister for Health who says we should give condoms to school children because children must first understand the whole basis of human relationships. Age appropriateness is very important, therefore. We are doing things to fit our circumstances but we are not adopting a false approach in terms of dealing with the problem.

I am deeply sceptical about figures and statistics, and about the 25%. All of this has been extrapolated from the tests carried out among pregnant women. We will spend a lot of money to find out the effect of HIV and AIDS on teachers and, systematically, on the 15 to 24 age group. We will do that ourselves, and we will have to have surveys rather than draw hypothetical inferences from pregnant women. We are doing these things and I hope the rest of the world can understand, but we are not denying anything. We have to do this systematically.

I will give the committee an example. I visited a number of hospitals in Durban where the women are told not to breast-feed the children, and are given milk powder. They go home. The husband does not know they are HIV positive and the husband says the woman must breast-feed the child. There is an instant deterioration in the children. There are enormous cultural, medical and educational factors to take into account.

I have dealt with these two issues systematically but there is a whole range of other issues. I agree with Deputy Shortall that the World Bank policies have been disastrous as far as higher education is concerned. Claire Short MP was always trying to tell us how to organise our educational system. She said higher education is a waste of time and that there should be basic education only. I attacked her inThe Times higher education supplement saying that 250,000 poor blacks have gone through higher education with government assistance. Where is the elite? The whole schooling system depends on a higher education system. All our research depends on a higher education system, unless we want to take our research from St. James’ bar.

The great universities of Dar es Salaam, Makerera and Lagos, where I would have loved to teach, and Lagon, in Ghana, have all been devastated. I have visited two or three of them and one can see the effects of the constraints on social expenditure. So much for Deputy Higgins's World Bank conspiracy.

The World Bank has been trying to lend us money from 1994. We have not borrowed a penny. Think about what happened in Ireland in the elections in 1977, and the moral is very clear. If we borrow, we have to pay and the repayment is structural adjustment programmes. We have never borrowed. I would like to borrow two or three billion rand to remove the problem of lack of water in schools. A total of 34% of our schools do not have electricity and 30% of schools do not have sanitation. Borrowing three billion rand, not dollars, would remove all of that problem in one fell swoop but the price we have to pay is enormous, so we will do it in our own way.

For the committee's information, the debate in South Africa on the World Bank is very extensive, and the Minister for Finance will not allow the Minister for Health borrow $100 million. One day a statue will be erected of Seán Ó Connell, the Secretary General at the Department of Education in 1971. He borrowed £100 million from the World Bank and built those wonderful regional technical colleges which provided a middle level education. I hope one day there will be a memorial to Seán Ó Connell. I say that because I was involved in this area and I understand the price that had to be paid, even for the development of regional colleges.

I say to Deputy Higgins that the conspiracy of the left is not correct. The World Bank had nothing to do with that. It was worked out by the heads of state and by the South African President. There is no evidence for it whatsoever. I have met young Irish economists. I remain a Keynesian but the logic of what we face is very different.

We have a peer review system, which the World Bank would never have thought about, but we are working out our own solutions through NEPAD on a multilateral basis. If the committee could supply me with the information about the malicious influences of the World Bank, apart from the usual left wing slander——

Perhaps Dr. Asmal could return and tell us how we can get a vaccine against a virus the Government denies exists.

Dr. Asmal

No, we do not.

I hope that is recorded.

At the el-Shabazz seminar a paper was given on it. It is the methodology that is similar.

Dr. Asmal


Deputies and Senators, lest we become further involved in debate I remind you that we have to conclude because we have gone about 20 minutes over time. I thank Dr. Asmal. We recently brought in public private partnerships, which will be the subject of a major debate, and we managed to get some big schools built under those and have plans for other projects. We will see what happens in future on that. The meeting has been very interesting and enlightening for us and we wish Dr. Asmal every success with the work he is doing. He can be assured of our support in any way we can give it. We discuss issues very openly here, as Dr. Asmal will have seen. We very much look forward to meeting with Dr. Asmal later in the year and we wish him every success. We appreciate the enormous tasks he has undertaken, and we would like him to convey that message to his colleagues. We have very high regard for the work he is doing and for the role he is playing and will play in the future in Africa.

I thank the Minister, the ambassador, the director general and their colleagues for attending. We look forward to a more informal discussion later.

The joint committee adjourned at 1.20 p.m. sine die.