POLITICS

Government 'Didn't Warn Or Contact' Tshwane Mayor About Taiwan Trip

Tshwane says Solly Msimanga followed all protocols. And there was no warning from government.

03/01/2017 16:05 SAST | Updated 04/01/2017 05:37 SAST
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Democratic Alliance (DA) leader Mmusi Maimane with Tshwane mayoral candidate Solly Msimanga during the reveal of the party's election poster last year.

There was "no phone call, letter or warning" from the department of international relations and cooperation (Dirco) to the office of Tshwane Mayor Solly Msimanga before his controversial visit to Taiwan.

Cilliers Brink, who is Tshwane's acting mayor while Msimanga is on leave, told HuffPost SA while the mayor's office did not explicitly ask for permission or assistance, Dirco was aware of the visit and didn't ask Msimanga, either officially or unofficially, not to go.

According to Brink, Clayson Monyela, spokesperson for Dirco, only phoned Msimanga's spokesperson to enquire about the trip on 26 December 2016, the day Msimanga left for Taiwan. That however was the extent of communication between Dirco and the mayor's office.

Monyela said he contacted Samkelo Mgobozi and Selby Bokaba, the mayor and the city's spokepersons respectively, to register Dirco's reservations about the visit. "I'm unsure whether the mayor was stil in the country or in transit when I phoned them."

It seems however there was no communication prior to Msimanga's departure, whether in written form or phone calls.

"Msimanga was never warned by Dirco that should he go to Taiwan it would be detrimental to South Africa's foreign policy. He was never advised by Dirco and they never made much of an issue about the visit. There was no suggestion he should not visit.

"The reaction since (the ANC has accused Msimanga of 'treason' and Dirco has said the visit was in breach of policy) is totally out of proportion," Brink says.

"Visits by mayors to their counterparts in other countries are normal practice. It not out of the ordinary."

He confirmed Msimanga received the invitation from the mayor of Taipei. The aim of the visit was to understand what Taipei would need from Tshwane as an investment destination, to discuss the cities' respective outlooks and how the cities function.

Msimanga applied for a visa at the Taiwanese liaision office in Pretoria.

"Dirco is fully aware of our diplomatic dealings. Msimanga has already met with ambassadors from a number of missions in Pretoria, whom he regards as important stakeholders in the city. That includes the Taiwanese representatives."

The presidency has also reacted to the ongoing furore, saying that he will address the issue at the next meeting of the president's coordinating council.

"The forum is used to discuss matters affecting the three spheres of government, to share ideas and coordinate government programmes for the benefit of citizens. It is also used to promote sound cooperative governance.

"The council meets quarterly and has not met since the local government elections. It will at the right time, discuss matters relating to foreign policy coordination as part of its agenda in order to ensure synergy within the three spheres.

"The Presidency and government as a whole remain committed to sound relations and cooperation between the three spheres of government at all times, and to continuously promote coordination and communication," the presidency said in a statement.