04/12/2017 06:41 SAST | Updated 04/12/2017 06:48 SAST

Molewa Denies Report That Zuma's About-Turn On Morocco Defies ANC Policy

Edna Molewa says the ANC has never regarded Morocco as an enemy.

Luc Gnago / Reuters
Gabon's President Ali Bongo Ondimba, Cameroon's President Paul Biya, France's President Emmanuel Macron and King of Morocco Mohammed VI talk while they prepare to pose for photographers during the 5th African Union - European Union (AU-EU) summit in Abidjan, Ivory Coast November 29, 2017. REUTERS/Luc Gnago

Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa has denied a report that South Africa has changed its policy regarding Morocco and Western Sahara, News24 reported.

City Press reported that South Africa and the Kingdom of Morocco will resume diplomatic ties, severed in 2004, and Morocco will send its ambassadors back to South Africa. This was according to President Jacob Zuma, who was interviewed by City Press in Ivory Coast.

According to the BBC, the Western Sahara is a former Spanish colony that was annexed by Morocco in 1975. The indigenous Saharawi people have been engaged in a dispute with the Moroccans over the territory ever since, and a 1991 UN-brokered truce ended the conflict.

The area, now called the Saharan Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), is recognised by the African Union (AU) as a state but Morocco does not recognise it.

Zuma's approach to the Moroccan question reportedly flies in the face of ANC policy not to recognise Morocco because of its repression of the Saharawi people of the western Sahara.

"Morocco is an African nation and we need to have relations with them. We never had problems with them anyway; they were the first to withdraw diplomatic relations," Zuma reportedly said.

The ANC was reportedly furious when the AU decided to readmit Morocco into the organisation, with Molefe, who is also the ANC's international relations subcommittee chairperson, saying the decision was a "significant setback" for the Saharawi people.

But on Sunday, Molefe called the article "misleading and twisted". She said there was no ANC policy that said South Africa considered Morocco an enemy.

"There is also no ANC policy that says South Africa should isolate Morocco and also never engage them, this declaring Morocco an enemy of South Africa. Our full and unequivocal support for Western Sahara is not conversely, enmity to Morocco," she said.

Molefe said this did not affect the ANC's recognition of the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic.

"The organisation [ANC] regards the matter of Morocco's occupation of the western Sahara as a form of colonialism and remains strident in its opposition to the continued occupation," she reportedly said.