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Joschka Fischer tells Africa how it can help solve Zimbabwe's problemsImage: AP

Fischer Delivers Rallying Call to African Nations

October 31, 2003

German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer issued a rallying call to all African nations to help solve the problems in Zimbabwe during his visit to South Africa on Thursday.


German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer has called on the people of Africa to deal with the continuing problems in Zimbabwe. Fischer, speaking at a press conference in the South African city of Pretoria on the latest leg on his tour of African nations, told the assembled media that it was in the interests of Zimbabweans and the whole of the African continent to work together to resolve the crisis under Robert Mugabe’s dictatorship.

"What we try to do is to encourage all our friends in Africa to solve this problem, this crisis, based on common values and in the interests of the Zimbabwean people," he told reporters. He added that it was important for discussions to continue on how to revive the democratic development of Zimbabwe, not just for that country, but for the whole of Africa.

Fischer was speaking after co-chairing the fourth session of the South African-German bi-national commission with Deputy President Jacob Zuma.

Cornerstone for peace

The German deputy chancellor declared that his country believed that South Africa was “one of the most important, possibly even the most important, voice in Africa” and added that the southern African region should be the cornerstone for peace, stability and development on the continent.

Unabhängigkeitstag in Simbabwe: Präsident Robert Mugabe Harare
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe.Image: AP

Returning to his main theme of the situation in Mugabe's country, Fischer said, “Zimbabwe could be in a similar situation. Its potential is great and it is a pity, a real drama, the situation in which the country is in.”

Fischer also addressed the role of German pharmaceutical companies and the need to make access to HIV/Aids drugs easier for people living in developing countries. “We have the political but also the moral responsibility to do the utmost and to bring all the pharmaceutical possibilities to the developing countries,” he said.

Fischer arrived in South Africa on Thursday after visiting Namibia early on Wednesday and then traveling to the west to spend the day in Mali.

Praise for land reforms

While in Namibia, Fischer expressed satisfaction with the way Namibia has managed its land reform program and the allocation of property to resettled farmers, and gave Germany’s promise to back the process and country financially, technically and with legal expertise.

Independence Avenue in Windhoek in Namibia
Colonial-era housing in Windhoek, Namibia.Image: dpa

Taking questions during sessions at the State House in Windhoek, the Namibian capital, Fischer said that the discussions on land reform had been both "constructive and productive," adding "What we can do, we will do. We will also push for the EU to support Namibia. Land reform is an important issue in Namibia and the region."

Financial aid on its way

Germany has already pledged to pump €23 million euros, the equivalent of around 186.3 million Namibian dollars, into the country’s economy over the next two years, thereby helping to fund road improvement, land reform, rural development, natural resources and economic growth.

The German government has also earmarked around €16 million euro to be used for financial assistance, while €7 million will be used for technical assistance in construction and regeneration projects. A further €4.2 million from a previous two-year co-operation agreement was re-allocated to Namibia.

However, Fischer indicated that the German economy would have to improve before Berlin could push through the planned financial support. “Once the economic turnaround has happened in Germany, we can engage ourselves more actively again,” he said.

Call for colonial apology

But despite the generosity in both tone and financial assistance, the German foreign minister came under fire from some sections of the Namibian government on the subject of Germany’s record as the colonial master of the country in the late 19th and early 20th century.

Henrik Witboi
A Herero landowner in the times of German colonial rule.Image: www.traditionsverband.de

Many have called for Germany to apologize officially for the ruthless suppression of rebellions in Namibia during German colonial rule. Tens of thousands of the native Herero tribe lost their lives during a 1904-07 uprising against the German occupation. Members of the 120,000-strong tribe have filed a lawsuit in the United States demanding reparations from the German government and companies that allegedly benefited from German rule.

Fischer, however, ruled out any official statement of apology. “I cannot make any utterance about reparations,” he said after a working lunch with President Sam Nujoma. Fischer added that Germany stood by its past.

Fischer flies on to Cape Town on Friday to participate in a discussion at the University of Cape Town titled: Can the UN meet the challenges of the 21st Century? - The need for German-South African co-operation. He will also hold talks with South Africa's speaker of parliament Frene Ginwala and visit German development initiatives in the city on Saturday before concluding his three-nation Africa trip.

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