Whether you hold with government’s One China policy (and many citizens vary on this issue), it does seem that Tshwane’s DA mayor, Solly Msimanga, has somewhat overstepped his authority by making a trip to Taipei in defiance of government advice.
Under the umbrella of the One China policy, this country recognises Beijing as the Chinese authority and does not acknowledge the independence of the Taiwanese government – an understanding dating back to 1998, when South Africa, under the late former president, Nelson Mandela, recognised the sovereignty of the People’s Republic of China over the island of Taiwan.
It is all well for Msimanga to plead the trip was made to encourage investment ties between Tshwane and Taipei, but he must surely have recognised there were larger issues at play than filling the municipal coffers of our capital city. There are, after all, national priorities, which – regardless of party allegiance – need to be taken into consideration.
China has been South Africa’s largest trading partner since 2010, with a trade volume of R270 billion in 2013, a figure due to grow substantially in the wake of a host of new trade agreements between Beijing and Pretoria earlier this year.
There is a seeming inevitability behind this twinning with an economy that has grown dragonlike in the East, dwarfing the Japanese economic miracle of the ’60s and ’70s in its dynamism.
The DA maintains that Msimanga has done nothing wrong and indeed, the mayor is to be lauded in some respects for putting the needs of his ratepayers above other considerations.
But in the same breath, it must be noted that international diplomacy is an area beset with troublesome brambles and tiresome traps for the unwary. And we would submit that managing a metropole is a world away from global political sensibilities.