PRETORIA– In solidarity with the Saharawi people in their fight for independence, South Africa has called for decisive steps to close the chapter on this last vestige of occupation and colonialism on the African continent.

Pretoria sees the lack of solution to the quagmire in the Western Sahara, officially the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), as an impediment towards greater regional integration and security co-operation in the Maghreb region, says President Cyril Ramaphosa.

Our own liberation and the liberation of our continent will not be complete without the liberation of Western Sahara. I therefore wish to reiterate our solidarity with the Saharawi people in their struggle for self-determination and independence,” he said gere Tuesday.

The people of Western Sahara need to express their own aspirations and we will be supportive. There cannot be any mistake with the determination of the Saharawi people to gain their own self-determination and independence. In the end, they are the ones suffering and in refugee camps.

President Ramaphosa as addressing the media after official talks with SADR President Brahim Ghali, who is on a working visit to the country. Ghali’s visit, which the two countries described as comradely and fruitful, was aimed at further strengthening and consolidating relations between South Africa and the SADR, which is bordered by Morocco to the north, Algeria to northeast and Mauritania to the east and south east.

Western Sahara is Africa’s longest-running territorial dispute and an issue of continental and international law and diplomatic controversy, having been on the decolonization agenda of the United Nations (UN) and African Union (AU) for more than 50 years.

Morocco contends that the Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony, is an integral part of its kingdom, mainly driven by the expansionist ideology of the so-called Greater Morocco. On the other side, the Polisario Front, which is campaigning for the territory’s independence, demands a referendum on self-determination.

The AU has maintained over the years the inalienable right of the Saharawi people to self-determination. It has called on the UN to determine a date for the holding of the self-determination referendum for the people of Western Sahara, a view that Pretoria has also been also vocal about.