South Africa’s president has said the country will not choose sides in the Russia-Ukraine conflict, despite pressure from its main trading partners.
“Several countries, including us, are under threat of sanctions for following an independent foreign policy and not taking sides,” South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said in a speech at a demonstration in the suburbs of Johannesburg on May 25.
According to Mr. Ramaphosa, South Africa will continue to maintain a position of calling for the peaceful resolution of conflicts, regardless of where the conflict takes place.
President Ramaphosa added that South Africa is determined not to get involved in any competition between world powers. “Africa has a painful memory of when world powers started proxy wars here in the past and it doesn’t want to go back to that time again,” Ramaphosa said.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa at a press conference in Cape Town on May 16. Photo: Reuters
US Ambassador to Pretoria Reuben Brigety said on May 11 that arms and ammunition were loaded onto an apparently Russian cargo ship docked at Simon’s Town naval base in South Africa in December 2022. South African denies the charge.
South Africa’s finance minister said on May 14 that the country had “completely got it right” with the US on the above allegations. Before Pretoria and Washington eased tensions, analysts warned that South Africa could lose trade preferences in accessing the US market, causing the rand to weaken against the dollar.
Relations between the United States and South Africa took a hit after the country refused to condemn Russia’s war in Ukraine. The US is South Africa’s second largest trading partner, with two-way revenues of US$23.3 billion in 2022. The value of South Africa and Russia is US$850 million, according to data from the International Monetary Fund ( IMF).
Ramaphosa said in March 2022 that South Africa was asked to “play a mediating role” in the Russia-Ukraine conflict. He did not specify which side suggested this, just saying it was an approach based on ties to Russia and its membership in the BRICS bloc, which includes Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.
South Africa has been in a bind since the ICC issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin in March. Putin is expected to attend the 15th BRICS summit, which will take place in South Africa in August.
In theory, the ICC ruling requires the 123 member countries, including South Africa, to arrest Putin and transfer him to The Hague, Netherlands, for trial should he ever set foot on their territory.
Russia considers the ICC arrest warrant to be meaningless. The US and Russia used to join the ICC but withdrew and did not recognize it. Some countries like China and India do not participate and do not recognize the jurisdiction of the ICC. Two South African Foreign Ministry officials said in March that it was highly unlikely that they would arrest any visiting heads of state.
Nhu Tam (according to Bloomberg)