South Africa won’t cut ties with ‘friendly’ Russia

 ·30 Mar 2023

South Africa’s government will not break ties with Russia at the behest of other countries, its foreign affairs minister said ahead of bilateral talks.

“There are some who don’t wish us to have relations with an old historical friend,” International Relations and Cooperation Minister Naledi Pandor told journalists in Pretoria. “We have made it clear that Russia is a friend we have had cooperative partnerships for many years,” she said.

Russia’s natural resources and environment minister, Alexander Kozlov, appeared alongside Pandor for the start of the 17th bilateral meeting between the countries.

“While we are friends with many all over the world we cannot become sudden enemies at the demand of others,” Pandor said.

South Africa has adopted a neutral stance on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The government’s position has drawn criticism from some of its largest trading partners, including the US and the European Union, along with some of its biggest banks and investment companies.

It is taking legal advice on how to handle an International Criminal Court arrest warrant for President Vladimir Putin in the event the Russian leader attends a BRICS summit in South Africa in August.

The ICC issued the warrant against Putin on March 18 for war crimes related to the alleged abduction of children from Ukraine. South Africa is a signatory to the Rome Statute that established the court, and may be obliged to execute the arrest order.

Pandor again called for a peaceful resolution to the war. “We as South Africa remain hopeful that we can find a diplomatic solution to the current conflict between Russia and Ukraine,” she said.

South Africa’s ties to Russia and the government’s decision to remain neutral on its war with Ukraine is quickly becoming a major risk for businesses in the country.

The Institute of Risk Management in South Africa (IRMSA) flagged the geopolitical conundrum as one of four major risks that companies need to make a plan for.

“There will be a global viewpoint taken (on Russia and China) and South Africa will be expected to take a position,” Palm said, adding that all South African businesses will face repercussions.

Regardless of the cause or source – whether the country picks a side, tries to stay neutral, or something else – businesses need to assess their position and to this and how it will impact their operations.

He said this risk is being underestimated in the market.

Additional commentary from BusinessTech

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