South Africa won’t be forced to pick a side: Ramaphosa

 ·15 May 2023

President Cyril Ramaphosa says South Africa will not be a part of a global power contest between the US and Russia.

In his weekly newsletter to the public, Ramaphosa said there had been extraordinary pressure to ‘abandon its non-aligned position and take sides’ in what can be considered a contest between Russia and the West.

He said that South Africa has not been and will not be drawn into a contest between global powers.

“That does not mean that we do not have a position on the Russia-Ukraine conflict,” he said.

“Consistent with our stance on conflicts in other parts of the world, South Africa’s view is that the international community needs to work together to urgently achieve a cessation of hostilities and to prevent further loss of life and displacement of civilians in Ukraine.”

Ramaphosa said that South Africa remains a member of the Non-Aligned Movement, a forum of 120 countries that are not formally aligned with or against a major power bloc.

South Africa has also used its membership of other international forums like the G20 and BRICS groups and the United Nations Charter to advance the views and interests of countries in Africa and the rest of the Global South, he said.

The president added that South Africa continues to support the UN principle that members should refrain from the threat or use of force against other states’ territorial integrity or political independence.

“The reality is that the Russia-Ukraine conflict – and the tensions that underlie it – will not be resolved through military means. It needs to be resolved politically,” Ramaphosa said.

“We do not accept that our non-aligned position favours Russia above other countries. Nor do we accept that it should imperil our relations with other countries.”

Ramaphosa said that in all of South Africa’s interactions with countries such as the US and the UK, it had restated its belief that the United Nations remains the only viable mechanism through which the global community can strive for peace and common development.

Despite this, the president said that the conflict in Ukraine had highlighted the weakness in the structure and practices of the UN’.

“The composition of the UN Security Council, in particular, does not reflect the realities of the current global landscape. It needs to be overhauled so that there is an equitable representation and a more inclusive mechanism for resolving international disputes,” said the president.

Tensions between the US and South Africa reached a fever high on May 11 when the US Ambassador to South Africa, Reuben Brigety, publicly stated that a Russian cargo ship, the Lady R, had collected arms from the Simon’s Town naval base in Cape Town in December.

The South African government refuted these allegations and criticized Ambassador Brigety for making them public.

We are adhering to certain principles regarding the allegations of arms being loaded onto a Russian ship that docked in Simon’s Town, said Ramaphosa. As there is currently no solid evidence supporting these claims, he has initiated an independent inquiry led by a retired judge to establish the truth.

According to the president, the country’s stance on this matter was clearly articulated by its envoy, Sydney Mufamadi, and his delegation during their recent visit to Washington DC for discussions with US government representatives.

As reported by Bloomberg, finance minister Enoch Godongwana said that South Africa is unlikely to face any repercussions from the allegations of supplying weapons to Russia.

“A number of actions were taken in order to ensure that our relationship with the US remains and that relationship should be normal and cordial,” the minister said. “The Americans are not likely to respond with any anger tomorrow.”

Godongwana said all South African weapons sales had to be vetted by a cabinet committee, and no official decision had been taken to supply Russia, reported Bloomberg.

“If it did happen as the Americans claim, it could be a conduct of people who were mischief makers,” he said. “People who have got that information must provide that information to the judge so that we can take the necessary action.”

Read: Final straw for South Africa’s economy: CEO

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