THREATS of sanctions against South Africa by the United States (US) are a typical example of so-called big countries bullying smaller countries in the worsening geopolitical conflicts.
It also presents a litmus test to South Africa’s foreign policy stance of neutrality as the country gets caught up in the fallout among the world’s most influential nations.
The threat of sanctions by America follows the Iran warships docking at the Cape Town port last Friday. Iran is a long-running rival of the Americans.
A note verbale sent to the South African International Relations Committee in Parliament by the US Embassy, warns South African authorities that “entities and individuals that provide support,
including maritime services to designated entities could be subject to sanctions risk under US authorities.”
A note verbale is defined as “a diplomatic note that is more formal than an aide-mémoire and less formal than a note, is drafted in the third person, and is never signed.”
This has driven a wedge between the main opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) and the local tripartite led by the ruling African National Congress (ANC) of President Cyril Ramaphosa.
Already, South Africa is under pressure to ensure it complies with the arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC) against Russian president, Vladimir Putin, over the conflict with Ukraine.
South Africa will host the leaders of Brazil, Russia, India and China at the 15th BRICS Summit from August 22 to 24.
Accused of being pro-imperialist, DA has called on the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on International Relations and Cooperation, to ask that the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Naledi Pandor comes and appears before it to answer questions on the Iran warships and the arrest warrant on Putin.
Darren Bergman, DA Shadow Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, said recent comments by Pandor and the posturing of the ANC government, since the ICC issued the arrest warrant against president Putin, showed the ANC had no intention of enforcing the arrest warrant.
“As a party to the Rome statute, failure to enforce the arrest warrant will be a violation of international and domestic law,” Bergman said.
The opposition legislator noted that although there had been no acknowledgement yet from Moscow, the Pandor had confirmed that Putin had been invited to attend the BRICS summit.
Should the government fail to arrest Putin, it would be the second time that it has failed to execute an ICC arrest warrant.
In 2016, the government allowed former Sudan President, Omar Al Bashir to leave South Africa despite an active ICC arrest warrant against him.
Pandor has been quoted in the media accusing the ICC of having double standards and a propensity for bias on the implementation of its mandate.
Among other allegations against the ICC is that it only targets non-European and US nations while atrocities, human rights violations, illegal throwing of democractically elected leaders effected by the West went unpunished.
Bergman has denounced such utterances as “unfortunate.”
However, the ICC has since its establishment in 1998 and coming into force in 2002, faced accusations of bias against African states.
In 2016, Burundi, Gambia and South Africa announced their withdrawals from the Rome Statute, the treaty that established the ICC, based in The Hague, Netherlands.
South Africa later revoked its withdrawal.
The ANC-led government has been quoted as saying it was seeking legal advice on the Putin arrest warrant.
The DA accuses the government of straying from a supposed human rights-based foreign policy to one where the protection of authoritarian regimes takes precedence.
“Pandor’s defense of the world’s authoritarian regimes can no longer be allowed to continue, she must now account for her disastrous foreign policy stance,” Bergman stated.
Critics accuse South Africa of siding with dictators despite repeated commitments to neutrality.
This is also referred to as “quiet diplomacy”, which became prominent when neighbouring Zimbabwe faced a political crisis.
The government of then-president, Thabo Mbeki, was accused of siding with Zimbabwean counterpart, Rober Mugabe, now late.
Critics accuse Ramaphosa’s administration of siding with the current government of President Emmerson Mnangagwa amid the endless turbulence in Zimbabwe.
Pandor was this week in Cameroon for an official visit.
She was scheduled to meet President Paul Biya (90), the longest consecutively serving non-royal national leader and the oldest head of state in the world.
In power in the Central African country since 1982, he is accused of human rights violations.
Pandor’s office said the visit would “reinvigorate” relations between Cameroon and South Africa.
Under the first democratically elected president, Nelson Mandela, South Africa was outspoken against countries Mandela deemed were violating human rights.
This led to his fallouts with other African leaders, including Mugabe and then-Nigeria military leader, Sani Abacha among others.
The South African Communist Party (SACP), which is part of the tripartite alliance alongside ANC and the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), this week rejected the arrest warrant issued by
the ICC against Putin.
SACP accuses the ICC of hypocrisy in that despite many calls, and evidence, the ICC has not charged the likes of Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu and former United States presidents, George Bush, Bill Clinton
and Barack Obama as well as Britain’s Tony Blair.
This is with links to war crimes in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Palestine and Yugoslavia as well as the continued occupation of other countries’ territories like in Syria, Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, of the Korean
“The SACP calls upon the South African government to ensure that President Putin attends the BRICS Summit and that he is afforded safe passage,” said Mhlekwa Nxumalo, SACP Acting spokesperson.
“Furthermore, the SACP calls upon the government to act with speed in withdrawing from the ICC and repealing the Implementation of the Rome Statute of the ICC Act 27 of 2002,” Nxumalo said.
In February this year, South Africa held a joint military exercise with Russia and China. Opposition figures denounced this as tantamount to an endorsement of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
– CAJ News