President Cyril Ramaphosa has defended South Africa’s non-alignment foreign policy position, insisting that it was anchored on national sovereignty and the protection of constitutional order.
He said expanding the BRICS bloc brings together nations committed to an equitable and balanced global order despite different political systems.
During his address to the nation on Sunday evening, ahead of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s State Visit to South Africa, President Cyril Ramaphosa said the country’s foreign policy was the product of the Freedom Charter and the work of Oliver Tambo and other ANC stalwarts.
Xi embarked on a state visit on Tuesday before the 15th BRICS Summit at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg. South Africa has been under pressure from America to choose between China and Russia on the one hand and the West on the other, especially since the war in Ukraine.
The US government went as far as threatening to remove Pretoria from the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) if it leaned closer to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Ramaphosa emphasized that it was imperative to delve into the underlying principles and values that mould South Africa’s foreign policy and guide interactions on the global stage.
He stated that the BRICS economic bloc is set to undergo expansion, bringing together a diverse array of nations with varying political systems. This expanded coalition will unite countries with a common objective: establishing a more equitable and balanced global order.
“This BRICS Summit and the state visit by President Xi Jinping, as well as the many bilateral engagements we will have with President Lula Da Silva of Brazil, Prime Minister Modi of India and many other heads of state on the sidelines of the Summit, have a bearing on our relationships with other countries and South Africa’s place in the world.
“To understand why these relations are so important for our country and its people, we need to understand the principles and the values that shape our foreign policy and inform our international relations. Before the dawn of democracy in 1994, the apartheid South African state was a pariah in the international community, condemned for committing a crime against humanity,” said Ramaphosa.
Ramaphosa reminded detractors that tactics of coercion, destabilization, and military aggression characterized the foreign policy of apartheid South Africa.
He said democratic South Africa’s foreign policy remained rooted in the principles of the historic Freedom Charter of 1955. This charter, a testament to the country’s democratic journey, has served as the guiding force behind the nation’s approach to international relations, he said.
The BRICS summit will witness the convergence of leaders from various countries spanning the Caribbean, South America, the Middle East, West Asia, South Asia, and South-East Asia, collectively known as the Global South.
Concerned about the West’s domination of the world’s political, economic and governance systems, the Global South has forged stronger ties in recent years to explore avenues for mutually beneficial partnerships and counterbalance geopolitics.
By fostering enhanced diplomatic links with other nations, as seen by increased investment and trade partnerships, South Africa can effectively stimulate economic growth, generate more entrepreneurial prospects, and facilitate job creation, said Ramaphosa.
“This foreign policy approach is also a product of the efforts of leaders such as the late Oliver Tambo, who mounted a vigorous worldwide campaign to secure global support for our just struggle against apartheid. This put South Africa on the global map in relation to the interests of its people whilst the world condemned its apartheid rulers.
South Africa’s foreign policy aims to promote our national interest based on the protection and promotion of our national sovereignty and constitutional order,” he said.
According to Ramaphosa, South Africa is committed to becoming a fully independent state that upholds the rights and sovereignty of all nations.
He expressed the nation’s unwavering dedication to the pursuit of global peace and the resolution of international conflicts through peaceful negotiations rather than resorting to armed conflicts.
“The key pillars of our foreign policy include the promotion of human rights, peace and stability, and the strengthening of trade and investment ties with other countries. The foreign policy stance we have taken since the advent of democracy has positioned South Africa as a reliable and influential partner on our continent and in the world.
“This has enabled our country to have friendly and valuable relations with countries around the world at political, diplomatic, trade, investment, sporting, social and many other levels. It is these principles that guide our participation in BRICS. Together, the members of BRICS – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – make up a quarter of the global economy; they account for a fifth of global trade and are home to more than 40 percent of the world’s population,” Ramaphosa said.
Ramaphosa added that the BRICS bloc has emerged as a key player on the global stage, owing to its robust economic prowess, vast market potential, substantial political clout, and collaborative efforts towards development. (Photo: GCIS)
“Yet the value of BRICS extends beyond its sheer size. BRICS countries can collectively shape global dynamics, and, acting together, have the potential to drive significant changes in the world economy and international relations. Together, the BRICS members have used their collective voice to call for a world that is more equitable, balanced, and governed by an inclusive system of global governance.”
Ramaphosa reiterated the importance of South Africa’s relationship with China.
“Being a BRICS member has created positive opportunities for South Africa. It has enabled our country to have a strategic relationship with China. Based on the strategic relationship between South Africa and the People’s Republic of China, we will be signing several agreements during President Xi’s State visit,” said Ramaphosa.
The president stated the significance of the New Development Bank (NDB), a financial institution established by the BRICS countries in 2015, and how it has benefitted South Africans.
“Our country has been funded by the bank in several infrastructure projects to the value of R100 billion in sectors such as roads, water, transport and energy. South Africa has always championed the interests of Africa within BRICS. To further advance the African development agenda, more than 30 Heads of State and Government from across Africa will be attending the summit,” Ramaphosa said.
He added: “We want to build a partnership between BRICS and Africa so that our continent can unlock opportunities for increased trade, investment and infrastructure development. There are great opportunities for other BRICS countries to participate in the African Continental Free Trade Area by locating production and services in various countries on the African continent, including our own, by partnering with local companies and entrepreneurs.”