Russian President Vladmir Putin’s absence at the upcoming BRICS Summit in Johannesburg will diminish the vivacity of the much-anticipated gathering, and may even dilute the overall vitality of “BRICS multilateralism” within the global arena.
This is according to one international relations expert following President Cyril Ramaphosa’s announcement that Putin will not be attending the summit by “mutual agreement”, with the Russian Federation represented by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
“Ramaphosa has in recent months and weeks held a number of consultations on the hosting of the summit.
The president’s most recent consultation in this regard took place on Tuesday night at the BRICS Political Party Dialogue in Gauteng,” the presidency said in a statement.
“In due course, a comprehensive statement on the substantive issues to be covered at the summit and other related foreign policy matters will be issued.
“President Ramaphosa is confident that the summit will be a success and calls on the nation to extend the necessary hospitality to the many delegates who will arrive from various parts of the continent and the globe.”
The summit from August 22 to 24 will be attended by the leaders of Brazil, India, China and South Africa.
The decision not to attend may be a huge relief for Ramaphosa, who had said in an answering affidavit to the DA’s court challenge of Putin entering the country amid an arrest warrant issued against him by the International Criminal Court (ICC), that any attempt to arrest him would be a declaration of war against Russia.
The ICC accuses Putin of human rights abuses and disregard for international law.
Director at RiskRecon, Dr Kingsley Makhubela, said while South Africa had delivered the news, Russia remained mum. He said the potential of an arrest was a complex matter, as on one hand South Africa was signed to the Rome statute of the ICC.
However, citing the capability of Putin’s Satan two missile, he said: “Things must be handled with the utmost care – China, America, Russia are not signatories to the ICC.
“I don’t think South Africa can arrest Putin because we don’t have the capacity. The cost of arresting him could mean our country could be raised to ashes.”
International relations expert and director at SurgeTower Associates, Siseko Maposa, said: “I must admit it is a rather surprising announcement, particularly given that just a couple of weeks ago Putin was almost hell-bent on attending the BRICS Summit. Putin’s absence means that South Africa need not choose between honouring the ICC’s warrant of arrest for Putin or maintaining loyalties to Russia – at least for the time being.
However, there are some broader implications worth considering.
Putin’s absence will surely diminish the vivacity of the summit to some degree and may even dilute the overall vitality of ‘BRICS multilateralism’ within the global arena.
Still, South Africa’s neutral posture in the Russia-Ukraine conflict will remain a bone of contention for its western allies.”
ANC spokesperson Mahlengi Bhengu-Motsiri said the matter of South Africa detaining Putin and handing him over to the ICC could have shifted focus on pressing issues that the BRICS needed to deal with.
“We welcome the agreement, which finally puts the matter to rest in order for us and the developing countries to focus on the pressing issues of the day. Dealing with poverty, unemployment and fighting for a just, humane and fair society,” she said.
DA leader John Steenhuisen said: “The DA firmly believes that no one, regardless of their position, should be above the law. Our commitment to the principles of justice, accountability, and adherence to international treaties won the day against the ANC and their Russian ally.”
EFF national spokesperson Sinawo Tambo said the outcome was not “unexpected”.
“It must therefore be highlighted that President Putin’s withdrawal is a consequence of the South African state’s reluctance to be firm on international affairs and their inability to resist pressure from Nato. Further hypocrisy lies in the fact that the ICC has not prosecuted individuals like George Bush and Tony Blair ... raising questions about its impartiality, yet our government bows to its threats.”