Ring of steel planned for BRICS summit

File Picture: African News Agency (ANA) Archives.

File Picture: African News Agency (ANA) Archives.

Published Jul 26, 2023


Durban - An unprecedented ring of steel will be thrown around the Sandton Convention Centre in Gauteng when BRICS heads of state and other leaders from more than 50 countries attend next month’s summit.

Security advisers from BRICS countries met in South Africa yesterday to discuss the planning and co-ordination around the event.

President Cyril Ramaphosa invited the heads of state of all the BRICS countries and 70 leaders of countries in the Global South.

It is expected that at least 50 Global South leaders will accept the invite, making this one of the largest global gatherings of leaders. BRICS leaders – Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi and President of China Xi Jinping are expected in the country, while Russia will be led by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

Ben Joubert, South Africa’s SousSherpa from the Department of International Relations and Co-operation (Dirco), said the National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure (NatJoints) had been activated before the summit, Dirco was holding inter-department logistical meetings, provinces were being briefed and all role-players would be involved in securing the summit.

“This is due to the enormous scale of the event and the scale of security that will be required. We are not unfamiliar with hosting leaders from the West and those from emerging countries, including China and Russia and other countries, and their huge security demands,” said Joubert, who attended the security advisers’ meeting.

He said the country’s security plan would work in collaboration with each visiting country’s security.

“We have already had pre-advance and advance visits from those visiting countries and their security details, and this will continue until the summit.

“We will cater for those security requests and elements,” said Joubert.

He said Ramaphosa had included Africa in the theme of the summit, and the majority of those visiting would be leaders from the continent.

“We have lived up to the security expectations in the past and are fully confident that we can host a very successful event and protect visiting leaders and their delegations. BRICS is the most important movement, geopolitically and geo-economically, in the world, and we will keep our promise of hosting a very successful event.”

International relations expert Unisa Professor Emeritus of International Law, Andre Thomashausen, said such a large contingent of heads of state would place a heavy burden on South Africa’s security capabilities.

“The country’s special police units, anti-terror and VIP protection services will all be in use and they will operate in co-ordination with the security detachments from the various countries that will have representatives here.

“The BRICS countries and the other heads of state who have been invited will certainly not be as ostentatious as the US president, but hundreds of security officials will cordon off the summit precinct.”

Thomashausen said the meticulous planning around the security arrangements was to ensure that South Africa did not suffer an embarrassing security incident.

“That would be a huge scandal, and is something that must be prevented. The onus on all the security arrangements will be to protect BRICS leaders and those from all the countries that have been invited, and to ensure they are safe and protected.”

Dr Chido Nyere from the Institute for Pan-African Thought and Conversation at the University of Johannesburg said there would be high security around the summit.

“The events being held in the build-up to the summit already tell you the type of security that will be in place. You have very prominent leaders from Brazil, India, China and Russia, let alone other heads of state that have been invited by Ramaphosa.”

Nyere said the backdrop to the summit was the war in Ukraine, and South Africa had not satisfied the West’s questions over whether Putin would have been arrested had he attended.

“Putin is no longer coming, but these are prominent delegates and the country will want to avoid any incident,” said Nyere.

South Africa’s BRICS Sherpa, Professor Anil Sooklal, said many countries including Egypt, the UAE, Indonesia and Argentina, were coalescing around BRICS and wanting to become members. Sooklal said BRICS was proving to be attractive because of its economic might and financial acumen and strength.

“BRICS must be seen as a catalyst to bring change to the world for the better,” he said.