Minister in the Presidency Khumbudzo Ntshavheni has denied that the immunity for leaders of BRICS coming to South Africa in August is meant to protect Russian President Vladimir Putin.
She said this was standard procedure when hosting major summits in the country.
Ntshavheni said the same immunity would be extended next year when the country hosted the G20 summit.
South Africa will be taking over the chair of G20 from India, which is hosting it in September this year.
India will be taking over from Indonesia.
Ntshavheni said there was nothing suspicious about granting immunity to the BRICS leaders.
She was in Russia last week to attend the meeting of high-ranking officials on security matters.
She said the meeting discussed the issue of Ukraine and preparations for African leaders to meet Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to mediate on the conflict.
Some of the senior officials from South Africa have stayed behind in Moscow and Kyiv for the African leaders meeting.
Ntshavheni, who was briefing the media on Tuesday, said: “In terms of the immunity issued by Dirco (the Department of International Relations and Co-operation) for the delegates to the BRICS summit, it is a standard practice when you are hosting international conferences and summits where you have got delegates and you give them immunity. The same way that we afford immunity to ambassadors and members of the diplomatic corps. You need to provide them with immunity so that they will be free to participate in your country without a worry about the laws and all those other things that you are confronted with in your country. It is what is called diplomatic courtesies that are extended and there is nothing sinister about it. Whether the Russians wanted some sort of assurances? Actually it is the other countries that were in Russia that wanted assurances,” said Ntshavheni.
She added that even China, which attended the security meeting in Russia last week, wanted assurances.
“That is the nature of the game when you are hosting conferences of BRICS’s magnitude. You will see next year we are hosting the G20 as we take over the chair of G20. The same immunity will be provided because it’s the courtesies that we provide continuously,” she said.
The official opposition has gone to court in a bid to force the government to arrest Putin.
But Ntshavheni said none of the leaders of BRICS had confirmed that they would attend in person. She said once all the leaders of Russia, China, Brazil and India have confirmed, an announcement would be made.
“In terms of the attendance of Putin, I cannot say now whether he is going to attend or not. Similarly, I cannot say whether Xi (Chinese President Xi Jinping) is going to attend or if Lula (Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva) will attend or not,” said Ntshavheni.