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Is South Africa’s stance on Russia/Ukraine conflict connected to BRICS?

Chinese President Xi Jinping, President Cyril Ramaphosa and Russian president Vladimir Putin, during the 10th BRICS Summit at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg, Gauteng. Picture: Itumeleng English/African News Agency (ANA)

Chinese President Xi Jinping, President Cyril Ramaphosa and Russian president Vladimir Putin, during the 10th BRICS Summit at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg, Gauteng. Picture: Itumeleng English/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Mar 8, 2022

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Durban - As Russia’s invasion of Ukraine nears the two week mark, South African citizens have been divided over the country’s stance towards the conflict.

But is SA’s response connected to its BRICS partnership?

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President Cyril Ramaphosa on Monday maintained his stance towards the war, which is of a similar nature to China. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi emphasised the need to stay committed to the purposes and principles of the UN Charter, Xinhua reported.

Last week, South Africa decided to abstain from the UN’s resolution vote.

Ramaphosa said South Africa’s response to the war did not mean it had no regard for human rights.

“There have been some who have said that in abstaining from the vote condemning Russia’s military operation in Ukraine, South Africa has placed itself on the wrong side of history.

“Yet, South Africa is firmly on the side of peace at a time when another war is something the world does not need, nor can it afford.

“A cessation of hostilities may indeed be achieved through force of arms or economic pressure, but it would be unlikely to lead to a sustainable and lasting peace.

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“The historical tensions between Russia and Ukraine make it all the more important that whatever agreements are brokered are sustainable in the long run and address the concerns of both parties to the conflict.

“Our own experience with ending apartheid, and our country’s role in mediating conflict elsewhere on the continent, have yielded a number of insight.

“Our country is committed to advancing the human rights and fundamental freedoms not only of our own people, but for the peoples of Palestine, Western Sahara, Afghanistan, Syria and across Africa and the world,” Ramaphosa said.

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While some in the country are of the view that SA’s loyalty towards Russia is currently on display, others say SA’s opinion on geopolitics is of little value to the world.

Economist Dawie Roodt said to some extent, there is an element of loyalty towards the Brics countries.

“I would say yes, there is a connection to Brics. I think there is a historic political loyalty to Russia as well. I don’t think it is the only reason for the country’s stance but it certainly is a valid one for South Africa’s neutral stance because we are members of Brics,” Roodt said.

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Political analyst Professor Sipho Seepe said that South Africa’s views in a global context have never been valued in the past and will not start now. He said countries like China and India had some influence on global matters because of their economic strength.

“When you have multilateral agreements, their position will also be informed by those. It's not something that can be ignored because there are certain commitments that need to be kept.

“Those commitments also mean sharing a common understanding on world affairs. It is not just a partnership of convenience. It's also a partnership of inconvenience.

“But a bigger problem is that South Africa over-rates its importance. We make a big deal about what South Africa’s stance is. South Africa’s stance does not matter in world affairs. I lived in the United States, the entire African continent did not matter to them,” Seepe said.

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