The US has revealed their hypocrisy with matters regarding Russi and Israel
South Africa – South Africa’s general position when it comes to dealing with issues of conflict has always been to endeavour in every case to bring peace, said Dr. Naledi Pandor, Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) minister. That is the foundation of our constitutional democracy.
South Africa’s foreign policy has always been based on principles of peace, justice, and human rights. As such, its relationships with countries that are currently embroiled in conflict can be a delicate balancing act. The country always seeks to bring peace and resort to arms.
“Where there is conflict, disagreement, we would urge that there shouldn’t be a resort to arms but that parties that are in conflict must come together around a negotiating table. Where needed, they should seek the participation of others so that they might find a resolution.”
Russia-Ukraine and non-alignment stance
South Africa is in a unique position when it comes to the war in Ukraine. They are a part of BRICS which Russia is also a part of. Whilst South Africa has called Russia a friend, they have never supported Russia’s occupation of Ukraine.
“I have insisted that all of us as member states of the UN must respect the sovereign territory of all member states of the United Nations. Not one leader in government has ever said we support Russia and the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. We abhor war and conflict and we do. But we are not prepared to take one side or the other.”
South Africa will always have a “non-aligned stance” because the issue is much bigger and runs deeper than most people understand. It extends back to the Cold War. Even though there is a long standing relationship with Russia and the Soviet Union, South Africa will always call for peace between the two.
While some may see Russia as an occupying nation, just like how South Africa sees Israel, Pandor believes this is not the case. When it comes to Israel, the matter is clear cut but with Russia it is different.
“Israel is an occupier of the land of another people. On that basis we are very clear that we stand with the people of Palestine. The problem is there is a conflict underway. There are issues of security concerns of Russia which cannot be ignored nor left unaddressed because this will then be a never-ending conflict … It is not an either/or. It is a range of matters. Merely saying to choose one doesn’t address the complexity.”
Creating peace between Russia and Ukraine
The country is against any forms of violence and war. What concerns Pandor is the lack of diplomacy coming from the Western world with regards to the situation. What needs to happen is for diplomacy to be promoted just like it was when it was used to end Apartheid.
“We need to see the Secretary-General of the United Nations playing and being allowed to play a stronger role in leading a peace process. I have called previously for an Eminent Persons Group to be established as we had in the days of Apartheid. It was this Eminent Persons Group that began the process of persuasion of drawing the parties together. This world that said to South Africans, come together and speak to your enemy, and actually resolve the issues around a table, suddenly this world is against diplomacy.”
Unfortunately, creating peace between the two nations is an extremely difficult process as no other countries seem to want to set up that table for the two nations to sit at. Turkey seems to be the only one who is mediating things between the two and making an effort. Besides that, Pandor doesn’t see any other countries trying to bring peace between the two.
Vladimir Putin coming to South African shores
On 17 March, the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant for Russian president, Vladimir Putin. He is set to visit South Africa in August to attend a BRICS summit. The US has called for him to be arrested when he touches down. However, it does not seem that South Africa and the US are on good terms at the moment.
“Following the first resolution that was voted upon on Ukraine in the UN General Assembly, the United Nations House of Representatives crafted a piece of legislation that is titled Malign Activities of Russia in Africa Act. This legislation seeks to impose proposed punishments on Africa that allow what is called malign activities of Russia on their soil. We’re opposed to such legislation and are appalled that the United States drafted such legislation.”
The African Union and the South African Development Community (SADC) approached the US on this matter and to their surprise, they aligned the bill to say “malign activities in the globe”, said Pandor. South Africa abstained from every resolution laid out because none of them “referred to peace or the search for peace through diplomacy”.
After abstaining from the third resolution, the House of Representative proposed legislation that President Biden should look at the reduction of the relationship between South Africa and the US. Furthermore, South Africa will not engage the US at the ICC for they are not members nor have they been very positive about it.
“They’ve always been very negative about the ICC. Their sudden admiration for it arises because the ICC has directed its attention to President Putin. When it is directed towards the governments of Israel and their leaders, there is not a comment.”
For now, no decision has been made on executing the arrest warrant. Once all views from government officials have been heard, a decision will be made. None of the invitations to BRICS’ presidents have been withdrawn at this stage, said Pandor.
The situation in Sudan
Sudan is in the midst of a civil war at the moment with two armies fighting each other for control of the country. With over 100 deaths already reported, the situation is getting worse as the days go by with no clear end in sight. South Africa has already called for a cessation in Sudan on the first day when the violence broke out and are currently trying to establish relations between the leaders.
“We have called for a cessation and are talking to the leaders of both groupings through our own leadership here in South Africa. We have indicated that we are ready to step in and assist them … and we are dismayed that things have collapsed.”
The situation with Israel and Palestine
Pandor admits the situation in Israel is far worse than what it was a few years ago. This is possibly due to South Africa withdrawing to some degree and did not “continue the efforts that we have begun” and that should have continued.
“We have been somewhat outside of the process but have had and continue to have strong links with Palestine. We do take guidance from them from time to time as to what they would like to see us do. I believe we should continue to have that engagement. I have been working with Palestine and Israel NGO’s to get their valuable insight and responses to the crisis.”
With regards to the UN and Palestine, they need to do more. They must keep Palestine on the agenda but Pandor has called for more to be done to help them.
“I think in the last year when President Biden has been in office, there are certainly more positive statements about criticising various actions by the government but I think it has far more of a role to play than it has been at the moment.”
To hear more from Naledi Pandor on China, Rohingya, Morocco and other African nations, listen to the podcast here: