/ 27 April 2023

Putin will be arrested if he sets foot in the Western Cape – DA

Russian president, Vladimir Putin. (Contributor/Getty Images)

The Democratic Alliance’s Western Cape premier, Alan Winde, has warned that should Russia’s President Vladimir Putin set foot in the Western Cape, he will be arrested by local law enforcement. 

“We, as the provincial government, will have him arrested by our own Western Cape Government funded Law Enforcement Advancement Plan (LEAP) officers. If the South African Police Service is not instructed to act, we will,” Winde said in a statement on Thursday. 

The International Criminal Court (ICC) issued a warrant of arrest for Putin in March for his alleged involvement in the unlawful deportation of Ukrainian children to Russia. 

Winde’s announcement follows two days after the governing ANC “erroneously” announced it would no longer be a member of the ICC. President Cyril Ramaphosa said the same while speaking alongside his Finnish counterpart on Tuesday. 

During a joint media appearance with Finland’s President Sauli Väinämö Niinistö in Pretoria, Ramaphosa said the ANC had decided it was “prudent” for South Africa to withdraw from the ICC. 

“The governing party has decided once again that there should be a pull-out,” said Ramaphosa. The president’s remarks followed after the ANC’s four-day national executive committee (NEC) conference.

ANC secretary general Fikile Mbalula said at a separate press conference after the NEC meeting that a resolution had been taken to withdraw from the ICC and that the ANC “just have to implement that”. 

“The conference said this ICC does not serve the interest of all, it serves a few,” said Mbalula. 

He said that the United States was not a signatory of the ICC, nor were “all the big powers … who are messing up the world. They cannot be arrested but they influence others to be arrested.”

Both the presidency and NEC have since tried to explain the blunder. 

In a statement titled “Clarification of ANC position on the ICC” the secretary general’s office said the resolution to withdraw from the ICC was “raised as a measure of last resort”.

A withdrawal from the ICC “would arise if — and only if — the other options outlined do not yield the desired results of fairness and consistency in the administration of international law”.

“In outlining this broad context of discussion, an unintended impression may have been created that a categorical decision for an immediate withdrawal had been taken. This is not so,” maintained Mbalula’s office. 

Vincent Magwenya, spokesperson for the president, confirmed that South Africa remains a signatory to the ICC, “in line with a resolution to fit [the] national conference of the ANC down in December 2022 to rescind an earlier decision to withdraw from the ICC”.

In March, parliament announced the withdrawal of the International Crimes Bill tabled in 2016 to repeal South Africa’s membership of the ICC. 

The bill had been formulated on reflection of the country’s reluctance to arrest ICC fugitive Omar al-Bashir in 2015, who was the then president of Sudan. No reasons were given for the proposed bill being scrapped.

Amnesty International South Africa welcomed the ANC’s clarification. 

“We welcome the clarification since, that ‘South Africa will remain a signatory to the Rome Statute’ and the continued recognition of ‘the importance of strengthening institutions of global governance’,” said Shenilla Mohamed, the South African executive director of Amnesty International in South Africa.