/ 24 June 2023

Mbalula: ANC won’t apologise for Russia alliance, supports new world order 

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Russian president Vladimir Putin greets South African president Cyril Ramaphosa during their bilateral meeting at the G20 Osaka Summit in 2019. File photo by Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

Like its Brics peers, the African National Congress endorses a new world order with justice and equity as its foundations, one that is not “governed by a superpower that imposes itself as a world policeman”, secretary general Fikile Mabulula said on Saturday. 

The governing party would also not apologise for its alliance with Russia, Mbalula said while opening the ANC’s Western Cape conference. 

He was speaking about South Africa’s “non-aligned” position on the Russia-Ukraine war,  which would not end with the use of force, he added.  

An African delegation led by president Cyril Ramaphosa recently visited the two countries on a peace initiative, offering a 10-point plan to end the war. The mission was also attended by presidents of Zambia, Comoros and Senegal, while Egypt, Uganda and Congo sent their foreign ministers. 

Mbalula said that should the war end, it would unblock Black Sea economic cooperation to ensure grain and gas trade. 

He said that hostilities would not end unless dialogue was promoted between Russia and Ukraine.  

“So if South Africa has got an important voice, it can’t lend that voice by taking sides. We don’t know what the American interest in that war is,” he said.

Mbalula said the ANC had explained its non-aligned position to delegates from Denmark and the Netherlands, on the sidelines of the SA-Denmark-Netherlands Business Forum this week.  

“We are not opportunistic. We are not convenient about our position. We are principled comrades. You must stand for what you believe in.  

“When we start to engage the politics of America, we are told, including by the ambassador, that we’re American bashers. We’re not bashing America. We don’t believe in the aggression of other states. We have witnessed [US] aggression before Ukraine. Cuba is suffering from decades of [US] aggression, for their self determination and the belief in their ideology….”

In his explosive interview in May, the US ambassador to South Africa, Reuben Brigety, alleged that the country had last year either sold or given ammunition to Russia. His claims, if correct, would fly in the face of South Africa’s non-aligned stance in the war.  

Pretoria has denied the claims, and President Cyril Ramaphosa has established an inquiry to probe the allegations.

Brigety said Washington had taken offence at ANC resolutions adopted during its December elective conference about the war, and the expansion of Nato. 

Brigety also said that since taking up his post in August 2022, he had “repeatedly” tried to open dialogue with the ANC, but the governing party had only recently responded to the requests. 

Mbalula on Saturday brushed off suggestions that South Africa’s trade relations with the US were under threat. The country would not change its posture, he said. 

“We stand for what we believe in as the African National Congress. We stand for a new world order that is defined by justice – an equitable world that is defined by fairness – that is not defined by hypocrisy, that is defined by a rules-based approach…. We believe in a multipolar world that is not governed by a superpower that imposes itself as a world policeman.

“We know Russia is our partner in Brics and we’re not going to apologise. Russia is our biggest partner in Brics together with all the other countries of Brics.” 

He added that Russian president Vladimir Putin must be exempted should he come to South Africa for the Brics summit in August, and that this could be achieved through the domestication of the Rome Statute. 

Pretoria is grappling with how to host Putin since a warrant for his arrest was issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in March.

The ICC, established by the Rome Statute to which South Africa is a signatory, alleges that Putin is responsible for the unlawful deportation and transfer of children from occupied areas of Ukraine to Russia — a war crime — since 24 February 2022, the day Russia invaded Ukraine.