South Africa’s foreign policy has come under scrutiny after the government’s call for Russia to withdraw its forces from Ukraine.
WITH the conflict between the Russian Federation and its European former member of the Soviet Union, Ukraine, fully activated after Moscow sent its troops to disarm Ukraine and prevent it from joining US-led Nato, analysts have warned the South African government not to provoke Russia.
South Africa’s foreign policy has come under scrutiny after the government’s call for Russia to withdraw its forces from the conflict zone, Ukraine.
Last week, International Relations Minister Naledi Pandor said South Africa was calling for the easing of tensions between Russia and Ukraine – while reports indicated that President Cyril Ramaphosa had decided not to take sides in the matter.
However, former diplomat and political analyst Botsang Moiloa said it was important for the country “to maintain very direct, resolute, and absolute” relations with the BRICS members.
“In terms of diplomacy, both Russia and China are permanent members of the Security Council, which alone tells you how powerful and important it is to be on the side of BRICS countries. Just as we took the stance in support of Palestine against Israel, we must do the same with Russia and support our partner.”
Moiloa said there was no room to be neutral but to act in the interests of the country. There was a shift in the global balance of power and the dynamics required South Africa to take a sober position, he said.
“It will not be wise for the country to downplay Russia’s security concerns in favour of Ukraine. The militarisation of countries neighbouring Russia poses a serious threat to the Russian people.”
On reports about scores of African migrants in Ukraine reportedly being blocked from fleeing to safety as Russian attacks continue, Moiloa said Africans have often been met with extreme hostility by white people everywhere in the world.
Lecturer and political analyst Dr Metji Makgoba said that as a member of BRICS, South Africa was “between a rock and a hard place. Post this conflict, both Russia and Ukraine are going to look at who supported or were against them”.
“We approach Western powers and countries such as Russia and Ukraine like beggars, as people looking for guidance and support. We don’t display an authoritative voice that can influence global power dynamics.
“Whichever position our country takes, there will be consequences. South Africa is an ally to Group 7 and so the G7 members will expect our country to take a stance in support of the Western powers against Russia. But we have close ties with Russia, and it is known that we benefit from Russia in many ways, including major investments in South Africa and military training.”
He stressed that taking a stance against Russia would be disastrous for the country, and had the possibility of weakening the BRICS relationship.
He also said that South Africa had weak leadership and no leverage to engage either Russia or Ukraine.
Dr Mustafa Mheta, a senior researcher, called on the AU to think twice before condemning Putin for this war and appealed “to Ukrainian neo-nazis to stop treating Africans like they are not human and assist them to evacuate to safety like anybody else”.