by TINTSWALO BALOYI
JOHANNESBURG – BY confirming that Russian President, Vladimir Putin, will not attend the upcoming BRICS Summit in South Africa, the ruling party has succumbed to local and international pressure.
Speculation over Putin attending or staying away from the summit set for August 23 and 24 has been a sideshow ahead of preparations for the bloc comprising Brazil, Russia, India, China and the host country.
There were suggestions the summit would be moved to China to avoid saving South Africa from ignominy of arresting Putin, following a controversial warrant of arrest slapped by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in March, following his country’s conflict with Russia in 2022.
South Africa again faced a similar predicament, following its failure to arrest then Sudanese President, Omar al-Bashir during his 2015 visit.
The South African Presidency confirmed Putin’s non-attendance on Wednesday.
Mahlengi Bhengu-Motsiri, the spokesperson of the ruling African National Congress (ANC), said Putin will not be attending the summit “by mutual agreement.”
Sergey Lavrov, Russia foreign minister, will represent the president.
“We acknowledge and welcome this, finally laying that matter to rest, for us and developing countries to focus on pressing issues of the day, (which is) dealing with poverty and unemployment and fighting for a humane and fair society,” Bhengu-Motsiri said.
Locally, the government of President Cyril Ramaphosa was under more pressure after the main opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) applied to the Gauteng High Court to force the South African government to arrest Putin if he set foot in the country.
“By mutual agreement, Putin and Ramaphosa have now bent the knee before the DA’s fight for the rule of law,” said DA Federal Leader, John Steenhuisen.
“The DA firmly believes that no one, regardless of their position, should be above the law. Our commitment to the principles of justice, accountability, and adherence to international treaties won the day against the ANC and their Russian ally.”
Steenhuisen believes South Africa’s reputation on the international stage and its commitment to upholding the rule of law were at stake in this matter.
“By standing firm on the need to adhere to our obligations under the Rome Statute and other international conventions, we have demonstrated our unwavering dedication to justice and human rights.”
The DA accuses successive governments locally of siding with dictators, through its foreign policy.
South Africa has refused to yield to pressure by local critics and the West to condemn Russia in its conflict with Ukraine.
While it has maintained a policy of non-alignment, there is no denying South Africa has cordial ties with Russia, which besides belonging to the same group with, have relations dating back to the fight against apartheid.
The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) the opposition that had insisted it would not allow Putin to be arrested in South Africa, stated, “This outcome is not unexpected considering the lack of security guarantees by the ANC government to the Russian Federation, which failed to protect not only a strategic global partner but also a historical ally in our fight against colonial domination and imperialism.”
– CAJ News