South Africa

United States lawmakers want South Africa punished for Russia ties

American lawmakers on both sides of the aisle want the Biden administration to punish South Africa for its support of Russia’s war in Ukraine.

The bipartisan group penned a letter regarding the issue to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Ambassador Katherine Tai, and national security advisor Jacob Sullivan.

Signatories of the letter include:

  • Christopher Coons – Chairman of the Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Senate Committee on Appropriations.
  • James Risch – Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
  • Gregory Meeks – Ranking Member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
  • Michael Mccaul – Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

The letter focuses on the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) as the cornerstone of the United States’ economic relationship with Sub-Saharan Africa.

They said the AGOA enables deeper commercial ties and strengthens the United States’ relationships with the region.

However, they expressed “serious concerns with current plans to host this year’s AGOA Forum in South Africa”.

“South Africa’s government has formally taken a neutral stance on Russia’s unlawful invasion of Ukraine but has deepened its military relationship with Russia over the past year,” they said.

The group highlighted that a Russian cargo vessel subject to U.S. sanctions docked in South Africa’s largest naval port.

US intelligence suggests that the South African government used this opportunity to covertly supply Russia with arms and ammunition that could be used in its illegal war in Ukraine.

They also pointed to joint military exercises with Russia and a Russian military cargo plane subject to US landing at a South African air force base.

Another contentious point is South Africa working to facilitate the participation of Russian President Vladimir Putin in the BRICS Summit despite an outstanding ICC arrest warrant.

The group is concerned that hosting the 2023 AGOA Forum in South Africa would implicitly endorse its support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and possibly violate U.S. sanctions law.

“These actions by South Africa call into question its eligibility for trade benefits under AGOA,” the letter states.

The AGOA has a statutory requirement that beneficiary countries “not engage in activities that undermine United States national security or foreign policy interests”.

The group wants the AGOA Forum moved to another country as South Africa is “in danger of losing AGOA benefits”.

South Africa’s international relations department Clayson Monyela said no decision had been taken to move the forum.

Monyela added that Pretoria continues to enjoy the United States government’s support.

Cyril Ramaphosa’s spokesman, Vincent Magwenya, denied that South Africa may be censured over its relations with Russia.

“It’s difficult to entertain speculation about sanctions, which we find to be reckless and undermining efforts underway to rebuild our economy, which is under strain and pressure,” he said.


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