South Africa

South Africa should not support its friends – it should serve its interests

Andre de Ruyter

Former Eskom CEO Andre de Ruyter urged South Africa to support countries based on its interests rather than friendships.

De Ruyter shared his views on international affairs during a Nuuspod discussion about his new life in the United States.

In August 2023, De Ruyter joined Yale’s Jackson School of Global Affairs as a senior fellow for the 2023 to 2024 academic year.

As part of his new position at Yale, he engages in discussions with global thinkers and leading academics.

He quickly realised South Africa is a small country that does not feature much in the United States. “We are irrelevant to the average American,” he said.

He quoted former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who said, “America has no permanent friends or enemies, only interest”.

De Ruyter said a country should not support another country because of friendship. Instead, it should base its support on serving its interests.

“South Africa has many friends. However, we do not always strive to serve the country’s interests,” he said.

A good example is South Africa’s recent decision to file a case against Israel at the International Court of Justice.

South Africa is accusing Israel of crimes of genocide against Palestinians in Gaza through its war in the area.

The Department of International Relations and Cooperation said South Africa was gravely concerned with the plight of civilians caught in the present Israeli attacks on Gaza.

Israel said it would fight South Africa’s claim at the International Court of Justice that it is guilty of crimes of genocide against Palestinians in Gaza.

White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby also voiced strong criticism of South Africa’s legal case against Israel.

Kirby said South Africa’s suit against Israel is “meritless, counterproductive, and completely without any basis in fact whatsoever”.

While there are strong views on both sides regarding the merits of the case, many people questioned why South Africa decided to get involved.

The ANC has long-standing ties with the Palestinians because of the similarities with Apartheid. However, the latest move can have negative consequences for the country.

As with Russia, it has shown an allegiance with a group with whom it has very few commercial ties.

As a result, it risks angering many powerful nations and strong commercial partners, like the United States and Europe.

South Africa is, therefore, positioning itself with global friends which will not help advance its interests. It also risks souring relations with its biggest economic partners.


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