South Africa won’t bow to pressure to pick sides in Russia’s war on Ukraine and is confident an African-leader initiative to broker an end to the fighting will succeed, Deputy President Paul Mashatile said.
Pretoria’s adoption of what it terms a non-aligned stance toward the conflict and its abstention from United Nations resolutions condemning Russia’s invasion has stoked tensions with the US, its second-biggest trading partner, which has been trying to build a united international front against Russia.
The notion that the government should have to choose between its partners is unacceptable, Mashatile said at a meeting of officials from the governing African National Congress and their counterparts from the BRICS group of nations in Boksburg, east of Johannesburg, on Tuesday.
“South Africa has recently been subjected to immense pressure in order to choose a side in the ongoing war in Ukraine,” he said. “The ANC would like to firmly reiterate its anti-war stance, which we have asserted since the war began more than a year ago. We are for the silencing of the guns in Ukraine.”
South Africa joined BRICS, whose other members are Brazil, Russia, India and China, in late 2010 and is due to host the bloc’s annual summit in Johannesburg next month.
It faces a dilemma should Russian President Vladimir Putin attend — it would be obliged to arrest the Russian leader on a warrant issued by the International Criminal Court against him for war crimes.
BRICS members have rejected proposals to host the summit virtually or move it to China.
Mashatile defended the purpose of an initiative by six African leaders to try and broker peace between Russia and Ukraine.
“It is difficult to understand how these doomsayers expected that a solution to the conflict would have been sought and found after just one meeting,” the deputy president said.
Besides the war, delegates attending the first in-person BRICS summit since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic are set to discuss a proposal to expand the membership of the group.
The issue could pit India, which has previously adopted a cautious approach toward expansion, against China, which is pushing for its economic allies to be admitted.