- The Russian President, Vladimir Putin, is expected to visit South Africa for a Brics meeting to be held in August this year.
- Putin’s potential visit is causing headaches for the South African government following the issuance of his arrest warrant by the ICC in connection with the Ukrainian war crimes.
- Ramaphosa's spokesperson has reiterated that the South African government is aware of its legal obligation and will engage with various relevant stakeholders.
South African leaders are divided over the possibility of Russian President Vladimir Putin visiting for a Brics summit in August this year. This comes after the issuance of an arrest warrant for the Russian president by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in connection with the Ukrainian war crimes.
Mr. Putin is anticipated to attend the 15th Brics summit to be held in South Africa; however, the Russian leader’s visit is not yet formally announced. The South African government would be in a tough position if such a visit became a reality because the ICC warrant obligates all 123 nations that have joined the Rome Statute, including South Africa, to detain him if he enters their territory.
The ICC president, Piotr Hofmanski, acknowledged the challenges of enforcing the arrest order when he announced it last week, stating that "the execution depends on international cooperation."According to Clayson Monyela, the country's chief of diplomacy at the Department of International Relations and Cooperation, the warrant is not directed at South Africa. He said, "The ICC hasn't asked us to do anything."
President Ramaphosa's spokesperson, Vincent Magwenya, stated that the government was "cognizant of our legal obligation." "Between now and the summit, we will remain engaged with various relevant stakeholders." He added. South Africa continues to advocate for a peaceful diplomatic solution to the conflict in Ukraine.
However, Darren Bergman, a member of parliament for the Democratic Alliance (DA), the country's main opposition party, and the shadow minister for foreign relations and cooperation, stated that "the arrest warrant has been issued, and South Africa is under instruction to arrest Mr. Putin if he steps foot in the country."
Mr. Bergman worries that if Mr. Putin is allowed to enter the country without incident, there may be diplomatic ramifications for South Africa. "We cannot afford sanctions," he stated. "Our nation must do everything it can to prevent citizens from being brought even closer to sanctions."
South Africa lacks the guts to arrest Putin.
Local commentators have argued that South Africa lacks the courage to arrest Mr. Putin. They have given the example of Omar al-Bashir, the then-president of Sudan, who freely visited South Africa in 2015 for an African Union (AU) meeting despite the ICC having issued a warrant for his arrest for crimes against humanity in Darfur.
The South African government did not arrest Omar al-Bashir since it had extended immunity to all delegates traveling there for the conference. However, the ICC disagreed with the decision and stated that Al-Bashir should have been arrested in South Africa. Following the al-Bashir case, South Africa informed the UN in 2016 that it would leave the Rome Statute, claiming the ICC wanted a change of leadership. The withdrawal was ultimately challenged in the High Court and later overturned.
South Africa is still a party to the Rome Statute of the ICC as of right now. However, South Africa and the other 32 African nations that are signatories to the Rome Statute have often expressed their worries that the ICC singles out African governments and leaders while ignoring those in the Global North.
In light of the conflict in Ukraine, South Africa has received criticism for its stance on Russia. The nation maintains that it is non-aligned and that this has not changed since the start of the invasion, but recent events, such as hosting the Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, and participating in naval drills with Russia in South African waters, have led the opposition to doubt whether this is actually still the case.
The speaker of the National Assembly of South Africa was in Moscow this week for the second Russia-Africa international legislative conference, which was attended by representatives from more than 40 African nations.